Dictionary of National Biography, 1885-1900/Craven, William (1548?-1618)
CRAVEN, Sir WILLIAM (1548?–1618), lord mayor of London, second son of William Craven and Beatrix, daughter of John Hunter, and grandson of John Craven, was born at Appletreewick, a village in the parish of Burnsall, near Skipton in the West Riding of Yorkshire, about 1548. The date is made probable by the fact that he took up his freedom in 1569. At the age of thirteen or fourteen he was sent up to London by the common carrier (Whitakes, History of Craven, edit. 1812, p. 437) and bound apprentice to Robert Hulson, citizen and merchant taylor, who, as we gather from Craven's will, lived in the parish of St. John the Evangelist in Watling Street. Having been admitted to the freedom of the Merchant Taylors' Company on 4 Nov. 1569, Craven appears to have entered into business with Hulson, and subsequently to have quarrelled with him. On 9 Nov. 1583 they submitted their differences ‘from the beginning of the world to this day’ to the arbitration of the master and wardens of the company. The quarrel turned upon a ‘shop late in the occupation of William Craven.’ The judgment of the master and wardens, given on 26 Nov. 1582, was that he should pay 10l. to Craven and ‘have unto himself the said shoppe to use at his pleasure’ (MS. Records of Merchant Taylors' Company). In 1588 Craven took a lease from the Mercers' Company of a ‘great mansion house’ in Watling Street in the parish of St. Antholin, where he carried on business with Robert and John Parker until his death. He was elected warden of his company on 4 July 1593, the year that the plague was ‘hot in the city’ (Stow, Annals), and on 19 July 1594, having ‘borne and behaved himself commendably in the said place,’ he was made one of the court of assistants. The minute books of the company show of what his commendable bearing consisted; thus on 15 May 1593 he gave 20l. ‘to the relief of the widows of the almsmen of the company,’ and on 15 May 1594 the master reported that ‘Mr. Craven, instead of only giving 20l., would take upon himself the support of one woman at 16d. a week.’ Two years later he made a donation of 50l. towards the building of the library of St. John's College, Oxford, with which college the company was, by its school, closely connected; this donation is recorded on one of the windows of the library. On 2 April 1600 he was elected alderman for Bishopsgate ward, in which capacity he took part in the government of the city (Calendar of State Papers, xcviii. 469–70), and on 14 Feb. 1601 he was chosen sheriff of London. Towards the expenses of the shrievalty the Merchant Taylors' Company, as appears from its records, on 12 March 1600 voted him the sum of 30l. out of the ‘common box,’ and ordered its plate to be lent to ‘him during his year of office.’
In 1602 he founded the grammar school in his native parish of Burnsall, Yorkshire (Harker, Rambles in Upper Wharfedale), and on 15 May of the same year became alderman of Cordwainer (vice Bishopsgate) ward. He was knighted at Whitehall by James I on 26 July 1603 (Nichols, Progresses of James I, i. 234). In 1604 he was one of the patrons of ‘the scheme of a new college after the manner of a university designed at Ripon, Yorkshire’ (Peck, Desiderata, vii. 290). It was probably about 1605 he married Elizabeth, daughter of William Whitmore, alderman of London. In 1607, the Merchant Taylors' Company being minded to entertain James I and Prince Henry, Craven was dedeputed with others to carry the invitation to Norwich (MS. Records of Merchant Taylors' Company).
