CARLISLE, Adam (d.1399/1400), of London.

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



Oct. 1377
Jan. 1390

Family and Education

m. (1) bef. Nov. 1376, Agnes; (2) bef. Nov. 1377, Alice, 2da.4

Offices Held

Jt. surveyor of the Grocers’ Mystery, Cheap Ward Nov. 1365.5

Commr. of inquiry, London Sept. 1370 (usury).6

Alderman of Bishopsgate Ward 12 Mar. 1377-8, Broad Street Ward 1379-80, 1381-16 Aug. 1382, Aldgate Ward 12 Mar. 1390-4, Cornhill Ward 1384-aft. 12 Feb. 1396; auditor of London 21 Sept. 1379-80, 1381-2; common councillor, Broad Street Ward 11 June 1384-6.7

Sheriff, London and Mdx. Mich. 1388-9.

Mayor of the Staple of Westminster 7 July 1393-3 July 1397.8


Since contemporary records do not always distinguish between the subject of this biography and his namesake, the draper Adam Carlisle (d.c.1371), it is sometimes difficult to determine exactly what the MP did during his youth. His various bequests to the parish church of Romford, Essex, suggest that he may have had an early connexion there, but he had already settled in London as a grocer and apothecary by 1363, when he contributed half a mark towards a royal loan. Carlisle was then suing three Bedfordshire men for a debt of £82, together with the damages of £20 which he had already been awarded at law, although he had to wait until the following January to obtain satisfaction. By November 1365 he was sufficiently well regarded by his fellow grocers to be elected a surveyor for their mystery in Cheap Ward, and at the same time he served as a juror in the husting court. Two years later he made his first known purchase of rents in the City, acquiring an annual quit rent of 18s. in the parish of All Hallows, Honey Lane, from the executors of Thomas Morley.9

Most of Carlisle’s investments in property were completed during the 1370s, presumably out of the profits of trade. In September 1378 he was paid £265 for spices supplied to the royal wardrobe, and he may well have been dealing with the King’s household well before this date. He had by then taken on a short lease of premises in the parish of St. Stephen, Walbrook, as well as the life tenancy of a tenement called ’Le Ledenporche’ in Broad Street. He also held a plot of land near Aldgate for life, and was the owner of two tenements with shops, houses and gardens in the parishes of St. Andrew Cornhill, St. Bride, Fleet Street, and St. Mary Woolchurch. In February 1381 Robert Little began a suit against Carlisle and one John Teband, innkeeper, over the ownership of a messuage in the City, although the jury eventually dismissed his case and confirmed the defendants’ joint title. Carlisle’s widow was said to derive over £5 a year from these various properties in 1412, and it is likely that at least twice this sum was available to the grocer while he lived.10

Not much is known about Carlisle’s finances, although he clearly ranked among the richest men in London. In July 1371 he was sued in the mayor’s court for failing to return the £22 paid to him for the upkeep of an apprentice who had died before completing his term of service, which suggests that he had for some time been training youths from fairly well-to-do families. On 5 Apr. 1376 Carlisle joined with the unpopular financier, Richard Lyons†, Nicholas Twyford and two other Londoners in lending £1,000 to the King, who undertook to repay them out of the wool custom. He may also have contributed towards the loan to the government of £10,000 raised by a group of leading merchants in September 1377, since in the previous month he had been one of the four ’wisest citizens’ chosen to represent the City at a great council held specifically to discuss the question of national defence and the protection of commerce. A donation of £4 which he made in January 1379 to the gift raised by the people of London in an attempt to persuade ‘the great lords of the realm’ to return to the City shows that he was by then an affluent and firmly-established public figure.11

