SUDBURY, John (d.1425), of London.
Available from Boydell and Brewer
Family and Education
m. Denise, 3s.1
Warden of the Grocers’ Co. May 1403-4.2
The subject of this biography may well have been a son of the John Sudbury whose brother, Simon, became archbishop of Canterbury in 1375 and was murdered during the Peasants’ Revolt. The two brothers came from Sudbury in Suffolk, where they bought and largely rebuilt the church of St. Gregory, setting up a college for secular priests on the site of their father’s house. Our Member clearly had some personal connexion with the college, to which he left the reversion of a London tenement, although the once popular belief that he himself was the archbishop’s brother is demonstrably untrue, since the latter died at some point before February 1382. The two John Sudburys are, however, known to have acted successively as trustees of the same London property, doubtless because of some longstanding family friendship between them and the owners.3
It is by no means certain that the John Sudbury who served on a London jury in July 1385 went on to represent the City in Parliament, especially as nothing more is heard of him for the next 15 years. The MP, however, had assumed the full livery of the Grocers’ Company by Christmas 1400, and was evidently rich and influential enough to be made one of its wardens three years later. Very little evidence has survived about his business dealings, although he was a man of some substance. In July 1408, for example, he was trying to recover a debt of £66 owed jointly to him and a Somerset man on the strength of a bond drawn up before the mayor of the Staple of Westminster. His appearances as an executor and feoffee also suggest that he enjoyed considerable influence among his contemporaries. For a brief period in 1408 he was given the wardship of the children of John Drewe, one of the three wealthy grocers whose wills he helped to execute.4 He had, meanwhile, been made a feoffee of John Doreward’s* property in Essex; and he subsequently joined with William Sevenoak* in performing a similar service for members of the Radwell family, who owned tenements in London and Southwark. Sudbury acted as a trustee on several other occasions, and was twice involved in litigation arising from disputes over the ownership of the premises thus settled upon him.5
Although he never held any civic office, Sudbury was certainly as affluent as many of those who became aldermen of London. He owned two tenements in the parish of St. Leonard East Cheap, where he also rented property belonging to the church of Holy Trinity the Great. Altogether his holdings in the City were worth almost £5 a year in 1412, above whatever income came to him from land in the country. His will contains a bequest of ten marks for building works at the parish church of Pattiswick in Essex, so it looks very much as if he acquired property there, too. During the Trinity term of 1428 his widow established a title to rents in the neighbouring village of Stisted, possibly as part of her own inheritance or else by way of dower.6
Sudbury seems to have been quite old at the time of his death, since as early as March 1413 he was excused jury service because of increasing old age. His advanced years did not, however, prevent him from sitting as a juror in March 1423, so the reason for his initial exemption was, perhaps, spurious. He died between May and November 1425, leaving a widow and three young sons who together shared bequests of £70 in cash, as well as the customary assignment of goods and chattels. The state of his finances at this time remains a matter of speculation, although three London citizens promised to pay his executors an old debt of £80 by Michaelmas 1428, and there were probably other sums to be collected. Sudbury’s widow retained a life interest in all his London properties, but nothing more is known of her after the summer of 1428.7
Ref Volumes: 1386-1421
- 1. Corporation of London RO, hr 154/32.
- 2. Ms. Archs. Grocers’ Company ed. Kingdon, i. 94-96.
- 3. Cal. Wills ct. Husting London ed. Sharpe, i (2), 439-40; CAD, i. A1718, 1797, ii. A2515; Beaven, Aldermen, i. 287; DNB, xix. 146-8; Corporation of London RO, hr 143/68. Sudbury may also have been related to the draper, William Sudbury, who was a London tax collector in 1394 (CFR, xi. 106).
- 4. Cal. Letter Bk. London, H, 271; Kingdon, i. 84; C241/199/45; Cal. Letter Bk. London, I, 64, 68, 126, 147, 177, 182, 201.
- 5. Corporation of London RO, hr 138/65, 144/32, 162/30; hpl 136 m. 12, 137 m. 1, 147, Monday aft. feast SS. Perpetua and Felicity, 1 Hen. VI; CCR, 1405-9, pp. 274, 277; 1409-13, pp. 433-4; 1422-9, pp. 148-9, 185; Eton Coll. recs. W189, 675-8, 680-1.
- 6. PCC 4 Luffenham; Arch. Jnl. xliv. 68; Corporation of London RO, hr 137/16, 140/27; Essex Feet of Fines, iv. 13.
- 7. Cal. Letter Bk. London, I, 113; PCC 4 Luffenham; Cal. P. and M. London, 1381-1412, pp. 221-2; 1413-37, p. 155.