PARKER, William I (d.1403), of London.

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




Family and Education

m. (1) bef. c.1383, Joan (d. by Apr. 1396), 3s. inc. William II*, 1da.; (2) by Aug. 1400, Joan, da. of John Norbury* by his 1st w. Petronilla; 1s. 1da. illegit.1

Offices Held

Auditor of London 21 Sept. 1388-9, 1391-2; alderman of Bishopsgate Ward 12 Mar. 1393-d.2

Warden of the Mercers’ Co. 24 June 1394-5, 1402-3.3

Alnager, London 20 July 1393-d.

Sheriff, London and Mdx. Mich. 1396-7.

Bailiff of the lordships of Dovercourt and Harwich, Essex, and Walton, Suff. for Margaret Marshal, duchess of Norfolk, bef. 24 Mar. 1399-d.

Collector of customs and subsidies, Southampton 5 Oct. 1399 -1 Oct. 1402.

Commr. of inquiry, Southampton Feb. 1402.


Little is known about Parker’s early years, although he may well have come originally from Kent. One of his brothers, John Parker senior, lived at Crundale, near Ashford, while another, known generally as Edmund Chymbeham alias Parker, was a Kentishman who eventually settled in London. The MP himself made generous bequests to the poor of Ashford, Wye and Kingsnorth in his will, but his connexion with this part of the country was perhaps due to his purchase in 1390 of the manor of Kingsnorth rather than to any family tradition of residence. Most of his life was spent in the capital—at first under the tutelage of Robert Warbulton, to whom he was apprenticed, and then as a mercer in business on his own account. He had evidently become fairly well established by November 1387 when he first appears among the city records as a feoffee of the late Richard Russell. One year later he had acquired the necessary influence and social standing to be made an auditor of London. In October 1389 he offered sureties in Chancery on behalf of a clerk named William Somerforde, and on his former master’s death shortly afterwards he assumed the responsibilities of an executor. By 1392, if not before, Parker was able to take on two apprentices of his own, for by this date he had already become a figure of some consequence in the world of commerce.4

Customs accounts dating from March 1390 to September 1391 show that he shipped fine quality cloths and other luxury goods worth over £837 into the port of London during this period. His subsequent election as warden of the Mercers’ Company, which was one of the richest guilds in the City, provides further evidence of his rising fortunes. Perhaps, like his friend, John Clenhand*, with whose family he and his sons retained close personal links, he had already become involved in the wool trade, since this was clearly one of his major sources of income by the turn of the century. Between January and November 1400, for example, he obtained licences for the export of at least 121 sarplers of wool to Calais from London. The fragmentary nature of the customs accounts now makes it impossible to calculate the approximate size of his wool shipments at other times, although they were probably considerable. Certainly, in June 1402, he was excused customs dues of £200 on wool exported by him from Sandwich in part payment of ‘divers sums of money’ which he had previously advanced to Henry IV. His first venture into the world of government finance occurred in July 1401, when the King borrowed £133 from him. He then joined with Thomas Dyster to lend two separate sums of £200 and £700 at the end of February 1402, and in the following May a further pledge of £67 was offered by him alone. Over the next year he made available additional credit to the value of £433, although some of this figure may represent old debts as yet unpaid. His readiness to risk such large amounts of capital was clearly a consequence of his marriage to the daughter of John Norbury, King Henry’s first treasurer, whose standing at Court provided an effective guarantee of fairly prompt settlement.5

Parker invested a significant proportion of his commercial profits in land and rents both in and out of London. He is known to have acquired, at various times in his life, at least five tenements, rents worth over £6 a year, several shops and dwellings with gardens in eight city parishes. Most of these properties appear to have been bought during the early 1390s, although he made at least one major purchase in the parishes of All Hallows Staining and St. Martin Ludgate while still a comparatively young man. According to the lay subsidy return of 1412, the premises then held in London by Parker’s executors were worth £23 a year, while his son, William, enjoyed a further £18 10s. annually from his inheritance in the City.6 Parker’s landed income from country estates must have been even greater. In October 1388 he took on the shared lease of the manor of Beaurepaire in Kent from the Crown for a term of 30 years, paying an unspecified rent to the Dominican Friars at Kings Langley in Hertfordshire, where, by 1402, if not before, he held one third of a knight’s fee. He had meanwhile capitalized upon the acts of forfeiture passed by the Merciless Parliament of 1388 to advance his own interests as a landowner. In February 1390 he joined with four other Londoners and his brother, Edmund Chymbeham, in offering 1,000 marks (payable in instalments of £100), for the manor of Kingsnorth with its extensive appurtenances in the Wye area. The property had been confiscated from Sir Robert Bealknap, the former c.j.c.p., and was almost certainly owned by Parker alone with the others acting as his trustees. At some point within the next six years he purchased two messuages, a garden and land in Shoreditch, Middlesex; and by August 1400 he was also in possession of the manor of Little Warley, Essex.7

