24 Baker v Spenser

The Court of Chivalry 1634-1640.

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William Baker of Boughton-under-Blean, co. Kent, gent v Adam Spenser of the same, fellmonger

August 1637 - April 1638


Baker petitioned that Spenser had called him a 'lying base fellow' on 28 July 1637. According to a series of depositions taken before Mr Lovelace, between August and December 1637, the quarrel had begun when Baker gave evidence against Spenser at the assizes for not maintaining his hedges properly. When Baker's hogs had trampled Spenser's corn, Baker alleged it was because Spenser's son had called them in, which Spenser replied was 'a base lye'. Baker also claimed that Spenser had cheated the parish of Boughton, Kent, of £5 through his assessment for ship money. Spenser challenged whether Baker was a gentleman which necessitated an investigation by Sir William Le Neve, Clarenceux King of Arms. On 30 November 1637, Le Neve found that Baker was a gentleman entitled to bear the arms Or a Greyhound courant in fess between two Bars Sable which had been confirmed to his uncle George Baker, gent, and his grandfather Christopher Baker, gent, by Robert Cooke, Clarenceux, in 1573. Thereupon the suit proceeded with a fresh libel from Baker on 28 April 1638 claiming that Spenser had said 'I was no gentleman, and aske Baker when you see him what his armes or gentery cost him.' In the meantime, Spenser had procured a remarkable petition signed by sixty eight of the villagers of Boughton-under-Blean which declared that Baker was a yeoman 'of small estate and no inheritance', who was 'no way agreeable to the degree of a gentleman'. It also claimed that Baker had shown little hospitality to the poor, had sat in church as a yeoman and that many other yeomen were preferred before him and taxed at higher rates. A witness on Spenser's behalf also testified that the extra £5 on ship money had been levied at the request of Mr Place, the minister, to repair a parish house, and had been paid back when Baker and others had complained to the sheriff about it. Nevertheless, it appears that Baker won the cause. Spenser subsequently petitioned Lord Maltravers for his release from the messenger's custody, saying that he was now 'hartelie sorry' for his 'provoking words', and that he was 'willing to perform any submission' required.

Initial proceedings

EM57, Affidavit

John Bathurst of Goudhurst, co. Kent, gent

On 28 July 1637 he was talking to Adam Spenser and heard Spencer call William Baker, 'knave and idle base fellow and that he scorned William Baker should be his fellow.' Spenser added in Bathurst's presence 'that William Baker was a lyinge base fellow, and that he went to the assizes and tooke a false oath, which he would prove.'

Taken before La: Lovelace, 11 August 1637.

EM60, Affidavit
Matthew Price of Boughton-under-Blean, co. Kent, pointmaker, aged 67

On 28 July 1637, as he was coming towards the door of Adam Spenser, Spenser and Baker 'were att very hott words'. He heard Spenser call Baker 'idle base fellow and say to him: 'thou didst forsweare thy selfe att the assizes.'

Taken before La: Lovelace, 30 October 1637.

Signed by Matthew Price [his mark].

R.19, fo. 135, Petition to Arundel

'Your petitioner having some occasion of conference with Adam Spencer of Boughton under the Bleane in the county of Kent on or about the 28th day of July last Adam did in most base and opprobrious termes abuse your petitioner calling him lying base fellow with divers other abusive words tending to his reproach as by the two affidavits hereunto annexed appeareth.

May it therefore please your lordship the premises considered to grant your lordship's warrant to your petitioner to convent Adam Spencer before your lordship and there to answer the former objections and your petitioner in duty as ever bound shall pray andc.

Arundel house November 21. 1637.

This complaint being this day brought before me it was alleged on the defendant's behalfe that the plaintiff is noe gent and soe not capable of redresse here. I doe therefore desire Sir William Le Neve Clarenceux king of Armes to examine that point and certifie the trueth thereof unto me between this and Saturday next.'

Signed by Lord Maltravers.

