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Edmund Flower, Cuckfield school founder 2/2

Updated: May 14

Researched and written by Malcolm Davison

Tailors ‘merchants for war’

Siege of Rouen 1418/9, showing battle tents

An important aspect of the King's relationship with Merchant Taylors' was that the livery company was a part of the nation's defence industry. A well-equipped army was vital to the King in these troubled times.

Tailors made clothing for war including gambesons, a defensive padded jacket, which was a cheaper and moderately effective alternative to a suit of armour (see Youtube demo Arrows vs gambeson fabric armour). But gambesons were also worn under suits of armour. They also made battlefield tents, as depicted on the Merchant Taylors' coat of arms [inset]. and the sketched scene of the Battle of Rouen.

Production of ganbesons was manually highly intensive, multiple layers of linen or other materials had to be sown together - this was long before the advent of sewing machines. At times of war this was highly profitable work. Part of the charter removed this connection from the livery company's name. It's believed that in more peaceful times these tailors switched to providing bed linen.

A gambeson

Dropping the war connection from the title

Merchant Taylors' coat of arms

Previously, in 1440, the title of the company was ‘Fraternity of Taylors and Linen Armourers of the Fraternity of Saint John the Baptist’ but this changed in 1503 (at the time of the new charter), when Edward Flower was Master, and became 'Guild of Merchant Taylors' of the Fraternity of St John the Baptist in the City of London. This non military title was popular with members. Today the company is simply known as the 'Worshipful Company of Merchant Taylors'.

We don’t know what Flower’s speciality was in the trade. When he became Master he would have worn distinctive lilac robes to mark his seniority and would have represented all aspects of the trade.

Endowment to found Cuckfield Grammar School

Cuckfield Grammar School buildings

Merchant Taylors' was a wealthy livery company but was known for its philanthropy. Through the generosity of the members they invested in their local communities, by making provision for the care of the sick and needy and through the founding of schools.

Flower arranged for lands to be purchased after his death which would provide for the ongoing finances of the Cuckfield Grammar School (right) that he founded. The value at the time being £6 10s equivalent equivalent to £3380. This proved insufficient for its long term maintenance. And William Spicer of Balcombe supplemented further lands in 1528 adding a value of £5 - that’s another £2200.

But the livery minutes [MIN P159, Note 273] record that Edmund's will does say that the school had been running for a few years before his death in 1521 'at certeine yeris past'. So earlier costs must have been met directly by Edmund Flower.

Since the main object of the bequest was so that prayers could be said for his family's souls as the priest providing this service would also double up as the schoolmaster. So getting continuity was vital for the family. So we could say that the prime driver of providing a school was preservation of the souls of a family in the after life.

So why did Flower's bequest run out? Here are some possibilities:

For illustrative purposes only, artwork by the author.
  1. The initial endowment of land in Westerham was sold in favour of some closer to Cuckfield, the other side of Lewes. Perhaps the new rental income was not as lucrative as expected.

  2. Was the money embezzled? William Spicer's supplementary endowment was just seven years later - this seems unlikely as the parishioners would have been anxious that the school should continue.

  3. The purchasing value of the pound was falling fast - in 1500-1509 £1 = today's £398 and for 1550-1559 it was almost a third at £143. So inflation may well have been largely to blame. The dissolution of the monasteries in the 1530’s led to surplus land from the church affecting the sale and rental value of land - but this was after Spicer's land top-up..

  4. Cuckfield’s iron industry was taking off at this time, the population of the village expanded. The growing number of children may have meant that school needed to be exlarged and additional staff needed. Iron was increasingly finding uses and in the time of Elizabeth l arming the country with weapons such as cannon to defend it from the Spanish. Interestingly in the refinancing plan of 1528 several local ironmaster's surnames are named among the trustees including: Burrell, Challoner, Michell and Boorde.

