ALNE, William, of York.

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 1413
Mar. 1416

Family and Education

2nd s. of Richard Alne (d.1409) of York, tanner, by Alice (d.1407). m. by Nov. 1394, Katherine (d.1420/1), prob. da. and coh. of Margaret Knaresborough (d.1397/8), of York, seamstress, at least 1s.2

Offices Held

Chamberlain, York 3 Feb. 1394-5; bailiff 3 Feb.-18 May 1396; sheriff 18 May-Mich. 1396; member of the council of 24 by Mar. 1411; mayor 3 Feb. 1415-16; member of the council of 12 by June 1418.3


A prominent member of the mercantile elite of York, William followed his father’s example by playing a notable part in civic life, although whereas Richard Alne had been obliged to content himself with the two offices of chamberlain and bailiff, his son rose to occupy the mayoralty, as well as being chosen to represent his fellow citizens in Parliament. Since William’s elder brother, Robert, was in holy orders, he must have been called upon to assist in the family tanning business, yet he still found time to develop his own commercial interests. He was already being described as a merchant by 1394, when he and his wife, Katherine, acquired six messuages in York and Beverley from Robert and Maud Gunnays. It looks very much as if Maud (to whom they agreed to pay a rent of five marks p.a. for the rest of her life, in return for ownership of the property once she died) was Katherine’s sister, and that she did, indeed, die fairly soon after the date of this transaction. She apparently predeceased her mother, Margaret Knaresborough, whose will of January 1397 was to be executed by Katherine (the principal beneficiary), William Alne and Gunnays. Among the various bequests were quantities of woollen cloth set aside for individual members of Alne’s family; and it is interesting to note that he was at this time himself exporting finished cloth through the port of Kingston-upon-Hull.4

During the same period Alne became involved in the government of York, first as chamberlain and then, in 1396, as bailiff. His exercise of the second office was cut short after a few months by Richard II’s grant of corporate status to the city, which meant that he was automatically promoted to the rank of sheriff. Surprisingly little is known about his career over the next few years, until in September 1408 his father drew up a will in which he left most of his property in North Street, York, together with 40 marks in cash and a quantity of luxury goods (including six cushions embroidered with the heads of leopards) to his elder son, the priest. William was promised no more than a reversionary interest in one tenement, although the terms of a codicil drafted a few months later, in March 1409, suggest that his brother may have fallen out of favour just before the old man died. Nor was all well between William and Robert: for a few days William alone exercised rights of probate, although Robert was subsequently permitted by the ecclesiastical authorities to act as co-executor, and it was on his insistence that the will was finally registered some 12 years later. By then he was attempting to distrain for the rents and tenements which constituted his patrimony, so our Member may, just possibly, have kept back some of the estate for his own use. Whatever the source of his wealth and position, by March 1411 Alne ranked as one of ‘les mieultez vaux gentz de la citee’, being among the witnesses to formal regulations for the organization of the goldsmiths’ company. A few months later he and his wife were accorded a papal indult permitting them to use a portable altar, which also testifies to their status. Alne’s return to the first Parliament of Henry V’s reign was followed by his assumption of the office of mayor; and as such he attended the parliamentary elections of 1415 (he was present at those of 1414 (Nov.) and 1417, too). One of his less agreeable tasks was to see that the head of the traitor, Stephen, Lord Scrope, was prominently displayed on the Micklegate, and that all his effects were confiscated. A clash of jurisdictions ensued between Alne and John Waterton, the escheator of Yorkshire, as to who was, in fact, responsible for executing the commission, although Alne made a spirited defence of his position.5

Alne’s last years appear to have been troubled by a series of disputes, besides that concerning the implementation of his father’s will. In 1416, for example, two of his friends, Robert Holme I* and Thomas Santon (his colleague in the Parliament of May 1413), offered bail of £40 on his behalf in the court of Chancery; and two years later he agreed, for motives now unknown, to settle a debt of £20 owed by one William Savage to a local clergyman. Moreover, by 1420 he had become embroiled in a domestic quarrel with one of his neighbours in Coppergate over the question of repairs to their adjacent dwellings. Even so, Alne now ranked as one of the most important figures in York, being a member of the council of 12 and evidently the owner of quite extensive property in the city. His date of death is not recorded, although he certainly did not survive beyond the summer of 1432, and may already have been dead when his brother sued out letters of attorney, in January 1421, so that he could distrain for his inheritance.6

Ref Volumes: 1386-1421

Author: C.R.


Variants: Aghne, Alghne.

  • 1. W. Prynne, Brevia Parliamentaria Rediviva, iv. 974.
  • 2. York City Archs. List of Civic Officials ed. Skaife, ff. 97-102; Test Ebor. i. 219-21; Surtees Soc. lvii. 238; cxx. 74; clxxxvi. 43-44; CP25(1)279/147/23.
  • 3. Surtees Soc. lvii. 238; xcvi. 93, 122; cxxv. 68-69; Yorks. Arch. Soc. Rec. Ser. l. 207; lix. 107, 119; C219/11/7.
  • 4. List of Civic Officials, ff. 97-102; CP25(1)279/147/23; E122/59/26; Test Ebor. i. 219-21.
  • 5. Letters from Northern Regs. ed. Raine, 432-6; C219/11/5, 7, 12/2; CPL, vi. 338; Surtees Soc. cxx. 74.
  • 6. CCR, 1413-19, p. 374; Surtees Soc. lxxv. 15; cxxv. 47, 55, 68-69, 74; clxxxvi. 43-44, 104.