FAUCONER, Thomas (d.1434), of London.
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Family and Education
s. of John Fauconer. m. by 1411, Philippa, 2da. (1 d.v.p.).2
Warden of the Mercers’ Co. 24 June 1398-9, 1405-6, 1411-12, 1417-18, 1423-4.3
Alderman, Coleman Street Ward by 10 July 1402-aft. 20 July 1414, Cheap Ward by 10 Jan. 1415-aft. 21 Sept. 1434; mayor, London 13 Oct. 1414-15.4
Tax collector, London Dec. 1402.
Sheriff, London and Mdx. Mich. 1403-4.
Collector of customs and subsidies, Southampton 1 Oct. 1405-20 Feb. 1407, Boston 24 July 1407-28 Jan. 1409, of the wool custom, London 13 Feb. 1412-28 Feb. 1416.
Fauconer’s father may well have been John Fauconer of Honing in Norfolk. The MP certainly had East Anglian connexions, for in July 1398 he appeared as either sole trustee or joint owner of Robert Ashfield’s holdings in the Norfolk villages of Tunstead and Ryston. He was already by this date a man of some consequence in the City, having just begun his first term as warden of the Mercers’ Company, and having taken on at least five apprentices since his assumption of the company livery in 1391.5 Thomas Despenser, earl of Gloucester’s choice of Fauconer as one of his feoffees in October 1398 is further evidence of the mercer’s growing influence. His readiness to stand surety in Chancery for certain merchants of the fellowship of the Albertini two years later suggests that he had already become involved in overseas trade, notably in Italy, a source of high quality fabrics and luxury goods. Again, in March 1403, he offered personal guarantees of £5,000 on behalf of the Florentine financier, Philip de Albertis, who was to exchange such a sum abroad without exporting any English currency. When, in December 1408, an agent of the Tornabuoni of Florence was summoned before the royal council he also called upon Fauconer to act as his mainpernor.6
Fauconer’s business activities were diverse, but most of his income appears to have come from dealings in wool and cloth. By August 1403 he had business connexions in Gloucestershire and Coventry, but his chief interest clearly lay in the overseas market. His successive appointments as collector of customs in the ports of Southampton, Boston and London presented him with a unique opportunity to establish himself in this lucrative branch of commerce. It is now impossible to determine the scale of his investments, which must have been considerable. The surviving customs accounts for London show that he shipped fairly regular consignments of cloth and mercers’ goods into the City between 1410 and 1430. This may have been done in his own vessels: in June 1407 he was given custody of a boat which had been driven ashore off Southampton, and in June 1412 he sold one of his ships, Le Thomas de Londres, with all its fittings to the Crown for 400 marks, assigned to him out of the wool custom which he himself was then collecting.7 Fauconer evidently did business in ports all round England. In October 1413, for example, he and two other city merchants were given permission to export 80 sarplers of wool to Calais from Lewes; and three months later they obtained a similar licence regarding the shipment of 70 sacks of wool from Newcastle-upon-Tyne to any friendly foreign port. It was at about this time that Henry V intervened personally in order to obtain compensation for the mercer, who had lost a cargo worth over £240 as a result of Flemish piracy off Sluys. We do not know if he succeeded, but in the following year Fauconer was allowed to ship 1,000 quarters of wheat to Bordeaux, and may thus have made good his earlier losses. Throughout his life he retained a succession of apprentices to learn their trade with him in London. He was not always punctilious in observing the regulations of his guild, however, and in May 1431 he had to pay a fine of £3 for a breach of the ordinances which concerned the purchase of cloth.8Evidence of Fauconer’s wealth and the scale of his business operations is not hard to find. Between October 1405 and the time of his death almost three decades later he tried to recover at least 21 debts together exceeding £590, most of which were owed to him by merchants and tradesmen from different parts of the country. His widow attempted to raise a further £31 but faced the same delays and legal obstacles as Fauconer had done during his lifetime.9 But not all the mercer’s business associates and customers were so reluctant to settle their accounts, or else they could offer other compensations in the way of patronage or connexions. On 18 May 1406, for example, he lent £600 to the Crown, being promised repayment by an assignment from the revenues of the Exchequer in the following July. In May 1413 he was one of the 12 leading citizens of London to offer sureties of 10,000 marks on behalf of Henry Somer*, a leading Exchequer official who had been impeached in the February Parliament, and with whom Fauconer must have had dealings as a collector of customs and royal creditor. Four years later he advanced 40 marks towards the cost of Henry V’s second French expedition, a loan made on the security of the first wool subsidy due after February 1420. He also joined with five distinguished London aldermen in entering into a recognizance for £2,000 payable to Sir John (later Lord) Tiptoft* and his colleagues, although they were indemnified soon afterwards by agents acting on behalf of the government.10
