Adam Stratton was the son of Thomas de Argoges, or Arwillis, of Stratton St Margaret in Wiltshire. Adam himself used the name "de Argoges" until 1264, when he appears as "de Stratton"; a change which probably reflects his emergence as a major landowner in that area. Nothing is known of Adam's early life; the first mention of him dates from 1256, when he was a royal clerk at the Exchequer. It is likely that he procured this position from the Redvers earls of Devon, with whom he had a strong connection throughout his career. The earls of Devon were hereditary chamberlains of the Exchequer. Through the Devon patronage he rose quickly through the ranks; in 1263 he became master of the king's works at Westminster, and Isabella, Countess of Devon's deputy as the chamberlain of the Exchequer. In 1276 Countess Isabella enfeoffed him with the chamberlainship, a position that was accompanied by several manors in Wiltshire. As a clergyman he was also a notorious pluralist, and in 1280 held 23 benefices.
The majority of his fortune, however, came from moneylending. Up until their expulsion in 1290, the major moneylenders in England were Jews, who were not covered by Christian bans on usury. During the reign of Henry III, however, the Jews were taxed at extortionate rates, and many were forced to sell acquired debts at reduced prices. These debts were lucrative, because the buyers were not bound by the existing contract. They could demand higher rates, or sometimes even take forfeit in land. Stratton was one of the greater beneficiaries of the opportunities offered by trading in Jewish debts. From at least 1271 he was also associated with the Riccardi, a major Italian financier family.
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