WALDERN, Geoffrey (d.c.1396), of London.
Available from Boydell and Brewer
Family and Education
Nothing is known of Waldern before July 1375, when he was made a feoffee of property in Thames Street, London. In the following year he began a lawsuit against one Adam Upton of Nottinghamshire for the recovery of a modest debt, perhaps for drapers’ goods. He certainly did business outside the capital at this time, since it was in April 1377 that one of his servants had a pack of woollen cloth stolen from him while travelling through Buckinghamshire. Waldern’s financial dealings may well have been quite complex. In 1377, for example, he and two other merchants bound themselves in £60 to the mayor of London as a guarantee of future indemnity against any claims or actions arising from payments made by them ‘of money belonging to the King’s enemies in France’.4
If not strikingly rich in comparison with other city merchants, Waldern can at least be numbered among the more affluent citizens of late 14th-century London. Between May 1377 and June 1379 he made regular payments to the collectors of the cloth subsidy; and in January 1379 he contributed the relatively large sum of five marks towards a gift raised by the people of London to persuade ‘the great lords of the realm’ to take up residence again in the capital. Meanwhile, in October 1378, Waldern stood surety for John Shalyngford, a fellow draper, whom the city chamberlain had appointed as guardian of two orphaned children. Four years later he again acted as a mainpernor—this time in Chancery on behalf of another draper, who came from Winchester.5 The collection of unpaid debts evidently took up a good deal of Waldern’s time: from June 1380 to January 1395 he sued no less than ten people for sums totalling almost £52, but he seems eventually to have abandoned most of his attempts to obtain redress through the courts.6
Although. he was considerably better off than most of the Londoners who supported the radical John of Northampton† during the early 1380s, Waldern shared their hostility towards the monopolistic powers of the great victualling guilds and therefore, in common with many other drapers, he threw in his lot with the reforming party. He was among the crowd of adherents whom Northampton summoned to attend him at Bow church on 7 Feb. 1384 in a last ditch attempt to regain power in the City, and shortly afterwards he stood surety on behalf on one of the former mayor’s more violent partisans who had been arrested at that time. Again, two years later, he appears among the mainpernors of a Londoner accused of disrupting the election as mayor of Sir Nicholas Brembre†, Northampton’s great enemy, but by then he had shrewdly renounced any closer connexion with the radicals. Waldern’s political volte face was so complete and convincing that he not only managed to avoid reprisals, but even helped to effect the hostile measures introduced by the common council after Northampton’s fall. He attended the council meeting of 11 June 1384 at which Northampton was unanimously held responsible for the recent disturbances in London, and nine days later, as one of ‘the best and wisest men of the City’, he was nominated to serve on a committee for the revision of the notorious ‘Jubilee Book’ of ordinances passed during the previous mayoralty. He doubtless found it expedient to join with the other councillors who pressed in March 1385 for Northampton’s immediate execution; and his appointment to a commission of 12 aldermen and 12 commoners then set up by the common council to examine ways of strengthening the City’s defences suggests that he had firmly allied himself with Brembre’s faction.7
Waldern never suffered because of his earlier association with Northampton. On the contrary, he began to play a fuller part in civic life, and also appears to have grown more prosperous. In March 1387, for instance, he was chosen by the common council to enforce a new schedule of murage charges, and in the same year he undertook to guarantee the replacement of £10 of the sum borrowed from the City’s funds for the defence of London. He may have been trading at Southampton during this period, for in June 1388 a Kentishman named Henry Stile was killed there while in his service; and he subsequently acquired a tenement and garden in the town, presumably as a commercial base. Meanwhile, in 1390, he offered joint sureties of £1,000 for the skinner William Oliver, who was then a prisoner in the Tower. It is evident from his appointment as an auditor of London shortly afterwards that he had by then successfully established himself in the upper ranks of the civic hierarchy.8
Waldern probably kept up his draper’s business for most of his life, although the last known reference to his interest in the cloth trade occurs in a London customs account for September 1391. Some of his profits were probably invested in property: we know that in November 1382 he leased certain unspecified premises from Thomas Gisors and that, as a regular representative of Cordwainer Street Ward, he must have occupied property there. According to an inquisition held before the mayor of London in 1414, the executors of William atte Well sold a tenement in the parish of St. Lawrence Pountney jointly to Waldern and one John Koke at some unrecorded date, but no other evidence of his ownership survives. He died within two years of his one and only return to Parliament, leaving unfinished business in Ireland, where, on 3 May 1397, his widow, Cecily, nominated two attorneys to act on her behalf.9
Ref Volumes: 1386-1421
- 1. CPR, 1396-9, p. 120.