GAWTRON, Walter (d.1433), of London.
Available from Boydell and Brewer
Family and Education
s. of John Gawtron of London, draper, by his w. Agnes (d.1408). m. (1) by Feb. 1410, Joan, da. of John Walcote* of London, draper and woolman, wid. of Walter King (d.1407), of London, grocer, 1s; (2) by Mar. 1433, Alice, wid. of Geoffrey Dalling (fl. 1426), of London, vintner.1
Collector of the wool custom, London 26 July 1410-21 Jan. 1411; keeper of the ‘cocket’ seal 26 July-9 Nov. 1411.
Auditor, London 21 Sept. 1410-11, 1413-14.2
Commr. of array, Mdx. May 1418; to raise a royal loan Nov. 1419.
Described as a London draper, Gawtron’s father appears to have established a number of connexions in the county of Middlesex. He was probably the John Gawtron who was twice made a tax collector there during the 1370s; his wife, Agnes, came from Uxbridge; and he himself was buried in the parish church of Hillingdon.3 Following an established family tradition, the subject of this biography had set up in the drapery business by October 1394, when he began the first of many legal actions for the recovery of unpaid debts. Between then and June 1420 he sued at least 25 people for sums totalling more than £240. Among those who owed him money were Sir Thomas Gerberge*, Edward, Lord Hastings, and the two Derbyshire landowners, Sir John Cockayne* and John de la Pole*, presumably because they had at some time been customers of his. Gawtron became a very wealthy man; and as early as 1403 he was able to join with Thomas Basham in paying £300 for certain bonds which had been forfeited for treason by Sir Henry Percy.4
The draper’s involvement in a number of mercantile disputes reveals the extent of his commercial dealings. In January 1405 he and two other Londoners were summoned to appear before the royal council: the nature of the inquiry is not stated, but it probably arose out of a complaint made by James Roscob, the master of a Prussian ship which had been captured at sea ‘by divers men, hired soldiers, in divers ships’. Two of these vessels, La Elene and La Margaret, had been partly fitted out by Gawtron, who was required to pay his share of the £125 awarded to Roscob as compensation. The English merchants, one month later, obtained a release from all further actions pertaining to the lost cargo (but not the ship), and a royal commission was set up to recover their expenses from the sailors. At some point during the next seven years Robert Thorley, esquire, brought a maritime action against Gawtron and three other citizens in the court of admiralty. This case, which concerned the freighting of one of his vessels, was pending in August 1412, but the outcome remains unknown.5 In April 1413 no less than eight ships of which Gawtron was joint owner were commandeered at Bordeaux by Thomas, duke of Clarence, who, having been informed of Henry IV’s death, was anxious to return immediately to England. On the journey home two Prussian vessels laded with wine were captured by ships of the convoy, whose owners claimed a share of the spoils. The success of their petition to the Parliament of May 1413 possibly owed something to Gawtron’s presence in the Commons: at all events, in the following July he and his partners took delivery of one of the prizes, although they were bound by sureties of 1,000 marks in Chancery to surrender her again should the final legal ruling on custody go against them.6 The Commons was still in session when Thomas Compworth† of Northampton and an associate bound themselves to pay Gawtron and the mercer, William Waldern*, £32 over the next four years. They appear to have done so without further delay, but not all Gawtron’s transactions were effected so smoothly. In August 1414, for example, Walter Shirley*, a grocer from Salisbury, undertook to accept the award of the mayor and aldermen of London in a disagreement between him and Gawtron over the shipment of his wine in one of the draper’s vessels. Again, in May 1417, Gawtron was party to a case arising from the arrest at Bordeaux of a ship called Le Thomas, although he did not then appear in court as a litigant. His interest in the wine trade evidently continued until 1431, for in that year the mayor and aldermen were called upon to settle a protracted action which he was fighting against the London vintner, John Snypston.7
Gawtron began to play an active part in civic life shortly after his marriage to the wealthy heiress and widow, Joan King. His emergence as a public figure was almost certainly hastened by this extremely lucrative match, which not only gave him custody of the late Walter King’s four children and their patrimony, but also enabled him to acquire part of the extensive London properties built up by Joan’s father, the draper, John Walcote. Gawtron purchased the reversion of rents and tenements in six city parishes from Walcote’s executors in January 1412. We do not know if the compilers of the lay subsidy return made for London later in that year included these new accessions in their assessment of his annual landed income (which then stood at £14), but they were certainly in his hands by April 1423.8 It is less easy to determine the extent of Gawtron’s other holdings in the City. In, or before, September 1404 he leased ten shops in the parish of St. Mary Axe and another