CROMER, William (d.1434), of London.
Available from Boydell and Brewer
Family and Education
Warden of the Drapers’ Co. by 1 Sept. 1394, Aug. 1428-9.2
Auditor, London 21 Sept. 1399-1400, 1409-11; alderman of Billingsgate Ward by 29 Sept. 1403-aft. 11 July 1420, Candlewick Ward c. Dec. 1420-d; mayor, London 13 Oct. 1413-14, 1423-4.3
Sheriff, London and Mdx. Mich. 1405-6.
Commr. of sewers, London, Kent Nov. 1405; oyer and terminer, London c.1407, Jan. 1414 (treasons and insurrections by lollards), Mdx. Feb. 1414, London July 1415, Feb. 1416, Dec. 1417, Nov. 1418, June 1426; inquiry, Jan. 1414 (lollards at large), Feb. 1424 (treasons and felonies); to assess a subsidy Apr. 1431.
Although he is generally described as the son of John Cromer of Aldenham, Hertfordshire, there can be little doubt that this distinguished Londoner came originally from Cromer in Norfolk. His name certainly bears out such a connexion, as does the evidence of his will, in which he made generous bequests to the parish church of Cromer and set aside a further £40 for the relief of his poor kinsmen in the town. At some point before May 1406 Cromer and his associates bound themselves to pay £200 to John Drew of London, agreeing that, in case of default, the money should be raised from their Norfolk property: property which, in the MP’s case, may well have been part of a family estate.4
Cromer had evidently settled in London by April 1390, when he paid customs duties on eight tuns of wine shipped by him into the port. In the following August he took delivery of a consignment of drapers’ goods worth more than £17; and over the next four years he provided the keeper of Henry of Bolingbroke’s wardrobe with modest quantities of cloth and thread. Between October 1395 and January 1396 he sued at least six people for the non-payment of debts totalling £225 (of which £210 was owed jointly to him and another draper, Philip Bangor, by John Stokes of Norwich).5 On becoming King of England, Bolingbroke made rather more substantial purchases from Cromer, who was assigned £380 for clothing the Princess Blanche and her entourage at the time of her marriage to Louis, count palatine of the Rhine in 1402. In March of the following year the draper lent £100 to Henry IV, being repaid in cash two months later. He made a second loan of £200 to the King in June 1405 and again recovered the money soon afterwards. Meanwhile, in 1404, certain debts due to him were temporarily seized as a result of reprisals taken by the government against French merchants trading in England. Cromer had business dealings with the mercers William Marchford*, John Whatley* and Thomas Aleyn, from whom he recovered a debt of £600 over a three-year period ending in April 1414.6 At some point before July 1416 he brought an action against John Hobildod* of Tadlow, Cambridgeshire, in the court of common pleas, for the recovery of a far smaller sum, although in the end his efforts proved unsuccessful. Despite this and other minor set-backs it is quite evident that, by the time of his second return to Parliament in 1417, Cromer had amassed a considerable fortune. His contribution of £100 made in June of that year towards the cost of Henry V’s second expedition to France was one of the largest sums then promised by a London citizen. Moreover, in the following July he and four other leading aldermen took and gave sureties for a loan of £2,000 also raised by the government to finance the war effort. Henry V borrowed a further £67 from him in May 1421; and it was probably this loan rather than a new one which appears in the receipt rolls for July of the following year. Again, in August 1426, Cromer advanced money to the Crown, this time joining with an unspecified number of Londoners to pledge £267 on the security of a forthcoming wine subsidy.7 Evidence of his growing wealth is not hard to find. When the wardens of the Drapers’ Company set up a fund in 1419 to pay for the building of a new hall, Cromer undertook to give an outstandingly generous donation of £30, which he paid in instalments over the next seven years, as well as making a short-term loan of £67 to the Company during this period. Meanwhile, in or before November 1419, he was owed £300 by two merchants of the Calais Staple, who offered him a quantity of gold cloth as a guarantee of payment, but were subsequently obliged to borrow money from a usurer in order to meet his demands. More fortunate than many royal creditors, Cromer was paid £400 (probably for goods supplied to the King’s wardrobe) out of the money raised between 1415 and 1423 by selling Edmund, earl of March, the right to his own marriage. In January 1427, our Member obtained a royal licence to export grain overseas, probably for the use of the English army in France. He had evidently forged a number of foreign connexions by then, for in August 1430, Baptista de Nigris, a Genoese merchant, made arrangements to settle a debt of £47 in his favour. Nearer home, Cromer could boast an impressive circle of customers, which included Anne, countess of Stafford. She owed him almost £260 for drapers’ goods at this time, and was paying off the debt very slowly in modest instalments. He and his associate, John Higham*, together had dealings with Henry VI’s uncle, Humphrey, duke of Gloucester, although we do not now know how much money they made from equipping his luxurious wardrobe.8
