SHADWORTH, John (d.1430), of London.

Published in The History of Parliament: the House of Commons 1386-1421, ed. J.S. Roskell, L. Clark, C. Rawcliffe., 1993
Available from Boydell and Brewer



Feb. 1388
Jan. 1390

Family and Education

Offices Held

Farmer of customs, Dover to Gravesend 16 Nov. 1378-13 Nov. 1379.

Auditor, London 21 Sept. 1381-2, 1386-7, 1389-90; alderman of Tower Ward 12 Mar. 1383-4, Coleman Street Ward 1385-6, Bassishaw Ward 1386-c.1415; common councillor, Cheap Ward 13 Oct. 1384; mayor, London 13 Oct. 1401-2.1

Tax collector, London Nov. 1382, Dec. 1384.2

Commr. of array, London July 1383; inquiry Mar. 1393; to make arrests May 1402.

Surveyor of murage, London Mar. 1387.3

Sheriff, London and Mdx. Mich. 1391-25 June 1392.

Warden of the Mercers’ Co. 24 June 1396-7, 1403-4, 1409-10.4

Member of Henry IV’s council 1 Nov. 1399-18 July 1400.5


One of the most distinguished figures to represent London during our period, Shadworth served his apprenticeship with the mercer, Thomas Cornerth, whom he remembered with evident affection in his will. The first known reference to him does not occur until May 1371, however, when he was already active as an executor of Thomas Bushey. Four years later, Shadworth and many others were accused by the fishmonger, Walter Sibille, of making an armed raid upon his property at Great Yarmouth: a royal commission met to investigate these allegations, although by June 1382 Shadworth and Sibille were on sufficiently good terms to act as joint auditors of certain mercantile accounts. Meanwhile, in November 1378, the mercer and his friend, John More, were made farmers of the subsidy on poundage to be collected over the following year from Dover to Gravesend, paying £70 to the Exchequer for this potentially lucrative appointment. Three months later Shadworth contributed five marks towards the gift raised by the people of London for placating the great lords and persuading them to take up residence again in the City. At some point before November 1381 he became involved in currency exchange, and is known to have dealt in Flemish crowns.6

Although a mercer, Shadworth maintained diverse business interests, the chief and most profitable of which appears to have been in the wool trade. In January 1384 he was assigned 500 marks (jointly with William Standon* and Sir John Philipot) by the Crown to arrange for the shipment of wool and other merchandise to the Middleburg Staple from England. Over a period of just three months, ending in February 1385, Shadworth obtained royal licences to export at least 155 sarplers of his own wool from London to Calais. Shortly afterwards he received permission to appoint attorneys to represent him in Ireland for one year, but this was not a regular occurrence.7 Indeed, he was far more anxious to establish connexions in Germany and among the merchants of the Hanse trading in England, whom he subsequently represented as an alderman. In July 1388 he stood surety for several German merchants who had been arrested in London, and in the following year he joined with two members of the Hanseatic League to protest over the seizure of a cargo of wax and assorted commodities intended by them for sale on the English market. Shadworth either lent money directly to the Crown or supplied the royal wardrobe with merchandise on credit, for in March 1389 he was assigned £60 from the Exchequer, and in August of that year a sum of £86 appears still to have been unpaid despite frequent reminders sent on his behalf to the collectors of customs at Kingston-upon-Hull.8

Always ready to invest in any profitable branch of commerce, Shadworth shipped four consignments of iron worth a total of £375 into London during the late summer of 1390. He none the less remained an active member of the Mercers’ Company, staunchly defending its privileges from exploitation by outsiders. He retained a series of apprentices during this period, and while warden of the Company, in April 1397, acquired property in the City on its behalf. He had by then spent a few months acting as an attorney for one of Lord Latimer’s executors, and was also trying to recover two debts of £50 and £200 owed to him personally.9 The fragmentary nature of the customs records for London makes it impossible to keep track of Shadworth’s commercial activities. We know, for example, that eight sarplers of wool which his agents were transporting to the City were detained by the sheriff of Buckinghamshire in the spring of 1397, but no further references to his ventures in this field have survived. The award made to him for life in November 1399 of the privilege of having the tronage (i.e. the weighing for customs purposes) of wool in London at his own warehouse on the Thames must have given him many practical advantages over his competitors. The grant was renewed in April 1402, as was the annuity of £4 which had been settled upon him by way of expenses, although at some point over the next 20 years he decided to dispose of the concession to one Alice Lynne.10

