LAXFIELD, alias PATENER, Seman, of Lincoln.
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Family and Education
m. (1) by Sept. Isabel; (2) Agnes (fl. 1421).1
Bailiff, Lincoln Sept. 1381-2; mayor 1389-90.2
Collector of a tax, Lincoln Nov. 1383, May 1384.
Commr. of inquiry, Lincoln Nov. 1398 (lands and goods of local merchants).
Laxfield first comes to notice at the time of his election as bailiff of Lincoln, and it was in this capacity that he assumed responsibility for holding parliamentary elections in 1381 and 1382. His own commercial activities were transacted on a wide and quite impressive scale: in June 1384, for example, he shipped madder, corn and soap worth over £146 into the port of Boston and exported a quantity of cloth shortly afterwards. (The account of the alnager of Lincolnshire for the year ending in November 1398 shows that he was then still involved in the cloth trade.) His principal interests seem, however, to have been in wool, and at some point before February 1388 a ship bearing fleeces of his from Hull to Middleburg was wrecked off the Norfolk coast. Fortunately for him and his partners, the cargo was salvaged, and a royal exemption from the payment of further customs dues obtained. Not all of his ventures fell entirely within the law; and in October 1395 he deemed it expedient to sue out royal letters of pardon from the Crown for all fraudulent sales or weighings of wool.3
As befitted a man of his wealth and influence, Laxfield was elected mayor of Lincoln, although he soon had cause to regret that the citizens’ choice fell upon him when it did. During his term of office two bitter and protracted disputes over the exercise of judicial franchises came to a head in the city and he was unavoidably cast as a leading protagonist in both. The first arose over a conflict of jurisdictions between the commonalty and the dean and chapter of Lincoln cathedral. After a series of increasingly violent clashes between the civic and ecclesiastical authorities, a number of leading residents were bound over, in March 1390, in securities of 100 marks each to keep the peace, but Laxfield, as mayor, was obliged to guarantee his own good behaviour with far higher pledges of 500 marks. A commission of oyer and terminer was set up in the following May to investigate charges that he and his associates had deliberately tried to abolish the dean’s privileges; and soon afterwards he found himself with little choice but to accept on behalf of the citizenry an award notable for its bias towards their adversaries. This document was drawn up on the instructions of John of Gaunt, whose partiality is easy to understand in view of the fact that he too, as constable of Lincoln castle, had been recently involved in a similar quarrel with the city. Once again, Laxfield was named personally as one of the ringleaders responsible for the attack on Gaunt’s various franchises, and he was in consequence summoned before yet another royal commissions.4
Perhaps understandably, Laxfield eschewed public office for the next few years, but he did agree to represent Lincoln in the second Parliament of 1397. A few days before the Commons assembled, he and his first wife, Isabel, secured a papal indult for the plenary remission of sins at the hour of death, an award more indicative of his social status than any latent fears of the danger of parliamentary service—however volatile the political situation may then have been. Laxfield’s Membership of the constitutionally important Parliament of September 1397, no less than his appointment as a crown commissioner in the following year, suggests that he may have had known sympathies with the court party, but he none the less took the precaution of obtaining a general pardon in May 1398, addressed to him in a permutation of aliases and probably intended to cover his activities as mayor of Lincoln eight years before. That he remained an important and influential figure after the Lancastrian usurpation can be seen from the award to him of a second papal licence in 1403 (again for the remission of sins) and more especially from his participation with four other local merchants in a government loan of £200 made in the following year towards the cost of the Welsh wars. He died at some point between then and 1421, by which date his second wife, Agnes, had married Robert Feriby† of Lincoln.5
Ref Volumes: 1386-1421
Variants: Laxefeld, Laxfeld.
- 1. CPL, v. 46; Lincs. AO, L1/3/1, f. 3.
- 2. C219/8/5, 7; Lincs. AO, A/2/11.
- 3. C219/8/5, 7; E101/339/ 29; E122/7/17; CCR, 1385-9, pp. 377-8; CPR, 1391-6, p. 627.
- 4. CPR, 1388-92, pp. 220, 270-1; CCR, 1389-92, pp. 164-5; Lincs. AO, A/2/11.
- 5. CPL, v. 46, 562; C67/30 m. 9; CPR, 1401-5, p. 416; Lincs. AO, L1/3/1, f. 3.