Memorials of the Guild of Merchant Taylors of the Fraternity of St. John the Baptist in the City of London. Originally published by Harrison, London, 1875.
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XXXIV. "THE LOVING BROTHER OF THIS MYSTERIE, JOHN STOWE." (fn. 1)
1. In the history of Stowe's life as given by Strype (in his edition of the "Survey of London," published in 1720) and by Thoms (in his edition of the "Survey," published in 1842), it is suggested that he was connected with the trade, if not with the Company, of Tailors; but the "Records" of the Company place these facts beyond dispute.
2. He was admitted to the freedom on 25th November 1547, but does not appear to have been ever called to the "Livery," or any office in the Fraternity. In the year 1568 he twice fell under suspicion of the Council; Commissioners were sent to examine him and others as to the Spanish Ambassador's (fn. 2) manifesto on one, and to search his house for superstitious books on another, occasion. In 1570 he was again accused before the Ecclesiastical Commission, but escaped the danger which his own brother had exposed him to. And, strange as it may appear, in the same year the Company's records show him appealing to the Master and Wardens to protect the fair fame of his own wife against the slanderous tongue of the wife of one Holmes, another Brother of the Mystery:—
"For the pacyfienge of a controversy depending here betweene Thomas Stowe, pt of the one ptie, and Thomas Holmes, deft of the other ptie, bothe brethenne of this mystery, as well for and concerning undesent and unseemly words spoken, uttered and reported by the wyfe of the said Holmes againste the wyfe of the said Stowe, as hath beene here witnessed by certen credible psons. It is agreed here by the said Mr and Wardens, by and wth thassente and consente of bothe the said pties as followeth, vizt: That the wyfe of the said Holmes shall forthwth in this place before the wyfe of the said Stowe utter, declare and speak these woords as followeth, vizt.: 'I am sorry for those undesent woords wch I have heretofore spoken of you, and therefore 1 praye you to forgive me,' wch being done accordinglie, the wyfe of the said Stowe shall forgive her accordinglie. Further, it is agreed that the said Holmes shall paye to the said Stowe 20s. of lawfull money of England, in satisfaction of all lawe and other charges incurred by him, and that being done, either of the said pties shall re- lease the one to thother of all manner of actions, &c. &c., as well spiritual as temporal whatsoen heretofore rysen between the said pties at any tyme synce the beginninge of the world untill this pnte daye. Whereupon the wyfe of the said Holmes in the psens of the said Mr and Wardens and dyvrse others of honest neighbors of both the said pties did accomplish the said order in asking the wyfe of the said Stowe forgivenes accordinglie; and Holmes paid 20s., and so bothe the said pties were made friends by taken of hands the one of the other."— [20th October 1570.]
The Court Records of this period have been searched for the order relating to this grant, but none such can be found; but the payment of 4l. a year to John Stowe out of the Company's funds goes on with regularity until Midsummer 1600, sometimes being called his "Fee" and sometimes his "Pension." (fn. 3)
4. It will be seen that in 1592, Stowe presented to "the House" his "Annals," "as a small monument given in token of his thankfulness." Thus, "at this Court (5th July 1592), John Stowe p'sented to this Howse a Booke called the Annalles which is a breife Chronicle of Actes and things sett downe and collected by him the said John Stowe, the which he praieth maie be accepted as a small monument given to this Corporac[i]on by him, in token of his thankfulness to this Companie."
5. In the year 1593, and for some time afterwards, he had a further sum of 4l. a-year as a pensioner under Mr. Robert Dowe's benefaction; but for how many years he held this pension cannot be traced, as the names of the pensioners soon ceased to be recorded. It may, however, be presumed with tolerable certainty that it was until the year 1600, as the Company deemed it proper in that year to increase their own gift to him to 6l. per annum, as appears by the following entries— first in the Court, and second in the Account Books of the Company:—
"Upon the moc[i]on of Mr. Robert Dowe an ancient Master, and one of the Assistants of this Howse, in favour of John Stowe a loving Brother of this Company, who taketh much paynes in wryting of Chronicles and matters of Antiquities. It is granted and agreed that the penc[i]on of iiijl. per ann' gyven him owt of the com[m]on stocke of this Howse shalbe encreased xls. (40s.) and made up vjl. per ann', to begine at our Ladie daye nexte—soe as with the iiijl. he receaveth out of this Howse (as one of the Almesmen of the said Mr. Robert Dowe) he is in the whole to receave yerely duringe his life, a penc[i]on out of, and from this Companye, amounting to the sum of tenn pounds per annum."
"Item, paid to John Stowe for his yerelie pencion—viz., for ij. quarters after the rate of xxs. the quarter, and for th'other twoe quarters ending at Midsomer 1601, after the rate of xxxs. the quarter, according to order taken at a Court of Assistents xijth Martii 1600.
6. The particulars of Robert Dowe's Charity will be found printed elsewhere, (fn. 4) but in an earlier deed of 20th June 1602, still in possession of the Company, which was revoked by that of August 1605, these passages are found:—
7. It sets forth by way of recital that Dowe, "knowing the great number of his poore brethren, the Merchant Taylors, using the handycraft of Taylory to be decayed many waies, chiefley by a number of forreins that have entred the Citty of London, and are divers waies placed and sett on worke in open shoppes and private howses within the liberties there by want of good foresight, care and diligence to reform the same, being moved with a zealous and charitable care to relieve the decayed estate of the said poore handycraft so much as he might."
8. The deed then provides that the Company shall pay a yearly pension of 5l. 2s. to certain Tailors, and to John Stowe, who was not then a working tailor, setting forth that those holding the pension should be qualified as such, "saving only the said John Stowe, whoe yet notwithstanding in his begynnyng was of the handycraft, and now for many yeres hath spent great labor and study in wryting of Chronicles and other memorable matters for the good of all posterity, and therefore the said Robt. Dowe hath thought fitt for his better maynetennance to make him partaker of the benefit of one of the said Pensions."
9. This pension Stowe (fn. 5) received until his death on the 5th April 1605, and his successor Howes (if he can be called such), received encouragement in his labours from the Company, as this entry proves:—
"There was freely and lovingly given by this Court to Mr. Edmond Howes the Chronicler, who sithence the death of Mr. John Stowe hath sett forth an abridgement or summary of the English Chronicles, to thend the better to encourage him to proceed in the course which he hath begun, the some of Tenn pounds."—[20th February 1607.]