With characteristic shrewdness, Fauconer invested some of his growing fortune in property. In June 1409 Joan Waterfall offered sureties of £200 as a guarantee of her readiness to settle the reversion of all her land and rents in Coventry upon feoffees holding to his use. Two years later, Fauconer consolidated his position there by acquiring five messuages along with extensive farmland in the surrounding countryside. He clearly made use of the local cloth market, for at a later date he accused the sheriff of Warwickshire of obstructing his efforts to sue two tradesmen from the area. Meanwhile, by 1412, the mercer and his wife had begun to establish themselves in Kent as well, being named among the landowners who owed homage to the lord of the manor of Thornham. Their holdings here appear to have been part of a larger estate which comprised the manor of Binbury and other land to the east of Maidstone, all of which they settled upon Bartholomew Brokesby*, the archbishop of Canterbury’s steward, in February 1413. The Fauconers also owned over 200 acres of land, three messuages, a mill and a flock of 205 sheep in the Faversham area which, together with the nearby manor of Davington, were in their joint possession by the late 1420s. The Philippa Fauconer who obtained letters of protection for her tenants, servants, land and possessions in Berkshire ten years later was almost certainly the MP’s widow, although there is no direct evidence of how she acquired these particular properties. Fauconer may have also purchased land in Hampshire, perhaps during his term as collector of customs at Southampton. In July 1413, over six years after he left office, he was suing a Winchester man for failure to render an account, and in March 1417 he acted as an attorney for the delivery of several Hampshire manors to Thomas, Lord Camoys.11 Paradoxically, far less is known about Fauconer’s acquisitions in London, since it is now impossible to distinguish the land which he actually owned from that which he held as a feoffee-to-uses. He performed the latter service for his fellow mercer, Richard Whittington*, and possessed a joint title to premises in various parts of the City, most notably in Milk Street and Ladel Lane.12
Although long and distinguished, Fauconer’s civic career was not without its discreditable side. Some months after his term as sheriff of London came to an end he and his colleague, Thomas Polle, were sued by John Read, a weaver, who alleged that they had wrongfully detained him, confiscated his goods and demanded illicit sureties. The matter was settled in May 1406, with both parties agreeing to accept the award of independent arbitrators. Fauconer seems to have come in for a good deal of abuse during his years as an alderman. In June 1413, for instance, Geoffrey Loney bound himself in £40 not to speak scandalous or defamatory words about the mercer.13 A more celebrated case took place three years later, when a wool packer named John Russell claimed that Fauconer had been put in the Tower and fined £1,000 for ignoring royal letters of pardon in favour of the lollard, Richard Gurmyn. Russell was found guilty of slander, and, after a period spent in sanctuary at Westminster abbey, he made a public renunciation of his charges. Yet there may well have been some truth behind them, for Gurmyn had indeed been burnt for heresy during Fauconer’s mayoralty, as had the furrier, John Claydon, who was actually arrested on the evidence of one of Fauconer’s new apprentices. Pronouncing Claydon’s books ‘the worst and most perverse that he had ever read or seen’, Fauconer was responsible for the heretic’s arrest and did much to secure his subsequent condemnation. Yet another action for slander was brought against one of Fauconer’s detractors in January 1417, this time citing the draper, Robert Christendom, who was fined the enormous sum of £40 for spreading a rumour that Fauconer had persistently falsified certain legal records, again perhaps in the course of his obssessive campaign against lollardy.14 On the other hand, although now chiefly remembered as a relentless enemy of heretics, Fauconer was also a great benefactor to the City. It was during his mayoralty that Moorgate was first built ‘for ease of the Citizens, that way to pass vpon causeys into the fielde for their recreation’. He also took custody of the plate and linen confiscated from the chapel of Henry, Lord Scrope of Masham, after his execution for treason in 1415, keeping them as security for the various sums of money which, as mayor of London, he had lent to the Crown. He must also have played an important part in raising the 10,000 marks advanced by the people of London to Henry V in August 1415, probably making a significant contribution of his own towards the loan.15 Fauconer maintained an active interest in the government of the City until the time of his death. He attended at least ten of the parliamentary elections held there between 1413 (for the May Parliament) and 1432, and was probably still in office as an alderman when he died.16
Fauconer’s will is not known to have survived, although the date of his death may be fixed at some point between 21 Sept. and 9 Nov. 1434. He left a widow and at least one daughter, named Thomasina, who was then married to Sir John Graa†. The latter’s chronic financial problems had undeniably influenced his choice of wife, since Thomasina appears to have been her father’s only surviving child and sole heir. Her sister, Katherine, had died young after her marriage to Sir William Moleyns’s* son, William, which took place in, or shortly before, May 1417.17
Ref Volumes: 1386-1421
- 1. Cal. Letter Bk. London, K, 12.
