WHATLEY, John (d.c.1430), 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



Dec. 1421

Family and Education

Offices Held

Warden of the Mercers’ Co. c. June 1400-1, 24 June 1407-8, 1419-20, 1427-8.1

Tax collector, London Mar. 1404.

Warden of London Bridge 23 Sept. 1404-21 Sept. 1418.2

Collector of the wool custom, London 24 July 1427-24 Jan. 1429.


Whatley’s background remains obscure, although he may possibly have been a kinsman of the London woolmonger, John Whatelegh, who helped to supply the City with grain in 1358. A mercer named John Whatley stood surety for John of Northampton, John More and Richard Norbury after their banishment from London as dangerous radicals in 1386. It was almost certainly he, rather than the subject of this biography, who was owed a debt of £40 by another merchant some six years later, since our Member did not complete his articles of apprenticeship until about 1396, being admitted to the livery of the Mercers’ Company one year later. The appearance of a John Whatley ‘citizen and mercer of London’ as one of John More’s executors in 1410 and 1412 might suggest that More’s former mainpernor and the MP were one and the same person, but on chronological grounds alone it seems far more likely that there was some longstanding family connexion between More and successive generations of Whatleys.3

For most of his life Whatley played an important part in the affairs of the Mercers’ Company, serving as warden for no less than four terms between 1400 and 1428. He learnt his trade under William Sheringham*, and took on the first of his many apprentices while still a relatively young man in 1398. His commercial interests seem to have grown rapidly and taken him abroad, probably to Flanders, for it was then that he obtained a papal indult for a portable altar to be used in the event of his doing business ‘in schismatic or other interdicted places’. His inclusion among the eight senior mercers ‘de sagesse et discrecion’ chosen by their fellows to settle a dispute which divided the Company during the early years of the 15th century shows how much authority he already possessed in this quarter.4 He subsequently acquired property called ‘Le Crouneselde’ in the Mercery on behalf of his guild, and was largely responsible for obtaining permission from the Crown for the transfer of ownership to take place in January 1411.5 Of his own activities rather less is known. In 1405 he supplied the wardens of London Bridge with linen for the chapel of St. Thomas, having perhaps already begun to do business with the royal household. At all events, three years later the keeper of the Wardrobe owed him £20, and was a further £17 in his debt by Michaelmas 1409. The next reference to his dealings with the Crown occurs in March 1420, when he was assigned £400 payable in four annual instalments for ‘divers cloths’ purchased by Henry V at an earlier date.6

Some of Whatley’s other transactions were on an equally large scale and possibly involved the provision of credit facilities for members of the gentry. In February 1410, for example, he joined with his fellow mercer, William Marchford*, in promising to pay £600 to Sir John Lumley and William Mayhew over the next four years. These recognizances were cancelled shortly afterwards on Lumley’s request and identical ones made out in favour of the draper, William Cromer*. Between July 1416 and November 1420, Whatley tried to recover at least £175 which various persons, including John Hobildod*, had failed to pay by the required date.7 The soundness of his financial position is borne out by the number of times on which he offered substantial sureties (often of more than £100) on behalf of friends and colleagues. Thus, in March 1422, he stood bail in 1,000 marks for the Lombard merchant Baptist Arnulphi, who had been summoned to appear before the royal council. Three years later he entered into recognizances in the same sum as a guarantee of Robert Tey’s* willingness to come before the court of the mayor and aldermen of London.8

It is now impossible to determine exactly how much property Whatley owned in London, since he was so often called upon to act as a trustee that his own purchases cannot easily be distinguished from those made by other people. We know from his will that he owned a tenement called ‘Le Worme’ in St. Christopher’s parish and another in the parish of St. Mary Colechurch, both of which were in his hands by August 1425. He was, furthermore, a party to settlements of land, rents and buildings in at least 13 other London parishes. On some occasions his interest was without doubt that of a feoffee—as, for example, when he became involved in conveyances made by and for the mercer, John Shadworth*, and Henry Julian. The latter, who was for a time Whatley’s co-warden of London Bridge, joined with him in securing property in Greenwich for the Bridge estates.9 Whatley possessed various joint titles to land outside London, most notably on behalf of Sir Gerard Braybrooke II*, and his uncle, Robert Braybrooke, bishop of London. In July 1413 William Swinburne*, who was then in Gascony, made Whatley his attorney-general in England, but the mercer is not known to have performed such a service for anyone else.10

