VANNER, Henry (d.1395), of London.
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Family and Education
Common councillor, Vintners’ Mystery 9 Aug. 1376, Oct. 1381-2; auditor, London 21 Sept. 1381-2, 1387-8; alderman, Queenhithe Ward 12 Mar. 1383-4, Cordwainer Ward 1384-5, Vintry Ward 1385-9, Aldersgate Ward 1391-2, Cornhill Ward 1392-c.1394.2
Surveyor of wines, London 21 Aug. 1377.3
Commr. of sewers, Kent Feb. 1379, Aug. 1382, Mar. 1390.
Surveyor of murage, London Mar. 1387.4
Ambassador to treat for a truce with Flanders 20 May 1388.5
Sheriff, London and Mdx. Mich. 1391-25 June 1392.6
Henry Vanner came of a long-established and prosperous family of London vintners. His father, after whom he was named, was a prominent resident of Vintry Ward, and on his death in 1354 he left a considerable estate in both Kent and the City. Some of this property was sold to provide for his three younger children, but Henry, the eldest, was promised the reversion of various tenements in London after the death of his widowed mother. The latter had married Thomas Cornwallis†, another wealthy vintner, by October 1368, when Vanner made the first of a series of settlements confirming the couple’s joint title to land owned by his late father in London and Middlesex.7
Although he predeceased his mother, and therefore never took possession of this substantial inheritance, Vanner was nevertheless accepted as a suitable husband for John Stodeye’s daughter, Margery. One of the richest and most powerful men in London, Stodeye had married the eldest of his four girls and coheiresses to Sir Nicholas Brembre†, in whose affairs Vanner was destined to play a prominent part. Another of the sisters had four husbands, including the influential London merchants Sir John Philipot† and Adam Bamme*, both of whom also involved Vanner in their complex property transactions. Stodeye died in 1376, leaving an equal share of all his land and possessions to each daughter, and naming Brembre, Philipot and Vanner as his executors. Part of this legacy later provided Margery with an annuity of £30, as well as additional revenues from property in Middlesex and the London parish of St. Mary Magdalen in Old Fish Street.8 Vanner acquired other land, rents and tenements on his own account over the years, beginning in March 1372 with the purchase of a shop and solar in the parish of St. Leonard, Bridge Street. His will, drawn up in February 1395, refers to a second annual pension of £50 payable to Margery from a wharf, tenements and other appurtenances late of her maternal uncle, Henry Picard, in the parish of St. Martin Vintry. Vanner was party to a number of enfeoffments made by and for Picard’s son, John, who probably sold him the property at some point after 1381. He was already the owner of meadowland in Tooting, Surrey, purchased from a London fishmonger in 1373; and six years later he bought the two manors of Lessness Marsh in Erith and Sutton in Borden, Kent, acquiring the reversionary title of Angelo and Margery Christoforo to the second of these manors some years later. Meanwhile, in 1384, he added nearby estates at ‘Gronelond Lewelond’ in Beckenham to his rapidly increasing rent-roll. Vanner’s other holdings included land at Old Ford in Middlesex and the manors of Lewisham and East Greenwich in Kent, which he and two others leased in November 1376 for a term of 20 years from the abbey of St. Peter in Ghent. Their tenancy was disrupted by attempts on the part of the Exchequer to distrain the annual rent of 80 marks on the ground that the abbot, their landlord, was an enemy of the Crown. This drove them to sue out writs of supersedeas in May 1381 and November 1382, on the first occasion at least without any effect. Vanner’s success in carrying out the terms of his lease with regard to the reclamation of marshland along the Thames no doubt explains his appearance on three commissions of sewers in Kent between 1379 and 1390.9
Vanner’s connexion with Sir Nicholas Brembre, the ill-fated mayor of London, had clearly begun by the time of their father-in-law’s death in 1376, but it was not until the summer of 1379 that the two men became involved in each other’s business dealings. Our Member acted as a trustee of Brembre’s extensive estates in London and the home counties; and in 1383 he joined with him in advancing two loans of, respectively, 10,909 and 1,960 gold francs to the mainpernors of Alfonso of Denia, who was then a hostage in England. Brembre’s activities as a speculative financier eventually led to his downfall: he was one of the unpopular royal favourites who fell victim to the Lords Appellant in the Merciless Parliament of 1388, by which date he had long ceased to command any support among his fellow citizens. Anticipating his fate, he had conveyed his London property to Vanner and other feoffees in September 1387, and one month later he made a second gift of all his goods and chattels in England and overseas to them. A last-minute settlement of all his lands and tenements was made upon Vanner and John Fitznichol (the husband of Margaret Stodeye) on 13 Nov. 1387, the day before he was appealed of high treason. Vanner’s unwillingness to speak in his brother-in-law’s defence—a reluctance shared by all the Londoners who had once supported Brembre—undoubtedly sprang from a very real fear of the Lords Appellant and their power to eliminate any political opponents. As Brembre’s kinsman and feoffee Vanner was already in an extremely vulnerable position which could only have been made worse by an overt display of sympathy for the condemned man. Despite all the care that had been taken to save Brembre’s property from confiscation by transferring his title to others, most of the land involved was seized by the Appellants, leaving Vanner and his co-feoffees to fight a long and dispiriting battle to assert their claim.10