R.19, fo. 136, King of Arms' Report

'In observance of your lordship's commands and reference *hereunto annexed* touching the gentry of one William Baker, I doe certifie that upon examination of the premises I fynde that Robert Cooke, esq, Clarencieux King of Armes did make a declaracon (dated the xth day of May Ao dni 1573) under his hand and Seale of Office that George Baker of London, gentleman, sonne of Christopher Baker of Tenterden, sonne of John Baker of the same place, sonne of Symon Baker of Faversham in the county of Kent, gentleman, was a bearer of tokens of honour. And that Clarencieux being requested to set forth and allow unto him his ancient Armes with such difference in bearing as was proper to be worne by his posterity, did thereupon confirme and allowe unto the aforesaid George Baker these Armes, vizt. Or: a Greyhound Currant in ffece between two Barrs Sables , to have and to hould unto George Baker and to his posterity, and to all the posterity of Christopher Baker, father of George with their due differences, as more at large appeareth by the same. And further there hath beene proofe made unto me by severall affidavits that the petitioner William Baker was the sonne of William Baker of Kingsdown in the County of Kent who was the brother of George Baker and sonne of Christopher Baker aforementioned. All which I humbly submit unto your lordships wisdome and judgement.'

Dated 30 November 1637

Signed by William Le Neve, Clarencieux

'This is a true Copy of the above written Certificate signed by my master examined by me Edw: Whitley'.

EM62, Affidavit John Bragg of Ashstead, co Surrey

At the request of Baker, Bragg rode to Spenser's house to speak with him concerning the supposed trespass committed against Spenser by Baker's cows. Although he 'moved the matter in a friendly manner unto him on the behalf of William Baker, Adam Spenser used very ill terms and words of discredit against William Baker, vizt. calling him base idle fellow and lying knave or to that effect.' No provocation had been offered but rather 'persuasions of peace and reconciliation', from which Bragg 'found Adam Spenser to be very averse and contrarily deposed.'

Taken before John Mychell, 1 December 1637

7/105, Plaintiff's bond

No date.

Bound to duly prosecute his suit in the court in the painted chamber, in the Palace of Westminster.

Signed by William Baker.

Sealed, subscribed and delivered in the presence of Humphrey Terrick.

20/2b, Libel

1. Baker's family had been ancient gentry for up to 200 years. After Sir William Le Neve had certified that Baker was a gentleman born of a gentry family, Spenser said to several worthy gentlemen of Baker 'that I was no gentleman and aske Baker when you see him what his armes or gentery [sic] cost him'.

Dated 28 April 1638.

Signed by Arthur Duck and William Lewin.

Defendant's case

EM61, Defence affidavits

All taken before La: Lovelace, 23 November 1637.

Matthew Abraham, aged 50, George Webb, aged 24, and Robert Spenser, aged 50, all of Boughton-under-Blean, co. Kent

Deposed that on 28 July 1637 they heard Baker call Spenser 'lying knave' and charge him with procuring men to give false witness at the assizes, 'whereupon Adam replied you think that I did as you did, for you did sweare and lye at the assizes.' Baker also charged Spenser with counselling his son to call Baker's hogs into Spenser's corn, 'upon which scandalous words Adam replied that that was a base lye'.

'And we do further in our conscience think that Adam is soe honest a man that he is not guilty of any such unjust aspersion, as Baker did then challenge him withal.'

Signed Mathew Abraham, George Webb, Robert Spencer

John Spencer, aged 36, Stephen Spencer, aged 31, and Stephen Partridge, aged 30, all of Boughton-under-Blean, co. Kent

'William Baker did charge the son of Adam Spencer that he should call the hoggs of Baker into the ground of Adam Spencer his father being corne fields.' On 28 July last Adam Spenser examined all his sons and servants about this, 'but they did all utterly deny the same... and further we do aver that we doe think Adam would not do nor suffer any such unneighbourly or unjust thinge to be done.'

Signed John Spencer, Stephen Partridge and Stephen Spencer [his mark]

John Chillenden, aged 52, William Rucke, aged 44, Stephen Partridge, aged 30, Stephen Spenser, aged 31 and Robert Spenser, aged 51, all of Boughton-under-Blean, co. Kent

They had heard William Baker 'give many scandalous and most vile and uncivill speeches against Adam Spenser, sayinge that Adam had cozened or cheated the parish of Boughton of the sum of five pounds which came to the hands of Adam by reason of a cesse made for and towards his Majestie's shipping, which is a most unjust and scandalous imputation and report, for Adam to our knowledge hath made a just accompt with the parish for the same, as by the records of the parish will most plainly appeare.

