WALDERN, William (d.1424), of London.
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Family and Education
s. of Geoffrey Waldern of Waldron, Suss. m. (1) by Mar. 1398, Juliana; (2) by Sept. 1413, Margaret (d. Dec. 1426), da. of John Clerk alias atte Lee (d.1413/14), of London, chandler, 2s. 3da.1
Warden of the Mercers’ Co. 24 June 1398-9, 1404-5, 1410-11, 1418-19.2
Alderman, Bread Street Ward c.1399-1415, Bassishaw Ward by 8 Apr. 1415-d.; mayor, London 13 Oct. 1412-13, 1422-3.3
Sheriff, London and Mdx. Mich. 1399-1400.
Collector of an aid, London Dec. 1401.
Collector of customs and subsidies, Southampton 12 Nov. 1402-18 Dec. 1404.
Commr. of oyer and terminer, London Nov. 1403, Feb. 1404, Dec. 1417, June 1418, Jan. 1424; inquiry Dec. 1410, Jan. 1414 (lollards at large), Feb. 1424 (treasons and felonies); gaol delivery Nov. 1412, May 1413, Jan. 1423;4 to provide labour for royal building work at Westminster abbey, London, Mdx. Aug., Nov. 1413.
Tax collector, London Nov. 1404.5
Ambassador to treat for a truce with Burgundy 13 Apr. 1410 or 1411.6
This eminent London merchant, whose career in civic government was both long and distinguished, came originally from Sussex, although he served his apprenticeship in the capital. He is first mentioned in 1388 when, as an agent for his master, John Frosh*, he helped to sell a cargo of wool confiscated at Middleburg from the late Sir Nicholas Brembre†. Waldern ceased to be an apprentice in 1395, and three years later, immediately after becoming a full member of the Mercers’ Company, was elected to serve a term as warden. His former master evidently held him in considerable esteem, and, on drawing up his will in September 1397, left the young man a legacy of £40. By March 1398 Waldern had established himself sufficiently well to be granted a papal indult for a portable altar.9 This suggests that he may have already begun to travel a great deal, although in Ireland, at least, his affairs remained in the hands of agents, two of whom were appointed by him in 1402. The recently deceased London draper, Geoffrey Waldern*, had done business there, too, and may just possibly have been his father. However, no definite evidence of such a relationship survives, either in the way of shared property or a mutual connexion with Sussex. From this time onwards, if not before, the MP started taking on his own apprentices, some of whom were still involved in his affairs long after becoming freemen. That he was already exercising considerable influence over one of the most powerful guilds in London is clear from his inclusion among the eight senior mercers ‘de sagesse et discrescion’ appointed to settle a bitter internal dispute which divided the company during the early years of the 15th century.10
Information about Waldern’s commercial activities and financial affairs is fragmentary, but none the less creates an impression of great wealth. He made at least four loans to Henry IV between November 1402 and December 1403, recovering the first and largest, a sum of £200 advanced on the security of the customs at Southampton, with very little trouble thanks to his appointment as collector there. The King borrowed a further £333 (but not all at once) from Waldern during the early years of the century, and repaid him partly in cash and partly in assignments on forthcoming taxation. Waldern evidently found it harder to recover debts from private individuals. At various times he attempted to collect over £210 due to him on bonds which, for the most part, had not been honoured for several years; and he was owed other, not inconsiderable sums by customers and tradesmen.11 In March 1416 nine foreign merchants entered into substantial recognizances to pay him and his two associates, William Cromer* and Richard Whittington*, the sum of 4,000 marks within the next six weeks. This may have been a straightforward business transaction, although it is possible that the Londoners were here involved in some aspect of government finance. Henry V had already begun to raise money for his second French expedition, and in June 1417 Waldern made a personal contribution of 100 marks towards the venture. One month later he joined with five of the wealthiest aldermen in London (among whom were Whittington and