Most of the remaining evidence about the MP’s business affairs concerns the various sums of money owed to him by those with whom he did business, possibly as a money lender. In July 1412 Richard, earl of Oxford, pledged two of his Essex manors as security for the payment of 500 marks to him and others, and appears to have met his obligations without delay. This was certainly not the case with regard to the 200 marks borrowed in desperation by John Styuecle*, who found it impossible to honour his financial commitments and thus lost his manor of Coppingford in Huntingdonshire to Shadworth when the latter decided, in 1415, to foreclose upon the mortgage. Problems had, meanwhile, arisen over a far larger debt of £411 due to Shadworth and two of his fellow mercers from William Venour: in 1414, after a delay of over seven years, the creditors petitioned Parliament for redress and were promised that due settlement would be made. One year later Shadworth again submitted an appeal to Parliament, this time because of his failure to recover over £53 assigned to him by tally for certain commodities purchased by the clerk of Henry IV’s wardrobe. Between June 1416 and the time of his death, he claimed to be owed a staggering total of £1,515 by the government.11

As well as the ‘wollewharf’ and adjoining premises in Tower Ward where he exercised his right to tronage, Shadworth acquired property in at least four city parishes. By 1412 he was sure of an annual income in the order of £43 from these holdings and perhaps from others whose ownership cannot be so definitely established.12 It is now impossible to determine with any degree of certainty the extent of his possessions in London, since he was so often called upon to act as a trustee that his own transactions cannot always be distinguished from those of friends and associates. He was at various times a party to conveyances made by or for the most eminent Londoners of his day, being on particularly close terms with the mercers John Bosham*, Richard Whittington* and John Woodcock* (the last of whom also made him his executor).13 In November 1386 Sir William Pecche* settled his title to the manor of Abington and surrounding farmland in Cambridgeshire upon Shadworth and his feoffees. The mercer was confirmed in possession of the property four years later, and evidently retained it until his death, having perhaps lent money to Sir William, as well.14 He probably came by other land outside London, but here again he was so closely involved in the purchases and exchanges made by his fellow citizens (including John Gedney*, Robert Chichele*, Thomas Fauconer* and William Baret*), that the nature of his title to many holdings in the home counties remains open to conjecture.15 Shadworth acted as an executor for at least seven different people, whose affairs are also easily confused with his own. Only rarely, however, did he agree to stand surety for others, although he was occasionally prepared to offer substantial sums, such as the £4,000 which he helped to raise on behalf of Thomas Austyn in November 1387.16

One of London’s most influential citizens, Shadworth came to play an important part in national as well as civic affairs. His first public appearance was in July 1378 when he was elected by the mayor and commonalty of London to ensure that the City’s liberties were being properly exercised. Although by 1384 he had thrown in his lot with the faction of Sir Nicholas Brembre, it seems likely that Shadworth had previously supported, or at least sympathized with, Brembre’s rival, the draper, John of Northampton. His friend, John More, was one of Northampton’s closest associates, and when he was bound over to keep the peace in August 1384 Shadworth assumed personal liability for £1,000 of the securities then taken from him. He had, notwithstanding, already been chosen as one of ‘the best and wisest men of the City’ to examine and revise the notorious ‘Jubilee Book’ of ordinances passed during Northampton’s mayoralty, and in August 1384 he attended Northampton’s trial before the royal council at Reading. In common with many other Londoners who had initially expressed approval for Northampton’s attack on the great victualling guilds, Shadworth was undoubtedly alarmed by the reformer’s violent extremism. In March 1385 the common council appointed him to serve on a committee formed to examine the whole question of law enforcement, and in the following July he was authorized to collect and expend a levy for the improvement of the City’s internal defences.17

