BRYAN, John (d.1418), of London.

Published in The History of Parliament: the House of Commons 1386-1421, ed. J.S. Roskell, L. Clark, C. Rawcliffe., 1993
Available from Boydell and Brewer




Family and Education

1st s. of John Bryan (d.1395), of London, fishmonger, by his w. Margaret. m. (1) bef. Mich. 1387, Joan, da. of Thomas Hanhampstead, of London, grocer, by his w. Joan (bef. 1362-1417/18), da. of John Gisors of London, gdda. and h. of Simon Dolsely (d.1362), of London, pepperer, 2s.; (2) Katherine.1

Offices Held

Sheriff, London and Mdx. 21 Sept. 1418-d.2


A Londoner by birth, Bryan came of a prosperous and influential family which had already played a significant part in civic affairs. His father, after whom he was named, did well enough out of his trade as a fishmonger to purchase a considerable amount of property in the City, and eventually, after serving on the common council, rose to be an alderman of London. The younger Bryan is first mentioned in July 1375, when he received a bequest of money from John Reyner, whose daughter, Alice, was later brought up with his younger brother and sister.3 An extremely advantageous marriage to Joan Hanhampstead, contracted at, or slightly before, Michaelmas 1387, made it possible for Bryan to expand the family business. Joan’s mother, a rich and well-connected woman, was a relative and heir of Elizabeth, the grand daughter of Sir Thomas Salisbury; and her own grandfather and two husbands, Thomas Hanhampstead and Hugh Fastolf*, were themselves wealthy merchants with considerable interests in the capital. On Hanhampstead’s death she obtained custody of rents and tenements in at least six London parishes. These she and Fastolf leased to Bryan and her daughter for the latter’s lifetime at an annual rent of £10 in 1387, but nine years later, during her second widowhood, she allowed them to hold the property free of charge.4 Meanwhile, in April 1391, Bryan and his wife acquired a quit rent of 46s.8d. a year in the parish of St. Mary Woolchurch and two tenements with a quay on the Thames in Baynard’s Castle Ward. These premises were naturally of great commercial value to Bryan, a fishmonger, and although he subsequently settled them upon a brewer named John Russell, he was prepared to pay the latter an annuity of 26s.8d. for letting him remain as tenant. From his father Bryan inherited land, rents and tenements in the parishes of Holy Trinity the Less, St. Sepulchre, Newgate, and St. Nicholas Cole abbey. His unusually detailed will contains no reference to the valuable holdings in Fenchurch Street for which he and three others paid 400 marks in July 1396, so it may well be that he was involved here only as a feoffee. Less doubt surrounds his decision five years later to consolidate his late father’s possessions in the Old Fish Street area of London by taking on the lease of another house and shop for ten years. Further evidence of Bryan’s growing prosperity is to be found in his extensive holdings outside the capital. At the time of his death, he owned land in Bedlow, Chisbridge, Hambleden and Turville in Buckinghamshire, rents in the parish of Stanwell in Middlesex, and both rents and land in the Essex manors of West Ham and Stratford Langthorn. All this may have come to him through marriage, but it is just as likely to represent the shrewd investment of commercial profits.5

Inevitably in such a litigious age, Bryan had to defend his title to certain properties. Between March 1393 and November 1412 he was sued three times in the husting court of London by persons advancing rival claims to his estate. None of these cases ever reached a jury, although in October 1400 Bryan and his wife lost an action brought before the possessory assizes of London by the master of St. Bartholomew’s hospital, and had to pay him £27 15s. in arrears of rent. Towards the end of his life, Bryan faced another lawsuit begun in the court of Chancery by John Hede, a Londoner who alleged that the fishmonger had evicted him from ten acres of land in Aldenham, Hertfordshire. Bryan’s sudden death probably cut short the proceedings, and their outcome remains unknown.6 Interestingly enough, he did not often go to law himself. In July 1388 he petitioned the court of the mayor of the Staple of Westminster for help in recovering a bond in £45 which another London fishmonger had failed to honour one month before; and in July 1392 he filed a suit against the parson of Granford for a debt of £40, apparently to little effect. Bryan appeared as joint plaintiff in a similar action brought against a Surrey man, who held up the case by obtaining a writ of supersedeas omnino in February 1395. The same delaying tactic was employed by John Godbrigge, a London tanner being sued by Bryan for menaces 11 years later, and it was probably because of the problems which he faced in obtaining redress through the courts, that he abandoned any further attempts at litigation.7