Cromer) in promising to pay £2,000 to the English commander Sir John Tiptoft* and others on the strength of sureties in the same sum pledged to them by the bishop of Durham.12 The indentures by which Waldern and his former apprentice, Thomas Clenhand, undertook to deliver £133 to the collector of the London wool custom in March 1418 probably represent an undertaking to pay the necessary duty on wool exports rather than another royal loan, but as mayor of the Staple of Calais Waldern must have advanced a sizeable part of the £4,000 lent to Henry VI by the merchants of the Staple in April 1423 on the security of a forthcoming wool subsidy.13
Always anxious to build up his fortune and extend his connexions abroad, Waldern became one of the leading members of a consortium of English merchants intent on opening up English trade in the Mediterranean. So alarmed were the Genoese by the threat which this posed to their own mercantile supremacy, that they confiscated a large shipment of cloth and wool allegedly worth £24,000 and imprisoned the factors who sold these goods in Genoa. The English merchants clamoured for reprisals, and in the spring of 1413 obtained letters of marque permitting them to recover the value of their lost goods, together with £10,000 costs, from the ships and merchandise of any Genoese trading in England. Predictably, they experienced major difficulties in giving effect to these letters and were driven to petition Parliament for redress in November 1414. No doubt their cause was greatly assisted by Waldern’s presence in the Commons, but despite the various assurances which they received, many of the merchants, including Waldern himself, were dead before the final £1,000 of a greatly reduced sum was handed over by the Genoese 13 years later. In October 1422 Waldern was still exporting wool (albeit through the more regular channel of the Calais Staple), and one year later he made his last known shipment of cloth into the port of London.14
Much of Waldern’s wealth was invested in property, both in London and elsewhere. His first recorded purchase took place in February 1401 when he bought the leasehold of a tenement called ‘Le Sterre’ with extensive appurtenances in the parish of All Hallows, Dowgate. He and his first wife also owned a tenement in St. Anthony’s parish at this time, although no mention of it is made in his will. In all, Waldern’s holdings in the City were worth an estimated £5 a year in 1412: his annual income from this quarter may well have trebled by 1414, however, since his second wife had then entered the inheritance left to her by her father, John Clerk. This comprised at least seven tenements and II shops, as well as land and rents in three London parishes, and remained in Waldern’s hands until his death. Over the next five years he purchased an inn and an adjacent dwelling in the parish of St. Benedict Shorhog, besides becoming involved in other, less straightforward transactions. There is a possibility that the holdings which he and an associate recovered from Alice and Edmund Salle in 1406 were held by them simply as feoffees; but, if the indentures whereby they agreed to pay £40 a year for the couple’s estate in the parishes of Holy Trinity the Less and St. Botolph without Aldgate were in no way collusive, Waldern must have held property in no less than eight city parishes by 1420.15 Not content with his accessions in London, the mercer also bought land in Essex and Hertfordshire. At the time of his death he owned the manor of ‘Doveres’ in Havering, together with extensive farmland in Bowers Giffard and Rainham, while his possessions in Hertfordshire consisted of two messuages in Braughing and Standon with small holdings attached.16
