MUCKING, John (d.1417), of London and Southwark, Surr.
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Family and Education
Common councillor of London by 31 July 1384.3
Commr. to examine wines in the City and suburbs Nov. 1384.4
Tax collector, Bridge Ward Mar. 1387,5 Surr. June 1410, May 1416, Southwark July, Nov. 1413, May, Nov. 1416.
Master of the Vintners’ Co. 1388.6
As a member of one of the richest and most influential families in Southwark, it was natural that John Mucking should so often have been returned by the burgesses to Parliament. His father before him sat for the borough in 1362 and 1365, having by that time chosen to invest his profits from the wine trade in local property. John’s younger brother, Nicholas, a clergyman, pursued an equally successful career: in 1374 he became rector of St. Olave’s church in Southwark, obtained the treasurership of St. Paul’s cathedral 20 years later, and by the time of his death in 1424, had been appointed master of the college of St. Lawrence Pulteney.7
Although Mucking appeared with his father in both May 1370 and February 1378 as a witness, and in 1372 as one of Sir Nicholas Carew’s† feoffees for land in Southwark, he seems to have set up in business on his own account while still a relatively young man.8 In May 1375 he acquired certain rights to a tenement in Paternoster Row, previously owned by the late William Marbles, a vintner, and may well have begun trading there. Over the years he took possession of two shops on London Bridge, which he leased from the bridge wardens, a tenement in Billingsgate, another in Bridge Street, and a considerable amount of property in Southwark itself. According to the local lay subsidy returns of 1381, Mucking and his widowed mother, then assessed at 8s. and 6s.8d.respectively, were among the wealthiest residents of the borough, and both of them continued to prosper.9 From the early 1380s onwards Mucking was frequently called upon to witness the property transactions of his neighbours and business associates: he also acted as a surety on at least six different occasions, once, in May 1398, for Thomas Sy, the King’s harbinger. Meanwhile, in March 1381, he himself had need of mainpernors on obtaining custody of John Lynne’s two young children, together with a tenement owned by their late father in the City. Three years later, he and three other London merchants petitioned successfully for the restoration of a cargo of wine which had been washed ashore on the Hampshire coast during a storm and confiscated by the bailiffs of Southampton. Indeed, it is evident that he already possessed a good deal of influence at a more than local level, being present as representative for Bridge Ward in July 1385 when the common council of London met to consider the question of national defence, and again, eight months later, when it convened to debate the banishment of John of Northampton†, the former mayor, and his supporters. In September 1386, Mucking was one of the merchants to offer bonds of £10 towards the repayment of £500 borrowed out of the City’s funds for preparations against a threatened French invasion from Flanders.10 One prominent Londoner with whom he did business was Gilbert Mayfield, an influential creditor of the Crown, who advanced him a loan of £22 10s. in January 1391. Mucking honoured his debt within a few months, however, and there is nothing to suggest that he ever had to borrow money on a large scale.11
A number of more private quarrels at home attracted his immediate attention: between March 1387 and June 1398 he became involved in no less than six lawsuits, evidently at no little cost to his purse, if not his reputation. The first of these disputes was with the prior of Southwark, and the substantial sureties of £100 offered by both men as a guarantee of their future good conduct suggests that their initial disagreement had been serious. The summer of 1389 saw Mucking’s appearance as defendant in a case brought by John Forteneye, his own apprentice. The latter had been imprisoned in July of that year for attempting to defraud a Gascon merchant of wine worth £57 18s.4d., although the mayor’s court found that by his refusal to honour an existing contract Mucking himself, rather than his agent, had committed the offence. He was ordered to refund the full purchase price of the wine and suffered a brief period of imprisonment until this had been done. Equally serious charges were levelled against him at this time by his neighbours in Southwark, who complained to the King’s Council about the brothels, ‘conuz entour toute la ville la citee de Loundres auxi tenuz pour le treshorrible lieu de pecche use deinz nostre Roialme d’engleterre’, which he and four other leading burgesses had set up in St. Olave’s parish. This area was already notorious as a refuge for criminals and receivers of stolen goods; and although Mucking was summoned to attend a meeting of the Council in July 1390, there is no evidence of any firm measures being taken against him. Three years later he again came before the mayor’s court apparently because of some unspecified quarrel with Richard Spencer, a London spicer. Both men were required to enter into bonds of £100 pledging their readiness to abide by the decision of four independent arbitrators, but the outcome of the case remains unknown. In the meantime, in March 1390, Mucking was summoned to perform jury service at an assize of novel disseisin being held on Sir Roger Clarendon’s property in Southwark. It was shortly afterwards that he and other members of his family were themselves brought before the local justices of assize by Isabel Exeter, but they had little trouble in establishing their title to two messuages in the borough which she claimed as her own.12
Mucking does not appear to have incurred any disadvantage as a result of his various brushes with authority. On the contrary, he was among the 24 Londoners ‘in secundo gradu potentionibus civitatis’ chosen in June 1392 to accompany the mayor and corporation on their deputation to the King at Nottingham. Given the extreme hostility then felt by Richard II towards the City and the complete powers of negotiation vested by the commonalty in its representatives, it is evident that Mucking enjoyed not only the respect but also the confidence of his fellow citizens. The meeting was not a propitious one resulting in the immediate suspension of the City’s elected officers and the appointment of a warden to supervise the business of government. Henceforward, Mucking chose to spend most of his time in Southwark and evidently abandoned his interests north of the river, perhaps as a direct result of his disillusionment with political life. During the Easter term of 1393 and again three years later he was named among the defendants in two assizes of novel disseisin concerning tenements in Southwark, but on both occasions his involvement was merely that of a feoffee.13
Apart from his intermittent activity as a tax collector for both Southwark and Surrey, nothing more is known of Mucking until December 1412, when the prioress of the house of the Blessed Mary of Cheshunt began an action in the husting court of London for the recovery of a tenement in the City which she claimed that Mucking, his brother Nicholas and another member of their family had seized without any legal title. None of the three men ever appeared to answer her accusations, probably preferring to settle the matter out of court. In May 1415 Mucking was once more named, but not sworn, as a juror at the borough assizes.14 He remained active to the end, however, being returned to the Commons for the last time in March 1416, just a year before his death. He left a sizeable estate, most of which was set aside for pious or charitable uses, although his daughter received 40 marks towards her marriage and other relatives were generously rewarded. The girl was almost certainly the child of his marriage to Elizabeth, the widow of Richard II’s court painter, Gilbert Prince, but his only son, Robert, appears to have been somewhat older, and therefore the issue of an otherwise undocumented union. At all events, he was promised an inn called Le Dolphin in Southwark on the condition that he helped to settle Mucking’s unpaid debts and cooperated with his executors. It was the latter, however, who proved intransigent, and in July 1426 Robert began a suit in Chancery for the recovery of seven messuages in Southwark, which had been withheld from him by his aunt, Margaret Curtis, and Thomas Burgh, rector of St. Olave’s church, respectively supervisor and executor of his late father’s will. He may have won his case, for by 1439, the date of his death, he had acquired a number of shops, inns and tenements in the borough, worth at least £133 on the open market. Meanwhile, in October 1436, Robert Fitzrobert, a citizen of London, made provision in his will for the upkeep of a chantry in St. Olave’s church, dedicated to the memory of John Mucking, who lay bu