MONOUX, George (by 1465-1544), of Bristol, Glos.; London and Walthamstow, Essex.

Published in The History of Parliament: the House of Commons 1509-1558, ed. S.T. Bindoff, 1982
Available from Boydell and Brewer

Constituency

Dates

Family and Education

b. by 1465, yr. s. of John Monoux of Stanford, Worcs. m. (1) Joan, 1s. 2da. d.v.p.; (2) by 7 Feb. 1508, Anne, da. and coh. of John Wood of Southwark, Surr., wid. of Robert Wattes of London.2

Offices Held

Bailiff, Bristol 1490-1, mayor 1501-2; warden, Drapers’ Co. 1505-6, master 1508-9, 1516-17, 1520-1, 1526-7, 1532-3, 1539-40; alderman, London 1507-41, sheriff 1509-10, auditor 1512-14, mayor 1514-15; commr. subsidy 1512, 1514, 1515, 1523, 1524.3

Biography

George Monoux began his career as a merchant in Bristol. His name does not appear in the customs accounts of 1479-80 but by 1485-6 he was exporting cloth to Bordeaux, the ports of northern and southern Spain, and Lisbon, in exchange for wine from Bordeaux and Spain and oil, salt and sugar from Lisbon, a pattern of trade typical of Bristol throughout the later middle ages. After serving as mayor of Bristol, Monoux migrated to London, although he retained his status as a burgess of the staple of Bristol, and in 1503 he was admitted to the freedom of the City as a member of the Drapers’ Company. In 1505 and 1506 he was proposed for election as alderman and he became one on 14 Jan. 1507, for Bassishaw ward; from 1524 he was the City’s senior alderman. In 1505 he had obtained a temporary exemption from the shrievalty but on its expiry in 1509 he was immediately elected.4

In January 1508 Monoux was sent to petition Henry VII for ‘a reformation for making of false cloth’; in 1508 and 1509 he was named on deputations to sue for the remission of new customs rates. After the accession of Henry VIII Monoux was appointed to consider possible revisions to London’s charter before its confirmation. In January 1512 he was assigned ‘to hear matters for the next Parliament’; and during its second and third sessions he was employed to lobby at Westminster in favour of a corporation bill. He was thus experienced in parliamentary affairs when he was returned as one of the aldermanic Members of the Parliament of 1523 and his advice may have been sought on the Act (14 and 15 Hen. VIII, c.1) designed to protect cloth exporters against foreign competition, which included a proviso in favour of London.5

Monoux was elected mayor for the second time in 1523 but refused to serve and was fined £1,000 for his contempt. It is doubtful, however, whether there was ever any serious intention to enforce the penalty: negotiations between the City and Monoux went on for nine months, Monoux petitioning to be discharged not only of his fine but also of his aldermanship on the ground that he was ‘aged and feeble in his limbs’ and offering to leave his brewhouse near London Bridge to the City. The details of the settlement occupied another three months and on 12 Oct. 1524 Monoux was granted the status of alderman for life, with no obligation to attend the court of aldermen except on special occasions, and no risk of being elected mayor: in his later years he seldom attended the court, and although he rejected a suggestion that he should relinquish his aldermanship in 1535 he finally did so six years later when it was pointed out that his neglect had led to ‘evil and vicious rule’ within his ward. He had promised his brewhouse to the City as early as 1519 but the transfer agreed in 1524 was still not completed two years later: apparently he hoped to give up other property instead, but the City insisted on the terms of the agreement. Monoux was a hard bargainer, as Sir Richard Gresham (q.v.) found when his plan for a bourse in Lombard Street was held up by Monoux’s refusal to sell his property there. On 3 July 1537 the court of aldermen decided to acquire the Pope’s Head in Lombard Street from Monoux. But two days earlier he had transferred all his interest in it to his great-nephew, Thomas Monoux, who one week later restored all the premises to him on a 40-year lease: George Monoux was thus able to argue that the Pope’s Head was no longer his to sell. During his mayoralty Gresham persuaded Cromwell to enlist the King’s support and after receiving royal letters in August and November 1538 Monoux agreed to surrender his interest, but after further delays and the failure of a bill for the bourse introduced in the Parliament of 1539 the project was abandoned for a generation and Monoux still held the Lombard Street lease at his death.6

Monoux’s own children being dead, he planned to make Thomas Monoux his heir, but Thomas also died young, in 1537, and it was to his two young sons that most of Monoux’s property descended. He had bought widely in London and elsewhere, investing his profits in land. From 1508 he kept a ledger in which to record his purchases and although the first 73 leaves are missing, enough remains to trace the growth of his estate in London. In 1508 he bought messuages in All Hallows Staining and two years later he acquired the mansion in St. Laurence Poultney which he made his town house. In 1512 he obtained messuages in Garlickhithe and a brewhouse in Newgate, called the Swan, for which he gave ten tuns of Seville oil; in 1513 he exchanged six tuns of oil for another brewhouse in Fenchurch Street. In 1515 he made three separate purchases, buying a corner house and seven adjoining tenements in Walbrook, a tenement in Candlewick Street, next to one already in his possession, and four tenements in Lombard Street. This last transaction brought him the properties on either side of the Pope’s Head tavern and in 1516 he purchased the tavern itself. Outside London, he acquired land in ten counties, notably Bedfordshire, Essex, Norfolk and Yorkshire. In 1543 he exchanged the manor of Buckerells in Chingford, Essex, with the King for that of Culkerton in Gloucestershire. A bill to confirm the exchange apparently failed in the Lords. Monoux’s movable property was also considerable: the capital value of his goods was assessed to the subsidy of 1523 at £1,000, although at the next subsidy, granted in 1534, his assessment fell to 400 marks in goods and £200 a year in land. His contribution to the loan in 1535 or 1536 was raised from an initial £2,000 to £3,000, the highest sum demanded of anyone in London.7

To later generations Monoux’s most important purchase was that in 1527 of a few acres in the churchyard at Walthamstow upon which he built an almshouse and free school. The building was probably designed by Monoux himself, since the plan appears in his ledger, and the rules by which the schoolmaster and 13 poor men and women were to live were certainly devised by him. He left lands in London worth £50 a year for the maintenance of these two charities and for prayers to be said for him and his kin. After his death Monoux was frequently styled Sir George by the people of Walthamstow, but he was never knighted: he had, however, been granted arms in 1514 and when he died in February 1544 they were inscribed on his brass in the parish church of Walthamstow.8

The relatives mentioned in his will of 4 June 1541 include his ‘cousin’ Giles Brydges, p