COULD I HAVE YOUR SIGNATURE SIR?

Earlier this year, Dr Chris O’Brien, Head of Maths, with his keen interest in WGS history came across two documents dating back to the 1500s traced by the National Archives and signed by the School’s founder Sir Stephen Jenyns.

TRACES OF THE FOUNDER: STEPHEN JENYNS IN THE NATIONAL ARCHIVES
by Dr Chris O’Brien (Head of Maths)

Two documents relating to Stephen Jenyns have recently been traced in the National Archives.

Document 1: Ancient Deeds, Chancery C146/5255: An indenture (in Latin) dated 14th July in the twenty-second year of King Henry VII (1507). It is termed a defeasance. Robert Willughby, Lord Broke has undertaken to pay Stephen Jenyns £160, £80 by 6th July 1508 and the remaining £80 by 6th January 1509. John Pauncefote of (Hasfield), Gloucester, gentleman and John Yorke of Ramsbury, Wiltshire, gentleman are bound with Lord Broke and all three are to be held liable for non-payment. The bond is cancelled if the money is paid.

“By me Stephn Jennyns” (Image © Crown Copyright 2016, reproduced by permission of The National Archives.)

In the body of the document (presumably written by a clerk) Jenyns is spelt in the more familiar way.

The presence of this document in Chancery records is explained by the legal moves taken in response to the non-payment of the debt. During 1509, Stephen Jenyns must have commenced actions in the Common Pleas against both sureties to recover his £160. In the Hilary Term of 1510 (CP40/990), both responded. These documents are in Latin. But John Pauncefoote also began an action in Chancery (where the pleas are in English), explaining that he and John Yorke “at the desire and request of Robert Willoughby, Lord Broke” were bound to Sir Stephen in the sum of £160 as sureties for Lord Broke. Broke had faithfully promised to pay the £160 by the due date and to “save and keep harmless” his sureties. However, he had not paid. Sir Stephen’s action in the Common Pleas had been continuing for a long time at this stage (Chancery pleas are not dated – this one is addressed to William of Warham as Lord Chancellor, which places it in 1515 or earlier). John Pauncefoote has often asked Lord Broke to pay the money, but “he that to do hath utterly refused and yet doth refuse contrary to his said promise”. Pauncefoote now asks the Lord Chancellor to “grant a writ of sub poena be directed to the said Lord Broke commanding him by the same to appear before your good Lordship at a certen day and upon a great payn by your good Lordship to be lymtted”. (Early Chancery Proceedings, C1/348/66)

The three people involved in this saga can be identified:

Robert Willoughby was the second Lord Willoughby de Broke, 1472-1521.
John Pauncefoot was Lord of the Manor of Hasfield, which had long been held by his family, by 1510 but was murdered while carrying out his duties as Justice of the Peace in 1516 (VCH, Gloucestershire, Volume 8)
John York lived in Twickenham but inherited the manor of Ramsbury through his mother’s family. He died in 1512 (VCH, Wiltshire, Volume 12) and was buried at Twickenham.

The final outcome of this case is not known. As to the size of the debt, £160 may sound small to us, but it should be noted that, when WGS was founded a few years later, the Headmaster’s annual salary was fixed at £10. A loan amounting to 16 years of a Head’s salary sounds rather substantial! A more reliable comparison suggests that £160 would be about £64,000 today.

Document 2: A Will of Stephen Jenyns, LR 15/5: Stephen Jenyns’ main will exists in the registers of the Prerogative Court of Canterbury, but the original does not survive. This document is a limited will, dated 26th December 1518, in which he gives 8 tenements in London to the prior and convent of the Crossed Friars by the Tower of London for several purposes. This is the original document and bears the seal of Stephen Jenyns (no longer attached). The seal is not armorial and is described in the catalogue as a “merchant’s seal”.

The property is (watch out for roman numerals!) “viii te’nts or messuages wt their App’tenanes … Of the which viii Ten’ts v wt their App’tenances been sett and lye in the Old change in the P(ar)ishe of Seynt Austen next the Cathedrall Church of Seynt Poule in the Ward of Bredstrete in the Citie of London aforesaid. And the other iii Ten’ts residue of the foresaid viii Ten’ts or messuages be sett & lye in Distaff Lane in the P(ar)ishe and ward aforesaid.” The Old Change now lies under the gardens around the present St Paul’s. Distaff Lane still exists, but is not in the same place as it was, its line is now followed approximately by Cannon Street. I think this was a corner block, not two separate sets of premises.

The Crossed Friars are to maintain the premises and pay from the profits £4 11s 3d annually to the Warden of Elsyng’s Spittell, a hospital founded in the 14th century. The logic behind this oddly precise amount is that it is 365 times 3d; the intention is to give 3d per day towards the food of q2 poor beadswomen maintained by the hospital. They had 3d per day already, by the terms of the foundation.

The other provisions of the will largely concern prayers and masses to be said and sung for “my soule and also the soules of Dame Margarete my wife M(ar)garete & Johnae late my wyves Willm Jenyns & Helen his wif my fader and moder willm Buk late husband to my said wif Dame M(ar)garete & their childres soules and the soules of Thom(a)s Margery John Kateryn Richard John Rose & John Hadds And all the souls that I and my wif be bound to p(ra)y for & all xpen souls”. This very helpfully confirms that Stephen Jenyns had three wives. The Hadds family were previous owners of the property. It is now known whether they had any family connection to Jenyns.

The School Archive holds an image of the complete document.

Wulfrunian 2016 article – page 36

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