  5. Dissolution did affect chantry lands around the country, but this happened much later - as Maisie Wright in 'Chronicle of Cuckfield ' explains: 'In the archives of Hickstead Place (now in the East Sussex County Record Office), there are letters patent of 30th March 1592 granting, to William Tupper and Robert Dawe of London, the premises which belonged to the then dissolved Guild of the Blessed Virgin Mary. The profits of the Guild were to be used to provide a priest to say Mass in the parish church of Cuckfield. The guild of tradesmen had been dissolved (with others throughout the country) following the Reformation. The Chantry Certificates of 1548 record their foundation and assets. The archives of Hickstead show that the Fraternity of Our Lady and the “stock of goods belonging to the Brooderhed of Cokefeld” were dispersed by 1543.' But Cuckfield did have to pay a penalty. Following the Reformation in England initiated by King Henry VIII, Parliament passed an Act in 1545 which defined chantries as representing misapplied funds and misappropriated lands.. According to Rev. JH Cooper in 'The History of the Parish of Cuckfield': 'Apparently some of the land in Cuckfield had at one time been given to a chantry in the Parish Church, and William Michell bought them after they should have been confiscated to the Crown by the Chantries Acts. One Nicholas Jeff, or Jeff Tipper, acted as informer under the Statute of Concealment, and in 1592 the occupiers of the land were made to pay a collective fine of £100 and hold the land of the royal manor of Greenwich instead of from the school’s trustees, who tried in vain to purchase the lands.'

Burial place

There is a high probability that Edmund's body lies in the crypt, or under the floor of Cuckfield Church. In Edmund’s will he asked to be buried 'in the body of the church of the Holy Trinity of Cukfeld in the Counti of Sussix' and 'my such atombement place in the body of the same church as shall thought expedient in that behalf.'

It is sad that such a prominent contributor to the village is today not marked by any permanent memorial other than the fabric of the old school itself.

Spelling of Edmund Flower’s name

We need not be concerned about the variety of spellings of Flower as in [H2 413] the index of the Merchant Taylors' books and also the Bede Roll shows: Flower, Flour, Floure, Flowrer, Flowr, Flowre.

The preferred spelling in the MT index appears to be Floure. The vagaries of Tudor spelling led to a wide range of variation, and could be affected by accent and the relative education of clerks. Move the clock forward 100 years and there are 80 recorded ways to spell 'Shakespeare'.

St Martin Outwich

MT almshouses (lt) and Merchant Taylors' Hall (rt)

Flower is referred to being 'of St Martin Outwich'. This was a parish church in the City of London, on the corner of Threadneedle Street and Bishopsgate and just 150 yards from the Bank of England. The church was on the same block of buildings close to Merchant Taylors' Hall. The church was built in medieval times, rebuilt at the end of the 18th century and demolished in 1874.

The Charter

The charter granted by Henry VII on 6 January 1503 which reincorporated the Tailors and Linen-Armourers as the Merchant Taylors' Company.

Admission to the livery company 7 MAY 1490

Edmund Floure (2nd name at bottom) is sworn in the livery company

[translation from Latin] Item the same day the following persons were admitted as brethren of this fraternity, notwithstanding that the livery is not being granted this year according to the aforesaid ordinance, as both brethren were married to wives who were formerly the wives of wardens according to the aforesaid ordinance.

William Fitzwilliam sworn

Edmund Floure sworn [MIN P159]

The fact that they weren't taking admissions that year they received favourable treatment as they were married to former wardens.

An earlier charter Merchant Taylors' in 1440, which was especially controversial with the Drapers, was gained by the admission of the Duke of Gloucester 27 years before. An ability to negotiate with the sovereign is crucial.

Since FitzWilliam and Flower were central to the negotiation and implementation of the Henry Vll charter, and they were exceptionally sworn in together on the same day, suggests that this may have applied here. Could one or both of them been non-tailor members? Could one or both of them have been supplying services to the royal court as tailors and known the King well? The charter followed 13 years after Flower's admission to the livery company.