Shadworth was sheriff of London at the time of Richard II’s celebrated quarrel with the City, and thus suffered the full effects of his displeasure. The crisis came to a head on 25 June 1392, when he, his fellow sheriff, Henry Vanner*, and John Hende, the mayor, were removed from office because of certain ‘notorious defaults in the government of London’. Shadworth was first sent as a prisoner to Odiham castle in Hampshire, but then received a summons to appear at Aylesbury on 10 July before a special commission presided over by the duke of York. He returned briefly to prison, joining the other officeholders at Eton, where they met just over a week later to hear Richard II pronounce judgement on their alleged malpractices. According to The Polychronicon, Shadworth was reluctant to yield to the King, and this may explain why the unusually heavy securities of £3,000 were taken from his mainpernors at the time of York’s inquiry. Perhaps he had previously led the opposition to Richard’s demands for a large corporate loan from the City, which had, in fact, sparked off the incident. Yet, as he recognized only too well, further resistance was useless, and together with his colleagues he came before Richard II on 22 July to submit to a joint fine of 3,000 marks. Despite his initial obduracy, he was re-appointed to his aldermanry at royal pleasure on the following day, although Richard did take additional bonds of £1,000 from him and Henry Vanner as a guarantee of their willingness to be examined by the council. A royal pardon was granted to the civic dignitaries two months later, and, in October 1392, 15 aldermen, including Shadworth, bound themselves severally to deliver £11 6s.8d. to the chamberlain of London, evidently as some kind of ‘gift’ intended to regain the King’s favour.18 Nor was this the only occasion on which our Member faced potential ruin at the hands of a capricious monarch. In April 1398 he was among the 28 prominent figures (at least four of whom were Londoners) who were bound in personal recognizances of £200 to appear before the royal council to answer certain unspecified charges. It has been suggested that he was then obliged to seal one of the notorious ‘blank charters’ which placed his goods at the King’s personal disposal, as, indeed, the rulers of London were later to do in an official capacity.19

Such first-hand experience of Richard’s increasing absolutism clearly turned Shadworth into a supporter of the Lancastrian cause. His election to the first Parliament of Henry IV’s reign came but a short while before his appointment to the royal council, and for the last 19 days of the session he sat in the Commons as one of Henry’s councillors. Unlike his predecessor, King Henry recognized the importance of cultivating London’s foremost citizens, and no less than three of them were elevated in this way. For Shadworth, however, preferment came too late for him to capitalize upon his success. Already quite advanced in years, he was excused from holding any royal office or serving on juries against his will in May 1401, although he continued to play a fairly modest role in the government of London for another 14 years. Between 1409 and 1411, for example, he was involved in a series of transactions whereby the City acquired the manor of ‘Le Ledenhalle’ and two advowsons. From time to time he undertook to arbitrate in mercantile or property disputes, and in January 1411 he resumed his old connexion with the Hanseatic League by examining a petition which certain of its members had submitted on the imposition of tolls. Shadworth is known to have attended only one parliamentary election held in the City—that of May 1413—and appears to have retired altogether from public life two years later, when he must have been well over 60.20

Shadworth’s last years did not, even so, pass entirely without incident. According to an inquiry held before the bishop of London in July 1428, it was at his home in the parish of St. Michael Bassishaw that the influential lollard priest, Ralph Mungyn, had propounded certain heretical views. One of the charges levelled against Mungyn was of communicating with Shadworth’s chaplain, Thomas Garenter, a notorious and self-confessed lollard who subsequently went to prison for his beliefs. Although the MP himself was not called upon to give evidence against either man—presumably because of his age—there can be little doubt that if not a practicing lollard he was in later life sympathetic towards the movement. Yet far from revealing any hint of unorthodoxy, his will stands as a model of convention. Shadworth died between 7 Jan. and 6 Oct. 1430, and was buried in the church of St. Mildred Bread Street, to which he made a number of generous bequests. He apparently left neither a wife nor any children, and set aside the greater part of his considerable estate for the performance of pious and charitable works.21

Ref Volumes: 1386-1421

Author: C.R.


Variant: Schadworth.

