POWE, William (d.1424/5), of London.
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Family and Education
m. (1) Margaret; (2) by Oct. 1394, Agnes, wid. of Walter Pottenhall (d.1379), of London, woolmonger, s.p.1
Tax collector, Mdx. Nov. 1404.
Commr. of oyer and terminer, Mdx. Feb. 1405.
Not enough is known of Powe’s career to document fully his transition from the artisan class to the ranks of the county gentry, but there can be little doubt that the William Powe, citizen and bottlemaker of London, who first appears in May 1385 among the parties to a conveyance of property in Middlesex, ended his days as a landowner and former shire knight. His success may in part have been due to his marriage, in, or before, October 1394, to Agnes, the widow of Walter Pottenhall, an affluent woolmonger with property in the London parish of St. Andrew, Baynard’s Castle. Some of these holdings were sold by Agnes and her new husband in order to implement the terms of Pottenhall’s will, but they retained other premises in this area, and as a result were involved in litigation with William of Wykeham, bishop of Winchester, over the ownership of certain rents in the parish.2 It was in the autumn of 1394 that the couple acquired a block of tenements in Bowyer Row, adding to it over the years, so that by 1412 they derived a substantial income from their investment here and in other parts of the City. The Powes’s London property was then said to be worth £16 16s.8d. a year, to which must be added an estimated £26 13s.4d. in rents and other profits derived annually from land in Acton and Yelling, Middlesex. Some four years before, during the Hilary term of 1408, they leased out their manor of West Yelling for £10 a year to John Spertgrave, who was to farm it for the term of their joint lives—an arrangement which suggests that they continued to live in London despite their acquisitions in the country.3
Save for a brief period of employment as a tax collector and commissioner after his election as a knight of the shire for Middlesex in October 1404, Powe seems to have shown no real interest in the business of local government. Indeed, very little evidence of his activities has survived. In March 1391 and again in December 1395 he acted as a surety in Chancery, being also involved at this time in property transactions concerning the manor of ‘Donne’ in Surrey. Over the next six years he devoted considerable energy to litigation for the recovery of debts owed to the late John Stacy, a former cofferer to Richard II, who had nominated him as one of his executors. In February and November 1411 Powe’s name appears among the lists of jurors present at the possessory assizes of London, but he otherwise felt no real desire to concern himself with civic affairs.4
Powe died between 15 Dec. 1424 and 28 May 1425, having made a number of enfeoffments to secure his possessions in London. He was buried in the parish church of St. Martin Ludgate, to which he made generous bequests of property for the maintenance of a chantry. His widow, Agnes, received a dower of 100 marks and a life interest in other premises in the City held by Powe’s two nephews and heirs. The rest of his estate went by prior arrangement to support another chantry in the chapel of St. Paul’s churchyard.5