Edmund's wives

According to the Bede Roll (essentially a prayer list for the departed) we have a confirmation that 'Magister Edmundus Flowr' was added to the list in 1502 and that his will of 11 July 1521, was proved 13 August that year. Both Edmund and his wife 'Alicia Flowre' were added to the Roll 5 May 1502–24 May 1503 [B].

Confirmation that he was married twice (or more) there is a reference in Flower's will to his partner(s) '… that I and my wiff/wifis (see above) may be perpetually prayeed for there … ' the florid writing seems to favour interpretation that he was married more than once. The German AI script reading software interprets the handwritten script as plural, Rev JH Cooper in 'History of the Parish of Cuckfield' decided that it was singular. The wording on the Roll:

Magister Edmundus Flowr (fn. 42)

[Footnote] 42. Perhaps the Edmund Flower, citizen and merchant tailor, of St Martin Outwich, whose will of 11 July, was proved 13 August, 1521 (PROB 11/20, f. 56v).

The names of the lay wives of the dead: Alicia Flowre

Part 1: Bede Roll, nos 380-411 Pages 177-186

Historians who suggested that Edmund Flower was born in Cuckfield

Four Cuckfield historians have believed and written that Edmund Flower was born in Cuckfield:

  1. Rev James Hughes Cooper wrote in 'History of the Parish of Cuckfield' : 'The facts that he chose Cuckfield as the place of his School and desired to be buried there make it most probable that he was a native of the town.'

  2. Dr Roland B Harris BA DPhil MIFA in Cuckfield's 'Historic Character Assessment Report' for WSCC in 2005 wrote: 'His will of 1521 endowed the school that he had already funded for ‘certeine years past’. Given that in 1498-9 he was warden of the Merchant Taylors' Company, and their first master in 1503-4, is possible that he established the school c.1500. Flower’s founding of the school and burial at Cuckfield, strongly suggests that he was a native of the town.'

  3. Maisie Wright in A Chronicle of Cuckfield (1971) wrote : '… he asks to be buried in the parish church of Cuckfield, which suggests that he was a native of the town.'

  4. William Herrington. Headmaster of the National School, Cuckfield (Former grammar school) 1891-1924.  'Why the first founder, Flower, chose Cuckfield for his school is unknown. Probably he lived here. Certainly he desired to be buried here in the church itself, and left very explicit instructions in his Will for this to be done. But was he buried here? We do not know, for the first volume of the Cuckfield Registers has gone astray. The second volume begins with the year 1598. seventy-seven years too late to be of any assistance. If ever the vaults under the chancel and floor of our church are opened, and access to them is permitted, there is one who would search long and carefully for a casket with a brass plate bearing the name of Edmund Flower.' Mid Sussex Times, 3 January 1922.

Colleagues at Merchant Taylors' and the age they were made Master

The following information was used to try and determine the age and date of birth of Edmund Flower.

Key: name; birth year; warden; master; age as Master

Sir Stephen Jenyns 1447; unknown; 1490; 42

Sir William Fitzwilliam 1460; 1494 and 1498; 1499; 39

Edmund Flower 1460 [derived from this data]; 1494 and 1498; 1503; 43

Sir Thomas White 1492; 1533; 1535 [Davies]; 43

In the sixteenth century the age of the Master increased. This is explained in a doctorate dissertation for the University of London dated June 1989 by Dr Nigel Victor Sleigh-Johnson entitled 'The Merchant Taylors' Company of London 1580-1645 with special reference to Politics and Government.'

In the thorough examination of the livery company the author established [p43] the number of years it took to become a Warden (on the Court of Assistants). He observes that this steadily increased to over 85 years. For Flower this interval was just nine years:

560-1569 15 years

1600-1609 26 years

1640-1645 38 years

The increase in member numbers increased the length of the 'on probation' figure and raised the age of the Master to their 50s, and 60s. This was due to the massive expansion of London's population leading to many more tailors in the trade. But the number of officers for the livery company did not increase by the same proportion. One duty for wardens was to look after rental income, and another to monitor and approve company expenditure - but extra hands were not needed to manage the extra load.