From 1390 onwards, Bryan’s services as a feoffee were regularly in demand. He was involved in the property transactions of the fishmonger, William Brampton I*, as well as those of many other less distinguished Londoners. In April 1391 he stood surety on behalf of two Flemish merchants summoned to appear before the court of the mayor of London, but he did not otherwise act as a mainpernor for friends or colleagues.8

The events leading to Bryan’s death made such a lasting impression upon his contemporaries that they were vividly recorded by the chroniclers of the day. At the beginning of October 1418, less than a week after he had taken the sheriff’s oath,

he fell into tempse [the Thames] as he wold have esed hymself, as men seyth, be zonde be seint Katerynes, comynge fro ye bentenent whech yt tyme was atte Stratford, not wt stondyng yt all his sergians were there wt hym, the weche sergeantys, wt help of the millenere that there was, tokyn him vp wt an hoke, but forsothe afterward hadd he never gode day but peyned and dyed wt ynne the seuenyzth: and in stede was chose John Perneys*9

Bryan made his will on the ninth of October, and died on the tenth. He was buried in the church of Holy Trinity the Less beside his first wife, Joan, by whom he had two sons. The latter shared between them most of their father’s new acquisitions, while his widow, Katherine, obtained a substantial part of the property which Bryan had originally inherited from his father. She may have experienced some difficulty in recovering this from her elder stepson, although the plea of dower which she brought against him in the husting court in January 1419 was probably collusive. The younger stepson, William, meanwhile remained in the custody of the civic authorities, although their right was challenged by William Haute* and his wife, Margaret, on the ground that the boy’s father had been one of their feudal tenants. In a case heard before the justices of the King’s bench during the Trinity term of 1420, the mayor of London successfully established the boy’s independent title to land in the City, and with it his own customary powers of wardship.10

Ref Volumes: 1386-1421

Author: C.R.


  • 1. PCC 42 Marche; CAD, i. C472; ii. C2734; Corporation of London RO, hr 91/1, 116/35, 147/60; Guildhall Lib. London, 9171/1, f. 337d. Some confusion exists as to the identity of the Joan Fastolf whose will is entered on the London husting roll for 1419/20 (hr 147/60). R.R. Sharpe suggests that it was made by Bryan’s wife, Joan (Cal. Wills ct. Husting London, ii (2), 419), but in fact it was drawn up in September 1417 by the latter’s mother, who married Hugh Fastolf after the death of her first husband, Thomas Hanhampstead. Joan Bryan was the latter’s child. She was, moreover, almost certainly dead by September 1417, and having predeceased her husband she could not have described herself as a widow.
  • 2. Cal. Letter Bk. London, I, 204-5.
  • 3. Beaven, Aldermen, i. 393; CAD, ii. C2734; Cal. Letter Bk. London, H, 3, 10-11, 42-44.
  • 4. Cal. Letter Bk. London, I, 220-2; Corporation of London RO, hr 116/35, 130/67, 133B/11; CAD, i. C472; PCC 42 Marche.
  • 5. Corporation of London RO, hr 111/35, 119/108-9, 121/161-2, 187, 129/90, 130/70-71; Guildhall Lib. 9171/1 f. 337d; Harl. 76D1; PCC 42 Marche.
  • 6. C1/5/140; London Rec. Soc. i. 209; Corporation of London RO, hcp 118, Monday aft. feast St. Agatha, 17 Ric. II, 137, Monday aft. feast St. Leonard, 14 Hen. IV; hpl 115, Monday aft. feast SS. Perpetua and Felicity, 16 Ric. II.
  • 7. CCR, 1392-6, pp. 406-7; 1405-9, p. 122; C241/176/1; Corporation of London RO, hpl 115, feast trans. St. Edmund, 16 Ric. II.
  • 8. CP25(1)231/66/12; Cal. P. and M. London, 1381-1412, p. 170; CAD, vi. C5681; CCR, 1389-92, p. 184; Corporation of London RO, hr 119/25, 120/145, 125/87, 92.
  • 9. Harl. 3775 for the year 1418/19, cited by C.L. Kingsford in Eng. Hist. Lit. 295.
  • 10. PCC 42 Marche; Cal. Letter Bk. London, I, 205, 220-2; J. Stow, Surv. London, ed. Kingsford, ii. 2; Corporation of London RO, hcp 142, Monday aft. feast Conversion of St. Paul, 6 Hen. V; jnl. 1, f. 52.