  • 1. Cal. Letter Bk. London, H, 168, 198, 286-7, 313, 344, 355; I, 15; Cal. P. and M. London, 1381-1412, p. 86; Beaven, Aldermen, i. 17, 108, 198.
  • 2. Cal. Letter Bk. London, H, 207.
  • 3. Ibid. 300.
  • 4. Mercers’ Company Recs. Wardens’ acct. bk. ff. 19d, 37, 49d.
  • 5. E404/15/477.
  • 6. CCR, 1369-74, p. 293; CPR, 1374-7, pp. 157, 160; CFR, xiii. 120; Cal. P. and M. London, 1381-1412, pp. 27, 31-34; Cal. Letter Bk. London, H, 125.
  • 7. CCR, 1381-5, p. 364; CPR, 1385-9, p. 4; E122/71/9, mm. 1-4.
  • 8. CCR, 1389-92, p. 35; 1405-9, p. 208; CPR, 1388-92, pp. 207-8; Cal. P. and M. London, 1381-1412, pp. 143-4; E403/521, m. 24, 524, m. 23.
  • 9. C241/187/64, 190/71; E122/71/13 mm. 21-22; Mercers’ Company Recs. Wardens’ acct. bk. f. 6, List of members, A-C, f. 23; CPR, 1388-92, p. 395; 1396-9, p. 109; Cal. Letter Bk. London, H, 257.
  • 10. CCR, 1396-9, p. 101; 1399-1402, pp. 536-7; 1413-19, p. 54; CPR, 1399-1401, p. 152; 1401-5, p. 103; 1422-9, p. 142.
  • 11. CPR, 1408-13, p. 426; 1422-9, p. 430; CCR, 1409-13, p. 69; 1413-19 p. 284; RP, iv. 39-40, 75; C241/210/2, 223/24; VCH Hunts. iii. 37.
  • 12. C143/422/5; Corporation of London RO, hr 120/111, 121/13-16, 128/64, 129/83, 134/74, 137/73, 138/19, 141/12, 143/19, 148/51, 57, 156/18, 21, 159/11, 15; Guildhall Lib. London, 9171/3, f. 234; Cart. St. Bartholomew’s Hosp. ed. Kerling, no. 246; CPR, 1416-22, pp. 327-419.
  • 13. Corporation of London RO, hr 111/27, 66, 112/40, 69-70, 77-79, 94, 102-3, 113/103, 114/40, 106, 139, 115/3, 6, 102, 116/13, 23, 27, 118/96, 100, 119/180, 120/81, 84-85, 96, 150, 121/42, 58, 170, 172, 123/137, 124/56, 133, 135, 126/74, 96, 129, 131, 133, 127/54, 129/56, 131/73, 80, 90, 132/4, 133B/54, 69, 134/5, 105, 125, 135/18, 24, 44, 136/23, 137/56-57, 141/58, 142/26, 66, 70, 143/36, 146/1, 6, 147/35, 45, 148/6, 149/19, 150/23, 152/3, 154/52; CCR, 1409-13, pp. 78, 168-9.
  • 14. CP25(1)29/89/74; CCR, 1385-9, pp. 274-5, 466; 1389-92, p. 482; 1409-13, pp. 182-3; Corporation of London RO, hr 159/11; CPR, 1405-8, p. 11.
  • 15. CP25(1) 30/90/99, 151/77/62; Essex Feet of Fines, iii. 207, 256, 266; CAD, i. B809; iii. D402; CPR, 1370-4, p. 465; 1413-16, p. 398; 1416-22, p. 151; 1422-9, pp. 386, 483; CCR, 1377-81, p. 335; 1385-9, pp. 433, 466, 599; 1405-9, pp. 246, 462, 520; 1413-19, pp. 370, 374-5; 1422-9, pp. 286-7, 297.
  • 16. C1/6/140; PCC 22 Marche; Corporation of London RO, hr 109/102; Cal. P. and M. London, 1381-1412, p. 64; 1413-37, p. 9; Cal. Letter Bk. London, H, 49; I, 112; CCR, 1369-74, p. 293; 1385-9, p. 359; CFR, xii. 8-9; Eton Coll. recs. W704-5, 712-13.
  • 17. Cal. P. and M. London, 1381-1412, pp. 57, 59; Cal. Letter Bk. London, H, 94, 235, 271.
  • 18. Reign of Ric. II ed. Du Boulay and Barron, 183-7; Cal. Letter Bk. London, H, 391; R. Higden, Polychronicon ed. Lumby, ix. 273-4; CPR, 1391-6, pp. 100, 130, 171; CCR, 1392-6, pp. 2, 9, 12, 78, 88-89; Cal. P. and M. London, 1381-1412, pp. 182-3.
  • 19. CCR, 1396-9, p. 277; Studies in London Hist. ed. Hollaender and Kellaway, 211.
  • 20. C219/11/1; Cal. Letter Bk. London, I, 92-93, 95; Corporation of London RO, hr 136/62, 138/76; CCR, 1399-1402, p. 134; 1409-13, p. 85; Cal. P. and M. London, 1381-1412, p. 231;