Signed by John Chillenden, William Rucke, Stephen Partridge, Stephen Spenser [his mark]

Edmond Gray of Hernhill, aged 58, William Lowesse of Hernhill, aged 33, Mathew Ambrose of Hernhill, aged 32, William Hannington of Boughton-under-Blean, aged 51, Thomas Chillenden of Boughton-under-Blean, aged 25 and Robert Spencer of Boughton-under-Blean, aged 51

At the last assizes, William Baker (in a suit between Richard Waterhouse, brother-in-law of Baker, and Adam Spenser) said on oath that Spencer did not maintain his hedges between the property of Adam and Richard, and that there was not a rood of good fence in all the hedges being in length 20 roods, 'which evidence to our knowledge was most malicious, false and unjust for the hedges were at that time long sufficient and lawful.'

Richard Henley of Holy Cross, Westgate, Canterbury, aged 46, and Israel Spencer of St Dunstan-without-Westgate, Canterbury, aged 42

They heard Baker report 'that he would have messenger after messenger for Adam Spenser... to question him before the Earle Marshall for abuse done to Baker about his gentry.' Baker also alleged that Spenser 'had cheated the parish of Boughton, of the some of five pounds. This was spoken the next day, after Adam was served with the Earle Marshall's warrant.'

EM63, Adam Spenser's sworn statement of expenses

A note of expenses laid out by Adam Spenser against William Baker

'Imprimis paid the messenger for his fees: £3-13s-0d

Item given the Counsell for his fees: £2-0s-0d

Item given the solicitor for his fees and charges: £4-0s-0d

Item spent for his charges and his man and horses being in London three weeks: £9-0s-0d

Item spent for his charges riding to Canterburie: £3-2s-6d

Item given the Harrold for his paines and s[e]arching his office: £5-0s-0d

Item given the Secretarie for his fees: £1-0s-0d

Item for the copie of the petition and the bond: £0-7s-6d

The some is: £28-3s-0d

I Adam Spencer doe here make oath, that I have laid out soe much monie as cometh to twentie aight pound three shillings at the least as douth appeare by this bill.

Taken before John Page, 2 December 1637'.

EM68, Certificate of Spenser's good behaviour

The certificate on behalf of Spenser carried 68 signatures or marks.

'Certificate of Spencer's good behaviour and that Baker was not reputed a gent

These are for truth to certify such in authority as it may concerne that for these seaven or eight yeares last past William Baker of Boughton under the Bleane in the County of Kent hath lived amongst us as a parishioner there in the rancke and condicon of a yeoman and not otherwise, and that not as a yeoman of the better but rather mean quality, as a fermor of small estate and no inheritance at all, and his habite meane, no way agreeable to the degree of a gentleman. In which time he hath much used buying and selling of corne, and shewed little hospitality to the poore or otherwise during his abode amongst us. And hath ever took his place in the church and other places as a yeoman onely (many of that condicon being preferred before him and he for his ability sessed under them). And touching Adam Spencer he was borne in Boughton aforesaid and there lived as an housekeeper of good esteem for these twenty years past and upwards. All which time (for ought we ever heard or observed to the contrary) he hath demeaned himself very quietly justlie and neighbourly. And this much we are all ready to aver whensoever hereunto required as wee testify by our hands hereto subscribed, the sixt of Februarie 1637.'