Over the years, Cromer established himself as a rentier of some consequence, both in and out of the City. His holdings in London were said to be worth over £5 p.a. in 1412, but they must have produced far more by the time of his death 22 years later. He had by then acquired land, tenements, shops and quit rents in the parishes of St. Swithin, Candlewick Street, St. Martin in the Vintry, St. Olave near the Tower and All Hallows the Great. He also owned a plot of land near Aldgate, and was involved in various assizes of nuisance because of his failure to maintain a watercourse there.9 Not content with his acquisitions in the capital, Cromer built up a fairly extensive estate in and around Sittingbourne in Kent. Some of this property may have come to him through his wife, who was the daughter of Sir Thomas Squiry, a Kentish landowner, but most seems to have been bought piecemeal over a fairly long period. Reynold, Lord Grey of Ruthin, sold his manor of Tunstall to Cromer in, or shortly after, 1402 in order to pay the heavy ransom demanded from him by the Welsh rebel leader Owen Glendower. Between 1415 and 1429 the draper purchased messuages and farmland in the villages around Sittingbourne and Rainham; he was also lord of the manor of ‘Broxham’ in Kent; and, as we have seen, he already occupied some property in Norfolk.10
Inevitably, a man of Cromer’s wealth and position was often made a feoffee-to-uses, and it is now very difficult to distinguish his own transactions from those of his many friends and associates. This is particularly the case in London, where he became involved in a large number of conveyances, often, but not always, designed to secure another’s title.11 He was also a party to several enfeoffments of land in the south-eastern counties of England: among those who thus engaged his services were Sir William Moleyns* and John Higham.12 In May 1417 Maud Newton, an anchoress at Barking abbey, Essex, appointed Cromer as one of her attorneys for the collection of a life annuity of 20 marks. On the whole, however, he did not undertake commitments of this kind. Only twice, in March 1393 and July 1408, does he appear to have acted as a surety, on the first occasion in Chancery for Sir Thomas Brewes*. He did, however, agree to execute the will of his business partner, the above-mentioned Philip Bangor; and in January 1409 he was a party to the marriage settlement made upon the son of William Hyde*.13
One of London’s most eminent citizens, Cromer played a leading part in civic life for over 33 years, and was among the few aldermen who were both affluent and distinguished enough to serve two terms as mayor during the early 15th century. His popularity sprang, in part, from an unwillingness to take bribes, so rare among his contemporaries that the brewers of London could not but register their surprise.
They found him a man a good of gouernaunce, for all the comynalte of the Cite, and all the Cite, was well plesed with hym, and also he was a good man and a lovynge to the craffte of Brewers, and yn his yer he dede no desese to ye seide craffte, ne he wolde nought receyve no yifftes ne rewardes of the same craffte yn all his tyme, but he dede thanke the Maistres goodly with all his herte of her Goode profre that they made to hym, as for to have yove hym yifftes ... and he made promys to be good Frende to hem be all his yer, and so he was.14
During his first mayoralty, Cromer helped to put down Sir John Oldcastle’s* rebellion and was largely responsible for the emergency measures which led to the arrest of several supporters of the lollards. He attended seven of the parliamentary elections held in London between 1414 (for the November Parliament) and 1426.15 His standing in international mercantile circles was clearly high: from 1415 onwards he acted as an arbitrator in a number of commercial and property disputes which came before the mayor’s court, and in 1425 he was one of the three aldermen chosen by the merchants of the Hanse to sit as judges in cases where members of their community were being tried by the law merchant.16
In April 1428 Cromer and his wife obtained a papal indult allowing them to use a portable altar. Although he continued to serve as an alderman until the end of his life and attended meetings of the court of aldermen with impressive regularity, Cromer now gradually began to abandon most of his own business interests. He made his last will on 14 Jan. 1434 and died within the next five days, leaving a young son, William, whom he entrusted to the care of his friend and executor, Henry Barton*. He was buried in the church of St. Martin Orgar, Candlewick Street, to which he left some of his property for the upkeep of a chantry. In all, he bequeathed over £496 for charitable and pious works in London, Kent and Norfolk. His widow and son each received 500 marks as well as an impressive quantity of plate and other valuables, while his friends and kinsmen shared a further £583 in cash. As a wealthy widow with a handsome dower, Margaret Cromer had no trouble in finding a second husband. She married Robert, Lord Poynings (d.1446), within six months of Cromer’s death, and lived on for another 12 years. Most of our Member’s estates in Kent descended to his son, who incurred tremendous unpopularity as sheriff there, and was murdered, together with his father-in-law, Sir James Fiennes†, Lord Say and Sele, by Cade’s rebels in 1450.17
Ref Volumes: 1386-1421
- 1. Corporation of London RO, hr 194/23; Lambeth Pal. Lib. Reg. Stafford f. 67; CPL, viii. 41; CP, x. 664.