As a wealthy merchant and landowner of consequence, Parker often became involved in the property transactions of his friends and business associates. He acted as a feoffee for Sir John Philipot’s† son, John, who was one of his own apprentices, and performed a similar service for many distinguished Londoners, including Adam Francis, Robert Chichele* and John Woodcock*. Together with Stephen Speleman, the city chamberlain, he was a trustee of Sir William Hoo’s estates in Ketteringham, Norfolk, as well as being a party to conveyances made by, or on behalf of, his livery company. In July 1396 he joined with Speleman and John Frosh*, both of whom were fellow mercers, in settling a messuage known as ‘Bakewellehalle’ and other property in the City upon the mayor and commonalty of London.8 Only once, however, does he appear to have acted as a mainpernor, on the special occasion of his brother Edmund’s appointment as a collector of customs at Chichester in 1399. And only once, some five years before, did he agree to arbitrate in a mercantile dispute. He could less easily avoid being caught up in a lawsuit brought against him in October 1393 over the ownership of four shops in the City, although the case never came before a jury. Twice, in November 1392 and July 1397, he and his feoffees themselves petitioned for assizes of nuisance to be held with regard to the anti-social behaviour of their neighbours in the parish of St. Lawrence Jewry. But Parker’s litigation reflects neither the scope of his interests as a rentier nor the scale of his financial dealings. In March 1401 he attempted to enforce a bond in £101 which John Abraham, a mercer from Aylesbury, had promised to make good by June 1399; and some nine years after his death his executors were still trying to sue one Richard Ireland of Gloucester for £64. Otherwise he had little use for the law as a means of redress.9

Parker’s influential connexions were not confined to the City, and it is possible that he owed much of his early success to the patronage of Margaret Marshal, duchess of Norfolk. In November 1399 Henry IV confirmed the letters patent by which she had granted the office of bailiff of the lordships of Dovercourt and Harwich in Essex and Walton in Suffolk at a fee of £10 a year for life to a William Parker in return for over 20 years’ loyal service. The award does not refer specifically to Parker as a city merchant, but there can be little doubt that it was he (and not anyone else with the same common name) who was the recipient. On the death of Thomas, duke of Norfolk, in September 1399, tallies were issued at the Exchequer to his agents for the payment of his many debts out of the customs. Two years later the duke’s creditors protested that John Hopcorne, Norfolk’s esquire, and William Parker of London had retained such tallies worth £600 which they refused to surrender. Clearly, if Parker was in a position to administer the late duke’s estate, his earlier association with the family must have been a long and close one. He is, however, likely to have derived even greater benefits from his marriage to Joan, the daughter of John Norbury, one of Henry IV’s most influential counsellors. The match seems to have been arranged before Norbury’s appointment as treasurer of England in September 1399, so it is unlikely that Parker (who, after all, was only a merchant, albeit a very rich one) managed to negotiate a marriage contract as generous as that secured by Richard, Lord Saint Maur, who sued for Joan’s hand five years later. Norbury then promised to settle a total of £1,333 upon his recently widowed daughter, but demanded that she in turn should receive a jointure worth £300. Yet even if the immediate financial rewards were not so large, Parker was sure of a powerful supporter who could obtain for him the preferential treatment which most merchants hoped vainly to receive when trying to recover loans from the Crown.10

Although he was not made an alderman until 1393, Parker had already begun to play a leading part in civic affairs. He was one of the 24 commoners described as being in secundo gradu potentiores civitatis, who were summoned with the mayor and other dignitaries to wait upon the King at Nottingham in June 1392 and answer charges concerning certain alleged malpractices in the government of London. In June 1398, shortly after his year as sheriff, he obtained a general pardon from the Crown, but this seems to have been no more than a formality. He continued to occupy the aldermanry of Bishopsgate Ward and hold office as alnager of London until the time of his death, which probably occurred in the late summer of 1403. His second term as warden of the Mercers’ Company came to an end in June of that year, and was marked by a particularly acrimonious dispute among the members over the admission to their guild of William Coventry, a ‘foreigner’. Parker and two of his fellow wardens agreed to accept the applicant upon payment of a substantial entry fine, but their decision (which was made without the consent of their fourth colleague) proved so unpopular that order was only restored after a committee of eight senior mercers had fined them each 40s. for going against the ancient usages of the company.11

