MOSDALE, John, of Scarborough, Yorks.

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



Jan. 1404
Oct. 1404
May 1413
Nov. 1414

Family and Education

m. 1s.1

Offices Held

Serjeant-at-arms 14 May 1390-15 July 1423.

Keeper of Scarborough castle 5 Feb. 1392-15 July 1423, of the castle at Newcastle-upon-Tyne c.1392-15 July 1423.

Commr. to make arrests, Yorks. Apr. 1392 July 1394, Dec. 1395, Jan. 1404, Oct., Nov. 1408, June 1412, June 1413; of inquiry, London July 1394 (arrest of a French ship), Cumb., Northumb., Westmld., Yorks. Oct 1397 (goods of the Lords Appellant); to repair the castle at Newcastle-upon-Tyne July 1394; assign transport for the royal army going to Ireland, Pemb. Oct. 1394, for the duke of Norfolk going into exile, Suff. Sept. 1398; requisition masons, Scarborough, Newcastle-upon-Tyne May 1396, May 1400; of array, Scarborough May 1398; to raise debts due to Richard II, Norf., Suff., Yorks. Apr. 1399; prevent ships sailing from Scarborough May 1401; proclaim the truce with Brittany in the north Dec. 1417; keep the North Sea against the Scots Apr. 1418.

Collector of customs, Scarborough 28 Oct. 1393-30 Nov. 1400.2


Nothing is known for certain about Mosdale before his appointment in May 1390 as a royal serjeant-at-arms at a salary of 1s. per diem, charged upon the Exchequer. It looks very much as if he already lived in Scarborough, however, because two years later he was chosen to replace Sir John St. Quintin* as keeper of the castle there, taking a salary of ten marks a year instead of the wages previously assigned to him. He was also promised an additional grant of 40 marks p.a. (assigned partly from the fee farm of Scarborough and partly from the issues of Yorkshire) with which to maintain the defences of this important coastal fortress. The date of his appointment as keeper of the castle at Newcastle-upon-Tyne is now hard to determine, but his claim made later, in 1401, to have occupied the post for many years without any reward, suggests that he assumed both offices at about the same time. As early as 1392 he is known to have kept a barge called La Christofre in the port of Newcastle, and to have had connexions with the earl of Northumberland, who may have had a hand in his promotion. For the rest of Richard II’s reign, Mosdale was constantly engaged in a round of important business befitting his rank as a serjeant-at-arms, although for the most part he was employed in the north, and thus retained close links with Scarborough, where he was also active for seven years as a collector of customs. He is said to have built the hall at Scarborough castle during this period, and he certainly acquired land on his own behalf in the town, becoming the owner of a fine house, various tenements and a plot of wasteland. In March and October 1397 he acted as a mainpernor in the court of Chancery for northerners involved in litigation at Westminster.3

Notwithstanding the part which he played in implementing Richard II’s increasingly absolutist policies, Mosdale was confirmed in all his offices by Henry IV, although he served on far fewer royal commissions than in the past. On the other hand, King Henry did entrust him, in December 1400, with the task of escorting three Scottish prisoners to London, for which he received £10 by way of expenses and reward. His decision to seek election to Parliament for the first time, in 1401, was no doubt prompted by the desire to present in person a petition for proper remuneration as keeper of the castle at Newcastle-upon-Tyne. His request for the grant of land worth 50s. a year to offset his expenses met with approval, and the appropriate royal letters patent were issued to him some months later. He went on to represent Scarborough in five more Parliaments, being a welcome choice to the townspeople, who valued his influence and connexions. The Alice Mosdale to whom William Wayte, clerk of the household to the earl of Northumberland and himself a Scarborough man, left a legacy of cloth at this time, may well have been his wife; and we know that his son, William, also played a notable part in local affairs. William was, in fact, one of the townsmen involved in acts of piracy against a Hanse merchant, in 1407, although by the time that John Mosdale received orders to arrest the offenders, his son had prudently agreed to settle out of court.4

Meanwhile, in October 1401, Mosdale offered sureties at the Exchequer on behalf of Roger Stapleton*, one of his neighbours in Scarborough. His own accounts as keeper of the castle came under scrutiny nine years later, when Sir John Etton*, the sheriff of Yorkshire, was ordered to investigate claims that he had embezzled the money set aside annually for repairs, ‘converting the same to his own use’. Mindful of Mosdale’s services in the past, Henry IV issued a writ of supersedeas to halt proceedings; and in January 1411 instructions were given for the payment of his wages and expenses as usual. He retained the keepership of the castles of Scarborough and Newcastle-upon-Tyne until July 1423, when he retired altogether from public life, relinquishing his post as a serjeant-at-arms as well. Four years earlier, in 1419, an administrative blunder had deprived him of his various fees, but an appeal to the privy council set matters right again. Occasionally, his official duties brought him into conflict with his neighbours, many of whom were, as we have seen, engaged in acts of piracy or smuggling. At some unknown date, a Hull merchant sued him in the court of Chancery for confiscating merchandise worth £40 ‘ove force et armes’ and refusing to return it; and in 1412 he was obliged to prosecute a local mason for failing to adhere to the terms of a contract. Mosdale was evidently still alive in 1425, having retained a tenement in Newcastle. The Scarborough burgess, William Forster*, acquired his chief residence, possibly by marriage.5

Ref Volumes: 1386-1421

Author: C.R.


  • 1. CPR, 1405-8, p. 353.
  • 2. E122/134/9; E159/176, Mich. m. 12.
  • 3. CPR, 1388-92, p. 248; 1391-6, pp. 87, 193; CCR, 1392-6, pp. 158-9; 1396-9, pp. 89, 220; White Vellum Bk. Scarborough ed. Jeayes, no. 16B; VCH Yorks (N. Riding), ii. 545; E101/48/6; E364/28G.
  • 4. CPR, 1399-1401, p. 170; 1401-5, pp. 36, 41; 1405-8, p. 353; E101/16/345; SC8/184/9177; CCR, 1399-1402, pp. 15, 19, 226; Borthwick Inst. York, York registry wills, iii. f. 70.
  • 5. CFR, xii. 41; CPR, 1408-13, p. 228; 1413-16, p. 33; 1422-9, p. 116; CCR, 1409-13, pp. 187, 257, 260, 358; PPC, ii. 292; C1/4/80; Arch. Aeliana (ser. 3), xiv. 210; York registry wills, ii. ff. 74v-75.