OTTWORTH, John (d.1419), of Oxford.
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Family and Education
Bailiff, Oxford Mich. 1394-5; surveyor of nuisances 1410-12, 1414-15; coroner bef. 1418.1
Tax collector, Oxford June 1410, Oct. 1412.
Ottworth, who was living in Oxford by 1390, employed six servants in his house. In 1397 he was involved in the dispute over tolls between Oxford and London, and when he and his fellow MP, Adam de la River, attended the September Parliament they were ordered by Richard Garston*, then mayor, to serve upon the London authorities a royal writ confirming the right of Oxford burgesses to be free of such levies in the City.2
In later years Ottworth was concerned in two actions for debt which brought him into conflict with members of the university. First, in December 1399, he was granted legal protection against an attempt by Master Nicholas Wykeham, warden of New College, to imprison him for a debt of £20. In fact, the outstanding sum had already been paid, as Wykeham himself acknowledged, so it seems that the suit was malicious. The second case, though it involved a trifling amount of money, was more important. Ottworth owed Alice Pedyngton 11s.8d., a debt she transferred to her son Richard, who was a university scholar, so that the default fell under the jurisdiction, not of the borough court, but of that of the chancellor of the university, whose officers, at the end of 1405, ordered Ottworth to satisfy the creditor. Such ‘cessions’ of actions from the borough to the university court, however, had for long been a grievance to the commonalty, and Ottworth, evidently willing to have the matter treated as a test case on the town’s behalf, appealed to the justices of the King’s bench. It is of further interest that he filed the suit in November 1406, when he was serving in Parliament at Westminster: indeed it is possible that his involvement in a matter of such concern to the townspeople was the reason for his election. However this may be, the royal court found in his favour, it being agreed that all actions for debt between laymen should be tried at common law, and that all ‘cessions’ of actions were illegal. The decision resulted in an open confrontation between town and university which may well have lasted two years. Again Ottworth was deeply involved: in February 1408 he was made one of the town’s attorneys to prosecute ‘de certis gravaminibus, materiis, articulis et querelis inter cancellarium et scholares Universitatem et nos’ before Archbishop Arundel and others of the King’s Council. Emboldened by his earlier success, he refused out of hand to pay Alice Pedyngton’s executors the rent due for Blundel’s place in the parish of St. Peter-le-Bailey, and was sued by them accordingly nine years later.3
A member of the common council of Oxford by 1409, Ottworth thereafter served in various municipal offices including that of coroner. Like many of his contemporaries among the burgesses, he participated also in the lengthy dispute between the community and the abbot of Osney. An inquisition of 1418 named him, as a former coroner, among those who, since 1403, had led the borough to usurp the abbot’s jurisdiction over the manors of North and South Osney. As John Ottworth, ‘gentleman’, he was also accused, with many others, of having broken down the abbot’s weirs, stolen nine of his horses, carried off his fish and other goods, and assaulted and imprisoned his tenants.4
Ottworth’s own property lay at the western end of the town, and included a house in St. Ebbe’s parish and two in that of St. Peter-le-Bailey.5 It was in the latter parish church that he was buried in April 1419.6
Ref Volumes: 1386-1421
Author: Charles Kightly
- 1. Oxf. Hist. Soc. xxxvii. 19; lxvi. no. 390; lxxi. no. 190; Bodl. Twyne ms 23, ff. 161, 164, 371.
- 2. Oxf. Hist. Soc. lxxi. no. 180; lxxiii. 10, 14.
- 3. CCR, 1399-1402, p. 94; Oxf. Hist. Soc. lxxi. 181, nos. 186-7; xciv. app. 1; ser. 2, xx. 119; KB27/582 rot. 72.
- 4. Twyne ms 23, f. 358; Oxf. Hist. Soc. lxxi. nos. 189-90; CPR, 1416-22, p. 207.
- 5. Oxf. Hist. Soc. lxxi. no. 185; Oxf. Archs. D/5/1/, f. 48.
- 6. Oxf. Hist. Soc. xxxvii. 195.