WADE, John I, of London.
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Family and Education
m. bef. Easter 1377, Isabel (d.1400), yst. da. of Richard Hackney (d.1343), of London, woolmonger, wid. of William Olneye (d.1375), of London, fishmonger, poss. 1 ch. d.v.p.1
Common councillor, Billingsgate Ward June 1384-Aug. 1388; auditor, London 21 Sept. 1390-2, 1394-5; alderman, Aldgate Ward by 11 Sept. 1394-bef. 13 Oct.1402.2
Sheriff, London and Mdx. Mich. 1398-9.
Commr. to arrest highwaymen, Kent, Surr., Mdx. July 1399.
Wade served his apprenticeship with Henry Hale, the wealthy London fishmonger, who, in his will of March 1375, promised him a quantity of silver plate and the reversion of commercial premises in Bridge Street to be held on a shared lease. Hale died in the following year, by which time his former apprentice was evidently old enough to set up in business on his own account. Marriage to Isabel Olneye, the widow of another prosperous fishmonger, did much to ensure Wade’s early success. Besides a substantial share of her late husband’s goods, Isabel held a life estate in the manor of Haliwick in Middlesex, which was worth at least 20 marks a year. She also enjoyed an annual rent of £10 from land and tenements in the parish of St. Mary atte Hill, Tower Street, although in March 1379 this was settled upon John Browning of Gloucester, perhaps in exchange for property elsewhere. The tenements themselves, and the advowson of the church in Tower Street, remained in Isabel’s hands, as also did a hostelry called Le Vyne in the parish of St. Ethelburga, Bishopsgate, which was part of her own inheritance.3 Richard Hackney’s generosity towards his elder children had not extended to Isabel, who, being born posthumously, was denied an immediate share of her father’s extensive London property. The death of her childless brother, Alan, brought her his part of the family estates, comprising tenements in three city parishes, although she had to fight a legal action against the prior of the Carthusians of London in 1380 to secure her title. She also owned premises in the parish of St. Anne Aldersgate, which probably came from her first husband.4
Wade himself had acquired a tenement and garden worth ten marks a year in the nearby parish of St. Botolph without Aldersgate before October 1388, when he was suing a neighbour for nuisance. In the autumn of 1391 he further consolidated his holdings in the capital by taking on the joint lease of all Robert Little’s London property at an annual rent of 40 marks, payable for the term of Little’s life. He and the other new tenants could only raise half this sum from the estate, and in the following July they obtained permission to settle their interest upon Christ Church priory, Canterbury, possibly in furtherance of a prearranged scheme by the owner. Wade retained control of his wife’s inheritance after her death at Whitsuntide 1400, and continued to enjoy the revenues for another 13 years if not longer. They undoubtedly made up a substantial part of the annual income of £23, which, according to the lay subsidy return of 1412, he was said to derive from the City alone, in addition to the profits of various holdings acquired by him outside London.5 During the Michaelmas term of 1402, for example, he bought a messuage and 73 acres of land in Stepney, Middlesex, subsequently settling the estate upon the feoffees who had been party to the transaction. Ten years later he invested in another messuage and plot of land, this time in East Malling, Kent. Judging by his previous involvement in a dispute over the presentation of the rectory at Aylesford, he may well have had other territorial interests in the county.6
That Wade still turned to the victualling trade as his chief source of income is evident from the amount of fish purchased by him for sale in the capital alone. During the spring of 1390 he paid customs duties on consignments worth over £245, and although these imports, falling partly in Lent, may not be representive of the year as a whole, they illustrate clearly enough the scale of his commercial dealings. His appearances as a mainpernor and feoffee also show him to have been rich and influential. In March 1380 he stood bail for a Dutch merchant imprisoned in Newgate; and seven years later he offered joint sureties of £1,000 in Chancery on behalf of a fellow fishmonger, Hugh Fastolf*. Again, in October 1402, he was named as a mainpernor by two clerks accused of contempt contrary to the Statute of Provisors.7 Many eminent Londoners involved Wade in their property transactions: between 1369 and 1406 he was party to at least ten different enfeoffments-to-uses, two of which were made by his close friend and business colleague, the wealthy fishmonger, Nicholas Exton†. Their association had begun by the Hilary term of 1369, when Wade first appeared among Exton’s feoffees, and continued until Exton died in 1401, naming Wade as his executor. The latter took his duties seriously, and in August 1403 assumed the guardianship of his friend’s daughter, Agnes, whose inheritance he already held in trust. He was also connected with other members of the Exton family: in May 1393, for instance, one Thomas Coldred acknowledged a debt of £100 owed jointly to Wade and Peter Exton, and at some point before November 1405 Thomas Exton* settled part of his wife’s inheritance upon the fishmonger.8
As a landlord who was also husband to an heiress, Wade inevitably found himself caught up in a round of litigation over the ownership of property. In addition to their suit against the prior of the Carthusians of London, he and his wife took Bishop Wykeham of Winchester and the deacon of the church of St. Martin the Great to court in 1377, successfully establishing their legal title to a messuage and three shops in the City. The outcome of a third action begun against John Carleton, archdeacon of Colchester, for the recovery of another London tenement in April 1390 remains unknown, as do the final verdicts, if any were reached, in the two cases first heard in November 1397 and March 1405 when Wade appeared among the defendants. In both these instances, however, he seems to have been involved as a feoffee-to-uses rather than on his own account. As we have seen, Wade was also party to a dispute over the advowson of Aylesford rectory, and in September 1407 he bound himself in £200 to accept the award of four arbitrators. Yet no decision had been reached by October 1409, when the rival claimants entered similar obligations.9
Wade first began to play an active part in civic affairs during the troubled period after John of Northampton’s† fall and imprisonment. As a member of the livery company which had suffered most from this troublesome character’s reforming zeal, Wade must have welcomed the former mayor’s disgrace, and on 11 June 1384 he joined with other members of the common council in finding Northampton personally responsible for the recent disturbances in London. Nine days later he was among ‘the best and wisest men of the City’ chosen by the council to reform the notorious ‘Jubilee Book’ of ordinances passed during Northampton’s mayoralty. Over the next two years he attended all of the meetings of the common council at which questions of law enforcement and the suppression of further disorder came under discussion.10 Although not yet an alderman at the time of Richard II’s quarrel with London in 1392, Wade enjoyed a considerable reputation, and was one of the 24 commoners in secundo gradu potentiores civitatis, who were summoned with the mayor and other dignitaries to attend upon the King at Nottingham on 25 June of that year. Richard proceeded to suspend the normal government of the City because of certain ‘notable defaults’ on the part of the ruling hierarchy, whose reluctance to advance further credit to the government had clearly prompted this vindictive step. However, since he had had nothing directly to do either with the refusal of funds or with any alleged malpractices, Wade’s personal involvement in the crisis then ceased. Perhaps for this reason, he seems not to have shared his fellow citizens’ deep-seated suspicion of the Crown, and in December 1396 and May 1397 he advanced two separate sums of 100 marks to Richard II, being repaid—in part at least—out of the forthcoming wool subsidy. Despite his experience as an auditor of London, Wade was only once, in December 1399, called upon to examine other accounts presented at the Guildhall; nor does he appear to have served on any of the financial or administrative committees set up by the common council.