703 Wheeler v Sheffield

The Court of Chivalry 1634-1640.

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John Wheeler of St Dunstan-in-the-West, London, apothecary v Sampson Sheffield of Seaton, co. Rutland and gentleman pensioner to His Majesty

March - June 1640


Wheeler, an apothecary who let rooms to gentlemen, complained that late at night on 19 April 1639 in his house on Fleet Street in the parish of St Dunstan-in-the-West, London, Sheffield, a kinsman of the Earl of Mulgrave and gentleman pensioner to the king, had given him the lie and called him (in the words of one of his witnesses) 'a Rogue, a Rascall, base fellow, a peasant, an apothecary slave, and one that lived by the turds and farts of gentlemen, and had sold his landes to buy his hanginges.' Sheffield was preparing to ride north to serve the king against the Scots, and the quarrel arose over Sheffield's refusal to pay the full sum of £11 that Wheeler requested for the cost of his lodging. Sheffield claimed that Wheeler had called him 'a baffler and a wrangler', and repeatedly addressed him contemptuously as 'Sirrah'. Mrs Wheeler had also called him 'fatt gutts and idel fellow', and told him he owed her money. Sheffield responded by drawing his sword and telling her she 'lyed like a whore', whereupon she ran off shrieking which drew the watchman and the constable into the house. They persuaded Sheffield to let them into his chamber where they found him with a drawn sword, at which point, in front of a number of witnesses, he uttered the words in Wheeler's libel to which Wheeler retorted 'that he was as good a gentleman as himself', and that Sheffield 'was but a parson's sonne, and that Wheeler was the sonne of an esq.' The following day Wheeler had Sheffield summoned to appear before the Recorder of London at the Temple about the £11 debt, where he repeated the accusation that he was 'a baffler' and claimed that he had been told as much by another gentleman. Sheffield insisted that this had delayed his journey north to join the king, 'to the great disgrace and disparagement of his reputation.'

Proceedings were delayed until Sheffield returned from the north and was granted process against Wheeler on 27 November 1639 [see cause 590]. Wheeler responded with this counter suit and Dr King entered the libel on his behalf on 4 February 1640. Each side presented depositions from three witnesses before Sir Henry Marten between March and June; but no indication of sentence survives either for this case or for Sheffield's initial suit.

Initial proceedings

15/3f, Libel [damaged]

2. In April last within the parish of St Dunstan, Sheffield had said that Wheeler lied or was a liar, 'a Rogue a Rascall [damaged] and one that lives by the turds and farts of Gentlemen'.

No date [4 February 1640]

Signed by Robert King

Plaintiff's case

EM142, Defence interrogatories

1. What was the witness's relationship to Wheeler? To whom would they give the victory if they had the power to do so?

2. How much was the witness worth in goods their debts paid?

3-4. Was the witness present and what words were spoken between Wheeler and Sheffield? Did Wheeler and his wife and Jonathan Ward or some of them call Sheffield 'base fellow, rascall or base rascall and give him the lye; or what other disgracefull speeches did the aforesaid partyes or any of them speake of Mr Sheffield'?

No date.

No signatures.

Cur Mil 1631-1642, fos. 39r-40r, Plaintiff deposition

fos. 39r-40r (Witness 1), Sarah Lake of St Dunstan-in-the-West, London, spinster, lived there for 2 years, born at Boycott [in the parish of Pontesbury], co. Salop, aged about 25

2 March 1640

To Wheeler's libel:

1. 'She cannot depose anything of her own knowledge'.

2. At midnight or 1am on 19 April last, she was at her master, Wheeler's house in Fleet Street, when she heard her mistress 'shreeke out', so she went to Sheffield's chamber, where she saw Sheffield, her master and mistress. Sheffield drew his sword and ran at Wheeler. Sheffield then took Mrs Wheeler by the hand, and said 'give me my money'. Sheffield then 'used many abusive speeches', 'in a verie angrie and violent manner' to Mr Wheeler, 'and said he was a rogue, a Rascall, base fellow, a peasant, an Apothecary slave and one that lived by the turdes of gentlemen, and had sold his landes to buy hangeinges'. There were several watchmen at Sheffield's chamber door as he spoke the words. There was also present Alice Clarke and Sheffield's maid.