Other kinsmen and business associates called upon Vanner’s services as a mainpernor and feoffee, fortunately in less trying circumstances. He acted in both capacities for his other brother-in-law, Sir John Philipot, and the latter’s widow, Margaret. Vanner was a party to many enfeoffments, including those made by Sir William Burcester*, Richard Lyons† and the wealthy London vintner, John Colshull I*, with whom, in May 1388, he entered into a joint recognizance in 600 marks payable to Sir Henry Ilcombe* and others. Almost two years later, in February 1390, he was appointed guardian to Joan, the daughter of the late Richard Brykelesworth, whose estate was also committed to his care.11 Because of these shared titles and his own claims as a landowner, Vanner inevitably became involved in disputes over the ownership of property. In November 1371 he was summoned before the court of husting to answer Cecily Morys on a plea of dower, which was probably collusive. During this period he also began four genuine suits for the recovery of debts totalling almost £85, as well as petitioning the court of the mayor of the Staple of Westminster in February 1393 for the enforcement of a bond in £40 pledged to him six years before. The outcome of this litigation remains largely unknown, although on one occasion at least Vanner was found to have advanced a specious title to rents not really his. He was also sued in Chancery in 1392 by the duke of Brittany, whose receiver-general, the above-mentioned John Fitznichol, had appointed him to act as his executor. He seems, however, to have successfully avoided disputes of a commercial kind, for only one disagreement with his fellow merchants—over the ownership of 26 casks of Bordeaux wine which had come to him in November 1376 after being captured at sea—was ever heard by the authorities.12
Already a prominent figure in civic life at the time of John of Northampton’s† first election as mayor of London, Vanner found himself drawn by self-interest as well as kinship into the rival camp of Sir Nicholas Brembre. By placing himself at the head of a ‘non-victualling’ party with plans to curb the monopolistic powers of the great merchant capitalists, Northampton alienated men like Vanner, who had too much to lose from radical change. Northampton’s attempt to stir up the people of London against Brembre, who had succeeded him as mayor in October 1383, led to a riotous march through the City, during which Brembre, Vanner and Philipot first tried to pacify their opponent and then arrested him. In the months of reaction which followed, Vanner served on a committee of ‘the best and wisest men of the City’ chosen by the common council to examine the franchise and rescind all the reforms passed during Northampton’s mayoralty. In August 1384, he had the satisfaction of attending Northampton’s summary trial before the royal council at Reading, and was no doubt among the first to press for his enemy’s execution at an emergency meeting of the common council held in late March 1385. Not surprisingly, he was one of the 12 aldermen elected immediately afterwards to consider the best ways of strengthening the City’s defences against any future disturbances.13
As sheriff of London during Richard II’s quarrel with the City in 1392, Vanner became personally involved in an even greater crisis, which followed on the authorities’ refusal to lend the government any more money, and led to his imprisonment and dismissal from office. He and the other civic authorities were summoned to appear before the King at Nottingham on 25 June and answer a number of unspecified charges. Because of certain ‘notable and evident defaults’ Vanner, his fellow sheriff, John Shadworth*, and the mayor were relieved of their posts and committed to prison, Vanner being sent to Wallingford castle. He was brought under guard to testify before a special commission of inquiry held at Aylesbury on 10 July, and a few days later he joined all the other aldermen and former office-holders of London who had assembled at Windsor castle to hear Richard impose upon them a corporate fine of £3,000 marks. Vanner and his two colleagues were then formally released from prison under joint sureties of £3,000 as a guarantee of their readiness to appear before the council and atone for their misdeeds. This they never had to do, for all three were excused their individual offences in September, at the time of Richard’s general pardon to the City and his restoration of its liberties. Vanner and Shadworth had in fact been confirmed in office as aldermen (but not sheriffs) on 23 July, a fact which suggests that Richard’s earlier action against them was little more than a strategic device. The people of London had to pay heavily to remain in favour, and when, in the following October, Vanner and 14 other aldermen each bound themselves to give the city chamberlain £11 6s.8d., they may well have been contributing towards some kind of a royal douceur.14
Vanner discharged his last major civic duty in December 1394 as the arbitrator in a dispute over an inheritance, and died within a matter of months. According to his will, drawn up on 9 Feb. 1395, he was to be buried in the church of St. Martin in the Vintry, to which he left a bequest of £20 for building work, and a further £200 for the upkeep of a chantry staffed by three priests. Since he had no children, the bulk of his estate went to his widow for life with successive remainders to his brother, William, and his stepbrother, John Cornwallis. Margery Vanner was thus sure of annuities totalling £80 from land and rents, together with the promise of a further 20 marks a year on the death of Joan Cornwallis. Her share of Vanner’s effects was valued at £40. However, her disappearance from records after about 1397 suggests that she did not enjoy this new wealth for very long.15
Ref Volumes: 1386-1421
- 1. Corporation of London RO, hr 82/60, 104/123, 126/76.
