Walworth, William (DNB00)


WALWORTH, Sir WILLIAM (d. 1385), lord mayor of London, was descended of good family. A William de Walworth, who may have been his father, was the grantee of land in Darlington in 1314. Sir William himself succeeded a member of the ancient family of Bart, Bard, or Baard, in the tenure of a manor which included the parish of Middleton St. George, near Darlington in Durham; his brother Thomas was a canon of York, and Sir William by his will forgave the convent of Durham a hundred marks. His name appears among those of his relatives in the ‘Durham Book of Life,’ and his arms (gules, a bend raguly argent between two garbs or) were displayed in the cloister of St. Cuthbert's Cathedral. The family of Kelynghall, who succeeded him as owners of Middleton, bore his arms (‘The Tenures of Middleton St. George,’ by W. H. D. Longstaffe, in Archæologia Æliana, new ser. ii. 72–5).

Walworth was apprenticed to John Lovekyn [q. v.], a member of the Fishmongers' Guild (Chronicles of the Mayors and Sheriffs, ed. Riley, p. 250), and was chosen alderman of Bridge ward on 11 Nov. 1368, succeeding Lovekyn, his late master, in that office (City Records, Letter-book G, f. 217). On 21 Sept. 1370 he was elected sheriff, and was admitted before the barons of the exchequer at Westminster on 30 Sept. (ib. f. 254). In 1370 he contributed the large sum of 200l. to the city loan to Edward III (ib. ff. 263, 270). He was elected mayor in 1374. On 24 Aug. 1375 the porters of the five city gates were sworn before Walworth and the recorder to prevent lepers from entering the city (ib. Letter-book H, f. 20). Stow relates that during his mayoralty Walworth effectually used his authority for suppressing usury within the city, and that the House of Commons followed up his action by petitioning the king ‘that the order that was made in London against the horrible vice of usury might be observed throughout the whole realm;’ to which the king answered that the old law should continue (Survey of London, 1720, bk. v. p. 113). Another ordinance of 21 Sept. prohibited the keepers of taverns from using ‘alestakes’ or poles projecting in front of their houses and bearing the sign or ‘bush’ of the tavern of greater length than seven feet (City Records, Letter-book H, f. 22).

In 1376 an important change was made in the constitution of the city, the election of the common council being taken away from the men of the wards and transferred to the members of the guilds. This was not effected without some disturbance, and the king threatened to interpose. A deputation of six commoners, with Walworth and (Sir) Nicholas Brembre [q. v.], was sent to appease the king and assure him that no disturbance had occurred in the city beyond what proceeded from reasonable debate on an open question. This explanation was accepted by the king (ib. ff. 44, 44 b). Walworth is described in the patent rolls for 1377 and onwards as a wealthy London merchant, and frequently figures with Brembre, (Sir) John Philipot [q. v.], John Haddeley, and other merchants of less note for whom they acted, as advancing large sums by way of loan to the king (Cal. of Pat. Rolls, Richard II, 1377–81 passim).

In 1377 Walworth and Philipot were appointed treasurers of the two tenths and fifteenths granted by parliament on 13 Oct. They were entrusted with full authority to receive and disburse the funds, and were granted a hundred marks each a year for their labour (Pat. Rolls. 1377–81, p. 99). The Duke of Lancaster, whose growing power made him resent the restraint of this supervision, soon procured the dismissal of Walworth and his colleague from their position of confidence, although no complaint was made against them for any breach of trust (Sharpe, London and the Kingdom, i. 214–215). The city was now divided into two parties—one headed by Walworth and John de Northampton [q. v.], which strongly supported the Duke of Lancaster; the other with Philipot and Brembre at its head, which as strongly opposed him. On 2 March 1380 Walworth is once more associated with Philipot as a city representative on a commission to inquire into the financial state of the realm (ib. p. 459).

In 1380 it was proposed to build two towers, one on either side of the Thames, from which an iron chain was to extend across the river for the protection of shipping. The warlike John Philipot undertook the erection of one tower at his own cost, and Walworth and three other aldermen were appointed a committee to receive and expend a tax of sixpence in the pound on city rentals for the erection of the other tower (City Records, Letter-book H, f. 125).

