KEDWELLY, John, of Bridgwater, Som.
Available from Boydell and Brewer
Family and Education
Town clerk, Bridgwater by Oct. 1383-aft. Apr. 1418.1
Commr. of inquiry, Bridgwater Apr. 1401 (goods of William le Scrope, earl of Wiltshire).2
From 1383 to 1404 a large number of local deeds were witnessed by Kedwelly, usually described simply as ‘clerk’, and several more made between 1405 and 1418 bear his name separately from the list of witnesses and were clearly written by him in his capacity as town clerk. Two payments, each of 6s.8d., for his annual stipend, are recorded in 1394 and 1400, and in the latter year he received an additional 6s.8d. for carrying out other business for the community. Kedwelly also occasionally acted as clerk for others: he kept a rental for the chantry of the Holy Cross, drew up title deeds for St. Mary’s chantry, and wrote a schedule for the earl of March’s receiver at Bridgwater.3
Kedwelly appeared as a surety in Chancery and the Exchequer several times (once when he was up at Westminster for a Parliament), and he also sometimes served as a feoffee or attorney. It was as an officer of the court of the admiral of the west (acting on behalf of William Thomer*, the admiral’s deputy) that he achieved some notoriety, apparently for an excess of zeal. John Henton†, a local merchant condemned by the court at Bridgwater for non-payment of certain charges, accused Kedwelly of entering his house ‘by means of mines and other contraptions’, and of wrongfully seizing his goods when executing the judgement. Kedwelly’s appeals against his subsequent sentence—to pay £100 on the main charge and £137 damages—and Henton’s counter-appeals, continued from 1390 until at least 1404, the case being heard in Chancery, by several judicial bodies appointed by Richard II, and eventually in the King’s bench. At one stage, in 1402, Kedwelly was arrested by the sheriff and imprisoned at Bridgwater. It is uncertain who finally won the suit, but matters were clearly made worse when Kedwelly accused Henton and another merchant before the barons of the Exchequer of customs evasion. Kedwelly himself had mercantile interests. When attending the Parliament of 1410 he petitioned for redress of grievances against some Frenchmen who had taken one of his fishing vessels (Le Cogge Johan of Bridgwater), imprisoned the crew at Harfleur and held them in strict confinement without food and drink until he paid a ransom of £100. They had also taken a ‘balyner’ of his and goods worth £200, and when he sent two of his servants to sell 60 ‘dozens’ of cloth at La Rochelle to raise the money for the ransom, these men too were seized and held prisoner at Cherbourg. Kedwelly also traded in Ireland, where in October 1420 he sent an apprentice and a servant to collect a debt of £21. He is not recorded thereafter.