NORTHAMPTON, John, of Southwark, Surr.
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Family and Education
It has been suggested that John of Northampton† (d.1397), the populist mayor of London, may have sat for Southwark in February 1388, but this seems highly improbable.1 Although Sir Nicholas Brembre† and Thomas Usk, the two men who had done most to bring about his downfall and imprisonment in 1384, were both victims of the Merciless Parliament, there is no real evidence that he was one of its Members. On the contrary, having narrowly escaped the death penalty, he was still prohibited from coming within 80 miles of London, and had many enemies in the City ready to enforce this ruling. His specific exclusion from the general pardon issued to all Londoners for felonies committed between October 1382 and May 1388 makes the likelihood of his election even more remote.2 Indeed, it was not until 1395 that he was restored to all his privileges in the City. Arguably, the small merchants and tradesmen of Southwark had good reason to sympathize with one whose main ambition was to limit the tremendous power of the larger London guilds, but Northampton’s earlier attempts to regulate the victualling trades must have lost him many potential supporters among the entrepreneurs who lived across the river. There is, however, a slight possibility that his elder son, John, was returned for Southwark at this time. Not much is known about the young man, who was alive in 1382/3, but evidently predeceased his father. It was almost certainly he, rather than his younger brother, James*, to whom the Historia Mirabilis Parliamenti refers when it describes the challenge made to Sir Nicholas Brembre (just as he was about to be hanged) by filius Northampton; and this fact, in turn, might support the view that John actually sat in the Parliament which had previously secured Brembre’s condemnation.3
Even so, the burgesses of Southwark almost invariably returned local men to the House of Commons by this date; and given the existence of a saddler named John Northampton who lived and worked in the borough it seems reasonable to suppose that their choice fell upon him. The latter had begun trading in Southwark by 1380, when he was required to contribute the not insubstantial sum of 20d. towards the lay subsidy. At some point before January 1389 he leased a tenement in St. Olave’s parish from Alice, the widowed mother of John Mucking*, one of the wealthiest and most influential residents then living there. He also appears to have been on friendly terms with William Janyn, the constable of Southwark, for in February 1390 he acted as a surety during the latter’s trial before the steward and marshal of the royal household. It is, perhaps, worth noting that John Ives and Richard Houdy, Northampton’s two mainpernors at the time of his election, had no known connexions with the former mayor or his family.4