CATOUR, William (d.1395), of Reading, Berks.
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Family and Education
m. bef. 1355, Joan, 1s. 1da.2
Mayor, Reading Mich. 1369-70, 1373-4, 1377-8, 1380-1, 1383-4, 1388-90.3
Tax collector, Berks. Mar. 1371.
Coroner, Berks. June 1377-Dec. 1390, bef. Dec. 1395.4
Commr. of inquiry, Reading May 1384 (treasure trove).
One of Reading’s more important parliamentary representatives, Catour was most likely descended from John le Akatour, MP for Reading in 1305 and 1325, and probably the son of John le Catur, mayor in 1363.5 The earliest mention of him is in 1355, when he rented from the corporation a house and vineyard near the guildhall. Thereafter, he was continuously involved in the life of the town until his death 40 years later, witnessing a great number of deeds relating both to Reading and the district surrounding. Many of these associate him with two other prominent Reading citizens, John Kent*, and David atte Hacche*.6 His own property in the town was extensive, including an inn and numerous houses, and he also held 12 acres of meadow at Tilehurst.7
Catour was the keeper of Reading’s principal inn, La Volte, where much municipal business was transacted, and where important visitors to the town were lodged and entertained. As in the case of atte Hacche, Catour’s trade caused him to fall foul of the abbot: the latter claimed in a petition to the King that Catour’s sale of wines was prejudicial to the market privileges of the abbey, and asked for his arrest. The quarrel seems to have been resolved by 1390, when Catour was renting a wine store from the abbey. Though mainly an innkeeper and vintner, Catour was also concerned, with John Kent, in the manufacture of cloth, for which the two men paid 6s. alnage in about 1395.8
Catour first served in the House of Commons in 1369, and a few months afterwards began his first mayoralty. He represented Reading for the second time in the Parliament of February 1371. In April that year he assisted in the foundation of a chantry called ‘Colneys chapel’ in St. Mary’s church, Reading, allowing the reversion of some property there (which he held of the Colney family) to be amortized for the support of a chantry priest. This priest was to be nominated by Catour, and after his death by the mayors of Reading; he was to pray for the souls of the MP and his family and for John and Thomas Colney, two royal servants with whom he had been connected. Another employee of the Crown known to him was Nicholas Carew†, keeper of the privy seal, with whom he entered into recognizances in 40 marks in 1375.9 Catour continued to serve the town for the rest of his life, both as mayor and MP, though never again concurrently. In 1385 he served as surety for the attendance in Parliament of John Doublet*, in 1390 for that of Robert Cappelade, and in 1394 for William Saville. During his sixth and seventh mayoralities in 1388-9 and 1389-90, considerable unrest appears to have occurred in the town, as a result of a dispute between the abbey and the corporation over the appointment of constables. Reynold Sheffield, the abbot’s steward, had ordered Catour’s deputy, Thomas Smith†, to elect a new constable in place of William Shortwade*; when Smith refused, Sheffield forced one of the burgesses to take up the post against his will. Catour as mayor then led the corporation in refusing to recognize the new constable, in effect the nominee of the abbey, and brought the case before the county justices, who confirmed the town in its right of election. In the course of these proceedings the burgesses claimed that the abbey had no jurisdiction over them, on the ground that Reading had always been a ‘royal’ borough. They thus paved the way for fresh disputes in the 15th century.10
Although Catour had been serving as a coroner in Berkshire since 1377, he was discharged in December 1390 as insufficiently qualified. He must, however, have been re-appointed, for he was again county coroner at the time of his death, which occurred before the end of 1395.11
Ref Volumes: 1386-1421
Author: Charles Kightly
- 1. W. Prynne, Brevia Parliamentaria Rediviva, iv. 1093 (as ‘Colour’).
- 2. Add. 6214, f. 1; CPR, 1370-4, p. 81.
- 3. Reading Pub. Lib. deeds, 54, 60, 61, 72, 76; cofferers’ accts. R/FA/1373-4; HMC 11th Rep. VII, 227.
- 4. C242/6/1; CCR, 1389-92, p. 223; 1392-6, p. 443; JUST 2/255/16.
- 5. VCH Berks. iii. 347.
- 6. Add. 6214, f. 1; Reading deeds 52, 55, 57, 59, 65, 74, 75, 77-80; Harl. Ch. 48, I 17; CCR, 1369-74, p. 82; Goring Chs. (Oxon. Rec. Soc. xiv), no. 246.
- 7. CPR, 1370-4, p. 81; CAD, iv. A9194.
- 8. E179/73/42; Reading cofferers’ accts. 1364-5, 1373-4; SC1/42/108; Add. Chs. 19645, 19646; E101/343/24.
- 9. CPR, 1370-4, p. 81; CCR, 1374-7, p. 256.
- 10. C219/8/12, 9/7, 10; CPR, 1388-92, p. 213; CCR, 1389-92, p. 162; C. Coates, Hist. Reading, 52-53.
- 11. CCR, 1392-6, p. 443.