Metthew Heeler

Gearuis Gry his mark

Ranall Shrubshall his mark

John Marten his mark

John Clinton his mark

William Place his mark

John Wood his mark

John Shrubshall his mark

Gearuis Heeler his mark

Matthew Heeler the younger his mark

Gabrill Copland his mark

Robart Hanle his mark

Richard Burrell his mark

Lennard Paine his mark

Richard Hawkins his mark

John Fige his mark

Edward Gry his mark

Matthew Ambrose his mark

William Howes his mark

Simon Roke

Edward Tillson

Austen David

Marmaduke Farman

John Spenser

John Tayler his mark

Christopher Sherly his mark

Thomas Wiltarde

Edward Smith his mark

Edward Cornish his mark

Christopher Bradstreet

John Downe his mark

Richard Frind his mark

William Hanington his mark

Gidion Tayler his mark

Robert Spencer

John March his mark

John Hikes his mark

Edward Shrubsole his mark

Vinson Safere his mark

Robert Scot his mark

Edmund Packingham his mark

William Spencer his mark

Walter Tiler

Abel Barnes his mark

Stephen Shrubsole

Nicholas Bradstreet his mark

John Spencer

George Hardiman his mark

William Pownes

John Ball his mark

Richard Baker his mark

Renold Abraham

Thomas Chillenden his mark

William Shrubsole his mark

William Abraham

William Rucke

John Willeard

Thomas Ledger

William Head his mark

John Call his mark

Nicholas Ettebury his mark

William Adman

Peter Jegoe his mark

Stephen Partridge

Steven Spencer his mark

Mathew Spencer

John Chillenden

Herculas Hills.

EM69, Defence affidavit

John Chillenden of Boughton-under-Blean, co. Kent, yeoman, aged about 53

'Affidavit that Spencer is out of purse for ship money'.

'Maketh oath that as touching a second cesse made in the parish in October last was two years, towards his Majestie's shipping, Mr Edward Chute, esq, being then high sherrife of the county, that upon the request of Mr Place deceased, the then minister of the parish, and divers others of the principall inhabitants of the same, that the cesse should be enlarged, to the extent that with the overplus of the money issuing thereby they might repaire a parish house then much fallen to decay, wherein att that time dwelt a poor aged widow who had long inhabited in the parish. But this intention being further knowne in the parish it was misliked of by some of the inhabitants, but especially by the complainant William Baker who with some others of the parish went and complained to the high sherrife, who did order and appoint that the sessors and collectors of the cesse should repay unto the then complaynors the one halfe of their several taxacons which they were assessed, which was performed accordingly by Adam Spencer and his partener. The then assessors and collectors did repay backe againe to as many others as found themselves agreeved and did come and demand it, soe much of theire severall taxacons as did give them full satisfaction. By reason whereof the collectors were and yet are out of purse att the least fiftie shillings more then they received or are ever like to receive as upon a strickt surveighe of theire accompts it doth appeare.

Juratus 7mo ffebruarii 1637/8

La: Lovelace

John Chillenden.'

EM70, Note of charges

16 February 1638

Adam Spencer ordered to pay William Baker £15 in charges.

Signed by Maltravers.


EM71, Defendant's petition to Maltravers

No date

'That whereas your petitioner by your lordshipp's just order stands committed to the messenger's custodie for offensive and provoking words by him uttered against William Baker, gent, for the which he is now hartelie sorry, dulie acknowledging his offence and promising hereafter never to commit the like error, and being willing to perform any submission your lordship will enjoyne him, and for that he hath a great charge and many occasions in the countrey, and his restraint here will be an extreme hinderance to him.'

Prayed for his release, signed by Adam Spenser.


William Baker had not appeared in the 1619 Visitation of Kent, but rather traced his gentility from his uncle in London (see the King of Arms Report).

CSP Dom. 1638-9 , p. 265 refers to a petition to the privy council by William Baker for Sir Edward Master and John Boys of Canterbury to investigate the matters alleged there which had resulted in his imprisonment in spite of showing his loyalty to the king.

For a further summary of proceedings, G. D. Squibb, Reports of Heraldic Cases in the Court of Chivalry, 1623-1732 (London, 1956), pp. 28-9. For a copy of the petition from the villagers, see James Dalloway, Inquiries into the Origin and Progress of the Science of Heraldry in England with explanatory observations on armourial ensigns (London, 1793), p. 296.