To Sheffield's interrogatories:

1. She was Wheeler's household servant 'and wisheth right may take place and careth not who hath the better in this cause'.

2. 'She knoweth not what she is worth but liveth by her service'.

3. She was not present at the beginning of the quarrel, but when Sheffield accused Wheeler of having sold his lands to buy hangings, Wheeler responded that it was a lie. She did not hear Mr or Mrs Wheeler, or Jonathan Ward, give Sheffield any other evil words.

4-5. Negative.

Signed by Sarah Lake

Repeated in court before Sir Henry Marten on 24 April 1640.

Cur Mil 1631-1642, fos. 73r-74r, Plaintiff deposition
fos. 73r-74r (Witness 2), Thomas Bond of St Bridget's parish, London, woodmonger, lived there for 15 years, born at Woodcombe, co. Somerset

22 April 1640

To Wheeler's libel:

2. A year ago he was on the night watch at Shoe Lane End in Fleet Street, when he heard someone calling out from Mr Wheeler's house. He ran there to find Mr Sheffield stood at the top of the stairs with his sword drawn. Sheffield then called Wheeler, 'Rogue, Rascall, base fellow, Apothecarie, slave and one that lived by the turdes of gentlemen and had sold his land to buy hangeinges for his house'. Miles Staples, John Billing, Richard Urian, William Ashwell, John Johnson and others were present. Sheffield said these words in 'a very vehement and violent manner'.

To Sheffield's interrogatories:

1. He wished 'right may take place'.

2. He was worth over £20 with his debts paid.

3. He was not present at the beginning of the quarrel, but Mr Wheeler told Mr Sheffield 'that he was as good a gent. as himself; and Mr Sheffield made answer he lyed like a rogue and told him he had sold land to buy hangeinges, whereunto Mr Wheeler made answer and told him he lyed'. Mrs Wheeler then called Mr Sheffield 'fatt gutts and idle fellow and told him he ought her money'. Sheffield told her 'she lyed like a whore and called her whore.'

4. Negative.

5. He had received nothing and expected to receive nothing for his testimony.

Signed by Thomas Bond

Repeated in court before Sir Henry Marten, 22 April 1640.

Cur Mil 1631-1642, fos. 77r-78v, Plaintiff's deposition fos. 77r-78v (Witness 3), William Ashwell of St Martin Ludgate, London, cutler, lived there for 44 years, born at Fyfield, co. Essex, aged about 55

24 April 1640

To Wheeler's libel:

2. The witness was deputy constable and beadle of 'Farrington extra' ward, in Fleet Street, London. Around 19 April 1639, at about midnight or 1am, he was called by the watch to John Wheeler, the apothecary's house on Fleet Street, to keep the king's peace, for he had been told Mr Sheffield who lodged there might do 'mischief'. On his arrival, Wheeler told him that Sheffield 'had drawn his sword and ranne at him and his wife and so abused them that they were in great feare of their lives'. So the witness went upstairs and asked Sheffield to open his door. Sheffield replied that 'whosoever offered to come in he would be his death'. One Urian, a watchmen whom Sheffield knew well, then called out that 'it was nobody, but he and Mr Ashwell'. Sheffield then opened the door and said if Wheeler came in 'he would be his death'. The witness saw Sheffield 'with his sword drawne in his hand in outrageous manner desired him to putt it upp into his scabbard and demanded the cause of the tumult'. Sheffield then called Wheeler 'base fellow and one that lived by the turdes and fartes of gentlemen, and had sold his land to buy hangings, and used many other opprobrious and disgraceful tearmes'. Wheeler said to Sheffield 'that he was as good a gentleman as himself and that he was but a parson's sonne, and that Wheeler was the sonne of an Esq'. Sheffield then told Wheeler 'that he lied like a base fellow'. Urian, and a maidservant were also present among others.

To Sheffield's interrogatories:

1. 'That he wisheth right may take place.'

2. He was worth £200 with his debts paid.

3. He was not present at the beginning of the quarrel.

Signed by William Ashwell.

