MITCHELL, John (d.1445), of London.
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Family and Education
s. of John Mitchell by his w. Clemency, prob. of Iklingham, Suff. m. (1) Olive; (2) Margaret, 1s.; (3) by Oct. 1411, Margaret (d.1455), da. and h. of Hamelin Matham (d.1382), of Sawbridgeworth, Herts. by his w. Cecily Lyons, at least 2da.1
Buyer for the royal household 26 Mar. 1413-2 June 1421.2
Auditor, London 21 Sept. 1413-14; alderman, Castle Baynard Ward by 3 Feb. 1414-bef. 5 Oct. 1415, Bridge Ward by 5 Oct. 1415-3 July 1444; mayor, London 13 Oct. 1424-5, 1436-7.3
Sheriff, London and Mdx. Mich. 1414-15.
Tax collector, London Dec. 1417.
Ambassador to treat for a truce with the duke of Burgundy’s envoys 6 Mar.-4 May, 7 Aug.-22 Oct. 1416, 10 May 1417.4
Commr. to hire ships to transport victuals, London Oct. 1421; of oyer and terminer Dec. 1423, Sept., Dec. 1429, July 1430 (maritime disputes); to distribute a tax allowance Jan. 1436; of inquiry May, Sept. 1437 (bis: riots and illegal export of grain).
Mayor of the Staple of Westminster 7 July 1425-3 July 1431.5
This distinguished MP probably came from Iklingham in Suffolk, since it was here that he wished his executors to found a chantry for the souls of his parents. He may, perhaps, have been related to his namesake, the wealthy London vintner (fl. 1360-82), and thus have benefited from family contacts in the City, although this cannot be proved. Nor do we know if he was a kinsman of John Mitchell, the royal serjeant-at-arms who became deputy coroner of London in 1395 and afterwards served as escheator of Middlesex.6 In point of fact, no definite evidence survives about him before March 1401, when he had already been made a trustee of premises in Bread Street, London. In June 1405 he was vainly trying to recover a debt of £33 long overdue from a Buckinghamshire man. Although then a fishmonger, he joined the Grocers’ Company soon afterwards, paying the wardens a fine of £10 in 1406, almost certainly for admission to their guild. He is described as both a fishmonger and a grocer for some years after this date: on becoming sheriff in 1414, he was accompanied by an escort of 102 grocers at a cost of almost £42 to the company, but no doubt because of the civic ordinance of May 1415 forbidding freemen to belong to more than one guild at a time he opted for the first and more powerful of the two.7
Mitchell’s commercial interests were indeed diverse. The London customs accounts contain scattered references to his involvement in the cloth and wool trade. Between July 1407 and September 1430, he shipped quantities of finished cloth both into and out of the port, besides acquiring occasional royal licences for the export of raw wool. In June 1419 we find him sending a cargo of wine and wheat to Calais; and later, in the spring of 1432, the Crown again granted him permission to transport grain overseas.8 He had connexions in many parts of the country: at some point before July 1412, for example, he sued a man from the cloth-producing town of Lavenham in Suffolk for an unpaid debt of £18. Three years later, one of his ships, the Pruyscrayer, was arrested at Newcastle-upon-Tyne and only returned to him after he had offered sureties of £40 in Chancery. He seems to have transacted a considerable amount of business along the east coast, since on at least one occasion French pirates seized a vessel which he and three other London merchants had dispatched with goods bound for Kingston-upon-Hull. Rather less is known of his activities on the continent, although his appointment in 1416 as an envoy to treat with the duke of Burgundy suggests that he already had commercial dealings in the Low Countries. In September 1425 two Venetian merchants acknowledged a payment of £358 made to them by Mitchell and John Gedney*, the draper, but the reason for this is not stated. Shortly afterwards, Mitchell was engaged as a broker in London, so he must have kept up his association with the foreigners who were trading there. In May 1436 he lent £40 to Henry VI, and although he did not often agree to act as a creditor of the Crown he was evidently quite prepared to advance large sums of money to private individuals. Sir Henry Pierrepont*, for example, borrowed over £150 from him in the 1440s to help meet certain crippling legal expenses, and ran into serious problems with his executors as a result.9
