MORE, William I (d.1401/2), of London.
Available from Boydell and Brewer
Family and Education
m. bef. May 1370, Elizabeth, s.p.3
Warden of the Vintners’ Mystery Nov. 1370.4
Dep. butler, Sandwich 21 Dec. 1371-16 Dec. 1380, London 16 Dec. 1380-5 Mar. 1383.
Common councillor, Vintners’ Mystery Aug. 1376, 1381-Mar. 1382; auditor, London 21 Sept. 1378-80, 1390-2; alderman, Vintry Ward 12 Mar. 1382-3, 1389-c.1400, Castle Baynard Ward Mar. 1384-9; mayor, London 13 Oct. 1395-6.6
Tax collector, Kent Mar. 1377, Jan. 1380.
Collector of tunnage and poundage, London 7 July 1381-28 Nov. 1386, of the cloth and alien petty custom 3 July 1384-15 Mar. 1387.7
Sheriff, London and Mdx. Mich. 1386-7.
Constable of the Staple of Westminster 12 Dec. 1390-7 July 1393.8
Commr. of gaol delivery, London Dec. 1395.9
Nothing is known of More’s history or family background, although he may have been a kinsman of Robert More, a London vintner, who, in 1371, joined with Sir Nicholas Brembre† and other influential merchants in making a conveyance of the manor of Notfield. William had himself been in business as a vintner from June 1369, if not earlier, but he is not mentioned in any city records before this date. In May 1370 he and his wife, an executrix (and perhaps the daughter) of Agnes Hardingham, were suing six Coventry men who had failed to render satisfactory accounts when employed by the deceased; and in the following year they were themselves taken to law by Sir Robert Marney* for unlawfully detaining certain title deeds previously held by John Hardingham as executor of the wealthy mercer, Richard Lacer†. The case dragged on until 1376, for although Marney and his wife (who was Lacer’s daughter) managed to recover some of the muniments, others remained in the custody of the mayor pending a final settlement.10
More’s election as warden of the Vintners’ Mystery in 1370 and his appointment by royal letters patent as deputy butler of Sandwich soon afterwards suggest that his experience of the wine trade was already great. Over the years he amassed a considerable fortune through commerce, which was in part used to build up a second income as a landlord. At the time of his death More owned rents, land and a number of tenements in the London parishes of St. Michael Queenhithe, St. Antholin, St. James Garlickhithe and All Hallows the Less. He and his wife had also acquired property by leasehold in the parish of St. Thomas the Apostle, and had interests in various small plots and reversions elsewhere in the City. In August 1383, More and five of his feoffees (among whom was Sir John Clanvowe) obtained a royal grant of a wharf and three messuages formerly belonging to Richard Lyons† in Wendygayns Lane, Dowgate Ward. More paid 203 marks for the property, but was obliged to sell it for the same price to the King’s butler, John Slegh, shortly afterwards. Other purchases outside London proved more lasting: these included tenements in Southwark and Rochester, and the manor of Coldham in Cambridgeshire, which had been bought outright as freehold, as well as land in Elmdon, Essex, forfeited by Sir Robert Bealknap, the judge, and leased to More for seven years in November 1388 at the Exchequer. He must also have derived a substantial profit from the Hampshire estates of William Warbleton†, whose wardship and marriage he had bought from the Crown in October 1384 for a single cash payment of £200.11
It was inevitable that a man of More’s wealth and position would become involved in the property transactions and business affairs of his associates. The unpopular royal financier, Richard Lyons, Simon Burgh*, William Standon*, Nicholas Twyford (the wealthy goldsmith) and a number of prominent London tradespeople made him their trustee, while others called upon him to offer sureties or act as an arbitrator on their behalf.12 These various enfeoffments, as well as More’s own purchases in the City, were the cause of a number of lawsuits over the ownership of the property concerned. Between January 1378 and February 1400 he was named among the defendants in five actions brought by rival claimants to land and tenements in which he had an interest, and as a feoffee of Alice, the widow of John, Lord Neville of Essex, he appeared among the protagonists in a legal dispute over her title to estates in Kent, Essex and Surrey.13
Enough evidence of More’s financial affairs has survived to give some idea of the scale of his business transactions. It was evidently not uncommon for him to be owed sums well in excess of £100 by customers and trading partners: on four occasions at least he had trouble in recovering sums pledged to him by statute of the Staple of Westminster, being eventually obliged to petition in the mayor’s court for redress.14 More was one of the leading English merchants invited by the Commons in the May Parliament of 1382 to discuss the possibility of a loan of £60,000 by the mercantile community to the Crown. The fate of earlier royal creditors, whose financial speculations had resulted in ruin and impeachment, led the committee to refuse any such proposals, but More himself later overcame this reluctance and from January 1384 to November 1390 he advanced regular amounts of money to the King. In 1386, for example, a total of £600 was assigned to him for the repayment of three separate loans of £200 made between January and May of that year, although there is no means of telling whether or not the same £200 was being lent each time. The next largest sum handed over by More was 250 marks in January 1388, after which date his contributions dwindled, ceasing altogether after November 1390.15Mistrust of Richard II and a fear of becoming too closely involved in his affairs led many Londoners to withhold the financial help which they had previously been ready to give. That More could have continued to assit the government had he so wished is clear from his appearance as a royal creditor in May 1400, some months after Henry IV had seized the throne. Thomas Tutbury, the treasurer of the royal household, then surrendered to him jewels and other goods to keep as surety for the repayment of no less than £500 by the following December. The debt was not discharged in full until February 1405, some four years after More’s death. Indeed, his widow and executors were driven first to petition the chancellor and then to begin a suit at common law before obtaining satisfaction. More advanced a further £40 to the King in July 1401, but this appears to have been the last of his many royal loans.16
