Saturday, June 21, 2014

The tragic story of Thomas Duffield, merchant of York

The tragic story of Thomas Duffield, merchant of York

Niall C.E.J. O’Brien

Much of my medieval history is concerned with Ireland and the West Country of England. It is from these places that much of my source material is sourced from and a historian needs his or her sources to help recreate the past and understand its story. Yet while doing research on the town of Bridgwater in Somerset among the record books known as the Inquisitions Post Mortem I came across as series of entries concerning Thomas Duffield of York and his family which struck something of the human touch inside me (there was also a Thomas Duffield in Bridgwater c.1380). Apparently, it seems I have a human touch – which could have been worst – I could have had a Midas touch and then could not eat those lovely sultana buns they have in the local shop as they would turn to gold before reaching the pleasures of the mouth.

But what dear Reader, could have created this soft side of my character in the life of a merchant living in York in the time of King Henry VI? Well, it has to do more with the death of Thomas Duffield more so than his life. Thomas Duffield died on 10th March 1429 leaving a widow, Elizabeth, and two daughters, Margaret and Elizabeth. An inquisition into his property in the city of York was taken on 22nd March 1429.

This inquisition found that Thomas Duffield held 21 messuages of the king in burgage within the city. These were valued at 72 shillings 8 pence per year. The location and value per year of these 21 messuages are given in Appendix One below. A messuage is usually defined as a house and garden. Thomas Duffield also held a further 25 messuages (valued at 64 shillings 4 pence) in burgage tenure in York and five tenements at Aldwick valued at 15 shillings (see Appendix One).[1]

A medieval street in York where Thomas Duffield could have walked

Many years later, on 17th June 1338, another inquisition post mortem, taken at Bedale found that Thomas Duffield held further property at Skelton. This property is described in Appendix Three below.[2] Another inquisition relating to the Skelton property was taken on 4th November 1438 which gave much the same details as the June inquisition.[3]

The early history of Thomas Duffield is unknown to this author. It is possible that our Thomas Duffield, merchant, was the same person called Thomas Dreffeld, mercer, who was admitted to the freedom of York in 1361. A mercer is usually defined as a person dealing in textiles.[4] Our Thomas Duffield could also be the Thomas son of John Duffield who in 1409-10 was admitted to the freedom of York.[5]   

As said, Thomas Duffield, merchant, died on 10th March 1429 under unknown circumstances. Was it a sudden death or the result of a long illness? This is, as yet, unknown. What is known is that the death did bring great sadness on the Duffield household after a time of great celebrations. Only two days before Thomas Duffield died, his wife Elizabeth gave birth to a daughter on 8th March 1429 who they called Elizabeth Duffield.

Medieval birth was always a dangerous time, for mother and baby alike, but it seems that both were well on that day. Thomas and Elizabeth Duffield had another daughter called Margaret who was born about September 1422. There may have been other children born to Thomas and Elizabeth but they did not survive to adulthood. Unfortunately, for the Duffield household, young Elizabeth Duffield did not survive to adulthood either.

Ill health complications affected baby Elizabeth and she quickly went downhill. On 21st March 1429, just eleven days after her father died, baby Elizabeth Duffield died.[6] The joy and happiness which filled young Margaret Duffield at having a younger sister now was turned to sadness.

For Elizabeth Duffield the death within days of her husband and baby daughter after the joy of a successful birth must have been devastating. The health of poor Elizabeth Duffield broke under the weight of the loss and she became sicker as the days passed. On 23rd May 1429, Elizabeth Duffield died leaving her daughter Margaret Duffield without any family. Such was the speed of her death that an inquisition held in York on 28th June 1429 found that Elizabeth Duffield had no time to acquire any lands or tenements from her husband as her dower lands.[7] Instead all the lands and tenements of her husband Thomas Duffield fell to the king. 

The king had first taken control of the lands and tenements of Thomas Duffield following his death when his children were taken into wardship. Young baby Elizabeth Duffield was entitled to half the property with her sister Margaret Duffield having the other half but her early death meant that all the property passed to the inheritance of Margaret. As Margaret Duffield was only six and half years old when all her family died in 1429, and thus a minor, her care fell to the king.

The lands and tenements stayed with the king until 1338/1339. Beginning in November 1338 a series on inquisitions was held into the Duffield property in York and Skelton.[8] The description of the property in York differs somewhat from that given in 1429 as messuages became tenements (see Appendix Two). This city property was worth 30 shillings 8 pence. This same property was worth 152 shillings in 1429 – so much for royal care.

In December 1339 the king ordered the escheator of Yorkshire to take the fealty of Margaret Duffield.[9] I have no record of Margaret Duffield after 1339 but hopefully she had a good and long life after the early loss of her family.