- 2. Cal. P. and M. London, 1381-1412, p. 220; A.H. Johnson, Hist. Drapers’ Company, i. 315.
- 3. Cal. Letter Bk. London, H, 449; I, 75, 88, 94, 119, 130; K, 14, 33; Beaven, Aldermen, i. 23, 81.
- 4. PCC 22 Luffenham; CCR, 1405-9, p. 116.
- 5. DL 28/1/3, ff. 21d, 23; 4, ff. 2d, 3d, 4, 20d; E122/71/31 mm. 6, 17d; Corporation of London RO, hpl 118, Monday aft. feast St. Valentine, 18 Ric. II, 120, Monday aft. feast St. Mathias, 19 Ric. II; hcp 120, Monday bef. feast St. Edmund, 19 Ric. II.
- 6. Issues ed. Devon, 283; CCR, 1402-5, p. 346; 1409-13, pp. 81-82; CPR, 1416-22, p. 18; E401/627, 635; E403/576, 582.
- 7. CPR, 1416-22, pp. 234-5; 1422-9, pp. 318-19; Cal. Letter Bk. London, I, 202; CCR, 1413-19, p. 435; E401/696, 702; E403/652.
- 8. Johnson, i. 292, 298, 300, 308, 313; Staffs. RO, D641/1/2/12 m. 4; PCC 22 Luffenham; Cal. P. and M. London, 1413-37, pp. 107, 244; RP, iv. 212; DKR, xlviii. 244.
- 9. Arch. Jnl. xliv. 62; C1/31/388; Corporation of London RO, hr 146/94, 156/54, 158/10, 37, 194/23; Cal. P. and M. London, 1413-37, p. 130.
- 10. W.H. Ireland, Hist. Kent, iv. 47; CP, vi. 156-7; C1/19/246; CP25(1)113/283/107, 114/303/228; PCC 22 Luffenham.
- 11. Corporation of London RO, hcp 119, Monday aft. feast St. Agatha, 18 Ric. II, 133 m. 1; hpl 115, Monday bef. feast St. Margaret, 19 Ric. II, 124, Monday aft. feast St. Benedict, 1 Hen. IV, 134, Monday aft. feast St. Agatha, 11 Hen. IV, 137, Monday aft. feast Conception of Virgin, 14 Hen. IV; hr 121/107, 110, 131/88-89, 135/11, 12, 137/57, 67, 138/33, 140/6, 142/38-39, 66, 70, 143/4, 144/21, 25, 145/13, 146/46-47, 151/39, 152/14, 19, 153/48, 169/41; Bridge House deed I23; CPR, 1413-16, p. 352; LR14/E504, 585.
- 12. CP25(1)114/297/93, 298/103; Corporation of London RO, Bridge House deed H23; Essex Feet of Fines, iv. 6; CPR, 1408-13, p. 201; 1416-22, p. 105; CCR, 1409-13, pp. 293, 312-13, 317; 1422-9, p. 312.
- 13. Corporation of London RO, hcp 135 m. 9; CPR, 1416-22, p. 102; 1422-9, p. 43; Cal. Letter Bk. London, I, 68; Cal. P. and M. London, 1381-1412, p. 291.
- 14. London English ed. Chambers and Daunt, 182.
- 15. C.L. Kingsford, Eng. Hist. Lit. 293; C219/11/4, 7, 12/4, 13/1-2; Corporation of London RO, jnl. 1, f. 60.
- 16. Cal. P. and M. London, 1413-37, pp. 128, 143, 148, 179, 221, 248-9, 253, 257; Corporation of London RO, jnl. 2, f. 29d; RP, iv. 303.
- 17. CPL, viii. 41; Corporation of London RO, hr 194/23; PCC 22 Luffenham; C139/135/31; Cal. Letter Bk. London, K, 279; J. Stow, Surv. London ed. Kingsford, i. 222; CP, x. 664; HP ed. Wedgwood 1439-1509, Biogs. 242-3.