Walworth was mayor again in 1380–1. The invasion of the city by the Kentish peasantry found in him a mayor both able and determined to act with vigour. On 13 June 1381 Walter or Wat Tyler [q. v.], with his followers, after having burnt the stews in Southwark at the foot of London Bridge, were checked in their attempt to cross the bridge by Walworth, who fortified the place, caused the bridge to be drawn up, ‘and fastened a great chaine of yron acrosse, to restrain their entry’ (Welch, History of the Tower Bridge, p. 110). The Kentish men were, however, reinforced by the commons of Surrey, and the citizens, fearing their threats to fire the bridge, granted them admission. A contemporary account, with graphic details, is given in the ‘City Records’ of Walworth's meeting with Wat Tyler in the presence of the king at Smithfield (‘City Records,’ Letter-book H, fol. 133, printed in Riley's Memorials, pp. 449–451). Walworth ‘most manfully, by himself, rushed upon the captain of the said multitude, Walter Tylere by name, and as he was altercating with the king and the nobles, first wounded him in the neck with his sword, and then hurled him from his horse mortally pierced in the breast.’ Walworth made good his retreat from the fury of Tyler's followers, who were demanding his head of the king, and raised a strong force of citizens for the king's protection. On his return to Smithfield with the citizen body-guard, the king ‘with his own hands decorated with the order of knighthood the said mayor,’ Brembre, Philipot, and others, and further rewarded Walworth with the grant of 100l. a year. A picturesque account of this ceremony is given by Stow.

The Fishmongers' Company possess a dagger which is traditionally supposed to be the weapon with which Walworth killed the rebel leader; and a statue of Walworth, carved in wood by E. Pierce, is at the head of the great staircase in their hall. Beneath the statue is a quatrain of very poor rhyme which asserts that Richard gave the dagger as an addition to the city arms to commemorate Walworth's valiant service. The same erroneous statement was engraved on Walworth's monument in St. Michael's, Crooked Lane, which was restored by the Fishmongers' Company after its defacement in the reign of Edward VI. From these two sources probably arose the widely spread belief that Walworth's dagger was added to the city arms. The charge in question is not a dagger but the sword of St. Paul which existed as part of the city arms in 1380, and probably long before (Stow, Survey of London, 1603, pp. 222–3; Thomson, Chronicles of London Bridge, pp. 174 et seq.).

At the close of this eventful day (15 June) Walworth and six other citizens were constituted a commission of oyer and terminer to take measures to quell the peasants' revolt (Cal. Patent Rolls, Rich. II, 1381–5, p. 23), and on 8 March 1382 he was nominated on the larger commission to restore the peace in the county of Kent (ib. p. 139).

A few years before his death Walworth greatly enlarged by the addition of a new choir, transepts, and a south aisle or chapel, the church of St. Michael, Crooked Lane, which had been rebuilt by Lovekyn. He also obtained from the king on 10 March 1380 a license to found a college of ‘one master and nine priests,’ to pray for the good estate of the king, and of the founder and his wife while living, and of their souls when dead. The license, printed at length by Herbert (History of St. Michael, Crooked Lane, pp. 126–30), authorised him to unite the revenues of four ancient chantries for the support of the chaplains, with an augmentation from his own estate of 20l. 13s. 4d. a year; he also gave for a dwelling-house his own newly built house next the church. In 1383 he was elected with Philipot and two others to represent the city in parliament (Loftie, History of London, ii. 343).

Walworth died in 1385, and was buried at St. Michael's in his newly built north chapel which was known as the ‘Fishmongers' aisle.’ His handsome tomb was destroyed ‘by the axes and hammers of the reformers,’ and all record of its inscription is lost. In 1562 the Fishmongers' Company set up a new tomb for him with his effigy in armour gilt. The doggerel inscription then added is preserved by Weever (Funeral Monuments, p. 410), and, besides describing his Smithfield opponent as Jack Strawe, wrongly describes his death as having occurred in 1383. This monument perished with the church in the great fire of London, and was not restored in the new church, which was removed in 1831 to make way for the approaches to new London Bridge. Walworth's wife, Dame Margaret, survived him for eight years; her will, dated 12 Jan. 1393, being enrolled in the court of husting 20 July 1394 (Sharpe, Calendar, ii. 310–11). The property which she leaves does not include the manor of Walworth in Surrey, and she cannot be identified with that manorial family as is attempted by William Herbert (1771–1851) [q. v.], the historian of St. Michael's (pp. 162–3).

