SPYNE, John, of Bristol.
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Family and Education
Bailiff, Bristol Mich. 1407-8; sheriff 9 Oct. 1411-4 Oct. 1412; mayor Mich. 1421-2.1
Commr. to collect a tax, Bristol Jan. 1412; of inquiry Nov. 1417 (fraud in collection of customs).2
Spyne is known to have been resident in Bristol and engaged in mercantile dealings there from 1389, long before he became involved in borough affairs. While holding office as bailiff, he attended the council meeting at the guildhall in January 1408 at which were confirmed new ordinances for the skinners. He himself was elected to the common council in 1409-10, and secured appointment as sheriff of the county of Bristol a year later on his first nomination. The same official year (1411-12), in association with Thomas Young III*, the mayor, he was responsible for the collection of the new tax levied on those owning land worth £20 annually, and later it was with Young that he first represented the borough in Parliament, in April 1414. He was again recorded as a councillor in March 1416. During his mayoralty an unprecedented crisis occurred wih the death of the sheriff, Nicholas Bagot, on 2 Jan. 1422. Promptly, on the afternoon of the same day, Spyne called a meeting of the common council to nominate the customary three candidates from among whom the royal choice of sheriff could be made. In August he presided over a special assembly to discuss means of protecting councillors from abuse. He himself served on the council again in June 1425, then assisting in the promulgation of new ordinances for the cordwainers. Spyne attested as many as 15 parliamentary indentures for Bristol between 1407 and 1430, having in the meantime been responsible as sheriff in October 1411 for the return of the writ and, in 1420, been present at his own second election to the Commons.3
Spyne’s mercantile interests seem to have been mainly concerned with cloth exports to Bayonne and Spain. Between May 1398 and September 1399 he shipped as many as 204 lengths of fabric to those destinations, importing wine on the return voyages. When, in 1400, the mayor of Bristol was instructed to collect arrears of tunnage and poundage due from Richard II’s reign, Spyne owed £4 13s. Occasionally he employed his own ship for trading, being part-owner of a crayer called La Marie of Bristol. He was fortunate in obtaining, in March 1403, a royal licence to ship a cargo of cloth, old wine and salt to Ireland, and three years later, in partnership with other Bristol merchants, another to load a similar cargo, but also including mead, in La Marie, with a view to importing Irish salmon and hides. Not all of his commercial ventures were transacted without difficulty. For instance, in 1397 he had been sued by Richard Hautysford in the court of the Staple of Bristol, for possession of four pipes of woad. Spyne asserted that he had sent three pipes from Bayonne, which Hautysford had duly received, but that he was not willing to deliver the fourth until he had been paid the costs of freight. Judgement was delayed when the two constables of the Staple gave different verdicts and there was an appeal to Chancery, but the case was eventually decided in Spyne’s favour, after many of the merchants present in court supported him in his suit. Spyne was later the subject of a petition to Chancery by a Shrewsbury spicer, John Glover, who, after acknowledging that he had been bound to him in £46, alleged that before the day arranged for payment Spyne had arrested his servants and confiscated his goods in Bristol.4
Spyne’s property in Bristol included a garden off Broad Street and shops in Worship Street, but the full extent of his holdings is not known. The date of his death is also uncertain, but his active career ended with his attendance at the parliamentary election of December 1430. In January following a tenement of his in Redcliff Street was said to be occupied by John Bury, so he may have died in the meantime. There is a possibility that our Member was the father of John Spyne, the author, an Oxford doctor of divinity, who was born at Bristol.5
Ref Volumes: 1386-1421
Author: L. S. Woodger
- 1. Trans. Bristol and Glos. Arch. Soc. xxvi. 130-1.
- 2. E122/17/43.
- 3. Bristol Wills (Bristol and Glos. Arch. Soc. 1886), 24; Little Red Bk. Bristol ed. Bickley, i. 137, 139, 142, 150; ii. 93, 144; C219/10/4, 6, 11/1, 4, 8, 12/2-6, 13/1-5, 14/2.
- 4. E122/16/34, 35, 17/1; CFR, xii. 96; CPR, 1399-1401, p. 215; 1401-5, p. 209; 1405-8, p. 163; Staple Ct. Bks. (Bristol Rec. Soc. v), 93-95; C1/16/14.
- 5. Bristol Wills, 59, 113; CCR, 1429-35, p. 107; Biog. Reg. Univ. Oxf. ed. Emden, iii. 1747.