356 Kirckham v Farmer

The Court of Chivalry 1634-1640.

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Walter Kirkham of Fineshade Abbey, co. Northampton, esq v William Farmer of Uppingham, co. Rutland, draper

April - June 1635

Figure 356:

The market place at Uppingham, Rutland with the church of St Peter and Paul, where Farmer publicly libelled Kirkham in January 1635 (Photo; Richard Cust).


Kirkham complained that Farmer had called him 'a base and skurvie fellowe' in January 1635 in a public place before several gentry in Uppingham, Rutland. Kirkham claimed descent from Sir Robert Kirkham of Fineshade Abbey, Northamptonshire, from the Earl of Westmoreland, and from the St Johns, Earls of Bolingbroke. Farmer maintained the quarrel had arisen after Kirkham, emerging from a tavern, had fallen to the ground as a football match swept past. When Farmer's brother tried to help Kirkham to his feet, Kirkham beat him with his staff and drew his sword upon him. Farmer's brother went to complain to Farmer at a nearby house who, upon hearing of the incident, said, 'What will Mr Kirkham never leave these base unworthy actions?' A commission headed by Sir Edward Harrington and Sir Edward Mackworth was appointed on 9 June 1635, to examine witnesses at Uppingham. No further proceedings survive.

Initial proceedings

9/4/2, Libel

[Latin] Recites the fact that Kirckham was of gentry stock for up to 300 years, the eldest son of William Kirckham of Finchead, esq., who was the eldest son of William Kirckham of Finchead, esq, who in turn was the eldest son of Sir Robert Kirckham of Finchead, knt. Sibyl St John, wife of Sir Robert Kirckham and his great grandmother was the sister of John Lord St John of Bletsoe; Martha Peyton, wife of William Kirckham and his mother was neiece to Sir Walter Mildmay, privy councillor to Elizabeth; Kirckham was also a kinsman of the earl of Westmorland.

4. Last January William Farmer in a public place in Uppingham in the presence of various persons of gentle blood said that Kirckham was 'a base scurvie fellowe'.

Kirckham requests to be allowed to proceed against Farmer for the satisfaction and restitution of his honour and reputation.

Endorsed: 2 May 1635

Signed by Thomas Eden for Kirkham.

7/85, Personal answer [damaged]

Farmer's answer to the whole libel was that in January 1635, in Uppingham, Mr Kirkham 'seing young youths att football passing through the street spurned att the ball and therewith fell to the grounde, having bene immediately before att the taverne; and Mr Farmer's younger brother, being about 16 yeres of age, and one of the youths playinge att football, came to Mr Kirkham and endeavoured to helpe him up, in requitall whereof Mr Kirkham presently stroke downe Mr Farmer's brother twice with his staff in his hande, and drewe his sworde on him and beate him; and Mr Farmer's brother presently, on the sayd strokes and beating, came to Mr Farmer's, being att the house of one Motes in Uppingham, nere the place where the premises were done, and related to him the premises, whereon Mr Farmer answered, What will Mr Kirkham never leave these base unworthy actions?'

No date.

Summary of proceedings

On 9 May 1635 commissioners and a day and place were to be nominated for Dr Eden to examine the witnesses. On 30 May Kirkham was required to prove the libel. On 9 June a commission was appointed to subsequently meet to examine witnesses at Uppingham, co. Rutland. Commissioners on behalf of Kirkham were Richard Stacy de Castle Bytham, co. Lincoln, gent, Ambrose Broughton of Seaton, Rutland, gent, Ismael? Belfield of Warmington, co. Northampton, gent, William Bellamy, gent. Commissioners on behalf of Farmer were Sir Edward Harrington, bart, Sir Edward Mackworth, bart, Apollini Peapes and Henry Death, gent.


For another account of the case, see G. D. Squibb, Reports of Heraldic Cases in the Court of Chivalry, 1623-1732 (London, 1956), p.17.

Walter Kirkham of Finshead Abbey (b.1617) was the son of Robert Kirkham of Fineshade Abbey, and Anne, daughter of Francis Browne of co. Rutland. Walter attended St John's College, Cambridge in 1637 and married Mary, daughter of Sir John Norwich of Brampton [Ash], co. Northampton, knt and bart.

H. I. Longden (ed.), The Visitation of the County of Northampton in the year 1681 (Publications of the Harleian Society, 87, 1935), p. 101.


  • Proceedings
    • Proceedings: EM348 (9 May 1635)
    • Proceedings: EM349 (30 May 1635)
    • Proceedings before Arundel: 8/24 (9 Jun 1635)

People mentioned in the case

  • Belfield, Ismael, gent
  • Bellamy, William, gent
  • Broughton, Ambrose, gent
  • Browne, Anne
  • Browne, Francis
  • Death, Henry, gent
  • Eden, Thomas, lawyer
  • Fane, Mildmay, earl of Westmoreland
  • Farmer, William, draper (also Fermor)
  • Harrington, Edward, baronet
  • Kirkham, Anne (also Kirckham)
  • Kirkham, Martha (also Kirckham)
  • Kirkham, Mary (also Kirckham)
  • Kirkham, Robert, esq (also Kirckham)
  • Kirkham, Robert, knight (also Kirckham)
  • Kirkham, Sybil (also Kirckham)
  • Kirkham, Walter, knight (also Kirckham)
  • Kirkham, Walter, esq (also Kirckham)
  • Kirkham, William, esq (also Kirckham)
  • Mackworth, Edward, baronet
  • Mildmay, Walter, knight
  • Norwich, John, knight and baronet
  • Norwich, Mary
  • Peapes, Apollini, gent
  • Peyton, Martha
  • St John, John, baron
  • St John, Oliver, earl of Bolingbroke
  • St John, Sybil
  • Stacy, Richard, gent
  • Tudor, Elizabeth I, queen

Places mentioned in the case

  • Bedfordshire
    • Bletsoe
  • Cambridgeshire
    • Cambridge, St John's College
  • Lincolnshire
    • Castle Bytham
  • Northamptonshire
    • Brampton Ash
    • Fineshade Abbey
    • Warmington
  • Rutland
    • Seaton
    • Uppingham

Topics of the case

  • denial of gentility
  • insult before gentlemen
  • sport
  • University of Cambridge
  • weapon