WESTON, William IV (d.c.1427), of London.
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Family and Education
m. by Sept. 1396, Joan (d.1431), wid. of John Capel of London, cordwainer, s.p.1
Tax collector, London June 1410, Nov. 1416.2
Auditor, London 21 Sept. 1411-13, 1425-7.3
Warden of the Drapers’ Co. Aug. 1413-14, 1428-9.4
Warden of London Bridge c. 21 Sept. 1416-21.5
Sheriff, London and Mdx. Mich. 1421-2.
Weston was probably a kinsman, perhaps even the son, of the London grocer, William Weston, who at some point before May 1392 had an interest in property in Winchester. His connexion with Robert Weston, the prior of St. Mary Overey, Southwark, suggests that some family relationship also existed between them. The two men were closely involved in the setting up of a chantry to the memory of the draper, Thomas Noket, in the church of St. Mary Woolnoth and were near neighbours in Southwark. Significantly enough, the MP expressed a wish to be buried at either the church of St. Mary Overey or his own parish church of St. Andrew Cornhill. His sister, Agnes, certainly had strong local connexions, for she married John Barber, a citizen and wine drawer of London, and was herself probably born in the City. The pair of them kept on friendly terms with another putative relative, the influential merchant, John Weston, whose business associate, Richard Goslyn*, left money for prayers to be said for William’s soul.6
Despite all this circumstantial evidence, nothing is known for certain about Weston before September 1396, when the above-mentioned Thomas Noket bequeathed the reversion of a tenement in the London parish of St. Michael Cornhill to him and his wife Joan. With her previous husband, John Capel, Joan had acquired a messuage, shops and a garden in St. Olave’s parish, Southwark. These passed into Weston’s hands at the time of their marriage, and to them he subsequently added land and tenements in Dulwich, Camberwell, Lambeth and other (unspecified) parts of Surrey. At the time of his death he also leased premises in the parish of St. Botolph without Aldgate from the mayor and aldermen of London.7 His holdings in the City were extensive: they comprised rents and tenements in at least six parishes, as well as the property in and around Cornhill which Richard Frysyng of Kent rented out to him for a five-year period ending at Easter 1410. According to the lay subsidy return compiled for London in 1412, his possessions there were worth over £5 p.a., although his annual landed income must have risen considerably in February 1423 with the purchase of another Kentishman’s estate in the parishes of St. Bartholomew the Less, St. Benedict Fink and St. Michael Cornhill.8 The draper’s own property transactions cannot always be distinguished from those in which he acted as a trustee. In April 1409, for example, he and his wife settled a plot of land in the parish of St. Michael Paternoster upon Richard Whittington* and others for the purpose of rebuilding the church, but it is by no means certain that they actually owed the land in question. Weston was a party to many other such conveyances, particularly those made by members of his own guild. During his five years as warden of London Bridge he also helped to acquire holdings in Greenwich to raise money for the maintenance of the stonework.9
The drapers John Clavering (d.c.1408) and John Oliver (d.1406) both named Weston among their executors, although he may well have regretted taking on such responsibilities. The administration of Oliver’s will involved him in at least three protracted lawsuits, and also brought him into conflict with the deceased’s son, who complained, somewhat implausibly, in June 1414 that he had been deprived of an inheritance worth £2,000. The case was heard before the court of the mayor of London shortly afterwards, and settled in Weston’s favour. Perhaps because of this unfortunate experience, the latter did not subsequently go out of his way to offer sureties on behalf of friends or associates, but in April 1414 and again in May 1422 he agreed to act as mainpernor for persons entrusted with the guardianship of orphans by the city chamberlain.10
Comparatively little information about Weston’s own business affairs has survived, but he was clearly a rich and successful man. By the time of Henry V’s first expedition to France, in 1415, he had evidently become one of the major suppliers to leading members of the royal army, at least if the accounts of Thomas, Lord Morley’s cofferer, drawn up in the following year are any guide. Morley relied heavily upon the draper to equip him and his men with cloth and liveries worth over £66, and Weston may well have made a small fortune out of the war. There can be little doubt that he attended the first Parliament of 1416 (his one and only appearance in the Commons) as an enthusiastic supporter of continued hostilities. Surprisingly under the circumstances, he seems never to have been much patronized by the Crown: over the year ending January 1421 he supplied the Wardrobe with cloth valued at £14, but no other such transactions are recorded. Perhaps he was content to deal with the baronage and gentry, some of whom actually mortgaged their property to him in return for cash loans. At all events, three years later he petitioned the mayor of the Staple of Westminster for help in recovering a debt of 200 marks owed to him by Sir Robert Denny* (d.1419) since 1409, on the security of land in Camberwell and Lambeth which the latter had conveyed to him in trust. Weston also brought an action of account against John ap Gwyllym of Monmouth in, or before, June 1425, albeit without any immediate success. Twice warden of his livery company, Weston enjoyed considerable standing in mercantile circles. His donation of £20 towards the building of the Drapers’ Hall (which was begun in 1419) stands out as the largest sum received from any single person, and, as the records show, he regularly took on apprentices to learn their trade under his direction.11
For almost 25 years Weston played a full and active part in civic life. From February 1401 onwards he sat on many juries, both at the possessory assizes of London and at inquisitions such as the one which was held in May 1425 to determine the value of property belonging to certain churches in the City. He also attended at least eight of the parliamentary elections held there between 1413 and 1429 inclusive, and helped to settle commercial disputes brought before the mayor and aldermen during this period. From time to time his presence is noted at meetings of the common council and court of aldermen, and it was probably because of his identification with the ruling hierarchy that he made at least one potentially dangerous enemy. At some unspecified date Weston and three other London merchants, among whom was the distinguished alderman, John Coventry (d.1429), were falsely accused of treason. They begged that the man who had slandered them might be examined in Parliament to prevent the spread of further malicious rumours, but no more is heard of the case or this attack on their reputations.12
Weston’s will was drawn up on 3 Oct. 1426, and proved four years later. He died before 26 Apr. 1428, for it was then that Richard Goslyn made provision for the upkeep of a chantry dedicated to his memory in the church of St. Mary at Hill. He himself was buried in St. Andrew’s Cornhill, and since he left no children, half his estate was set aside for works of charity. The rest passed to his widow, who died in the spring of 1431, and then to his sister.13