More’s long and distinguished civic career, which culminated in his election as mayor of London in 1395, began in the spring of 1377 when he was chosen by the common council to serve on a committee for the maintenance of order and the general upkeep of property in the capital. During the following year he received two further commissions—the first to establish the rate of imposts being laid on foodstuffs sold in London, and the second to supervise the way in which the City’s liberties were exercised. He contributed five marks to the gift raised by the people of London in January 1379 to persuade the ‘great lords of the realm’ to return to the capital, but it was not until 1384 that he again took a seat on any conciliar committees. Although prepared to accept John of Northampton’s† second election as mayor of London in October 1382, More eventually aligned himself with the supporters of Sir Nicholas Brembre†, Northampton’s greatest enemy. He may at first have welcomed the radical mayor’s attack on the trade monopoly exercised by the Fishmongers’ Company, since their privileged position was greatly resented even by those who, like himself, were members of other victualling guilds. Northampton’s extreme behaviour alienated many potential sympathisers, however; and on 11 June 1384 More attended the session of the common council which unanimously found him responsible for all the recent disturbances in London. Nine days later a commission of ‘the best and wisest citizens’, with More as a member, was set up to revise the notorious ‘Jubilee Book’ of ordinances compiled during Northampton’s mayoralty. More and his fellow dignitaries continued to press for Northampton’s trial and execution, both at a meeting of the royal council at Reading, in August 1384, and in the following March when the common council of London met in an emergency session to demand the immediate enforcement of the death penalty upon the former mayor. At the same time a group of experienced citizens, again including More, was given the task of examining the best means of containing any further outbreaks of disorder. As sheriff of London, More also played his part in the commission of inquiry which the common council appointed in September 1387 to investigate the activities of Northampton and his supporters. 17
More’s position as a former creditor of the Crown did not prevent him from becoming involved in the quarrel between Richard II and the City which took place in the summer of 1392, largely because of the withdrawal of credit facilities by the rulers of London. He and the other aldermen were summoned to appear before the King at Nottingham on 25 June, when the normal government of the City was suspended. Because of certain ‘notable and evident defaults’ conveniently discovered by Richard’s agents in the following July, the civic authorities were fined a total of 3,000 marks, and although most were confirmed in office, their appointment remained subject to royal pleasure. The two sheriffs, John Shadworth* and Henry Vanner*, were less fortunate, being removed from their posts, and placed under arrest. The sureties of £1,000 demanded from them on 23 July were put forward by More and three other prominent citizens. It was not until September that Richard agreed to restore the liberties of the City, albeit conditionally ‘until he should otherwise ordain’. He also pardoned the aldermen their joint fine, although the people of London as a whole had to pay heavily to retain his favour.18
More died at some point between 20 July 1401 and April 1402. He was buried in the church of St. James Garlickhithe, leaving instructions for his widow, Elizabeth, to maintain a chantry there out of the revenues of his London property. Since he had no children, all his other estates in London, as well as his holdings in the country, passed into Elizabeth’s hands, and it was not long before she found a second husband, the wealthy and ambitious grocer, Robert Chichele*. They had married by Michaelmas 1403, when Chichele settled all her property upon feoffees of his own choice. He understandably remembered More with gratitude in his own will, ordering prayers to be said for his soul at the newly founded college of Higham Ferrers in Northamptonshire.19
Ref Volumes: 1386-1421
- 1. Cal. Letter Bk. London, H, 117-18. More may have sat for London in the May Parliament of 1382, since he was a member of the committee of merchants to whom the Commons referred the question of a loan to the Crown. Six other Londoners served with him, however, and only four can have been returned as MPs for the City (RP, iii. 123).
- 2. He was returned in place of John Loneye after what appears to have been a second election (Cal. Letter Bk. London, H, 355, 359).
- 3. Corporation of London RO, hpl 92, Monday bef. feast St. Petronilla, 44 Edw. III.
- 4. Cal. Letter Bk. London, G, 269.
- 5. Cal. P. and M. London, 1364-81, pp. 163, 206; Cal. Letter Bk. London, H, 74.
- 6. Cal. Letter Bk. London, H, 42, 102, 153, 355, 367, 385-6, 426, 434; Cal. P. and M. London, 1381-1412, p. 29; Beaven, Aldermen, i. 89, 206.
- 7. E403/532 m. 9.
- 8. C67/23; C267/8/23.
- 9. C66/342 m. 2d.