STANDON, William (d.1410), of Wimpole, Cambs. and London.
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Family and Education
s. of John Standon by his w. Alice. m. (1) Elizabeth; (2) bef. Feb. 1393, Agnes; (3) c.1403, Agnes (c.1387-4 Mar. 1461), da. and event. coh. of Sir Adam Francis* by his 1st w. Margaret; wid. of Thomas Basings (d.1400) of Kenardington, Kent, 1da.1
Buyer for the King’s household Jan. 1378-Dec. 1396.
Tax collector, London Nov. 1382.2
Alderman of Aldgate Ward 12 Mar. 1383-90, during royal pleasure (no ward given) 14 July-c. 24 Sept. 1392, Dowgate Ward by 24 Sept. 1392-12 Mar. 1393, Cheap Ward 12 Mar. 1393-d.; auditor, London 21 Sept. 1384-5; mayor 13 Oct. 1392-3, 1407-8.3
Commr. of array, London July 1383; sewers, Kent, Surr. Jan. 1388; gaol delivery, Newgate Dec. 1392, Jan. 1393, London Nov. 1407; inquiry, London, Mdx. June 1406; to help audit the accounts of the treasurers of war Dec. 1406.4
Sheriff, London and Mdx. Mich. 1386-7.
Collector of the wool custom, London 6 Feb. 1406-20 Feb. 1407.
Parity. cttee. to witness the engrossment of the Parliament roll Dec. 1406.5
Standon’s long and successful career was that of a wealthy merchant who combined public service with commerce and ended his life as a country gentleman. His bequest of money for a family chantry in the parish church of Standon suggests that he was not a Londoner by birth, but came originally from Hertfordshire. At the time of his death he owned property a few miles south of Standon in Sawbridgeworth, which he may perhaps have inherited from his father.6 He had settled in London by 1374, when he was admitted to full membership of the Grocers’ Company, paying an entry fine of 6s.8d. to the wardens in the following year. In May 1377 a group of English merchants, including Standon, claimed to have lost goods worth £1,340 through French piracy in the Channel, and were offered partial compensation out of property confiscated from certain Frenchmen trading in London.7 Standon was first employed by the Crown in January 1378, the date of his appointment as a purveyor of victuals for the royal household. He held this post, on and off, for the next 18 years; and on 6 Apr. 1385 he was rewarded with an annual fee of ten marks payable by the Exchequer. Although he followed Richard II to Ireland in April 1399, having obtained royal letters of protection under the name of ‘William Standon, esquire’, his annuity was none the less confirmed to him by Henry IV some two months after Richard’s deposition. He is known to have supplied the royal household with sugar in 1404, and he may possibly have done business with the clerk of the spicery on other occasions, now unrecorded.8
In common with other leading members of the Grocers’ Company, Standon made a considerable amount of money out of the wool trade. Over the period November 1384 to August 1385, for example, he obtained royal licences to ship no less than 118 sarplers of wool to Calais from the port of London. Unfortunately, the customs records are too fragmentary to establish any precise figures regarding the full scope of his operations, but he was evidently active as an exporter until his death. During the spring of 1400 he shipped a further 21 sarplers of wool to Calais from London; and in January 1409 and February 1410 he had licences to export a total of 39 sarplers thence from the ports of Lewes and Seaford.9 Never one to miss the opportunity for a quick profit, Standon dealt in a wide range of commodities, often as an agent for others. In January 1384 he and his colleague, John Shadworth* (who eventually acted as his executor), were assigned 500 marks from the wool subsidy to cover the cost of shipping merchandise to England from Middleburg in Zeeland for the Crown. Shortly afterwards, Standon and three different partners succeeded in recovering a consignment of wine which had been wrecked off the Hampshire coast on its way from Bordeaux and seized by the bailiffs of Southampton. Another ship carrying his goods was driven ashore at Mousehole, Cornwall, in February 1393, much to the delight of the local people, who shared the cargo of grain, wax, skins and oil among themselves. Towards the end of his life he also began trading in finished cloth, which he appears to have purchased for sale in London.10
That Standon prospered through trade is beyond question, although it is now impossible to tell exactly how rich he was. In January 1379 he contributed the relatively large sum of five marks towards a gift raised by the people of London for placating the lords; and at a much later date, in May 1402, he joined with an influential group of Londoners (including Thomas Knolles*, another of his executors) to lend £200 to the King. In June 1407 Henry IV borrowed £133 jointly from Standon and his fellow grocer, Robert Haxton*, but again we do not know the size of Standon’s own contribution. Between 1404 and 1409 he attempted to recover five bonds in the statute of the Staple of Westminster for sums totalling £305, none of which had been paid on time. Previously, however, he seems to have been owed less serious debts, only one of which exceeded £20.11