By his first will, dated 20 Dec. 1385 and enrolled in the court of husting on 13 Jan. 1385–6 (Sharpe, Calendar, ii. 251) Walworth left large estates in the city of London to his wife for life and for the maintenance of his chantries, and certain tenements to the Carthusian priory of the Salutation of the Blessed Virgin Mary, near London. His second will, dated the same day, gave directions for his burial, and made various bequests in money. To the church and to ecclesiastics he left about 300l., a sum exceeding by 120l. that left to his family and kindred; for his funeral expenses 40l., to the poor 65l., and to apprentices, servants, and friends about 162l. The bequest of law-books to his brother Thomas is very interesting; his possession of so complete and valuable a collection implies more than ordinary proficiency in that branch of study. His effects also included many choice service books and other religious works. The fraternity of chaplains in London, of which he was a brother, is also remembered, as well as the hospitals, prisons, anchorets, &c., of the city of London. Both wills are printed at length by Samuel Bentley in ‘Excerpta Historica’ (1833, pp. 134–41, 419–23).

Walworth first lived in the parish of St. Mary-at-Hill, ‘in the narrow way leading to “Treyerswarfe,”’ the house having probably belonged to his master, John Lovekyn (Thomson, London Bridge, p. 258). He afterwards moved to a large mansion in Thames Street in the parish of St. Michael, Crooked Lane. The house became the property of the Fishmongers' Company in 1413, and their hall occupied its site down to the time of the great fire of 1666 (Herbert, History of St. Michael, Crooked Lane, pp. 47–8). He also held the stews in Southwark under a lease from the bishop of Winchester, and their destruction by the Kentish rebels doubtless added to his resentment against Tyler.

Walworth was the most eminent member of the Fishmongers' Company, and, as in the case of Whittington, a halo of romance has surrounded his memory. More than two hundred years after his death the company included a representation of him in the mayoralty pageants which they provided for members of their company who reached the civic chair. The drawings of the elaborate pageant with which they honoured Sir John Leman for his mayoralty in 1616 are still preserved at Fishmongers' Hall, and were reproduced under the editorship of Mr. J. G. Nichols in 1844. A principal feature of this pageant was ‘Sir William Walworth's Bower,’ which was first stationed in St. Paul's Churchyard. He is shown seated at a table with pens and paper, and rises at the approach of the lord mayor, to whom he delivers a congratulatory address in verse. A special feature of the Fishmongers' pageants in later years was a personification of Walworth, dagger in hand, and the head of Wat Tyler carried on a pole. So late as 1799, in the mayoralty of Alderman Combe, Walworth figured in the procession. As a hero of legendary romance, Walworth is the first figure introduced in Richard Johnson's ‘Nine Worthies of London,’ a little black-letter quarto published in 1592, and reprinted in the ‘Harleian Miscellany’ (viii. 437–43).

Besides the statue by Pierce in Fishmongers' Hall, which has been engraved by Grignion and others, a statue of Walworth's decorates one of the staircases of the Holborn Valley Viaduct. There is a rare and curious little print in the Guildhall Library representing Walworth in his robes as mayor, holding in his right hand a dagger inscribed ‘pugna pro patria,’ and in his left a shield displaying the city arms. Another small print from a painting belonging to Richard Bull, published by Richard Godfrey for the ‘Antiquarian Repertory’ in 1784, is a half-length with the arms of the city and Walworth above, and those of the Fishmongers' Company below (Grose, Antiq. Rep. new edit. ii. 183–4).

[City Records; Herbert's History of the Twelve Great Livery Companies; Munday's Chrysanaleia, ed. J. G. Nichols and Henry Shaw; Herbert's History of St. Michael's, Crooked Lane; Stow's Survey of London; Woodcock's Lives of Illustrious Lord Mayors; authorities above cited.]

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