- 2. Harl. Ch. 45D 28; CP25(1)112/277/595; Warws. Feet of Fines (Dugdale Soc. xviii), 121; CPR, 1416-22, p. 105; 1446-52, p. 460; C.F. Richmond, John Hopton, 19. Fauconer’s wife may have been the sister of Sir Hugh Halsham (d. 1442), who left £20 to his sister ‘Philippa Faukener’ in his will of 1441 (Reg. Chichele, ii. 609, 656).
- 3. Mercers’ Company Recs. Wardens’ acct. bk. ff. 26, 41d, 55d, 71, 83d.
- 4. Beaven, Aldermen, i. 100, 108; Cal. Letter Bk. London, I, 130, 144.
- 5. Harl. Ch. 45D 28; Norf. Feet of Fines ed. Rye, 345, 370, 376; Mercers’ Company Recs. Wardens’ acct. bk. ff. 9d, 11d, 19, 21.
- 6. CCR, 1399-1402, pp. 149, 354; 1405-9, p. 478; CFR, xii. 230, 317; CIMisc. vii. no. 182; CPR, 1396-9, pp. 430-1; 1399-1401, p. 417; 1401-5, p. 214.
- 7. E122/76/11, 32 m. 8, 77/2 m. 3, 161/1 ff. 4d, 20-21d, 11 m. 8; E404/27/426; CCR, 1405-9, p. 211; CIMisc. vii. no. 356; Coventry Statute Merchant Roll (Dugdale Soc. xvii), 43.
- 8. J.H. Wylie, Hen. IV, iv. 305, Hen. V, i. 289; CCR, 1413-19, p. 36; CPR, 1413-16, p. 277; Mercers’ Company Recs. Wardens’ acct. bk. ff. 27, 35, 38d, 43, 50d, 54, 105d, 110, 112, 115.
- 9. C241/197/58, 200/47, 209/49, 225/94; E13/136 rot. 10; CCR, 1405-9, pp. 447-8; CPR, 1416-22, p. 227; 1422-9, pp. 249, 373, 438; 1429-36, pp. 98, 158, 161, 163, 230, 305, 343, 438, 481; 1436-41, pp. 12, 214, 328; 1441-6, p. 209.
- 10. CCR, 1413-19, pp. 61, 435; CPR, 1416-22, pp. 234-5; Cal. Letter Bk. London, I, 203; E401/638; E403/587.
- 11. CP25(1)112/277/595, 278/627, 114/302/209; E13/136 rot. 10; Warws. Feet of Fines, 121; CCR, 1405-9, p. 520; 1413-19, pp. 87, 437; CPR, 1436-41, p. 340.
- 12. Corporation of London RO, hr 130/28-31, 97-99, 140/13, 141/59, 142/74, 145/13, 146/1, 6, 151/46, 153/39, 162/44.
- 13. Cal. P. and M. London, 1381-1412, pp. 275, 278-9; CCR, 1413-19, p. 79.
- 14. C1/6/69; Corporation of London RO, jnl. 1, f. 9d; Wylie, Hen. V, i. 289-91; Cal. Letter Bk. London, I, 170-1, 180; Cal. P. and M. London, 1413-37, pp. xii, 60. For further details of Fauconer’s anti-lollard activities see C. Kightly, ‘Early Lollards’ (York Univ. D.Phil. thesis, 1975), 313-29.
- 15. CPR, 1413-16, p. 378; 1416-22, pp. 47-48, J. Stow, Surv. London ed. Kingsford, i. 32; Wylie, Hen. V, i. 537.
- 16. C219/11/1, 7, 12/2, 3, 5, 13/4, 14/1-3; Cal. Letter Bk. London, I, p. 248.
- 17. Cal. Letter Bk. London, K, 183; Cal. P. and M. London, 1413-37, p. 280; CPR, 1416-22, p. 105; Richmond, 19.