Although Whatley held only one important civic office, he was regarded as a man of some consequence by his fellow Londoners. In July 1411 he was appointed to audit certain private accounts submitted to the city chamberlain; and on at least four occasions between May 1420 and September 1426 he acted as an arbitrator in mercantile disputes being heard by the court of aldermen. His presence is recorded at several meetings of this court and of the common council in August 1421 and January 1423; and subsequently, in July 1425, Robert Tattersall, then alderman of Broad Street Ward, chose Whatley to act as his deputy. In the following October the mercer sat on a jury at the husting court of London: he also attended the parliamentary elections held there in November 1422 and February 1426.11

Towards the end of his life, in July 1427, Whatley obtained a second papal indult, this time allowing him to have mass celebrated before daybreak. He was still alive in October of the following year, but died before 11 June 1432. In his will, only part of which was entered on the husting roll, he set aside all the property he is definitely known to have held in London for the upkeep of a chantry in St. Christopher’s church. He does not appear ever to have been married or to have had any children, but evidence of this may well have been lost.12

Ref Volumes: 1386-1421

Author: C.R.


Variant: Whetele(y).

  • 1. Mercers’ Company Recs. Wardens’ acct. bk. ff. 31, 45d, 75, 93d.
  • 2. Cal. Letter Bk. London, I, 34, 59, 107, 204.
  • 3. CPR, 1358-61, p. 23; 1385-9, p. 159; 1408-13, pp. 205, 419; C241/180/24; Mercers’ Company Recs. Wardens’ acct. bk. ff. 19, 21, 26d.
  • 4. Mercers’ Company Recs. Wardens’ acct. bk. ff. 19, 27, 34d, 39d-40, 51d, 60, 76, 80d; CPL, v. 149.
  • 5. C143/442/17; Corporation of London RO, hr 135/44; CPR, 1408-13, p. 274.
  • 6. E101/405/21, f. 1, 22 f. 8d; Corporation of London RO, Bridge Masters’ acct. XVII m. 1; CPR, 1416-22, pp. 265-6.
  • 7. CCR, 1409-13, pp. 81-82; CPR, 1416-22, pp. 18, 26; C241/211/27, 213/30.
  • 8. Corporation of London RO, jnl. 1, f. 27, 2, ff. 19d, 44; Cal. Letter Bk. London, K, 27, 58, 63; CCR, 1399-1402, p. 395; 1405-9, p. 119; 1419-20, p. 257; CFR, xv. 26.
  • 9. Corporation of London RO, hr 126/74, 96, 129, 131/90, 132/27, 133B/54, 134/74, 135/83, 137/10, 38, 57, 63, 138/19, 33, 141/12, 58, 143/43, 144/54, 62, 145/56, 62, 147/35, 148/51, 57, 149/33, 150/23, 151/2, 40, 153/12, 23, 154/26, 46-47, 68, 155/15, 22-23, 27, 36, 156/18, 21, 160/51; hcp 152 m. 1; hpl 137, Monday aft. feast Conception of Virgin, 14 Hen. V; Bridge House deeds H30-33, 36, 39-40, 43-46, 48, 71-77.
  • 10. CP25(1) 151/83/42, 225/113/52; CAD, i. B806; CPR, 1401-5, pp. 178, 231, 479, 489; 1405-8, pp. 11, 316; CPR, 1408-13, p. 393; CCR, 1402-5, pp. 155-7; 1413-19, p. 17.
  • 11. Cal. P. and M. London, 1413-37, pp. 16, 80; C219/13/1, 4; Corporation of London RO, jnl. 1, ff. 94d-95d, 2, ff. 3, 42, 48d, 82, 84; hcp 150, Monday aft. feast St. Luke, 4 Hen. VI.
  • 12. CPL, vii. 563; Corporation of London RO, hr 160/51.