More striking evidence of Standon’s wealth is to be found in the size of the bequests made by him in his will. By 1409 he was in a position to dispose of cash sums well in excess of £880, together with quantities of plate and other valuables worth at least £300. Over the years his investments in property had also been considerable. At some point before February 1393, he and his second wife settled their manor of Spittalcombe with extensive appurtenances in East Greenwich and Deptford, Kent, upon Thomas Arundel, then archbishop of York and chancellor of England. The transaction was completed during the Michaelmas term of that year, when Arundel agreed to buy out Standon’s title for £1,000.12 The sale enabled Standon to purchase immediately from Simon Burgh* the manor of ‘Bassingbourn’ in Wimpole, Cambridgeshire, to which he was to add ‘Cobbs’ in the same parish in 1401, and two more manors in the neighbouring village of Arrington as well as farmland at Orwell. The property in Conington which he acquired in 1395 from Robert Scott* and his wife, Eleanor (to whom he was possibly related) seems to have left his possession before he died. Nevertheless, his purchases in Cambridgeshire alone provided him with an annual income well in excess of the £28 at which they were to be assessed in 1412 when in his widow’s ownership. Standon’s landed income was certainly more than sufficient to qualify him for election as a shire knight, a distinction which he shared with only two other Londoners during our period.13
Standon’s third wife, Agnes Francis, to whom he was married shortly after 1400, provided him with yet more property in Cambridgeshire, notably land in Trumpington, which she had inherited towards the end of the 14th century following the deaths of her maternal grandmother and two brothers. In her youth he had been married to Thomas Basings, son of Sir John Basings† and heir to his substantial estates in Rutland and Kent. The grocer thus also gained possession of her dower lands and jointure consisting of the Kentish manor of Kenardington and some 200 acres of land, altogether worth at least £18 a year. But these were small pickings when compared with Agnes’s potential wealth: in making the match Standon was well aware that she stood to inherit a half-share in the widespread country estates of her father, Sir Adam Francis, as well as in his many valuable properties in the City of London. Yet in this respect Standon was doomed to disappointment, for his father-in-law outlived him.14
Predictably, Standon had many territorial interests in London, although it is not always easy to determine whether or not he was acting, in certain cases, merely as somebody else’s trustee. He occupied a tenement and garden in the parish of All Hallows Barking at some point before September 1390, when he acquired other premises in Walbrook which remained in his hands for the next 16 years. In June 1405 he took on a short-term lease of all Thomas Sherwynd’s property in the parish of St. Thomas the Apostle; and by the time of his death he was also the owner of one tenement called the ‘Skaldyng Haw’, which he left to the Grocers’ Company, and of another known as ‘Northwychiskeye’ with appurtenances in Thames Street. The latter presumably served as a base for his commercial activities in the City.15
A number of wealthy Londoners, including John, the son of William Tong*, and Elizabeth, widow of William More I* and wife of Robert Chichele*, called upon Standon to act as their feoffee. He was also a party, in October 1385, to the settlement upon John, Lord Cobham, and others of the dower of Cecily Gamboun; and several years later, in February 1409, he joined with Richard Whittington* in acquiring the London manor of ‘Le Leddenhalle’, which later passed into the hands of the civic authorities.16 Yet Standon rarely involved himself more closely in the affairs of others. In February 1378 he acted as an attorney for William Colyn in a property dispute heard before the husting court of London, but he did not assume such responsibilities again until July 1406, when those English merchants who had together undertaken in Parliament to supervise naval defence made him one of their attorneys for the collection of revenue. Meanwhile, in October 1387, Standon appeared as a mainpernor for the fishmonger, Nicholas Exton†, in the Exchequer; and somewhat later, in July 1402, he offered sureties of £200 in Chancery on behalf of three Genoese traders. He himself took a number of recognizances from William Parys and his feoffees, in January 1409, as a guarantee of their readiness to settle property worth 400 marks on William Hyde (son of William I*) and his wife.17
