WAYTE, John (by 1522-78 or later), of Oxford.
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Family and Education
b. by 1522, ?m. at least 1s.1
Bailiff, Oxford 1552-3, assistant to mayor 1554-7, 1562-78, mayor 1555-6, 1561-2.2
John Wayte was almost certainly of Oxford origin. One namesake was sub-warden of Merton College in 1508 and another was a fellow of Queen’s by 1534; a Thomas Wayte was among the Oxford councilmen between 1518 and 1522; a Robert Wayte was assessed for subsidy in St. Martin’s parish on goods worth £5 in 1525, and both a Roger Waytes and an Elizabeth Wayte were so assessed in 1543, the year of John Wayte’s first appearance on a subsidy roll. The John Wayte admitted as a freeman in 1537-8 was described as a painter, whereas the man presumed to have been the Member was called a haberdasher in 1557, 1569-70 and 1574-5; there was also a relatively long interval of 14 or 15 years between the admission of the freeman and his appointment as a bailiff. There may thus have been two contemporaries so named in Oxford. His later history suggests that it was the Member who in 1551 was accused in the chancellor’s court of drawing a wood knife against James Neyland: William Aubrey II of New Inn Hall was one of the witnesses against him.3
Wayte undertook all the usual duties of a leading resident. He was an overseer of the city’s fairs with William Tylcock in 1551 and of Port Meadow with Ralph Flaxney, Edward Glynton, Thomas Mallinson and others in the following year. The way to the mayoralty was opened by a decision to elect eight assistants in 1554 and to make these new officials, as well as the five aldermen, eligible for election. Wayte became mayor at Michaelmas 1555 and during his term it was agreed that he and any other assistant chosen for the mayoralty should thereafter enjoy the privileges of an alderman. He had ranked for some time among the richer citizens, being assessed for subsidy on goods valued at £8 in 1543 and at £18 in 1544, 1545, 1547, 1550 and 1551.4
The date of Wayte’s first mayoralty identifies him more closely than any other Member for Oxford with the persecution of heretics. He was responsible, by virtue of his office, for the safe-keeping of Bishops Latimer and Ridley, and of Archbishop Cranmer, who had been brought to Oxford in March 1554. The mayor and other leading citizens presided with Sir John Williams, Lord Williams of Thame, at the burning of the two bishops on 16 Oct. 1555 and of Cranmer on 20 Mar. 1556. Wayte is also unusual in having been returned to Parliament by the city three times during Mary’s reign. This is a further sign that he was regarded as a good Catholic and it is probable that his election was sponsored by Williams, who is thought to have been high steward of Oxford from 1553.5
Williams may have rewarded Wayte’s zeal, for the two men had dealings over the site of St. Mary’s college, a former house of Austin canons which had continued as an ordinary hall of residence until it passed into unknown hands in or about 1547. It seems that Williams eventually acquired control and that he allowed Wayte to occupy the premises, for in 1556 the university complained to Cardinal Pole and others that Wayte was despoiling the property. He must have been ordered to desist, as on 8 Oct. 1556 the city council agreed to disallow a bargain previously made with Wayte over some timber and slate belonging to St. Mary’s college which he had bought from Williams.6
Wayte’s career is remarkable for its vicissitudes. On 17 Feb. 1557 the city decided to accept the verdict of its auditors on an account submitted by him, perhaps as a former mayor or perhaps in connexion with St. Mary’s college. In April he was taken from prison to make his submission in the council chamber before the recorder Sir John Pollard and the mayor William Tylcock. He admitted a debt of £42 4s.7d., paid 44s.7d. for his immediate discharge and promised to pay the rest within eight years. Evidently he received special treatment, for it was resolved at the same time that no future defaulter could expect prompt release or permission to pay by instalments. The councilmen may have been made to show leniency against their will, for on 30 Apr. they decided to exclude Wayte from their number until his suit for readmittance should be approved.7
