CUTLER, alias CARWITHAN, John (d.?1467), of Exeter, Devon.

Published in The History of Parliament: the House of Commons 1386-1421, ed. J.S. Roskell, L. Clark, C. Rawcliffe., 1993
Available from Boydell and Brewer



May 1421

Family and Education

s. of Stephen Carwithan alias Cutler of Exeter. m. by 1455, Mabel.1 ?1s.

Offices Held

Steward, Exeter Mich. 1420-1; receiver 1422-3; member of the council of 12, 1423-9, 1430-6, 1437-42, 1443-8, 1449-66; mayor 1436-7, 1442-3, 1448-9.2

Constable of the Staple, Exeter Nov. 1422-3, 1438-9, 1442-3, Jan. 1447-8; mayor Nov. 1424-6, Oct. 1427-9, Feb. 1433-4, Oct. 1437-8, Nov. 1441-2, Oct. 1443-5, 1448-52, May 1454-6, Nov. 1457-8, Dec. 1459-60, June 1461-2, Mar. 1464-5.3

Commr. of arrest, Exeter May 1437.


Although there was a gap of nearly 30 years between John Cutler’s fourth Parliament (1433) and his last (1461) it is clear from his record of continuous civic service that it was he and not another of the same name who was returned to Edward IV’s first Parliament. A John Cutler, perhaps his son, was admitted as a freeman of Exeter during his second mayoralty in 1442, but the younger man never held a public office.4

Cutler entered the liberty of Exeter on 4 Jan. 1417, claiming free admittance by right of patrimony. His property was situated mainly in the parish of St. John, but he also occupied a house in the fee outside the east gate which belonged to the dean and chapter, and from 1442 he held Duryard Wood on a short lease.5 For many years he was one of the leading citizens of Exeter; he often sat on the panel of electors whose task was to choose the city’s officers, and for over 40 years he served without break either as steward, receiver, mayor or councillor. He attended the parliamentary elections held at Exeter castle in 1421, 1431 and 1437.6

In July 1430 John Salter† of Exeter and John Trebell*, gentleman, entered into recognizances for £40 payable in the event of Cutler’s failure to appear in Chancery to answer allegations of trespass against the Crown. The matter may well have been connected with complaints made by a Portuguese merchant that Cutler had stolen goods worth 4,000 crowns; he had repeatedly ignored writs requiring him to answer before the royal council. Other criticisms arose from Cutler’s apparent abuse of his position as mayor of the Staple at Exeter (an office to which he was elected no fewer than 19 times). Even the chancellor of England was asked to bring his weight to bear on him when, sometime before 1443, he was alleged by Richard Cremyll of Exeter to have accepted bribes for the release of debtors and, having made Cremyll himself ‘forsuer the towne of Excestre’, had told his wife that he had been executed for treason. He had then used this as a pretext for confiscating from her 100 marks in gold and cloth worth £200. Cutler’s ‘maintenaunce et supportacion’ was indeed apparently such that he could with impunity imprison one of the canons of the cathedral, William Pencrych (d.1446), and ‘imagyne hys dethe by divers intoxications’, treat the prior of Cowick similarly ‘encontre droit et reson’, and arbitrarily arrest John Dayy of Kingswear and keep him in prison ‘per covyn et manteignaunce’.7

Cutler was for long closely involved in the disputes between the civic and cathedral authorities of Exeter. In June 1433 he rode to London for negotiations about the city’s quarrel with the dean and chapter, and on a later visit he tipped the duke of Gloucester’s chamberlain 3s.4d. in order to gain access to the duke on the same matter. At the assizes held in 1434 it was claimed that he and others had dispossessed the chapter of property in St. Sidwell’s fee, an area whose jurisdiction was an acrimonious point of contention. In 1444 he took part in negotiations with Bishop Lacy, and three years later acted as ‘lieutenant’ for the mayor, John Shillingford*, while he was in London seeking audiences with the chancellor and judges. During his own last mayoralty (1448-9) he was faced with a new aspect of the quarrel: the question of contribution to parliamentary tenths by the bishop’s tenants.8

Cutler is last recorded on 29 Dec. 1466, and may have died in the following year.9

Ref Volumes: 1386-1421

Author: L. S. Woodger


  • 1. Exeter City RO, mayor’s ct. roll 4-5 Hen. V m. 14; CP25(1)46/89/275.
  • 2. Mayors’ ct. rolls 7 Hen. V-29 Hen. VI.
  • 3. C67/25; C267/6/55, 56, 60, 62, 63, 64, 66, 67; C241/235/82; H. Lloyd Parry, Exeter Seals, 17, 19; Notes and Gleanings, iv. 40; Sel. Cases Law Merchant (Selden Soc. xxiii), 116-17.
  • 4. J.C. Wedgwood (HP 1439-1509, Biogs. 247; Reg. 631) was clearly undecided whether the same John Cutler sat in 1421-33 as in 1461. See Devon and Cornw. N. and Q. xix. 221, 326-7.
  • 5. CP25(1)46/89/275; Exeter City RO, ED/M/772, 774; mayor’s ct. roll 6-7 Ed. IV m. 13.
  • 6. C219/12/5, 6, 14/2, 15/1.
  • 7. CCR, 1429-36, p. 66; C1/7/39, 102, 149, 11/48, 17/322-5.
  • 8. M.E. Curtis, City v. Cathedral Authorities (Hist. Exeter Research Group Mono. v), 66, 70; C260/141/19; Letters and Pprs. Shillingford (Cam. Soc. n.s. ii), 4, 5, 23, 39, 79, 143, 147, 150-2.
  • 9. Mayor’s ct. roll 6-7 Ed. IV m. 13.