- 2. Cal. Letter Bk. London, H, 42, 168, 198; Beaven, Aldermen, i. 2, 114, 122, 190, 206, 398; Cal. P. and M. London, 1381-1412, p. 29.
- 3. Cal. Letter Bk. London, H, 74.
- 4. Ibid. 300.
- 5. Rot. Gasc. et Franc. ed. Carte, ii. 157; E403/519 m. 9.
- 6. Cal. Letter Bk. London, H, 379.
- 7. Corporation of London RO, hr 82/60, 99/1-4; CCR, 1369-74, pp. 186-7; London Rec. Soc. x. no. 358; Cal. Letter Bk. London, G, 13.
- 8. Corporation of London RO, hr 104/123, 123/8, 9, 126/76; T. Milbourn, Vintners’ Company, 43-45.
- 9. Corporation of London RO, hr 100/48, 110/2, 15, 114/86, 122/30-31, 126/76; CAD, ii. B2294; CP25(1)108/214/164, 109/226/461, 110/243/882, 230/58/112; Pub. Works in Med. Law (Selden Soc. xxxii), 41, 44; CCR, 1377-81, pp. 51-52; 1381-5, pp. 183-4, 387; Chs. et Docs. Abbaye de Saint Pierre ed. Van Lokeren, nos. 1303, 1439.
- 10. Corporation of London RO, hr 115/169, 116/57; London and Mdx. Feet of Fines, 159, 230; CCR, 1377-81, p. 494; 1385-9, p. 623; CPR, 1388-92, p. 218; SC8/250/12480; CFR, xi. 29; PRO List ‘Dip. Docs.’, no. 1346; R. Bird, Turbulent London of Ric. II, 3-4, 17; Cal. P. and M. London, 1381-1412, p. 134; Guildhall Lib. London, add. ms 36.
- 11. Corporation of London RO, hr 105/45, 112/77, 113/102-3, 114/7, 115/5, 164, 116/111, 120/111, 122/68; CCR, 1377-81, pp. 81-82, 143-4, 195-6; 1385-9, p. 488; 1392-6, pp. 227, 243; CPR, 1381-5, pp. 52-53; 1385-8, p. 124; CFR, x. 4; Cal. P. and M. London, 1364-81, p. 294; 1381-1412, p. 103; Cal. Letter Bk. London, H, 350, 398; CP25(1)108/215/194, 109/225/431.
- 12. Corporation of London RO, hcp 95 m. 31, 96 m. 8d, 110 m. 1d, 114 mm. 6-7d; hpl 100, feast Conversion St. Paul, 1 Ric. II, 109, Monday aft. feast St. Luke the Evangelist, 10 Ric. II, 111 m. 1, 112, feast St. Lucy, 13 Ric. II, 113, Monday aft. feast St. Barnabas, 14 Ric. II; CCR, 1377-81, pp. 143-4; CPR, 1391-6, p. 396; C241/181/44; Cal. P. and M. London, 1364-81, p. 232; C81/535/8297.
- 13. Bird, 83; Cal. Letter Bk. London, H, 235, 245-6; Cal. P. and M. London, 1381-1412, pp. 54, 57.
- 14. CPR, 1391-6, pp. 100, 130, 171; CCR, 1392-6, pp. 2, 9, 12, 78-79, 89; Cal. Letter Bk. London, H, 383, 386, 391.
- 15. Cal. Letter Bk. London, H, 381; Corporation of London RO, hr 126/76.