In the autumn of 1610 the court of the Merchant Taylors' Company made preparations for Craven's approaching mayoralty, and on 6 Oct. unanimously voted a hundred marks ‘towards the trimming of his ldships house’ (ib.). Craven was lord mayor of London for 1610–11, and the show, which had been suspended for some years, was revived with splendour. Christian, prince of Anhalt, was entertained with all his ‘Germayne trayne’ at the feast at the Guildhall afterwards (Nichols, Progresses of James I, ii. 370). In July 1611 Craven became alderman of Lime Street (vice Cordwainer) ward, in consequence perhaps of his having moved his residence from St. Antholin's to ‘a fair house builded by Stephen Kirton’ (see Stow's Survey of London, 1618) in the parish of St. Andrew Undershaft, Cornhill. This house, of which there is a print in the British Museum (reproduced London Journal, 26 Sept. 1857), was on the south side of Leadenhall Street; it was leased to the East India Company in 1620 and pulled down, and the East India House erected in 1726 (Maitland, History of London, p. 1003), which in 1862 was superseded by the present buildings. During Craven's mayoralty his name appears in connection with certain loans to the king (Devon, Issues of the Exchequer during the Reign of James I, p. 133). On 9 Jan. 1611 he was elected president of Christ's Hospital, which post he occupied up to his death. His donations to the hospital were lands to the value of 1,000l. at Ugley in Essex, and certain other legacies (Court Minutes of Christ's Hospital, March 1613–1614). On 2 July 1613 he conveyed to St. John's College, Oxford, the advowson of Creeke in Northamptonshire ‘upon trust that one of the ten senior fellows elected from (Merchant Taylors') School should be presented thereto’ (MS. Records of Merchant Taylors' Company). In 1616 Lady Elizabeth Coke, wife of Sir Edward Coke [q. v.], on occasion of the famous quarrel with her husband, was at his request handed over to the hospitality of Craven, who must have entertained her at his house in Leadenhall Street (Aikin, Court and Times of James I, Letters of Chamberlain and Carleton, 11 Oct. and 8 Nov. 1617). The king wrote him a letter of thanks, preserved at the Record Office (Calendar of State Papers, vol. xciv. 4 Nov. 1617, the king to Sir William Craven). It was in this year also that he joined with others in subscribing 1,000l. towards the repair and decoration of St. Antholin's Church (Seymour, London, bk. iii. p. 514). The last public act recorded of Craven is the laying of the foundation-stone of the new Aldgate on 26 May 1618 (ib. i. 18–19). On 1 July of the same year he attended the court of the Merchant Taylors' Company for the last time, his will being ‘openly read in court’ on the 29th (MS. Records of the Merchant Taylors' Company), and he was buried at St. Andrew Undershaft on 11 Aug., ‘where,’ as Chamberlain writes to Sir Dudley Carleton, ‘there were above five hundred mourners.’ Craven had issue three sons and two daughters: William [q. v.], John (see below), Thomas, Elizabeth, and Mary. His arms were: or, five fleurs-de-lis in cross sable: a chief wavée azure; crest, a crane or heron rising proper. Motto, 'Virtus in actione consistit.'
The second son, John Craven, was founder of the Craven scholarships at Oxford and Cambridge. He was held in high esteem by Charles I, who created him Baron Craven of Ryton, Shropshire, 21 March 1642–3. He died in 1649, and left no issue by his wife, Elizabeth, daughter of William, lord Spencer. By his will, dated 18 May 1647, he left large charitable bequests to Burnsall, Skipton, Ripon, Ripley, Knaresborough, and Boroughbridge, and money for redeeming captives in Algiers. His most important legacy was that of the manor of Cancerne, near Chichester, Sussex, to provide 100l. for four poor scholars, two at Cambridge and two at Oxford, with preference to his own poor kinsmen. The first award under the bequest was made at Cambridge 16 May 1649. The fund was immediately afterwards sequestrated by parliament, and on 7 May 1651 a petition was presented for the payment of the scholarships. In 1654 the sequestration was discharged. The value of the bequest has since considerably increased, and changes have been made in the methods of the award, but they are still maintained at both universities (Cooper, Annals of Cambridge, iii. 428; Collins, Peerage, ed. Brydges, v. 447; Whitaker, Craven, ed. Morant, p. 510; Sussex Archæological Collections, xix. 110).[MS. Records of Merchant Taylors' Company and other authorities cited above.]