Standon was already an alderman of London at the time of John of Northampton’s† fall from power in October 1383; and in view of the former mayor’s attack upon the monopolistic practices of the great victualling companies he must have welcomed the election in his stead of Sir Nicholas Brembre†, a fellow grocer. He attended the common council meeting of 11 June 1384, when Northampton was unanimously found to be responsible for recent disturbances in London, and nine days later he was chosen by that body as one of ‘the best and wisest men of the City’ to revise the notorious ‘Jubilee Book’ of ordinances introduced during the previous mayoralty. In the following August he travelled to Reading for Northampton’s summary trial before the royal council, and was also present at an emergency session of the common council of the City which met in March 1385 to press for the prisoner’s immediate execution. One day later, 12 aldermen, including Standon, were appointed to a committee with instructions to consider how the defences of the City might best be strengthened against any future outbreaks of disorder. As sheriff of London in September 1387, he must be held in part responsible for the hastily compiled indictments brought against William Sheringham* and other Londoners on the ground that they had abetted Northampton in his crimes. The indictments represented a last-ditch attempt by Brembre to retain power in the capital, and the accused were easily able to prove their innocence after his fall.18 The appeal in Parliament and execution of Brembre, the King’s unpopular favourite, in February 1388, consequently left Standon in an extremely vulnerable position. As a royal servant and annuitant—albeit at a fairly modest level—he deemed it expedient to take out an official pardon in November of that year, covering whatever ‘treasons, felonies and other offences punishable with loss of life or limb’ he might be found to have committed between October 1382 and the previous May. He obtained a second pardon in June 1398, but this was evidently far more of a formality.19
Since he held no civic office when the quarrel between Richard II and London came to a head in the summer of 1392, Standon managed to avoid becoming personally involved in the protracted crisis which ensued. The Polychronicon does, however, refer to him as being made keeper of London after the removal of John Hand† from the office of mayor on 25 June of that year—a misapprehension which may have arisen from the fact that he probably acted as Hand’s deputy while all the civic dignitaries were at Nottingham waiting upon the King. Richard had insisted that the City should be left in safe hands, and Standon, a former member of the official hierarchy, was obviously a wise choice as temporary custodian. His past record of service to the Crown and intimacy with Brembre perhaps also influenced his appointment on 24 July 1392 as an alderman holding office during royal pleasure—it almost certainly led the people of London, cowed after their recent confrontation with the King, to make Standon mayor once the normal government of the City had been restored. He was also confirmed in the aldermanry which, previously, he had held by letters patent rather than the customary process of election. On 22 Oct. 1392 Standon joined with 14 other aldermen in promising to pay £11 6s.8d. to the chamberlain of London by the end of November, possibly as a contribution towards a royal ‘loan’ or gift intended to retain Richard’s favour.20
Although he surprisingly never held office as warden of the Grocers’ Company, Standon remained one of its more active members until 1408 at least, when he is last known to have worn the Grocers’ livery. In 1403 he was given a pipe of wine by the wardens ‘pur son trauaille a Storesbrigge [Stourbridge] feyre pur maintenir nostre Fraunchise illeoques’; and at the time of his second election as mayor in October 1407 they spent almost £85 on providing him with a suitable escort.21 Meanwhile, in 1406, the date of his sixth and last return to Parliament, he was not only chosen to witness the engrossment of the roll of the Parliament, but also called upon to help audit the accounts of the treasurers of war, a task for which he was admirably qualified.
Standon died in October 1410, most likely on the feast of the 11,000 Virgins (21 Oct.) when his obit was kept subsequently.22 He left a daughter of five, named Elizabeth, whose marriage and wardship were granted to her new stepfather, William Porter II*, an esquire of the body to the prince of Wales. She survived only until 1426, whereupon her mother sold the reversion of Standon’s estates in Cambridgeshire to Henry Chichele, archbishop of Canterbury, in return for an annual rent of £60 payable for the rest of her life. Standon had made generous provision for the foundation of a chantry at the parish church of St. Andrew in Wimpole, where he and his first wife were buried, but it was not until 1458 that his widow obtained permission from the Crown to make such an endowment. He is, however, chiefly remembered as a benefactor of the London church of St. Stephen Walbrook, which was rebuilt in 1429 on ground bought with the 200 marks set aside by his executors for pious uses.23
Ref Volumes: 1386-1421
- 1. C136/95/40; C137/8/24, 48; VCH Cambs. v. 265; viii. 256; Cal. Letter Bk. London, K, 42; Cal. Wills ct. Husting London ed. Sharpe, ii (2), 393; CCR, 1399-1402, pp. 168, 173.
- 2. Cal. Letter Bk. London, H, 207.
- 3. Beaven, Aldemen, i. 10, 100, 137; CCR, 1392-6, p. 12; Cal. Letter Bk. London, H, 249, 273, 387, 401; I, 60, 70.
- 4. RP, iii. 577; Cal. Letter Bk. London, I, 49, 62.
- 5. RP, iii. 585.
- 6. CFR, xiv. 156, 160; Cal. Wills ct. Husting London, ii (2), 393.
- 7. Ms. Archs. Grocers’ Company ed. Kingdon, i. 46, 49; CCR, 1374-7, p. 554; 1377-81, p. 23.