WEDGWOOD, William, of Cambridge.
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Family and Education
Bailiff, Cambridge Sept. 1423-4; mayor 1427-30, 1436-8.1
J.p. Cambridge 13 Nov. 1427-30, 18 Feb. 1432-c.1442
Commr. of oyer and terminer, Cambs. Nov. 1429.
By 1425 Wedgwood owned a house on ‘The Broo’ in Cambridge, for which he paid the town treasurers an annual rent of 10s., and he also shared a close in ‘Alweneslane’. His lands and tenements in the shire as a whole were worth £8 a year according to the assessment for the income tax of 1436.2
Wedgwood was already a burgess of some standing by 1411 when he acted as surety for the attendance in Parliament of John Alderhithe. In 1418, during a period of poor relations between the townspeople and the university, he was identified in the minds of the scholars with the mayor, John Bilney I*, the especial object of their grievances. A petition presented to the King’s Council by the mayor and bailiffs that year complained that clerks ‘armed in warlike manner’ had broken by night into Bilney’s home, where besides causing considerable damage they had ill-treated Wedgwood, described on this occasion as the mayor’s ‘servant’. Tension between university and town had probably eased by 1423 when, as bailiff, Wedgwood negotiated with the master and fellows of St. Michael’s college over the installation of an acqueduct for the common use of clerks and townspeople.3
Wedgwood began his regular participation as an elector of the borough’s representatives in 1419, and was later present at the elections to the Parliaments of 1420, 1421 (May) and 1427. His own first return occurred before he had held any important local office, but he had already served as bailiff by the time of his second Parliament in 1425, and, when up at Westminster on that occasion, he also carried out other business on the town’s behalf. According to the borough treasurers’ accounts, his efforts in obtaining confirmation of a royal charter brought him a payment of £4 either as reward or reimbursement of expenses, in addition to his parliamentary wages of £4 and the sum of 1s. which was to cover the cost of wine drunk by him with the mayor when discussing matters of import. The following April, he was among the first eight ‘discreet’ burgesses to be nominated by John Knapton* and Richard Bush† to the common council of 24, when this body was reconstituted in mid term after a disputed election, and later that year he was made one of the four ‘counsellors’ authorized to represent the town at the Magna Congregatio of the university. During the first of Wedgwood’s five terms as mayor, at a meeting in the guildhall in 1427, he and his council decided to relax the strict penalties previously introduced to deter burgesses from submitting to the chancellor of the university any actions determinable before the mayor and the bailiffs.4 Save for his long service as a j.p. in the town, for which his last appointment was dated November 1441, nothing more is heard of him.