Parker was buried in the parish church of St. Lawrence Jewry, next to his first wife, Joan. Between them, his widow and Joan’s four children shared bequests of £2,333 in cash and over £80 in plate. Other legacies, to religious houses, the Mercers’ Company, friends, servants and kinsmen, as well as his illegitimate son and daughter, came to well over £630, quite apart from quantities of jewellery, plate and rich apparel. In his first will, of August 1400, he entrusted his youngest son, John, to the care of the mercer, Edmund Man, while the two elder boys and their sister were to remain under the surveillance of their stepmother’s father, John Norbury. As we have seen, negotiations were begun in March 1404 for the marriage of Parker’s widow to Lord Saint Maur, but despite the fact that Norbury and Saint Maur had entered into mutual recognizances in £2,000 to implement their arrangements, the match never took place—possibly because of Joan’s early death. None of Parker’s legitimate sons survived to old age: John was an apprentice in the service of the mercer, Richard Herry, when he died, aged about 25, in 1413; his brother, Nicholas, had already predeceased him; and the eldest of the three, William Parker II, who had inherited the family property in Kent, was dead by October 1421. Thanks to the generosity of Simon Bartelot, another wealthy mercer, a chantry was set up in the church of St. Lawrence Jewry to the memory of William, his father and their wives.12

Ref Volumes: 1386-1421

Author: C.R.


The subject of this biography is not to be confused with William Parker, fishmonger of London, who was dead by 27 Nov. 1402 (CPR, 1401-5, p. 145). Nor, in spite of his association with Thomas Mowbray, duke of Norfolk, is it likely that he ever held office at Court. A William Parker, former esquire to Richard II’s queen, Isabel, was granted an annuity of £20 by Henry IV in November 1399, but there is nothing to connect him with our Member (ibid. 1399-1401, p. 93).

  • 1. PCC 4 Marche; Corporation of London RO, h4 117/46, 124/56; CCR, 1402-5, pp. 322-4; T.F. Tout, Chapters, iv. 61, 480; vi. 24.
  • 2. Cal. Letter Bk. London, H, 332, 344, 367, 385; Beaven, Aldermen, i. 402.
  • 3. Mercers’ Company Recs. wardens’ acct. bk. 14, 35d.
  • 4. Corporation of London RO, hr 116/63, 155/21; PCC 4 Marche; Mercers’ Company Recs. wardens’ acct. bk. ff. 7, 7d, 18; CCR, 1389-92, p. 78; 1413-19, p. 91; Reg. Chichele, ii. 376-7, 646.
  • 5. E122/71/13 mm. 1-36d, 225/56/2-4, 10, 15, 18-19, 57/21-25, 58/2-5, 9, 59/7; E401/622-7; E403/571; CPR, 1401-5, p. 104; Corporation of London RO, hr 121/211, 160/33.
  • 6. PCC 4 Marche; C143/426/34; Corporation of London RO, hr 117/46, 63, 119/78, 121/15, 26-27, 159, 124/9, 56, 135, 125/61, 95, 126/48, 127/54, 128/25, 131/14-15, 141/41, 155/21, 26; Arch. Jnl. xliv. 61, 63.
  • 7. E403/536 m. 16; PCC 4 Marche; Corporation of London RO, hr 124/56, CPR, 1388-92, pp. 117, 206-7; 1399-1401, p. 148; CCR, 1413-19, pp. 91, 96; Feudal Aids, ii. 144.
  • 8. C143/426/34; Corporation of London RO, hr 121/11-12, 124/133, 125/61, 65, 133A/36; Eton Coll. recs. W688-9, 704-6; Mercers’ Company Recs. wardens’ acct. bk. f. 18; CPR, 1396-9, p. 13; CCR, 1402-5, pp. 183, 498; 1405-9, p. 246; J. Stow, Surv. London ed. Kingsford, i. 288.
  • 9. CFR, xii. 4; Cal. P. and M. London, 1381-1412, p. 231; C241/190/60; CCR, 1399-1402, p. 68; Corporation of London RO, hcp 117 m. 2, 122 m. 1, 137, Monday aft. feast St. Luke, 14 Hen. IV; hpl 116 m. 1.
  • 10. E404/16/752; CPR, 1399-1401, p. 131; 1401-5, p. 145; CCR, 1399-1402, p. 102; 1402-5, pp. 322-4.
  • 11. Cal. Letter Bk. London, H, 378; H. Knighton, Chron. ed. Lumby, ii. 319; C67/30 m. 13; Mercers’ Company Recs. wardens’ acct. bk. f. 40.
  • 12. PCC 4, 27 Marche; Cal. Letter Bk. London, I, 43-44; Cal. P. and M. London, 1413-37, pp. 95, 160; Cal. Wills ct. Husting London ed. Sharpe, ii (2), 446; CCR, 1402-5, pp. 322-4; H. St. Maur, Annals of Seymours, 10.