  • Initial proceedings
    • Affidavit: EM57 (11 Aug 1637)
    • Affidavit: EM60 (30 Oct 1637)
    • Petition to Arundel: R.19, fo. 135 (21 Nov 1637)
    • King of Arms Report: R.19, fo. 136 (30 Nov 1637)
    • Affidavit: EM62 (1 Dec 1637)
    • Plaintiff's bond: 7/105 (no date)
    • Libel: 20/2b (28 Apr 1638)
  • Defendant's case
    • Defence affidavit: EM61 (23 Nov 1637)
    • Adam Spenser's sworn statement of expenses: EM63 (2 Dec 1637)
    • Certificate of Spenser's good behaviour: EM68 (6 Feb 1638)
    • Defence affidavit: EM69 (7 Feb 1638)
    • Note of charges: EM70 (16 Feb 1638)
  • Submission
    • Defendant's petition to Maltravers: EM71 (no date)

People mentioned in the case

  • Abraham, Matthew
  • Abraham, Renold
  • Abraham, William
  • Adman, William
  • Ambrose, Matthew
  • Baker, Christopher
  • Baker, George, gent
  • Baker, Simon, gent
  • Baker, William, gent
  • Ball, John
  • Barnes, Abel
  • Bathurst, John, gent
  • Boys, John
  • Bradstreet, Christopher
  • Bradstreet, Nicholas
  • Bragg, John
  • Burrell, Richard
  • Call, John
  • Chillenden, John, yeoman
  • Chillenden, Thomas
  • Chute, Edward, esq
  • Clinton, John
  • Cooke, Robert, esq
  • Copland, Gabriel
  • Cornish, Edward
  • David, Austen
  • Downe, John
  • Duck, Arthur, lawyer
  • Ettebury, Nicholas
  • Farman, Marmaduke
  • Fige, John
  • Gray, Edmond
  • Gry, Edward
  • Gry, Gervase
  • Hanle, Robert
  • Hannington, William (also Hanington)
  • Hardiman, George
  • Hawkins, Richard
  • Head, William
  • Heeler, Matthew, the elder
  • Heeler, Matthew, the younger
  • Heeler, Gervase
  • Henley, Richard
  • Hikes, John
  • Hills, Hercules
  • Howard, Henry, baron Maltravers
  • Howard, Thomas, earl of Arundel and Surrey
  • Howes, William
  • Jegoe, Peter
  • Ledger, Thomas
  • Le Neve, William, knight
  • Lewin, William, lawyer
  • Lovelace, Lawrence
  • Lowesse, William
  • March, John
  • Marten, John
  • Master, Edward, knight
  • Mychell (also Michell, Mitchell)
  • Packingham, Edmund
  • Paine, Leonard
  • Partridge, Stephen
  • Place, minister
  • Place, William
  • Pownes, William
  • Price, Matthew, pointmaker
  • Roke, Simon
  • Rucke, William
  • Safere, Vincent
  • Scot, Robert
  • Sherly, Christopher
  • Shrubshall, John
  • Shrubshall, Ranall
  • Shrubshall, William (also Shrubsole)
  • Shrubsole, Edward
  • Shrubsole, Stephen
  • Smith, Edward
  • Spenser, Adam, fellmonger (also Spencer)
  • Spencer, Israel
  • Spencer, John (also Spencer)
  • Spencer, Matthew
  • Spencer, Robert
  • Spencer, Stephen (also Spencer)
  • Stuart, Charles I, king
  • Tayler, Gideon
  • Tayler, John
  • Terrick, Humphrey, lawyer
  • Tiler, Walter
  • Tillson, Edward
  • Webb, George
  • Whitley, Edward
  • Willeard, John
  • Wiltarde, Thomas
  • Wood, John

Places mentioned in the case

  • Kent
    • Boughton
    • Boughton-under-Blean
    • Canterbury
    • Faversham
    • Goudhurst
    • Hernhill
    • Kingsdown
    • Tenterden
  • Middlesex
    • Westminster
  • Surrey
    • Ashstead

Topics of the case

  • assizes
  • coat of arms
  • denial of gentility
  • giving the lie
  • Herald
  • high sheriff
  • King of Arms
  • livestock
  • office-holding
  • other courts
  • ship money