in the Walbrook from the wardens of London Bridge; and in 1407 he was left the reversion of certain premises in Bow Lane by his kinswoman, Agnes Hale, who also made him her executor. He represented Dowgate ward on a London jury in 1411, being evidently then resident there. Four years later he was alleged to have committed unspecified acts of nuisance as the owner of a tenement in the parish of St. Botolph without Aldgate.9 In many cases, however, Gawtron’s title was clearly that of a feoffee-to-uses, and as such he became involved in the property transactions of friends and business associates, including Solomon Oxney*, William Norton II* and John Butler II*. Over the years he appeared among the defendants in at least five lawsuits concerning the ownership of various rents and tenements in the City, but these actions were without doubt collusive.10 Although he acted as a trustee for Robert, Lord Scales, Richard Baynard*, and other notable landowners in Kent and Essex, and became embroiled in litigation with Robert Skerne* over holdings in Surrey, his own possessions outside London were apparently confined to Middlesex.11 In December 1403 he and his two feoffees obtained the reversion of land in Harefield, and subsequently built up a substantial estate there. Shortly before his death, Gawtron had his title entered in the records of the court of common pleas, and in his will he made provision for the sale of a ‘place called Brakyngborow’ in Harefield, where he had once lived. Most of this property had belonged to William Swanland’s* son and heir, who had been obliged to mortgage his inheritance in order to pay off a heavy burden of debt. Although not the original mortgagee, Gawtron was the principal beneficiary of the ensuing foreclosure; and it looks very much as if he took part in many other transactions of this nature. As a resident of Middlesex, he attended at least six parliamentary elections for the county (in 1413, 1415, November 1421, 1422, 1425 and 1427), and was twice returned as a shire knight.12 His connexion with the City remained strong, however, for besides representing London again in 1427 and 1429 he also continued to deal in cloth, and he kept up his membership of the Drapers’ Company. Between 1420 and 1425 he contributed £5 towards the cost of building the new Drapers’ hall, and, as we have seen, he had business commitments in London throughout his life.13
The draper died between 1 Mar. and 23 May 1433. He was survived by his second wife, Alice, the widow and executrix of the London vintner, Geoffrey Dalling, and William, the child of his first marriage. Alice, who had already been involved in litigation with Dalling’s creditors, began a lawsuit in the husting court of London for the recovery of her dower, which she claimed had been wrongfully withheld by her stepson; and she continued to seek redress after his death in the spring of 1435. Since William left no children, his inheritance passed to John Marshal, one of Gawtron’s cousins.14
Ref Volumes: 1386-1421
- 1. Guildhall Lib. London, 9171/2, f. 132, 3, f. 344v; London Rec. Soc. i. no. 255; Corporation of London RO, hr 151/56; PCC 14 Marche; CCR, 1409-13, p. 86; Cal. Letter Bk. London, I, 104; C1/75/84.
- 2. Cal. Letter Bk. London, I, 88, 117.
- 3. Guildhall Lib. 9171/2, f. 132; CFR, ix. 57, 47.
- 4. Corporation of London RO, hcp 119, Monday bef. feast St. Edmund and Monday aft. feast St. Barnabas, 18 Ric. II; Monday bef. feast St. Dunstan, 19 Ric. II; hpl 120, Monday bef. feast St. Martin, 19 Ric. II; 134, Monday aft. feast St. Luke, 11 Hen. IV; 135 m. 5; 136 m. 3; CCR, 1396-9, p. 492; 1399-1402, p. 510; CPR, 1396-9, p. 134; 1408-13, pp. 251, 254, 332; 1413-16, p. 339; 1416-22, pp. 100, 284; Issues ed. Devon, 298.
- 5. Cal. P. and M. London, 1381-1412, p. 272; CPR, 1401-5, p. 511; 1408-13, p. 422; CCR, 1402-5, p. 497.
- 6. J.H. Wylie, Hen. V, i. 118; RP, iv. 12; CCR, 1413-19, p. 25.
- 7. CCR, 1413-19, pp. 68-70; 1429-35, p. 109; Cal. P. and M. London, 1413-37, pp. 2, 6, 21, 250.
- 8. Corporation of London RO, hr 138/41, 151/56, 152/16; Cal. Letter Bk. London, I, 104; London Rec. Soc., i. no. 255; Arch. Jnl. xliv. 61.
- 9. Corporation of London RO, hr 135/97, 142/38-39; hpl 136 m. 5; Bridge House rental (1404), ff. 11-11d; Cal. P. and M. London, 1413-37, pp. 36, 267.
- 10. CAD, iii. D937; Corporation of London RO, hr 138/79, 141/94, 151/43, 152/35, 154/51, 63, 158/26, 36, 162/51; hcp 132, Monday bef. feast St. James, 9 Hen. IV; 135 m. 2d; 137, Monday aft. feast Conversion of St. Paul, 14 Hen. IV; hpl 137, Monday aft. feast St. Katherine, 14 Hen. IV; 149, Monday aft. feast Birth of John the Baptist, 3 Hen. VI.
- 11. CCR, 1399-1402, p. 479; 1405-9, pp. 276-7; 1419-22, pp. 223, 225; 1422-9, pp. 331-2; CPR, 1401-5, pp. 188-9; 1429-36, p. 368; CP25(1)111/250/1059; JUST 1/1534 rot. 3v, 1538 rot. 4v.
- 12. CCR, 1402-5, pp. 369, 375, 383; CP25(1)152/89/47-48; Feudal Aids, vi. 488; Westminster Abbey muns. 428, 435-6, 446-7, 452, 461, 467-8, 481, 488, 492, 494, 4436.
- 13. C219/11/1, 7, 12/6, 13/1, 3, 5; E122/76/32 m. 7; A.H. Johnson, Hist. Drapers’ Company, i. 285, 292, 296, 308, 314, 318.
- 14. Guildhall Lib. 9171/3, f. 344v; Corporation of London RO, hcp 157, Monday aft. feast St. Mark, 12 Hen. VI; 160 m. 2; CFR, xvi. 216; London Rec. Soc. i. no. 255; C1/75/84.