VYEL, John (d.1399), of Bristol.

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



May 1382
Jan. 1390

Family and Education

?s. of Henry Vyel of Bristol. m. (1) bef. Oct. 1361, Joan, da. of William Hookes and sis. and h. of Thomas Hookes of Bristol, 2s.; (2) Elizabeth.1

Offices Held

Bailiff, Bristol Mich. 1369-71; sheriff 1 Oct. 1373-4; mayor Mich. 1388-9.2

Constable of the Bristol Staple 30 Sept. 1378-Mich. 1382.3

Tax collector, Bristol Nov. 1382, Nov. 1383, May 1384.


The Vyels were a Gloucestershire family, John possibly being related to Sir Peter Veel, sheriff of the county in 1375-6. Of the Bristol branch little is known save that Henry Vyel, a merchant and possibly John’s father, was a bailiff there in 1359. After discharging the same office himself for two consecutive terms John was one of the II men empanelled by the royal commissioners on 30 Sept. 1373 to make a perambulation of the bounds of the newly created county of Bristol. On the very next day he obtained crown appointment as Bristol’s first sheriff, and so it was he who was officially responsible for the return of the first parliamentary writ ordering the election of two individuals as knights of the shire and burgesses of the borough, to the Parliament due to assemble on 21 Nov. Not long after his year of office, in December 1374, Vyel procured royal letters of exemption for life from service at assizes, on juries or recognitions, and from appointment as mayor, sheriff, escheator, or other royal official against his will. Nevertheless, he was prepared to participate as an elector of officials of the Staple at Bristol, and following his own election in 1378 as one of the constables he did not relinquish the post for four years. While he was constable of the Staple Vyel was returned to Parliament for the first time, in May 1382. Shortly after the dissolution he stood surety at the Exchequer for his fellow Member, Thomas Beaupyne, when the latter was granted a lease of the manor of Easton in Gordano, Somerset. Despite the confirmation of his patent of exemption from office by Richard II in November that year, Vyel, after continuing to attend meetings of the common council, consented to become mayor of Bristol in September 1388. Towards the end of his mayoral year he officially assisted in the foundation of Edmund Blanket’s chantry; and his duties involved him in acting also as royal escheator of the county and as mayor of the Staple.4

Vyel not only traded in cloth but also took an interest in its manufacture, being assessed for alnage in Bristol in 1395-6 on 30 lengths of fabric sold locally. His exports regularly included this commodity: cargoes worth £80 shipped in February and March 1379, 69 cloths and 150 lengths of Welsh material dispatched in 1390-1, 67 cloths in the spring of 1395 and 52 in April 1398, sent by him to Gascony, Spain, Portugal or Ireland, but principally to Bayonne. His imports included Spanish iron, and perhaps goods from Italy, too, for on one occasion he obtained royal letters permitting the exchange of £50 into foreign currency by a merchant from Lombardy. Vyel was one of several Bristol merchants, including John Fulbroke* and Robert Gardener*, who alleged in a bill presented to the King’s Council that their ship, the Magdaleyn, freighted with cloth and wool worth £1,000 for export to Lisbon, had been captured at sea in September 1383.5

Vyel was frequently party to local conveyances. With four other prominent burgesses of Bristol (Walter Frampton, Walter Tedistille, Elias Spelly* and Thomas Knap*), he obtained a royal licence in 1385, permitting a grant in mortmain of ‘Le Wynesmede’ to the Friars Minor of Bristol. He himself had acquired property in the town many years earlier, as an outcome of his first marriage, and to this he added shops in the Pithay and gardens and tenements in Grope Lane and on the Back. The most important one of his holdings, however, was the fine residence on the quay near Marsh Gate, known as ‘Vyellplace’ end described some years later as constructed ‘lapidibus magnis’. In June 1393 Vyel conveyed all his Bristol property to John Denys and Robert Cherleton of Gloucestershire, no doubt in the capacity of feoffees, and five years later, shortly before he died, he was party to a settlement on his son, Henry, and the latter’s wife, Alice, of the manor of Claverham, Somerset, together with lands at Yalton, although how these had come to the Vyels is unclear.6

John Vyel drew up his will on 25 May 1398. In it he requested burial at the Dominican friary in Bristol, and he made bequests to St. Werburgh’s church, the almshouses in ‘Le Langerew’ and Temple Street, the poor in St. Bartholomew’s hospital, and the bedridden elsewhere. Provision of £20 was made for the liberation of minor debtors from ‘Monkebrigge’ prison. Vyel left £2 to the fraternity of ‘Linne’ (?Bishop’s Lynn) of which he was a member, and a similar amount to the guild of the Holy Trinity at Coventry, which he and his wife had joined in company with various friends from Bristol, including Henry Vyel. A ring bearing a stone reputed to have been chipped from the pillar to which Christ was bound he now added to the collection of relics in St. Stephen’s church. Vyel’s widow was to receive 50s. annual rent from a tenement in Broad Street, with remainder to their son, John the younger, while their other son, Henry, was left 100 marks with which to purchase lands worth 20 marks a year. Vyel requested that 1,000 masses should be celebrated for the good of his soul immediately after his death. He died almost a year later, on 29 Mar. 1399, probate being allowed by the ecclesiastical commissary sitting on 18 Apr. in Vyel’s own house on the Quay, and by the municipal authorities in November 1400.7

Ref Volumes: 1386-1421

Author: L. S. Woodger


Variants: Veel, Viel.

  • 1. Gt. Red Bk. (Bristol Rec. Soc. iv), 221-2; Bristol RO, Phillipps ms (Acc. 26166), 230; Bristol Wills (Bristol and Glos. Arch. Soc. 1886), 57; J. Dallaway, Antique Bristow, 140-1.
  • 2. Trans. Bristol and Glos. Arch. Soc. xxvi. 127-9.
  • 3. C267/5, nos. 15-17.
  • 4. Little Red Bk. Bristol ed. Bickley, i. 114, 221; Bristol Chs. (Bristol Rec. Soc. i), 148-9; Overseas Trade (ibid. vii), 302; CPR, 1374-7, p. 46; 1381-5, p. 227; C219/7/24; CFR, ix. 318.
  • 5. E101/339/2; E122/16/21, 26, 34, 40/17; Overseas Trade, 181, 185-6, 192, 197-8, 201, 203; CCR, 1374-7, p. 182; 1385-9, pp. 92-93.
  • 6. Gt. Red Bk. 198, 221-2; CCR, 1385-9, p. 37; Bristol Wills, 10, 20; Dallaway, 140-1; Som. Feet of Fines (Som. Rec. Soc. xvii), 174; Phillipps ms 126.
  • 7. Bristol Wills, 57-58; Reg. Holy Trinity Guild Coventry (Dugdale Soc. xiii), 11-12, 27, 67, 87; William of Worcestre, Itins. ed. Harvey, 320-1.