[End of part 2] The next instalment looks at the Merchant Taylors' livery company (Tuesday 7 May)


The author doesn’t profess to be historian specialising in the Middle Ages but hopes that his groundwork will help others pick up the trail and discover more about Cuckfield in the fifteenth century and Edmund Flower. He is very grateful for the help from London’s Guildhall Library, the Metropolitan Archive and Dr Matthew Davies during the two year research project on Edmund Flower. More information on this high profile man may become available. A working knowledge of Latin and an appreciation of medieval times would be helpful.

Researched and written by Malcolm Davison.


Recorded references to Flower's name

Here are some of the references to Edmund Flower mostly in Merchant Taylors' publications [sources in brackets listed further down, and the page ref.].

1490, Friday 7 May, [MIN Note P159] admission to the livery of William Fitzwilliam and Edmund Floure NOTE: A Liveryman is a full member of his respective company. When a Freeman becomes a Liveryman, the candidate is said to be 'Clothed': indeed, a clothing gown is placed on him at the Court ceremony and he is seen at the ensuing dinner wearing it. Only 12 per cent of freemen (after apprenticeships) became liverymen.

1490, 22 Jan, Item Edmund Fleure agreed to pay 30s in hand for his redemption. [MIN, 149]

1494 approved accounts expenditure for ‘bieldyngaes [buildings] atte grete conducte and atte Vyntry’ [M, 73]

1495 Flower made Warden of Merchant Taylors’ [H2, 339]

1498/9 approved expenditure [M, 75]

1499/1500 approved expenditure 1494/5 [M 76]

1499 Flower made Warden of Merchant Taylors’ for a second year of office  under the Master William Fitzwilliam [H2, 339]

[Undated donation, but pre 1512] A Treasury inventory record of Flower’s donation ‘gift of gilt cup [M, 91 and HI 96] ‘ ‘Itm, of the gift of Maister Flour (master 1504), 1 gilt cup, wt 1 couer, wt a columbyne weiying 28oz’.’

1496 withdrawal [M, 80]

1502 change of name from ‘Tailors’ - ‘highly appreciated by the Company at large is conclusively shown by the agreement of the whole company in the year following, when Edmund Flower was Master’ …  [H1, 37]

1503 Flower made Master of Merchant Taylors’ [H2, 339]

1503 agreed to expenditure for Nichas Nynes [confirmed as Sheriff], Alderman and Sheriff of London for expenses in year of office [M, 78]

1503 [3 December] agreed company should keep a perpetual Obit ‘commemoration of their most excellent prince’ - Henry VII in return for change of name of ‘the Brotherhood’ which ‘has long lain hid in concealment and shade’ [HI, 349]

[1521] Deeds relating to Cuckfield  School Gift by Edmund Flower of £100 to buy lands worth £5 a year [D]

[MIN Note 159] Floure became warden of the company in 1495 and 1499 and was chosen as master for 1503-4. Exported cloth through the port of London with Stephen Jenyns (see Appendix IV) Jan. 1506. Will dated 11 July and proved 13 Aug. 1521.

Buried in Cuckfield church, Sussex where 'at certeine yeris past' he had founded a grammar school. The endowment of the school was purchased later that year and increased in 1528. His wife had predeceased him and her identity and that of her first husband are not recorded. Hopkinson, Ancient Records, pp. 114, 116; PRO, PROB 11/20, ff. 56v-58; VCH Sussex, II (1905), pp. 416-21.

1521 (6 July) Last will and testament - he was asked to be buried in Cuckfield, the assumption is that he lived in or close to the village. [W]

The Obit [A mass or other service held for the soul of a dead person - from 14th c.]  would be: Nine lessons and lauds and with a mass of requiem on the next day then immediately following, with all and single prayers, suffrages, lights, tolling of bills, and other ceremonies requisite and fit in that behalf, with music to be celebrated solemnly and devoutly in the parish church of Saint Martins Outwich of the City of London’ [HI, P348]

Sir William FitzWilliam  unpopularity P45 (mentioned 41, 42) Early History 1510

Appointments in The Early History Of The Merchant Taylors’ Company Part-ii by Clode Charlesw M.



