MITCHELL, William (d.1426), of London.
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Family and Education
bro. of Richard Mitchell (d. by 1413) of London, grocer. m. Martha, s.p.1
Warden of the Grocers’ Co. 1412.-13, 1418-19, prob. master July 1421-2.2
Auditor, London 21 Sept. 1420-1.3
Nothing is known of Mitchell before June 1410, when he and three others were being sued in the husting court of London for possession of a tenement in the parish of St. Stephen Walbrook. In the following August he shipped a modest amount of worsted cloth into the port of London, and three months later he joined with Thomas Petit, another grocer, in bringing an action for debt in the court of common pleas.4 Mitchell was clearly a wealthy man at the time of his first election as warden of the Grocers’ Company in 1412. According to the lay subsidy returns of that year his property in the City alone brought him an annual income of over £15, to which must be added the profits of at least one tenement and farmland in Great and Little Walsingham, Norfolk. It is now impossible to discover the whereabouts of Mitchell’s holdings in London, for although he was a party to many conveyances of property he seems in most cases to have been involved as a feoffee-to-uses, most frequently for the grocer, William Oliver*.5
Mitchell was obliged to contest another lawsuit as one of his brother’s executors, but although he won his case a commission was subsequently set up in April 1413 to examine the process and judgement entered in the city records for any error to the damage of the plaintiff. A few days later he and four other Londoners offered joint sureties of 1,000 marks in Chancery on behalf of Laurence de Platea, an Italian merchant who was later to figure among the beneficiaries of Mitchell’s will. Despite the fact that he never held high civic office, the MP was sufficiently well thought of to be appointed in June 1416 as one of the attorneys delegated by the mayor of London to collect 10,000 marks from the wool subsidy in repayment of a loan made by the City to Henry V. This brought him into official contact with John Mitchell*, who had just left the Grocers’ Company and to whom he may well have been related, albeit distantly. One month later he was a juror in an important action for defamation brought by Thomas Fauconer* in the court of the mayor and aldermen.6 In July 1417 sureties of £100 were taken from him and 15 other Londoners as a guarantee of their own readiness to appear in the same court. No more is known about this case, but in the following September Mitchell twice offered bail of £20 on behalf of William White, a weaver who was involved in another action there. The year 1417 also saw a ‘gret dyfferens’ between the Catalan merchant, John de la Toure, and certain grocers, including Mitchell, over the price of sugar. The dispute was settled internally by their company, not surprisingly in favour of its own members, and Mitchell continued to do business until shortly before his death. He was still wearing the grocers’ livery at Christmas 1424; and in the following August he paid customs duties on a mixed cargo of soap, woad and other dry goods worth £104, brought into London for sale in his own shop.7 He had, meanwhile, acted as an arbitrator in two commercial disputes, in November 1419 and September 1420, being himself then engaged in litigation for the recovery of a debt of over £6 from a Bedfordshire man. He began two more such actions before his death, but does not appear to have been successful in either of them.8
Mitchell’s presence, as a commoner, at five sessions of the court of aldermen in August 1421 and another in January 1423 is recorded in the journals. He attended the parliamentary elections held at the Guildhall in 1422 and 1423, otherwise showing no real ambition to play a prominent part in civic affairs. He died in May 1426, one year after having been made executor of the will of his fellow grocer, John Sudbury*. His own bequests were considerable. To his widow he left a dower worth £300, while other friends and relatives shared almost £80 between them. Since he had no surviving children, the rest of his estate was set aside for works of charity. His executors subsequently became involved in a dispute with William Burton I* and his wife over the administration of his will. The precise nature of their disagreement remains unknown, but large sums of money were clearly at stake as in June 1429 both parties offered massive sureties of £1,000 to accept the decision of independent arbitrators.9
Ref Volumes: 1386-1421
The subject of this biography ought not to be confused with the William Mitchell who became master of the Mystery of English Weavers in November 1416 (Cal. Letter Bk. London, I, 151).
- 1. CPR, 1413-16, p. 34; PCC 6 Luffenham.
- 2. Ms Archs. Grocers’ Company ed. Kingdon, i. 43, 109, 130. Although not specifically described as master of the company in 1421, his official visit to Kingston with the two wardens ‘pur mettre jus les weres’ suggests that he then held the post.
- 3. Cal. Letter Bk. London, I, 245, 261.
- 4. E122/77/2 m. 3; Corporation of London RO, hcp 137, Monday aft. feast St. Edmund, 14 Hen. IV; hpl, Monday bef. feast St. Botolph, 11 Hen. IV.
- 5. PCC 6 Luffenham; Corporation of London RO, hr 142/53, 146/23, 34, 147/35, 148/2, 14-18, 149/43, 150/16; CCR, 1419-22, p. 109; Arch. Jnl. xliv. 61; London Rec. Soc. i. no. 247; Harl. 76D 1.
- 6. CPR, 1413-16, p. 34; CCR, 1413-19, p. 5; PCC 6 Luffenham; Cal. Letter Bk. London, I, 158, 180.
- 7. Kingdon, i. 129, 155; E122/76/11; Corporation of London RO, jnl. 1, ff. 24d, 31d, 32.
- 8. Cal. P. and M. London, 1413-37, p. 86; CCR, 1416-22, p. 289; 1429-36, pp. 6, 98; Corporation of London RO, jnl. 1, ff. 63d, 85d.
- 9. C219/13/1, 2; PCC 6 Luffenham; Corporation of London RO, hr 154/32; jnl. 1, ff. 94-95d, 2, ff. 3, 134d.