John Hosyer, Draper

In the conveyance of the almshouse site, John Hosyer, the purchaser, is described as draper, i.e. a trader in cloth. Much of the wealth of late medieval Ludlow came from its manufacture of cloth. In the 14th and 15th centuries ‘Ludlow Blues’, ‘Ludlow Reds’, ‘Ludlow Whites’ and other cloths were widely marketed by Ludlow merchants, in many parts of England and Wales and in Europe. Great London merchants like Richard Whittington — the ‘Dick Whittington’ of nursery rhyme fame — and continental traders such as the Nerli family in Florence were among those known to have traded with Ludlow at this time. In Ludlow, as in other cloth producing towns, great profits came into the hands of a small number of merchants and clothiers, who organised the various stages of cloth production and sold the finished products.

Most of what is known about John Hosyer comes from his will. It was made on 3June 1463, and proved on the 30th of that same month, after John Hosyer’s death. His last years had been eventful politically, with England in the throes of the Wars of the Roses. The Lancastrians won the Battle of Ludford in 1459, followed by the rout of the town by the soldiers until ‘men wente wetschode in wyne’. In 1460 the Yorkists gained their revenge at nearby Mortimer’s Cross, leading in 1461 to Edward Plantagenet, grandson of the last male Mortimer and therefore Lord of Ludlow, ascending the throne of England as King Edward IV. One of Edward’s first acts was to make Ludlow an incorporated Parliamentary Borough, but the castle remained a royal possession until 1810.

John Hosyer’s will reveals that his wife, Alice, had died before him, and there are no references to male heirs. This helps to explain his great public inunijicence. He left generous amounts to the town’s Carmelite Friary near the bottom ofCorve Street, which had been badly damaged by the Lancast rians. There are individual bequests to named individuals and 20 pence to each of the Guild chaplains. Like others of his day he provided for an elaborate funeral, with 24 poor men carrying torches, and £6 13s 4d — a very large sum — was to be distributed among the poor on the day of his burial. But the most enduring of his bequests was the endowment of the almshouses which still bear his name, the details of which were entrusted to his executors, fellow merchants John Dodmore, John Dale and Richard Sherman.

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