Sevenoke, William (DNB00)
|←Settle, Thomas||Dictionary of National Biography, 1885-1900, Volume 51
SEVENOKE, Sir WILLIAM (1378?–1433?), lord mayor of London, born about 1378, is said by Lambert (Perambulation of Kent, 1596, p. 520) to have been ‘found lying in the streetes at Sennocke … and named after the place where he was taken up.’ The city records (quoted by Stow) state that he was the son of William Rumschedde, and apprenticed to Hugh de Bois, a citizen and ‘ferrer’ (ironmonger) of London, for a term of years which expired in 1394. This William Rumschedde was probably the boy's foster-father, and an official of Sevenoaks. On seeking admission to the city freedom he was transferred, at his request, to the Grocers' Company, as his master had not followed the trade of a ‘ferrer,’ but that of a grocer (City Records, Letter-book H, p. 316). His admission to the latter company was in 1397–8, and he served the office of joint master in 1405–6 (Facsimile Archives of the Grocers' Company). His name disappears from the grocers' list in 1427–8.
Sevenoke is one of the heroes in Richard Johnson's ‘Nine Worthies of London,’ 1592 (reprinted in the Harleian Miscellany, 1811, viii. 437–61), in which he is made to describe his career in verse. According to this chronicle he went after his apprenticeship with Henry V to his French wars, and engaged in combat with the ‘Dolphyne,’ who gave him ‘a bag of crowns’ for his prowess. He was elected as senior of the two wardens of London Bridge in 1404, but held the office, which was one of great dignity and importance, for only one year (Welch, Hist. of the Tower Bridge, p. 253; cf. p. 102). Sevenoke is described in the husting rolls as an alderman in 1412, but no entry of his election appears in the city records until 24 May 1414, when he was elected for Tower ward (Letter-book I. f. 132). His name occurs in numerous husting deeds from 1400 to 1415, and later, as co-trustee of various properties in the parish of his own residence, St. Dunstan-in-the-East, and in other parishes. He was elected sheriff on 21 Sept. 1412 (ib. f. 117b; cf. Riley, Memorials, p. 595). Three years later Thomas Maynelle, a grocer and inhabitant of his ward of Tower, was brought before him for certain irregular doings. Maynelle threatened the alderman with the fate of Nicholas Brembre [q. v.] unless he was careful in his behaviour. For this he was bound over by the court of aldermen in 200l. to keep the peace (ib. pp. 605–6).
Sevenoke became mayor in 1418 (Letter-book I. f. 220 b), and took strong measures to suppress the Christmas mummers, forbidding any person to walk by night ‘in eny manere mommyng, pleyes, enterludes, or eny other disgisynges with eny feynid berdis [beards], peyntid visers,’ &c., and ordering that ‘eche honest persone’ should hang before his dwelling ‘a lanterne with a candell therein, to brenne as long as hit may endure’ (ib. f. 223). He also tried to abolish the custom among the city officials of begging for Christmas gifts, and attended as head of the city at the solemn mass held in Guildhall Chapel on 13 Oct. 1419, before the election of Richard Whittington as mayor. This custom, inaugurated in Sevenoke's mayoralty, has lasted in a modified form to the present day. On 23 Feb. 1423 Sevenoke was appointed on a commission with William Crowmere, mayor, William Waldene, and John Fray to inquire into cases of treason and felony within the city, and two days later they found Sir John Mortimer guilty of having broken prison (Sharpe, London and the Kingdom, i. 269; see under Mortimer, Edmund II). Sevenoke was member of parliament for London in 1417, and attained great wealth as a merchant. He was buried, according to Stow, in the church of St. Martin Ludgate, where he had a monument. Three of his wills, dated 20 Dec. 1426, 17 June 1432, and 5 July 1432 respectively, were enrolled in the court of husting in 1432–3, and dispose exclusively of real property (Sharpe, Calendar, ii. 462, 466). By a fourth will, dated 14 July 1432, he devised certain lands and tenements in the parish of Allhallows, Barking, to the town of Sevenoaks for establishing and endowing almshouses for twenty poor people, and a free school for that town. The school was afterwards further endowed by Sir Ralph Bosville and others, and became a flourishing institution known as Queen Elizabeth's Grammar School. Sevenoke bore as arms azure, seven acorns or.[Price's Historical Account of the Guildhall, pp. 180–1; Strype's Stow, 1720, bk. v. pp. 117–118; Nichols's Hist. of the Ironmongers' Company, 1866, p. 18; Stow's Survey of London; Hasted's Hist. of Kent, i. 355–6; Loftie's Hist. of London, ii. 344; Carlisle's Endowed Grammar Schools, i. 616; Heath's Account of the Grocers' Company, 1854, pp. 213–21; authorities above cited.]