PRESTON, Henry II (d.1434), of York.

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) Emma (d.1401), 1s. 1da.; (2) Alice (fl. 1434), 1s.1

Offices Held

Chamberlain, York 3 Feb. 1400-1; sheriff Mich. 1403-4; member of the council of 24 by Sept. 1416-aft. Apr. 1424; mayor 3 Feb. 1422-3; member of the council of 12 by June 1425-aft. Apr. 1428.2

Commr. of inquiry, York c.1404 (cleaning the river Fosse), Feb. 1404 (death of Richard Otley).3


Nothing is known for certain about Preston before his entry to the freedom of York in 1381-2, when he described himself as a mercer. He lived quietly for the next few years, although in 1389 he agreed to stand surety for a baker who was then being sued at Westminster for threatening behaviour. Most of the evidence about his commercial activities concerns his involvement in the cloth trade, which was considerable. Throughout the 1390s and the early years of the next century he regularly shipped quantities of cloth worth up to £15 a consignment from Kingston-upon-Hull, while importing merchandise as diverse as canvas, bowstaves and wainscots, largely from the Baltic. As the alnager’s accounts for this period reveal, he was also quite heavily involved in cloth production, presenting 24 cloths for inspection in March 1395 alone.4

Preston first held civic office in 1400, his term as chamberlain of York being clouded by the death of his wife, Emma. A woman of some means, she broke with established custom by drawing up a will in her husband’s lifetime, although he was named as her executor and was promised the residue of all her effects after legacies worth over £15 had been paid out of her estate. (A sum of five marks was set aside by her as a marriage portion for one young kinswoman, with the solemn warning that it would be reduced to 6s.8d. if the latter did not conduct herself ‘as an honest virgin of good fame’.) In addition, she left more than £18 for masses to be said for her soul after her burial in York Minster, itself an indication of her standing in the community. Having firmly secured a position in the upper ranks of the mercantile elite, Preston now began to devote more time to local government, becoming sheriff in 1403, taking his place on the council of 24 by 1416, and obtaining a seat in Parliament four years later. Although he did not apparently offer himself as a candidate again, he attended at least six more of the parliamentary elections held in York between May 1421 and 1427, often in his capacity as an alderman, a rank which he assumed after serving a term as mayor. That he did not abandon his commercial interests during this period is evident from his attempt (at some point before 1421) to recover a substantial debt of £192 from a fellow mercer. On the other hand, a good deal of his time, particularly while in office as mayor, was taken up with disputes such as his celebrated confrontation with Sir Halnath Mauleverer*, the sheriff of Yorkshire, over their respective jurisdictions within the city, in which he eventually carried the day. He also became embroiled in a more personal quarrel with the carpenters of York, who claimed that he owed them 6s. a year in rent from a stall outside his house in Petergate. The dean of York, William Gray (later bishop of London), stepped in personally to arbitrate between the two parties, finding for the carpenters and obliging Preston to hand over the money. Besides his holdings in the city (which also included tenements in Grape Lane and a holding called ‘Benet Place’), our Member owned property elsewhere in Yorkshire, in Preston (where he may, perhaps, have been born) and the town of Pontefract. This he settled, in September 1425, upon his elder son, Thomas, a mercer like himself, who had been admitted a freeman during his mayoralty, some three years earlier, and had recently married Katherine, the daughter of Robert Holme I*, another prominent York merchant.5

Neither Thomas (who may have predeceased his father) nor his half-brother, Robert, were initially involved in the administration of their father’s estate, for when he died intestate, shortly before 8 Apr. 1434, the archbishop of York’s commissary called upon his widow, Alice, and the mercer, John Tanfield, to undertake the task between them. Some problems evidently followed, because seven years later fresh letters of administration were accorded to Robert Preston alone. He too did business as a mercer, having taken up the freedom as such in about 1432.6

Ref Volumes: 1386-1421

Author: C.R.


  • 1. Borthwick Inst. York, York registry wills, iii. ff. 60v-61, 377v; Surtees Soc. clxxxvi. 81.
  • 2. Surtees Soc. lxxxv. 3, 4, 8, 9; xcvi. 103, 131; cxx. 203-4; cxxv. 52, 62, 64, 74, 79, 84, 86.
  • 3. CIMisc. vii. no. 284.
  • 4. Surtees Soc. xcvi. 78; CCR, 1385-9, p. 685; Yorks. Arch. Soc. Rec. Ser. lxiv. 15, 16, 25, 72, 102; E122/59/23; C. Frost, Hull, app. 5, 22.
  • 5. York registry wills, iii. ff. 60v-61; C219/12/5, 6, 13/1, 2, 4, 5; CPR, 1416-22, p. 356; Surtees Soc. xcvi. 132; cxx. 203-4; clxxxvi. 81, 85.
  • 6. York registry wills, ii. f. 19v; iii. f. 377v; Surtees Soc. xcvi. 132, 146.