At the time of his death, Mitchell owned property in the city parishes of St. Nicholas Cole Abbey and St. Magnus the Martyr. His will makes no mention of the premises in Thames Street left to him and his son by Richard Wynter, the fishmonger, in 1412, nor is it clear whether or not the settlement of tenements and shops in various parts of London made upon him by his sister-in-law, Alice Rodenhale, much later was an actual transfer of property or an enfeoffment-to-uses. Mitchell had previously been involved in a somewhat acrimonious dispute over the ownership of a tenement in Old Fish Street. After a round of litigation in the court of Chancery, a royal commission was set up in January 1421 to examine his title, and pronounced against him. Even so, his annual landed income from London alone rose dramatically from just over £3 in 1412 to £18 in 1436, and was supplemented by the revenues which came to him from his third wife’s inheritance.10 When she married Mitchell, at some point before October 1411, Margaret Matham already held half her late father’s estates. She and her sister, Elizabeth, had exchanged the manor of Mathams and land in Sawbridgeworth, Hertfordshire, for John Leventhorpe’s* two manors of ‘Havyles’ and ‘Botteles’ in the nearby village of Clothall, as well as other land and advowsons in that area. They had, however, decided to retain their father’s manor of Molesey Matham and its extensive appurtenances in Surrey, which Margaret occupied as sole heiress, along with the Hertfordshire property, after Elizabeth died childless in 1421. Through their mother, Cecily Lyons, the two women also laid claim to part of the manor of Great Childerley in Cambridgeshire and the entire manor of Great Oakley in Northamptonshire. These particular holdings were initially divided between them and Cecily’s other heirs, but again Margaret managed to augment her share by outliving at least two of the original recipients. Altogether these scattered possessions brought the MP and his wife £15 a year at the very least. Moreover, in February 1419, Mitchell and his friend, John Reynwell*, took on the farm of confiscated land in Fincham, Norfolk, paying a modest annual rent at the Exchequer.11
Although he held a joint title to other premises in London, it seems likely that Mitchell was acting here as a feoffee to the use of friends or business associates. At least two Londoners conveyed all their goods and chattels to him; and in April 1435 he himself employed this device, which was primarily designed to evade the strict customs regarding the partition of a deceased citizen’s estate. Surprisingly, in view of his position, Mitchell hardly ever acted as a mainpernor: in November 1403 he offered sureties at the Exchequer on behalf of a newly appointed customs official, but he was otherwise unwilling to commit himself in this way.12 Together with most of the leading Londoners of the day, he advanced money in June 1417 towards the cost of Henry V’s second expedition to France, contributing £20, which was to be repaid out of the wool subsidy due after February 1420.13 Despite the opportunities available to him as a buyer for the royal household, he does not appear to have had any other protracted financial dealings with the Crown.
Mitchell played a full and active part in the government of London for over 30 years, and was one of the few men considered affluent enough to serve two terms as mayor during the early 15th century. He also represented the City in at least six Parliaments, besides attending seven or more of the elections at which others were returned between 1407 and 1437.14 In May 1411 he served on a jury at an inquisition ad quod damnum held in London, and in June 1416 he was one of the six attorneys appointed by the mayor to recover a loan of 10,000 marks made by the City to Henry V. The brewers of London considered him ‘a good man, and meke and softe to speke with’, although they nevertheless thought it expedient to mark his first mayoralty by giving him ‘an Ox, pris xxjs. ijd., and an Bore pe pris of xxs. jd.’. Mitchell occasionally arbitrated in commercial and property disputes arising between citizens. In March 1429, he and his wife obtained a papal indult for plenary remission of sins at the hour of death, although both lived on to a ripe old age.15 After over five years’ absence from meetings of the mayor’s court and the common council, Mitchell was finally excused from holding office as alderman of Bridge Ward in July 1444, and died on 24 Feb. the following year. He was buried in the church of St. Magnus the Martyr, to which he made generous bequests for the upkeep of a chantry. In all, he set aside over £750 for charitable and pious uses, leaving a further 1,600 marks to his widow, who also received half his jewellery, plate and domestic goods. His two surviving daughters, Joan and Elizabeth, shared only £47 in money, but both had made good marriages and were promised the reversion of their mother’s extensive estates. Margaret Mitchell outlived her husband by another ten years, dying on Palm Sunday 1455.16
Ref Volumes: 1386-1421
- 1. PCC 29 Luffenham, 2 Stockton; CFR, xiii. 222; xvii. 70; VCH Herts. iii. 340; Surr. iii. 453; Corporation of London RO, hr 140/53; C139/158/31.
- 2. CPR, 1413-16, pp. 6, 189; 1416-22, pp. 5, 122, 149, 234, 281, 335-6.
- 3. Cal. Letter Bk. London, I, 117, 127-8; K, 33, 48, 207-8, 213-15; Beaven, Aldermen, i. 56, 89.
- 4. J.H. Wylie, Hen. V, ii. 298-300; E403/624, 630; E404/32/114, 288.
- 5. C267/8/32-36.
- 6. London Rec. Soc. i. nos. 168, 208; CCR, 1360-4, pp. 130, 404, 408; 1369-74, p. 544; Cal. Letter Bk. London, H, 423, 440, 445; CFR, xi. 170, 220.
- 7. C241/195/22; Ms Archs. Grocers’ Company ed. Kingdon, i. 99, 103, 1