SOLAS, John (d.1418), of Southwark, Surr.
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Family and Education
m. Joan, s.p.
Clerk of KB c. June 1384-c. Jan. 1416.2
Coroner, Surr. (ad hoc) 10 May 1395.
Commr. to requisition transport Nov. 1395, Dec. 1409, Dec. 1413 (carriage of KB records from London to Bristol, Leicester, etc.); of inquiry, Kent June 1404; to make an arrest Mar. 1414.
Bailiff of the prior of Bermondsey, Surr. by Easter 1399.3
This active lawyer, who numbered both Surrey landowners and city merchants among his clients, was probably the son of Robert Solas, a resident of Southwark and collector of the local lay subsidy there in 1380. The Thomas Solas with whom he was returned to Parliament in 1393 may well have been his brother, for the family then enjoyed considerable influence in the borough. John’s legal career had evidently begun well before the Trinity term of 1384, when he became a clerk of the King’s bench with particular responsibility for enrolling the records for Surrey and Sussex. He also practiced extensively as an attorney, and first appears in this capacity at the local assizes in March 1390. In the following March he himself was being sued for menaces by a London fishmonger, one of many persons to experience the full effects of his uncertain temper. Another was the poet, John Gower, who lived in Southwark and took him to law, in 1405, for similar acts of violence. On this occasion William Kirton, his colleague in the Parliament of 1414 (Nov.), helped him to raise the necessary sureties of £200.4 Despite these brushes with the authorities, Solas’s legal practice seems to have been growing rapidly: between February 1391 and December 1416 he acted as a mainpernor at least 19 times, witnessed a large number of deeds, and was retained to plead in at least 13 property disputes in Surrey alone.5 During the Michaelmas term of 1401 he represented the prior of the Charterhouse on the Isle of Axholme, then a litigant in Chancery; but he was more usually involved in the affairs of local figures, such as the prior of Bermondsey (who also employed him as his bailiff), members of the city livery companies and, of course, his own neighbours in Southwark. The royal clerk, Robert Appleton, clearly thought well of him, for in September 1404 he and some of his colleagues appointed Solas to look after their affairs while they were on official business in Scotland. Repeated complaints were made by the Commons in our period about King’s bench clerks who abused their position by tampering with the records so that evidence detrimental to their clients was either altered or supressed. Attempts by the Lower House to prevent the clerks from acting as attorneys were, even so, unsuccessful; and it may be assumed from his own activities in this respect (not least for the prior of Bermondsey) that Solas himself was one of the most strenuous opponents of such reforms. In 1410, for example, he appeared in the King’s bench on behalf of the mayor and sheriffs of London, and five years later we find him pleading there as an attorney for several Middlesex landowners.6
Not surprisingly, Solas established himself as a man of some consequence in Southwark, not merely because of his professional status, but also as a result of his shrewd investment in the property market. In June 1397 he paid £20 for a messuage, two shops and two acres of land there, having raised part of the money through an earlier sale of a toft and farmland in the Newington area. Several years later, in 1414, he and his feoffees successfully established their title to another three messuages in Southwark, which were then being leased by him to tenants at a substantial annual rent. Solas died a wealthy man. His will, drawn up on 12 July 1418 and proved ten days later, lists numerous bequests of clothing and money to his friends and servants, as well as a gift of £5 to St. George’s church, Southwark, where he chose to be buried.7
Ref Volumes: 1386-1421
- 1. C219/11/8.
- 2. Sel. Cases King’s Bench (Selden Soc. lxxxviii), pp. lxvii, lxix.
- 3. KB27/552 rot. 13.
- 4. CFR, ix. 188; CCR, 1389-92, p. 304; 1402-5, p. 484; JUST 1/908/3.
- 5. CCR, 1389-92, pp. 324, 553; 1392-6, pp. 291, 392, 405, 412; 1396-9, pp. 209, 218; 1399-1402, pp. 102, 127, 323, 412, 482, 487; 1402-5, pp. 320, 378; 1409-13, pp. 344-5, 360-1; 1413-19, pp. 365-6; CPR, 1405-8, p. 463; CFR, xii. 19; JUST 1/1503, rot. 75v, 77, 1528, rot. 34, 36; Add. Chs. 38832, 38838; Sel. Cases King’s Bench, 175, 222.
- 6. CCR, 1399-1402, p. 432; Sel. Cases King’s Bench, 194, 234; Bull. IHR, xlvii. 156; Cal. Scots Docs. (supp.) v. no. 2082.
- 7. CP25(1)231/65/77, 96; JUST 1/1528, rot. 28; London English ed. Chambers and Daunt, 218-19.