[T] The Tudor Tailor by Ninya Mikhaila and Jane Malcolm-Davies, 1906

[TC] Tudor costume and fashion by Herbert Norris, 1997

[MTMD] The History of the Merchant Taylors' Company by Matthew Davies and Ann Saunders, Maney, 2004

References to Edmund Flower in Merchant Taylors' publications:

Memorials [M]  73, 75, 76, 78, 80, 81, 91

Early History [HI] 37, 96, 347, 348, 349

Early History [HII] 41, 42, 339

[MIN] The Merchant Taylors' Company of London: Court Minutes 1486-93, edited by Matthew Davies, in assocn. with Paul Watkins for the Richard III and Yorkist History Trust, 2000.

Matthew Davies is Executive Dean of the Faculty of Humanities and Social Sciences, and Professor of Urban History. He was previously a Pro-Dean of the School of Advanced Study, University of London (2012-16) and Director of the Centre for Metropolitan History at the Institute of Historical Research.


[M] Clode C M Memorials Of The Guild Of Merchant Taylors’ Of The Fraternity Of St. John The Baptist, In The City Of London 1875

[HI] Clode C M The Early History Of The Guild Of Merchant Taylors’ Of The Fraternity Of St. John The Baptist, In The City Of London Part 1 1888

[HII] Clode C M The Early History Of The Guild Of Merchant Taylors’ Of The Fraternity Of St. John The Baptist, In The City Of London Part 2 1888

[W] Edmund Flower’s will, East Sussex Records Office (The Keep) SAS/A7 and A8

A transcript of the will can be found in Rev. Cooper’s  ‘History of Cuckfield’. P128 et seq

[T1] The Tailors, Drapers, and Mercers of London and the London Commissary and Husting Court Wills, 1374-1485 by Eileen Kim, 2015, P66/7

[D] Deeds relating to Cuckfield  School SAS A/10, East Sussex Records Office

The barges of the Merchant Taylor's Company : with notes on their barge masters, barge houses, and water processions

A history of the site of Merchant Taylors’ Hall, and adjoining properties belonging to the Guild of Taylors' of the Fraternity of Saint John Baptist in the City of London

by Hopkinson, Henry Lennox, Sir, 1855-1936

Part of Flower's lands were sold to a Sir Thomas Pelham in 1589 for £80 equivalent to £14,000 today

Some of the land in Cuckfield had at one time been given to a chantry in the Parish Church [Cooper P130].

[H] Thomas Howdan's bequest: The Site of the Merchant Taylors' Hall, by HL Hopkinson, Riorden Press 1913, P61

There is the case of Thomas Howdan Master (1505) where, "in consideration of

£333 6s. 8d., a standyng cuppe and two saltes of sylver with a cover, to the value of £41 13s. 4d. given unto the Mysterie," the Master and Wardens covenanted by deed with his executors to provide a chaplain at St. Mary Abchurch to celebrate and to pray for the souls mentioned in the deed, and to pay the chaplain a yearly salary of £7 3s. 4d. and to keep an obit yearly at the same church expending thereon Is. 8d. and to distribute ios. a year in coals amongst the poor.

The Bede Roll of the Fraternity of St Nicholas. Originally published by London Record Society, London, 2004.

[GW] The Great Wardrobe Accounts of Henry VII and Henry VIII' edited by Maria Hayward, London Record Society July 2012.

Sir Henry Wyatt (in Part 1 of this article)


Battlefield scene: Siege of Rouen 1418/9, Illustrated History of England, History, GM Trevelyan, 1926

Gambeson photo: Reconstitutions historiques, Belfort, 8 & 9 Juil 2017 (4), photo by Thomas Bresson. Wikimedia public domain image.

Merchant Taylors' Hall and almshouses from Clode C M Memorials of the Guild of Merchant Taylors' of the Fraternity of St. John the Baptist, In the City of London 1875 P43.


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