John Haukwake, son of a villein in small village to the west of St. Brett’s. He married Alice after making her pregnant. He was always known as a jack the lad, and Alice refused to have an abortion, she was in love with him, despite the wise woman offering her something that would induce a miscarriage. John reluctantly agreed, but grew fond of Alice anyway. In 1347 the village was decimated by plague. John’s parents and siblings died and he inherited their messuage and yardland. He also took over the yardlands of two other extinct families, and forged the manor records to show that he had bought them just before the tenants passed on. John was unusual having picked up some of his father’s cunning and education (he worked as an estate official), and therefore able to change the records enough to show his ownership – he didn’t know Latin, but could figure out the meaning of the repetitive phrases written.
He then sold all of this land onto an up and coming yeoman farmer and left the village before the lord could realise what was going on and without asking his permission to leave.
With the small amount of money they had they were able to buy a burgage plot in St. Brett’s. The Abbey was desperate to attract new migrants due to the devastation of the plague and gave John a discounted rate for the first five years. He had a little left over to invest some money in buying some basic brewing equipment and furniture to outfit their house as a tavern and to furnish some rooms for paying guests who had travelled to the shrine.
Not all was good news. His daughter Agnes was weak and fell ill. But Jake his son thrived and they were busy but happy.
John is a shrewd businessman and also sees opportunities for speculating on the trade of cloth manufactured in the town. He encourages others to invest capital into ventures, thereby avoiding risk, but takes a good share of the profits. This works particularly well when John manages to cut the Abbey’s prior into the deal, using the Abbey’s privileges to avoid certain customs duties. He uses his son, Jake, to ensure the shipments reach their destination safely – Jake is physically intimidating and also John trusts him. Jake is party to occasional deception of John’s business client.
But when the Grammar School Master, Peter, becomes Abbot the Abbey’s finances are given a thorough audit. The prior is questioned and his connivance in John’s plans revealed. The Abbot is furious. The prior is suspended and sent to one of the Abbey’s cells in the North East as punishment. As well as stopping John using the Abbey’s customs privileges, the Abbot also seeks to impose further levies on the export of cloth from the town.
These taxes badly affect John and his associates – a group of wealthier burgesses who control the cloth trade and regularly drink in his tavern. In 1361 when the abbey imposes these tolls the burgesses rebel and the abbey’s tax-collector is murdered.
Conflict continues between the Abbey and the Town for a couple of years. John is involved on the Town side, but is careful to not be seen as a leader. He takes a back seat, offering his tavern as a meeting place for the twelve (townsmen council that leads the revolt), and offering advice, but doesn’t participate or vote on their decisions.
His wife Alice dies during second coming of the Black Death in 1362.
In 1363 when the abbey bring in local gentry to support their collection of the tolls there is street-warfare. The abbey is briefly besieged. The Abbot promises to withdraw the new tolls, but asks instead for increased tolls for use of the Abbey mills. John is happy with that – he has organized house fulling mills in the workshops of his suppliers.
Jake is supportive of all this activity and helps his father – they are always seen together and effectively control what happens in the town.
The conflict with the abbey has died down. The abbey still demands its rights and seems to exert more control – but only over the lesser people of the town – John and his cronies have come to an arrangement with Abbot Peter. John is in a good position to act as a broker of peace as he was not obviously involved in the leadership of the revolt. In 1367 they form a new fraternity and pay for an endowment to the abbey.
John is annoyed that Jake is no longer willing to help him with his business dealings. He was hoping to make him his business partner. He thinks Jake is stubborn and that his judgement has been clouded by his grief for Edith. So he quietly cuts him out of his dealings and makes him suffer financially for going against him.
John experiments with business deals in London, even leasing a warehouse there for a while. But he is put off by the larger scales of finance required and the close-knit community of London merchants. He fears being a small fish and not knowing potential business partners enough to trust them, so he withdraws having lost some money on his deals.
When Isabel arrives in St. Brett’s he wonders what her game is. He thinks she may be trying to play games with his son and rob him. He genuinely is worried that his son seems to have become so quickly besotted with her. He warns Jake to be careful. Jake thinks he is jealous – John appears to flirt with Isabel, they seem to be at ease with each other, more so than Jake is sometimes.
But actually Isabel falls in love with John. She goes to John to ask for him to help Jake’s business. John offers to help – preferential supply, some money and advice, as long as Jake is not told about the arrangement – he knows he is too proud to accept his help. Isabel acts as the conduit of this. John begins to trust her and to like her. One night over a few glasses of wine, they kiss and …
Isabel wants everything to be out in the open, but John is initially unsure, in fact he considers ending the affair, but Isabel convinces him otherwise. He becomes enthralled by her charms. When Isabel tells Jake that she wants to marry John, Jake can’t accept it and believes that it is a plot by his father to undermine him again and to stamp his authority on his wayward son. He believes that his father is jealous of his own romantic success. When Isabel tries to tell him the truth he runs out of the house and turns to drink.
Jake in a drunken stupor one day discovers John and Isabel in bed together. He had come to take Isabel with him – he believed that John was holding her prisoner. He tries to attack and kill them, but is easily overpowered by his father. He leaves the town that day – 1369.