|Lord Mayor of London
||Adam de Bury
Sir William Walworth (died 1385), was twice
Lord Mayor of London (1374–75 and 1380–81). He is best known for killing
His family came from
Durham. He was apprenticed to John Lovekyn, a member of the
Fishmongers Guild, and succeeded his master as
Bridge Ward in 1368, becoming sheriff in 1370 and lord mayor in 1374. He was Member of Parliament for
the City of London in 1371, 1376, 1377, and 1383 as one of the two aldermanic representatives of the city.
He is said to have suppressed
usury in the city during his term of office as mayor. His name frequently figures as advancing loans to
Richard II. He supported the king's uncle
John of Gaunt, 1st Duke of Lancaster in the city, where there was a strong opposition to John.
William Walworth worked for a time in the Customs House under
Geoffrey Chaucer. In John Gardner's book "The Life and Times of Chaucer" Walworth is described as one of a number of important merchants, all friends of
Alice Perrers, who used their influence with the king (Edward III). In his book Gardner says that according to complaints in the House of Commons, this group conspired to keep food prices up, lent money to the king at inflated interest, and through personal and financial influence persuaded the king to issue edicts profitable to themselves.
His most famous exploit was his encounter with
Wat Tyler during the
English peasants' revolt of 1381, in his second term of office as Lord Mayor. In June of that year, when Tyler and his followers entered south London, Walworth defended
London Bridge against them. He was with Richard II when he met the insurgents at
Smithfield, and killed the rebel leader with his
baselard. The circumstances of the killing – including whether Walworth planned the attack or struck on the spur of the moment – have always been unclear.
Walworth raised the city bodyguard in the king's defence, for which service he was rewarded by
knighthood and a
pension. He subsequently served on two commissions to restore the peace in the
Statue of Sir William Walworth at Holborn Viaduct
He died in 1385, and was buried in the church of
St. Michael, Crooked Lane, of which he was a considerable benefactor. Sir William Walworth was the most distinguished member of the Fishmongers Guild, and he invariably figured in the pageants prepared by them when one of their members attained the mayoralty. He became a favorite hero in popular tales, and appeared in
Nine Worthies of London in 1592.
William Walworth is commemorated with a statue on Holborn Viaduct, near the boundary of the City of London.