Appendix One

The 21 messuages of Thomas Duffield in York held of the king

St. Andrew Gate = one messuage = 20 shillings

St. Andrew’s Church, in the churchyard = 3 messuages = 2 shillings each = total 6 shillings

Same place as above = 3 messuages = 4 shillings each = 12 shillings

Same place as above = one messuage = 3 shillings

Same place as above = 2 messuages = 3 shillings = total 6 shillings

St. Andrew’s Church, in the vennel (public lane way between the gable of two houses) below the churchyard = 4 messuages = 2 shillings each = total 8 shillings

Same place as above = 2 messuages = 2 shillings 6 pence = total 5 shillings

Same place as above = one messuage = 2 shillings 8 pence

Peaseholme = 4 messuages = 2 shillings each = total 8 shillings

The 25 messuages in burgage with gardens in York held by Thomas Duffield in 1429

Little St. Andrew Gate = 8 messuages together on the east side = 2 shillings each = total 16 shillings

Little St. Andrew Gate in the vennel on the eastern side = 4 messuages = 18 pence each = total 6 shillings

Same place as above = one messuage = 12 pence

Same place as above = one messuage = 16 pence

Same place as above = one garden = 8 pence

Little St. Andrew Gate on the western side = on tenement = 4 shillings

Same place as above = one tenement = 5 shillings

Same place as above = one tenement = 6 shillings

Same place as above = one tenement = 20 pence

Same place as above = 4 tenement = 2 shillings each = total 8 shillings

Same place as above = 2 tenement = 16 pence each = 2 shillings 8 pence

Lower Ouse Gate = one tenement = 14 shillings

Tenements at Aldwick

At Aldwark Thomas Duffield held 5 tenements worth 3 shillings each = total 15 shillings at the time of his death.[10]

Appendix Two

Duffield property in the city of York as described in 1439[11]

St. Saviour Gate = one tenement = value 8 shillings per year

Ouse Gate = one tenement = value 10 shillings

Peaseholme = 4 small tenements under one roof = value 12 pence each

Aldwick = 5 small tenements under one roof = 12 pence each

Little St. Andrew Gate = 5 tenements under one roof = value 18 pence each

Same place = 7 tenements under one roof = value 12 pence each

Garth Lane = 3 small tenements under one roof = value 8 pence each

Same place = 3 other small tenements under one roof = value 8 pence each

Same place = small garden = 10 pence

St. Andrew’s Churchyard = 5 small tenements under one roof = value 18 pence each

Same place – on each side of a lane = 7 small tenements built under one roof = value 10 pence each    

Appendix Three

Property of Thomas Duffield at Skelton, Yorkshire[12]

A close called Portburn with 10 acres of land – value 2 shillings – held of the king for 10 shillings per year

A wood called Hordhirn & 200 acres pasture – value 2 shillings – held of the king by one sixth of a knight’s fee

A field called Halefeld containing 3 bovates – value 4 shillings – held of the abbot of St. Mary’s York and rendering 5 shillings per year in services

A capital messuage with 3 small buildings and 4 bovates (of arable in 1438) and three closes containing a bovate each – value 14 shillings – held of Joan, Countess of Westmoreland

A bovate was defined as about fifteen acres.

============

End of post

============




[1] Claire Noble (ed.), Calendar of inquisitions post mortem preserved in the Public Record Office, Vol. XXIII, 6 to 10 Henry VI, 1427-1432 (Boydell Press & National Archives, 2004), no. 200
[2] Claire Noble (ed.), Calendar of inquisitions post mortem preserved in the Public Record Office, Vol. XXV, 16 to 20 Henry VI, 1437-1442 (Boydell Press & National Archives, 2009), no. 48
[3] Claire Noble (ed.), Calendar of inquisitions post mortem, Vol. XXV, 16 to 20 Henry VI, 1437-1442, no. 179
[6] Claire Noble (ed.), Calendar of inquisitions post mortem, Vol. XXV, 16 to 20 Henry VI, 1437-1442, no. 48
[7] Claire Noble (ed.), Calendar of inquisitions post mortem, Vol. XXIII, 6 to 10 Henry VI, 1427-1432, no. 199
[8] Claire Noble (ed.), Calendar of inquisitions post mortem, Vol. XXV, 16 to 20 Henry VI, 1437-1442, nos. 178-182
[9] Calendar Close Rolls, Henry VI, 1339-1340
[10] Claire Noble (ed.), Calendar of inquisitions post mortem, Vol. XXIII, 6 to 10 Henry VI, 1427-1432, no. 200
[11] Claire Noble (ed.), Calendar of inquisitions post mortem, Vol. XXV, 16 to 20 Henry VI, 1437-1442, no. 178
[12] Claire Noble (ed.), Calendar of inquisitions post mortem, Vol. XXV, 16 to 20 Henry VI, 1437-1442, no. 48

4 comments: