SUTTON, John I (d.c.1391), of Lincoln.
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Family and Education
Commr. to distrain for money to build a royal barge, Lincoln Jan. 1373.
Mayor of the Boston Staple, Lincs. 20 July 1375-6, 1384-5.2
Collector of the petty custom, Boston 1 July 1378-31 Mar. 1379, of tunnage and poundage 16 Nov. 1378-25 May 1382.
Mayor, Lincoln Sept. 1386-7.3
This MP was the son and namesake of an affluent and successful merchant who became mayor of Lincoln in September 1368, and was probably thus responsible for securing his first return to Parliament in the following June. It is now impossible to tell which of them travelled to London in February 1370 to deliver a royal writ exempting the people of Lincoln from tolls and customs when trading in the capital, but John Sutton the elder must then have been near retirement. His purchase, four years later, of the manor of Newhall and lands in Langworth and Maidenwell, Lincolnshire, was transacted by his son, who took personal delivery of securities worth £426 from the vendor, Sir Walter Cokesey. These properties formed part of the young man’s inheritance, and were probably in his hands by 1378, when he was confirmed in possession of the manors of Ownby, Cold Hanworth and Willingham as well. His father was buried in the church of Holy Trinity in the suburbs of Lincoln; and on drawing up his will, in 1391, Sutton left £12 for refurbishments to the tomb. He set aside a smaller sum for similar work on his mother’s tomb in St. Mary’s church, Nottingham, but we know nothing else about her save that she probably came from a local family.4
Sutton was rich enough to participate in the loan of £10,000 made to the government in September 1377 by a consortium of English merchants. He and his associates in Lincoln were promised repayment by way of exemptions from the wool custom at Boston, and over the next year he shipped out at least 111 sarplers of wool from thence to Calais, often on the same ship as his younger brother, Robert, who was also very active in this field. Such trading ventures were not without risk, however, and in 1379 a ship called La Cristofre which was carrying some of his wool was wrecked off Deal, although the cargo was salvaged. Like most merchants of the period, Sutton did not confine himself to one commodity; and in 1383, for example, we find him and his brother dealing in iron, wine and woad as well. In the previous year he and Robert had covered themselves from any charges of commercial malpractice by suing out royal letters of pardon. The brothers were extremely close, often witnessing the same deeds and acting as mainpernors for each other when they were returned to Parliament. Indeed, they actually sat together in the Merciless Parliament of 1388, which marked John’s fifth and last appearance in the House of Commons. Their private interests were, moreover, considerably advanced by the fact that first John and then Robert held office as mayor of the Boston Staple and collector of customs in the port.5
John Sutton’s term as mayor of Lincoln was marked by a royal visit to the city, during the course of which Richard II and his queen were admitted to the confraternity of the cathedral and in return granted Sutton and his successors in office the privilege of having a drawn sword carried before them on formal occasions. Notwithstanding his importance in the civic hierarchy, he managed to avoid becoming involved in the dispute between the lay and ecclesiastical authorities over the exercise of their respective jurisdictions which so disrupted life in Lincoln at this time, although he did become caught up in a similar quarrel with John of Gaunt, the keeper of the castle. Sutton was one of the leading citizens summoned, in March 1390, to defend themselves before a royal commission of oyer and terminer appointed on Gaunt’s insistence, this being his last recorded public appearance.6 At some point before September 1391, when he made his will, he settled his Lincolnshire estates upon feoffees, including John Waltham, bishop of Salisbury, and the influential landowner, Sir Walter Tailboys*, to whom he also left a hauberk of steel. His two sons, John and Robert, were then still under age, so it was necessary for him to make careful provision for the safety of their inheritance. Between them they and their mother shared bequests worth £400 in cash alone, while his ‘faithful servant’, John Bursley, was promised two shops on the great bridge at Lincoln and no less than £257 in debts due from various London merchants. Altogether, he disposed of more than £845 in cash, about £10 of which was to pay for his burial at St. Katherine’s priory near Lincoln. His date of death is not recorded, but John Sutton the younger had apparently succeeded to his share of the estates by 1398, when his uncle Robert staged an unsuccessful attempt to secure some of the land for himself.7
Ref Volumes: 1386-1421
- 1. Lincs. AO, Reg. Buckingham XII, f. 379; CCR, 1374-7, pp. 102-3. Lincs. Peds. ed. Maddison, 938-9, mistakenly describes Robert Sutton the MP as John I’s son, but the two men were clearly brothers.
- 2. C267/4/10; J.W.F. Hill, Med. Lincoln, 250.
- 3. Assoc. Archit. Socs. Reps. and Pprs. xxxix. 230.
- 4. CP25(1)143/142/14; Reg. Gaunt 1371-5, no. 135; Cal. Letter Bk. London, G, 258-9; CCR, 1374-7, pp. 98, 102-3; Reg. Buckingham XII, f. 379.
- 5. C67/29 m. 8; C219/8/5; E122/7/13, 17; CFR, ix. 41-42, 59-60; CCR, 1377-81, pp. 30-31, 168-9; Lincs. AO, St. Mark’s deeds, FL 2/4, 5.
- 6. Hill, 258; CPR, 1388-92, p. 220.
- 7. Reg. Buckingham XII, f. 379; JUST 1/1508 rot. 16.