TANNER, Thomas (d.1401), of Wells, Som.

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



Apr. 1384
Jan. 1390

Family and Education

s. of John Tanner of Wells by his w. Agnes. m. bef. May 1366, Isabel, da. of Walter Lude of Wookey, Som. by his w. Christine,1 prob. s.p.

Offices Held

Master, Wells Mich. 1374-5, 1379-80, 1386-7, 1392-3, 1395-6, 1400-1; auditor 1382-3.2

Tax collector, Wells Mar. 1377, Dec. 1380.

Commr. of arrest, Wells Dec. 1391.


Tanner rose to be a prominent figure in Wells, where he became a freeman in the early 1370s. He provided pledges for the admission as burgesses of others, including Walter Duddesden*, and frequently attested deeds in the town in the course of his career. He held the most important office, the mastership, for as many as six annual terms. It was not unusual for him to be placed in positions of trust. For instance, before September 1376 he was named as an executor of the will of Master Nicholas Iforde of Bath; and he acted as a feoffee of property in Wells belonging to Richard Stoweye, a fellow burgess, and to Walter Power, a merchant of Bristol, with whom he most likely had business contacts.3

Tanner and his wife accumulated a considerable amount of property in Wells, beginning in 1366 when they acquired a tenement on High Street and two butchers’ stalls, and ending in 1400 with a transaction involving eight messuages, three tofts, 57 acres of arable land and three of meadow. Tanner’s holdings included buildings in Grope Lane and ‘Chepstrete’, shops (one measuring 23 feet long but only five feet wide) cellars and annual rents of at least £5 10s. In addition, he owned premises, including three shops and two cellars, in Bristol, where he established commercial interests.4 It was from Bristol that he exported goods to Portugal. His shipments, although small, were regular (for example, totalling 64 lengths of cloth in the year September 1390-1). Indeed, cloth was clearly his principal trading commodity, for between 1395 and 1397 he was assessed for alnage on as many as 424 ‘dozens’ produced in Somerset. His main import may well have been wine. Certainly, in the 1390s he became involved in an Exchequer test case concerning the royal prisage, which itself was to become the subject of a parliamentary petition presented by the Commons in 1401. His property both in Wells and Bristol included cellars which were quite likely used for storing his wares, and a tun of red wine was among his bequests. Tanner perhaps also dealt in hides: in 1400 a skinner named Robert Norburgh was arrested in London at his suit. Described as ‘merchant of Wells’ Tanner received two royal pardons: the first in 1382, the other in 1398, both for unspecified offences, but most likely related to his business concerns.5

While up at Westminster for the last of his three Parliaments, in November 1399, Tanner secured royal letters patent of confirmation of the charter of manumission which Bishop Erghum of Bath and Wells had granted to his wife, Isabel, in September 1393, she having been born a bondwoman on one of the episcopal manors. Having made his will on 23 Nov. 1401, Tanner died before the following 12 Dec. He was buried in St. Cuthbert’s, Wells, under the south window of the chapel of St. Mary in a vaulted tomb, specially rebuilt to accommodate the bodies of him and his wife, for which he had assigned £20. His bequests, which included sums of money amounting to more than £100, indicate that he was one of the wealthiest burgesses of Wells. The obsequies and requiem mass were to be said in the cathedral before his body was moved to St. Cuthbert’s, and 16 poor men employed in carrying tapers at the services were each accorded a gown, while the canons and vicar of the cathedral, the altarists, choristers and sacristan all received bequests. Several religious communities of various orders also benefited, on the condition that they said masses for the testator, in most cases from a legacy of £2: the hospital of St. John the Baptist in Wells, the common hall of the new close of the vicars there, Glastonbury abbey, the Carthusian friaries at Witham and Hinton, the nuns of Barrow Gurney (Somerset) and Kington St. Michael (Wiltshire), the priory of Stavordale, and four houses of friars in Bristol. That Tanner’s household was a fairly large one is suggested by his bequests to five servants of sums of money totalling £12 13s.4d. The residue of the estate, and all his other property, passed to Tanner’s widow, to dispose for their souls, and he named her as one of his executors. Thomas Hore*, who was also nominated, refused, however, to act.6

In accordance with the testator’s wishes, in 1402 his executors obtained a royal licence enabling them to alienate in mortmain three messuages and two shops in the High Street to the master and commonalty of Wells, on condition that they founded certain annual works of piety to the benefit of the souls of Thomas Tanner and his parents and the parents of his widow Isabel, and for the latter’s welfare, and also that, with an annual rent of eight marks from these premises, they established a chantry at St. Cuthbert’s for the same purpose. A further licence, procured in 1409, allowed the executors to grant to Witham priory three messuages, 60 acres of land and 18 of meadow in Wookey and ‘Yerdele’, these holdings probably comprising Isabel’s own inheritance. Left a wealthy widow, she was then still in possession of a number of properties in Wells, situated in Cuthbert Street, Touker Street and elsewhere. She is last recorded in September 1422.7

Ref Volumes: 1386-1421

Author: L. S. Woodger


  • 1. CPR, 1399-1401, pp. 53-54; 1401-5, p. 165.
  • 2. Wells City Chs. (Som. Rec. Soc. xlvi), 88; Wells Town Clerk’s office, convoc. bk. 1378-1450, ff. 9, 46, 65, 103, 115, 139.
  • 3. Wells City Chs. 94, 98, 99, 101-3, 124-5; Ancient Deeds Bath ed. Shickle, 1/44.
  • 4. Wells City Chs. 80, 83-86, 93, 95, 97-101, 104-5; HMC Wells, ii. chs. 410-11; Som. Feet of Fines (Som. Rec. Soc. xvii), 156; ibid. (xxii), 4.
  • 5. Overseas Trade (Bristol Rec. Soc. vii), 193-4, 196, 200-2; RP, iii. 477; CCR, 1399-1402, p. 207; C67/29 m. 30, 30 m. 29; E101/343/28, 30.
  • 6. Som. Med. Wills (Som. Rec. Soc. xvi), 6-8; CPR, 1399-1401, pp. 53-54.
  • 7. CPR, 1401-5, p. 165; 1408-13, p. 48; Wells City Chs. 8-10; HMC Wells, ii. chs. 513, 535, 552, 661; CCR, 1436-41, p. 117.