SEDMAN (SETMAN), William (d.1433), of Norwich, Norf.

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
Nov. 1414
Mar. 1416

Family and Education

m. bef. oct. 1401, Margaret, da. of John Daniel of Norwich, s.p.

Offices Held

Bailiff, Norwich Mich. 1402-3; overseer of city revenues 4 July 1406-7; sheriff Mich. 1413-14; mayor May 1421-2.1

Tax collector, Norwich Dec. 1417.

Commr. of array, Norwich Mar. 1419.


Sedman was admitted as a freeman of Norwich in 1398-9. Not long afterwards he married the daughter of a leading citizen, and together with her father they took possession of a messuage in ‘Upper Newport’ in the parish of St. Peter Mancroft. It was in this same parish that Sedman subsequently concentrated his property holdings, acquiring shops in the ‘Netherrowe’, and, in association with a kinsman of his wife, a lease from the commonalty of a tenement and tavern in the ‘Cobelerrowe’, for which they were required to pay £2 a year in rent. However when, in 1425, rental arrears amounted to £20, Sedman agreed to relinquish the premises. During his mayoralty, in 1421, he had obtained from his civic authorities, for himself and his heirs, rights over a common way next to his tenement near the butchery stalls. He became one of the wealthiest inhabitants of the city: in 1431, towards the end of his life, he was to be assessed for a royal subsidy as occupying tenements, lands and rents in Norwich worth £10 annually; no other citizen held more. This prosperity may be attributed to success in his mercantile ventures, although few details of these survive, only that he occasionally made shipments of worsteds through Great Yarmouth.2

In 1403, during Sedman’s bailiffship of Norwich, he and other leading residents were sent with a body of men-at-arms and archers to Yarmouth to resist a threatened French invasion, only to be relieved by royal forces after three days. He always took an interest in local affairs and, besides serving in official positions as sheriff and mayor, he attended many civic functions and took on several tasks on the community’s behalf. He was present with the mayor (his father-in-law, John Daniel) and other citizens when the royal charter was formally renewed in July 1417. At a meeting of the assembly in September 1420 he was chosen as an overseer of of the treasurers and an auditor of their accounts, and he received similar assignments two years later following his own mayoral term. In December 1422 he was one of six aldermen assigned with eight others to organize a recepton for the due of Exeter. by nomination of the mayor, he served in 1424-5 and again in 1428-9 as a j.p. in the city. Meanwhile, as an alderman, he had witnessed the regulations drawn up on 6 Dec. 1424 for the better government of Norwich cathedral in an endeavour to end their inveterate disputes. Over the years Sedman was often party to electoral indentures drawn up for the city’s parliamentary representatives, being so named in 1407, 1417, 1419, 1421 (Dec.) 1422, 1425, 1426, 1432 and 1433. However, towards the end he had grown weary of the tasks of local government, and in 1429-30 had paid as much as £20 to be exonerated from all civic offices in future.3

A man of Sedman’s standing in the community would naturally be asked by fellow citizens to act as a trustee of their property, and Sedman thus obliged Walter Eaton*, Richard Purdance* and Robert Dunston*, among others. In 1422 he was associated with the influential Sir Thomas Erpingham KG, as his co-feoffee of holdings in the parish of St. Mary the Less, and from 1429 until his death he shared responsibility for certain messuages, shops and lime kilns in the parishes of St. Edward and St. Peter Southgate, which had originally been bequeathed in trust to provide a fund for repairs to the banks of the river Wensum.4

Throughout his life Sedman displayed a close personal interest in certain religious foundations within the city. In 1410 he had joined with William Rees* in obtaining licences from the King and from Thomas, Lord Dacre, to establish a chantry in the chapel of St. Giles’s hospital in memory of Master John Darlington, the former archdeacon of Norwich, endowing it with the manor of Cringleford. In the following year, together with the master of the same hospital, Roger Prat, who became a lifelong friend, he was issued a royal permit to grant in mortmain the manor of Bowthorpe, some three miles west of Norwich, recently purchased from Sir William Elmham’s* widow, along with its advowson, to the collegiate church of St. Mary in the Fields for the maintenance of a chaplain who would perform religious services both in St. Mary’s and in the city church of St. Peter Mancroft for the temporal well-being of him and his wife and for their souls after death. This chaplain was subsequently known as ‘Seaman’s priest’. Then, in 1431, Sedman and Prat, together with William Grey, another citizen, gave to the Austin friars of Norwich half an acre of land beside a path leading ‘under the manse’ of their convent, in order that they might enclose this way and enlarge their house.5

Sedman had made his will on 25 Jan. 1429. Perhaps because he had no children, he gave away all he had in works of charity, and to buy prayers for his soul. He requested burial in St. Peter Mancroft church before the high altar, arranging that a wax taper should burn perpetually before the Eucharist and 4,000 masses be said over his grave. The sum of £40 was provided for the stipends of seven celibates who were to pray for him for a period of eight years. The monetary bequests of the will amounted to more than £310, and included such items as £26 13s.4d. for works on St. Peter’s church, £20 towards leading the chancel at St. Mary’s college, and £13 6s.8d. for repairs to St. Giles’s hospital. Sedman also appears as a public benefactor of a more general kind: he left £22 to the city’s poor, £26 13s.4d. to the paupers of neighbouring villages, and £40 p.a. for three years to be distributed among the blind, lame and most needy in the locality. Anchorities, hermits and friars were all to have a share in the bounty. Nor were regular monastic orders forgotten: every monk in Norwich cathedral priory was to have 10s. and every monk and nun in 14 named convents elsewhere in East Anglia was to have 2s. The prior of the Gilbertine house at Shouldham was given £20. Furthermore, all of Sedman’s landed property was to be sold, and the proceeds from this source used for the benefit of those in need: the poor, the sick, lepers, widows and orphans. His executors included Master Roger Prat and Thomas Ringstead, the dean of the college of St. Mary in the Fields. He is last recorded attending the parliamentary elections held at Norwich on 29 June 1433, but died before 20 Oct. following, when his will was proved in the consistory court.6

Ref Volumes: 1386-1421

Author: L. S. Woodger


  • 1. F. Blomefield, Norf. iii. 124; Norf. Official Lists ed. Le Strange, 98, 100; C267/3/21.
  • 2. Cal. Freemen Norwich ed. Rye, 121; Norf. RO, Norwich enrolments, 16 mm. 10, 24d; Liber. Albus, f. 179; ‘Domesday bk.’, f. 64; deeds box 9, no. 347; E122/150/5.
  • 3. Blomefield, iii. 120; Recs. Norwich ed. Hudson and Tingey, i. 112, 298, 302-4; ii. 62, 66; CPR, 1429-36, pp. 29-32; C219/10/4, 12/2, 3, 6, 13/1, 3, 4, 14/3, 4; Norwich assembly rolls, 8 Hen. V, 1, 4 Hen. VI.
  • 4. Norwich enrolments, 17 mm. 12, 21, 18 m. 4; deeds box 3, no. 24; Liber Albus, f. 13.
  • 5. Blomefield, ii. 382, 386; iv. 176-7, 387-8; CPR, 1408-13, pp. 187, 268; 1429-36, p. 119.
  • 6. Norf. RO, Reg. Surflete, ff. 124-5; C219/14/1.