Inevitably, a man of Waldern’s wealth and position came to play a significant part in the affairs of others. He acted as a mainpernor on several occasions between September 1400 and July 1417: once, with Thomas Fauconer*, for a group of Florentine merchants trading in England, and once for the Coventry mercer, Ralph Garton, who was brought before the King’s bench in February 1414 on suspicion of lollardy.17 In June 1402 and again nine years later, he was appointed to audit certain private accounts submitted to the chamberlain of London, and he also agreed to arbitrate in at least five mercantile disputes during this period.18 Many Londoners chose him to act as their trustee; and although it is not always possible to distinguish his own conveyances from those made by friends or colleagues, he was clearly caught up in the property transactions and financial dealings of Sir William Sturmy*, Sir Thomas Fitznichol*, Thomas Knolles* and several affluent fellow mercers. It was as a warden of his livery company that he took formal seisin of premises called ‘Le Crowneseld’ in West Cheap which had been acquired by the Mercers in January 1411.19 Surprisingly in view of the large number of titles which he possessed to property in the City, Waldern was drawn into very few lawsuits over the ownership of land and tenements there, none ever coming before a jury.20
Waldern was present at the Guildhall for elections to the Parliaments of 1413 (May), 1419, 1420, 1421 (Dec.) and 1423. On the first and last of these occasions he attended officially as mayor of London, being one of the few eminent citizens considered sufficiently rich and successful to hold this post twice during the period under review. Such was his standing in the City that in May 1415 the royal council ordered the then mayor not to demolish any buildings without first consulting Waldern and three other senior aldermen, again including Whittington and Cromer. Yet his second mayoralty was marked by a disagreement with the Brewers, who seem to have annoyed him in some way. He allowed himself to be placated by the gift of a boar (worth 20s.) and an ox (worth 17s.), thus retaining his reputation as a true friend of their company.21
Walden made his will on 22 May 1424 and died within five days. He was buried in the church of St. Benedict Shorhog, leaving behind five children, all of whom were under age. They evidently shared one-third (given in different sources as either £645 or £775) of the cash profits raised on the sale of his moveable goods, as well as £133 due to their father from various debtors; their widowed mother received a similar sum; and the remaining third was set aside for pious works. Waldern’s executors were subsequently obliged to honour an old debt of £217 due from the deceased to John Victor, so the three portions may well have been reduced to allow for this. Margaret Waldern married the Norfolk landowner John Roys† within a few months of her first husband’s death, and with him gave securities of £1,000 to the city chamberlain on obtaining custody of her children’s inheritance in September 1425. After her death, one year later, the wardship of Waldern’s Middlesex property, together with the marriage of Richard, his elder son, passed through various hands, including those of Thomas Hoo† and Sir Thomas Tuddenham†, but in May 1438 it was finally granted to Thomas Bateman, esquire, at an annual farm of £40.22
Ref Volumes: 1386-1421
- 1. Stowe 860, f. 48; CPL, v. 139; C139/108/18; C145/303/62; Corporation of London RO, hr 142/13.
- 2. Mercers’ Company Recs. Wardens’ acct. bk. ff. 26, 39, 52d, 73d.
- 3. Beaven, Aldermen, i. 17, 46; Cal. Letter Bk. London, H, 108, 118; I, 2, 14.
- 4. Cal. Letter Bk. London, I, 110, 116; K, 7, 24.
- 5. Ibid. 37.
- 6. J.H. Wylie, Hen. IV, iv. 26.
- 7. C267/8/30, 32.
- 8. E404/39/203.
- 9. Stowe 860, f. 48; E101/511/3; Mercers Company Recs. Wardens’ acct. bk. ff. 6, 18, 20d, 24d; CPL, v. 139; Corporation of London RO, hr 127/64.
- 10. CCR, 1401-5, p. 85; Mercers’ Company Recs. Wardens’ acct. bk. ff. 38d, 39d-40, 41, 78; Cal. Letter Bk. London, H, 398.
- 11. C241/197/31, 199/7, 204/13, 209/17, 216/4; CCR, 1413-19, pp. 68-70; Cal. P. and M. London, 1413-37, p. 16; Corporation of London RO, hcp 135 m. 5.
- 12. Corporation of London RO, jnl. 1, f. 16; CPR, 1416-22, pp. 234-5; CCR, 1413-19, p. 435.
- 13. E122/225/60/2; E404/39/203; RP, iv. 212; PPC, iii. 67.
- 14. CPR, 1408-13, pp. 461-2, 467; 1413-16, p. 90; CCR, 1413-19, p. 55; 1422-9, p. 405; Italian Merchants in Southampton (Soton Rec. Ser. i), 58-59; RP, iv. 50-51; E122/76/2 m. 2, 161/1, f. 4.
- 15. Reg. Chichele, ii. 276-8; Cal. P. and M. London, 1413-37, p. 242; CAD, ii. A 2532; Arch. Jnl. xliv. 62; Corporation of London RO, hr 130/4, 134/9, 21, 23, 38-39, 142/13, 146/7, 147/77, 148/8, 13, 27, 163/60.