Carlisle’s civic career was long and distinguished, although like most of his fellow capitalists, with their vested interest in the preservation of the monopolistic practices of the great livery companies, he suffered a temporary reversal of fortune during the mayoralty of the radical John of Northampton†. When the latter first took up office in October 1381, Carlisle had already represented London in four Parliaments and thus occupied an influential position in the ruling hierarchy. His first appointment dated back to December 1373, when the City chamberlain chose him to audit certain private accounts; and four years later he served as a newly elected alderman on a committee of the common council set up for the general supervision of civic affairs.12Northampton’s programme of reform was initially directed against the fishmongers, the most powerful and unpopular of the victualling companies: his attempts to prevent them from cornering the London market won him a great deal of support, although Carlisle remained hostile to the new regulations, largely because he must have anticipated a further attack upon his own business methods. He was particularly incensed by an ordinance which allowed outsiders to break the fishmongers’ monopoly by trading in the City; and on 6 Aug. 1382 he

came to the Stokkes [the Stocks market], where the strangers were selling the fish that they had brought there, according to the Ordinance thereon made; and there the said Adam, in a haughty and spiteful manner, cursed the said strangers, saying aloud, in the hearing of all, that he did not care who heard it or knew of it, but that it was a great mockery and badly ordained that such ribalds as those should be selling their fish within the City ... and ... that he would be much better pleased that a fishmonger, who was his neighbour in the City, should take 20 shillings by him, than such a ribald 20 pence.13

As a result of his ‘roguery and malignity’, Carlisle was banned from holding any office in the capital and from wearing the vestments of a civic dignitary, ‘either old or new, or cloke particoloured, either furred with budge or lined with silk’, upon pain of losing his freedom; and, as a further mark of spite, he was actually thrown in prison until an appropriate fine could be decided upon.14Northampton’s desire for revenge did not stop here, and there can be little doubt that Carlisle’s indictment on a charge of treacherously encouraging the mob to enter London during the Peasants’ Revolt of 1381 was a calculated attempt to discredit him even further. This is borne out by the length of time (over 16 months) which was allowed to lapse between the revolt itself and the suggestion that Carlisle and four other aldermen had sided with the rebels. Carlisle himself had, indeed, been required to submit a list of suspect conspirators immediately after the rising, and it was not until October 1382 that John More†, Northampton’s chief supporter, demanded an official inquiry into the circumstances surrounding the reception given to the insurgents. The first inquisition was held on 4 Nov. 1382, although its findings were not officially enrolled until a second, carefully edited return had been made before a packed jury and partisan sheriffs just over a fortnight later. This was intended to provide a more damning indictment of the five aldermen, who were found guilty of all the charges levelled against them and sent to the Tower to await trial. Four of the five, including Carlisle, were released in March 1383 on bail of 1,000 marks (offered by Sir John Philipot† and Sir William Walworth†, two of Northampton’s most influential opponents, who had, incidentally, both been knighted by the King after Sir William slew the rebel leader Wat Tyler); and in January 1384, once the radical mayor had fallen from power, they were finally acquitted by a new jury. Sir Nicholas Brembre†, the grocer, was then mayor of London, and a sweeping reaction against his predecessor had already set in. In June 1383, for example, the ban preventing Carlisle from holding civic office or wearing the livery of an official was lifted because Northampton had acted ‘erroneously and without just cause’. The latter’s secretary, Thomas of Usk, subsequently accused one of his employer’s henchmen of conspiring to secure the indictment of the five aldermen; and although Usk’s personal motives were clearly suspect, it seems certain that (with the possible exception of John Horn, who may have been sympathetic towards the rebels) they were the victims of political intrigue.15 Horn alone retired from civic life, while the others all resumed their former positions and went on to pursue even fuller public careers than before. As a member of the common council, Carlisle enthusiastically played his part in re-establishing the power of the old ruling hierarchy. In June 1384 he was one of ‘the best and wisest men of the City’ chosen to revise the notorious ‘Jubilee Book’ of ordinances passed during Northampton’s mayoralty; and in March of the following year he sat with 23 other commoners on a committee formed to prevent future outbreaks of violence in the capital. His concern that the defences of London should be adequately maintained is clear from his willingness, in September 1386, to stand surety for £10 of the money borrowed by the civic authorities for this purpose.16

