WESENHAM, John (d.1434), of Bishop's Lynn, Norf.
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Family and Education
s. of William Wesenham of Lynn. m. ?Ellen, 1s.
Chamberlain, Lynn Mich. 1409-10; mayor 1416-17, 1419-20, Feb.-Mich. 1430.1
J.p. Lynn 18 Dec. 1417-d.
Alderman of Holy Trinity guild, Lynn by May 1424-June 1433.2
Commr. of weirs, Norf. Feb. 1431.
This John Wesenham was probably a nephew of another John (d.c.1384), the influential merchant capitalist and financier of Edward III’s reign, belonging to the less important branch of the family which resided in Lynn, where his father, who had entered the freedom of the borough in 1349-50, served as chamberlain in 1356-7.3 John himself purchased admission as a burgess on 22 Feb. 1387, and like his famous namesake established trading links with Prussia and the Netherlands, bringing into Lynn cargoes of timber, iron, eels and herring, and exporting cloth. Shipments of his were valued in January 1393 at £113, in December 1405 at more than £314, and in the following February at £231, although on occasion he shared the profits and risks of his ventures with partners, such as William Lok* and John Brandon*. In the meantime, in November 1394, he had been sent on a royal embassy in the company of Master John Huntingdon for negotiations about trade with the cities and towns of Lübeck, Wismar, Rostock and Stralsund. A measure of his success in mercantile affairs was his association, in July 1410, with eight of his fellow merchants of Lynn in making Henry IV a loan of 200 marks towards the cost of naval defence.4 Wesenham’s properties in Lynn included a tenement in ‘Jews Street’ which he rented for 33s.4d. a year between 1410 and 1425, and premises in Ratten Row. As well as these, in 1414 he acquired 53 acres of arable land and a small plot of meadow within a few miles of the town. Before 1420 he also held, but as a trustee only, the manor of Ingoldisthorpe, which belonged to Sir John Ingoldisthorpe*.5
Some years previously, in July 1402, Wesenham had been included among the burgesses of Lynn required to undertake, each on pain of a penalty of £100, not to molest their overlord, Bishop Despenser of Norwich, or any of his officers, following serious disturbances in the town. Although one of the potentiores, he avoided involvement in the constitutional struggles which divided the people of Lynn in the period from 1411 to 1416, apart from being nominated as an elector to the second Parliament of 1413, and thereby appearing to support the return of two inferiores. He was listed as a witness to the parliamentary election indentures of 1420, 1421 (May) and 1425, and on the last two occasions also acted as mainpernor for the attendance of Bartholomew Sistern and John Copnote† respectively.6 He served on the bench at Bishop’s Lynn for almost 17 years. However, during that period, in about 1425, Giles Seintlow, the royal gauger in the port, petitioned the chancellor complaining that Wesenham, along with John Parmenter* and their followers, had assaulted him one night, and afterwards continued to menace him so that he was unable to perform his duties. Wesenham occupied his last public office, the aldermanship of the Holy Trinity guild of merchants, for at least nine years. Furthermore, when in February 1430 the mayor of Lynn, Richard Waterden†, died during his term, Wesenham, as alderman and according to custom, took over the post, thus serving in both capacities concurrently. He was named among the leading men of Norfolk required in May 1434 to take the generally prescribed oath not to maintain malefactors, but he died before Michaelmas following, when his place on Lynn’s council of 24 was filled by another burgess. By 1437-8 a bell-shaped chalice which had belonged to Wesenham had come into the guild’s possession, presumably as a testamentary bequest.7
Ref Volumes: 1386-1421
Author: L. S. Woodger
- 1. Recs. King’s Lynn ed. Harrod, 85; Norf. Official Lists ed. Le Strange, 191; King’s Lynn Town Hall, assembly bk. 1, f. 263.
- 2. Lynn Town Hall, Be 176, Gd 48.
- 3. Cal. Freemen Lynn, 11.
- 4. Red Reg. King’s Lynn ed. Ingleby, f. 126d; E122/93/31, 94/12, 95/27; N.S.B. Gras, Early Eng. Customs System, 445, 528-9, 553; Harl. Roll H23; C76/79 m. 5; PPC, i. 347.
- 5. King’s Lynn Town Hall, Be 555, Ea 47; CP25(1)169/185/10; CCR, 1419-22, p. 86.
- 6. CCR, 1399-1402, p. 575; HMC 11th Rep. III, 192; Recs. King’s Lynn, 95; C219/12/4, 5, 13/3; Lynn Town Hall, Ca5.
- 7. C1/26/290; CPR, 1429-36, p. 405; Lynn assembly bk. 2, ff. 40, 47d; HMC 11th Rep. III, 231. His son, John junior, had been admitted to the guild in 1421-2 and as a burgess in April 1426, he himself acting as pledge (HMC 11th Rep. III, 226; assembly bk. 1, f. 121). Ellen Wesenham, possibly his widow, was no longer a lessee of two tenements and a hermitage by the east gate of Lynn by 1446 (Lynn Town Hall, Ea 51).