Wayte’s fortunes revived under Elizabeth. It seems that he again enjoyed powerful patronage, since the council agreed on 18 Sept. 1561 that the total number of 13 citizens eligible for the mayoralty should be raised to 15 and that Wayte should be one of the two new assistants. The decision was taken at a meeting attended by the new high steward, Francis Russell, 2nd Earl of Bedford, and when the number was again reduced to 13 in the following September, Wayte continued as an assistant, being chosen mayor a few days later. His wealth may have dwindled after his disgrace, since he was assessed for subsidy at £12 in 1559, but on 1 Apr. 1568 he was able to contribute 10s. towards a lottery, as did every other leading citizen.8
If Wayte showed unusual resource in rehabilitating himself so quickly, ingenuity was to prove his undoing. He engaged in a lawsuit with a fellow-citizen Edmund Bennet, feared an adverse decision in the mayor’s court and matriculated so as to claim the protection of the university. Relations between town and gown being particularly strained during the 1570s, this move had unexpected repercussions. Proceedings were stayed in the mayor’s court while Bennet secured three writs against his opponent in the King’s bench, so that the city was faced with the choice of infringing the privileges of the university or of disobeying the Queen’s judges. The citizens appealed to Bedford’s successor as high steward (Sir) Francis Knollys who spoke to the Earl of Leicester, chancellor of the university, and on 4 June 1576 Leicester advised the vice-chancellor to remit the case to the mayor. This had so little effect that on 22 June 1578 the Privy. Council told the lord chief justice to stay Bennet’s proceedings and excuse the mayor, while a week later the vice-chancellor was rebuked for having admitted Wayte without due consideration. The university itself seems to have been deceived, for when both litigants were summoned before the justices at Burford, Wayte could not produce his instrument of privilege and on 23 July the Privy Council ordered a special inquiry to see if it had been lawfully obtained. The result of this investigation is not known but in any event Wayte could hardly have continued as a city councilman. On 31 July it was assumed that he had forfeited his rights as a citizen.9
It is difficult to determine what happened to Wayte thereafter. A Mr. Wayte is said to have reported the treasonable words of one Yates to Dr. Yeldard, then vice-chancellor. A marginal note to the report points out that although Yeldard was vice-chancellor in 1580, he may have been deputy vice-chancellor earlier. Anthony Wood notes a memorial to the Member in All Saints church, but without giving dates, and one of 1587 to a John Wayte whom he identifies as the Member’s son. If this is correct, the Member may have been the John Wayte of Oxford, gentleman, who made a modest and fairly uninformative will on 24 Feb. 1589 which was proved on 5 or 6 May 1589.10
Ref Volumes: 1509-1558
Author: T. F.T. Baker
- 1. Date of birth estimated from first certain reference. Antiqs. Oxf. iii. (Oxf. Hist. Soc. xxxvii), 148.
- 2. Oxf. Recs. 212, 219, 227, 266, 282, 297, 397.
- 3. Oxf. Univ. Arch. T/S cal. chancellor’s ct. reg. F, p. 76; GG, p. 81; Emden, Biog. Reg. Univ. Oxf. 1501-40, pp. 611-12; Oxf. Recs. 20, 32, 151, 264, 332, 376.
- 4. Oxf. Recs. 204, 211, 219, 227, 256; E179/162/224, 229, 240, 261, 282, 289.
- 5. APC, v. 17, 77, 233; Foxe, Acts and Mons. vii. 547, 549; viii. 84.
- 6. Antiqs. Oxf. ii. (Oxf. Hist. Soc. xvii), 228-9, 232-5, 241-3; Oxf. Recs. 261, 263.
- 7. Oxf. Recs. 264-6.
- 8. Ibid. 282-3, 295, 297, 321; E179/162/318.
- 9. APC, x. 259-60, 264, 291; Oxf. Recs. 380, 396, 397.
- 10. Oxf. Univ. Arch. B27, p. 4; Antiqs. Oxf. iii. 148; Bodl. wills Oxon. 187, ff. 297-8.