Carlisle was again returned as an alderman in March 1390, and, still being in office at the time of Richard II’s quarrel with London two years later, was summoned to attend the King’s stormy meeting with its chief dignitaries at Nottingham in June 1392. Because of certain ‘notable and evident defaults’ on their part, which really had more to do with their refusal to lend him money than anything else, the King decided to suspend the normal government of London. Carlisle and his colleagues were required to give evidence before a special commission of inquiry held at Eton on 18 July, and four days later were fined a total of 3,000 marks for their unspecified offences. Most of the aldermen, including Carlisle, were then confirmed in their posts during royal pleasure; but it was not until 19 Sept. that they obtained a full pardon and the restoration of their former powers.17

The next five years were a time of great activity on Carlisle’s part, for although he must have been quite old by contemporary standards, he retained his aldermanry until 1396, while also serving as mayor of the Staple of Westminster for four consecutive annual terms. During this period, in April 1393, he had business dealings with the wealthy London ironmonger, Gilbert Maghfield, and in the following December he arbitrated in a mercantile dispute. His seventh and last election to Parliament took place in 1395; he was still listed among the liveried members of the Grocers’ Company in May 1398; but he seems to have retired from public life almost immediately afterwards.18

Carlisle died between January 1399 and September 1400, and was buried in St. Christopher’s church, London. In his will, which was made at Havering, Essex, he left bequests of over £166 to be shared among various friends, relatives, and religious bodies. He had two daughters, one of whom married Roger Poynaunt and was sued with him in July 1401 by Carlisle’s widow for withholding her dower.19

Ref Volumes: 1386-1421

Author: C.R.


Variant: Karlylle.

  • 1. Cal. Letter Bk. London, H, 20.
  • 2. BID 75.
  • 3. Ibid. 117-18.
  • 4. Corporation of London RO, Guildhall, hr 104/138, 106/63.
  • 5. Cal. Letter Bk. London, G, 204.
  • 6. Ibid., 267.
  • 7. Beaven, Aldermen, i. 10, 34, 71, 122; Mems. London ed. Riley, 468-9; Cal. Letter Bk. London, H, 136, 153, 168, 198; Cal. P. and M. London, 1381-1412, pp. 53, 55, 57, 88, 122.
  • 8. C267/8/23-24.
  • 9. Cal. Letter Bk. London, G, 171; Cal. Wills ct. Husting London ed. Sharpe, ii (1), 148-9; CPR, 1361-4, p. 436; Corporation of London RO, hr 96/178; hpl 88, Monday aft. feast St. Andrew, 40 Ed. III; Guildhall Lib. London, 9171/1, ff. 458-8d.
  • 10. E403/468 m. 14; Corporation of London RO, hr 101/91, 104/84, 110, 138, 106/63, 119/109, 150/6; hpl 103, Monday aft. feast Purification of Virgin, 4 Ric. II; Arch. Jnl. xliv. 64.
  • 11. Cal. P. and M. London, 1364-81, p. 125; Cal. Letter Bk. London, H, 73, 124; CCR, 1374-7, p. 254.
  • 12. Cal. Letter Bk. London, G, 321; Cal. P. and M. London, 1364-81, p. 243.
  • 13. Mems. London, 468-9; Cal. Letter Bk. London, H, 197.
  • 14. Mems. London, 468-9; R. Bird, Turbulent London of Ric. II, 77.
  • 15. Cal. P. and M. London, 1381-1412, p. 243; Peasants’ Revolt ed. Dobson, 212-26; Bird, 56-61; CCR, 1381-5, p. 284; Cal. Letter Bk. London, H, 237; London English ed. Chambers and Daunt, 26.
  • 16. Cal. Letter Bk. London, H, 235, 287; Cal. P. and M. London, 1381-1412, p. 57.
  • 17. Cal. Letter Bk. London, H, 377-8, 386; CCR, 1392-6, p. 88; CPR, 1391-6, pp. 171, 173.
  • 18. E101/509/15 f. 40; Cal. P. and M. London, 1381-1412, p. 207; Ms Archs. Grocers’ Company ed. Kingdon, i. 76.
  • 19. Guildhall Lib. 9171/1, ff. 458-8d; Corporation of London RO, hcp 125 m. 9.