GARSTON, alias MERCER, Richard (d.1412), of Oxford.
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Family and Education
m. bef. 1380, Juliana.1
Bailiff, Oxford Mich. 1373-5; alderman 1375-6, 1377-81, 1383-6, 1389-90, 1392-3, 1394-5, 1397-9, 1401-3, 1404-7, 1408-11; mayor 1381-3, 1386-9, 1390-2, 1393-4, 1396-7, 1399-1400, 1411-d.2
Commr. to put down rebellion, Oxon. Mar., Dec. 1382.
J.p. Oxon. 8 July-Dec. 1382, Oxford 1 Oct. 1390-2, Aug. 1395-Dec. 1397, Jan 1400-June 1401.
One of the most important Oxford burgesses of this period, Garston held local office almost continuously for nearly 40 years. During this period he was 11 times mayor, more often that not for two or three successive terms. He was also among the richest of the townsmen, paying 13s.4d. towards the poll tax of 1380—the largest assessment mentioned in the records for Oxford, and one paid by only three others. As might be expected, his property interests were quite considerable. Among his holdings were a messuage, three shops and a cellar which he rented from University college for 50s. a year, and several tenements situated in various parts of the town which he leased from Rewley abbey.3
Garston, a mercer as his alias suggests, had been apprenticed to John Bereford†, a prominent Oxford draper, who was several times mayor and MP; and when his master died in 1361 he was an executor of his will. During his first and second mayoralities, in 1381-3, he served ex officio on three royal commissions directed against rebellious peasants, and was also ordered to arrest a renegade friar of Gloucester. Reverting to the office of alderman in 1383, he stood surety in October of that year for the attendance in Parliament of William Dagville† (who had married Bereford’s daughter). He was again surety for Dagville’s attendance in the Commons in April 1384, and for that of John Hickes* at the November Parliament of the same year. He himself served in three Parliaments while alderman, and it was probably in this capacity that, with John Hickes, he was one of those burgesses required to enter into a pledge to keep the peace between the borough authorities and Merton college.4
Elected mayor for the sixth and seventh times in 1390-2, Garston sat throughout on the commission of the peace. In 1394, he was ordered as mayor to proclaim and implement the royal order for the repatriation of Irishmen. The following year he became officially involved in the dispute between Oxford and the City of London about tolls, from which Oxford merchants were everywhere exempt by virtue of the borough charter. The Londoners, however, despite an agreement made with Thomas Somerset* in 1393, persisted in demanding payment. Garston therefore ordered Adam de la River and Walter Benham, MPs elected to the Parliament of January 1397, to purchase a royal writ confirming Oxford’s privileges, and addressed to the London corporation, to whom it was delivered by de la River and John Ottworth, Oxford’s representatives in the Parliament of September of the same year. Even so, the civic authorities refused to give way.5
Garston’s penultimate mayoralty coincided with the accession of Henry IV, so that he was able to claim and exercise the ancient right of Oxford that her mayor and certain burgesses should join citizens of London in serving in the royal buttery at coronations. That of Henry IV took place on 13 Oct. 1399. Early in 1400 Garston was again included ex officio in the local commission of the peace, which sat until June 1401. For the next ten years he served regularly as an alderman, until in 1411 he was elected mayor for the 11th time. By then he must have been over 70 years old, and, in fact, only four months later he died in office (shortly before 25 Jan. 1412), leaving John Merston* to take over the mayoralty.6
Ref Volumes: 1386-1421
Author: Charles Kightly
- 1. Oxf. Hist. Soc. xviii. 43.
- 2. Ibid. xxxvii. 17-20; xci. nos. 770-1; lxiv. nos. 307, 383; lxviii. no. 961; lxxxv. no. 132; Merton Coll. ms 365.
- 3. Oxf. Hist. Soc. xviii. 43; lxix. 210, 218, 230, 251; ser. 2, xiv. 114; CIMisc. v. 177.
- 4. Liber Albus Oxoniensis ed. Ellis, 57; CCR, 1385-9, p. 127.
- 5. CCR, 1381-5, pp. 22, 451-2; 1392-6, p. 390; C219/8/9-11; Oxf. Hist. Soc. lxxi. no. 180; Cal. Letter Bk. London, H, 436; Cal. P. and M. London, 1381-1412, pp. 248-9.
- 6. Oxf. Hist. Soc. lxxi. no. 215; CPR, 1408-13, p. 362.