Repeated in court before Sir Henry Marten on 24 April 1640.

Defendant's case

Cur Mil II, fo. 181, Defence [damaged]

1. John Johnson, Miles Staples, Alice Clerke, John Billing, Sara Lake, Thomas Bond and William Ashwell, the witnesses examined for Wheeler were Wheeler's friends and relatives, and capital enemies to Sheffield.

2. Sheffield was provoked by Wheeler's injurious words: 'I was told before you came to my house that you would prove a baffler and a wrangler and you used to wrangle and cavil with all those with whome you had to doe; and often said that Sampson lied and was a base fellow, a base stinking fellow and called Sampson, Sirrah [insultingly].'

3. Wheeler 'doth keep an apothecary's shop and letts out lodgings in his house to gentlemen'.

4. Sheffield was a lodger in Wheeler's house and was a 'Gentleman Pensioner in Ordinary to his Majesty; and by the duty of his place to attend his Majesty in the last years expedition into the North parts of this kingdome, the night before he was to go upon the expedicon he called for Wheeler to reckon with him, who demanding 11 li. and odd money and Sampson really tendering 10 li. which was the full sum that was due him upon the agreement, Wheeler's wife snatched up the money and said she would take it in part, but not in full satisfaction; and Sampson refusing to pay as much as Wheeler demanded. Wheeler told Sampson that he was told that Sampson was a baffler, and a wrangler, and speake all the former words menconed in the second article, or at the least wise some of them, in the presence of divers credible witnesses'.

5. 'After the pretended speaking of the words, Wheeler did give Sampson divers injurious and provoking words, and spake all or most of the words menconed in the second [article] at the time and place aforesaid.'

6. At the time and place mentioned in the libel, Wheeler came with a drawn sword to Sheffield's chamber door and challenged him to fight.

7. As Wheeler would not accept the amount Sheffield offered, the next day Wheeler procured a warrant from the Recorder of London to call Sheffield to answer the suggestion that he had stolen £10; and Sheffield was hindered from going on the expedition 'to the great disgrace and disparagement' of his reputation [damaged].

8. After this first injury Wheeler spoke of Sampson in Fleet Street [damaged].

9. Sheffield was a gentleman of an ancient family and a kinsman of the Earl of Mulgrave, 'as appeareth under the said Earle's hand and seal of armes'. Sheffield was also one of the king's Gentlemen Pensioners in Ordinary.

No date.

Signed by William Merrick.

Cur Mil 1631-1642, fos. 175r-177r, Defence deposition

fos. 175r-177r (Witness 1), John Watson, household servant to Sampson Sheffield, esq, born at Broughton, co. Nottingham, aged about 18

12 June 1640

To Sheffield's defence:

2. He was not present at the beginning of the argument at Wheeler's house in Fleet Street, 'about Easter last was a twelvemonth'; but the day after their quarrel, Wheeler procured a warrant and caused Sheffield to be convented before the Recorder of London. In the Recorder's chamber in the Temple, he heard Sheffield ask Wheeler if Wheeler 'the night before did not first abuse him and call him bafler and wrangler', and if Wheeler said he had heard Sheffield 'was a baffler and a wrangler and did use to wrangle and baffle with those with whome he had to do'. Wheeler confessed he had said so, but had been told such by a man he 'then did nominate'. He believed Wheeler gave the first provocation. John Dillingham, Edward Grange, John Bowles, and Sarah, Wheeler's maidservant were also present in the Recorder's chamber.

3. Wheeler kept an apothecary's shop and let out lodgings in his house to gentlemen. He knew this to be true because his master, Mr Sheffield lodged there.

4. His master was a lodger at Wheeler's house and a gentleman pensioner to the king, 'and was the next day to take his journey to attend the Kinge's Majestie into the north.'

5. At the time of the quarrel he heard Wheeler give Sheffield 'many provoking speeches', and told him that he was 'a base fellow and gave him the lye divers times.'

6. Wheeler fetched a sword and came to Sheffield's chamber door 'with his sword drawn in his hand and wished Mr Sheffield out of his chamber.'

7. At the Recorder's chamber, Wheeler and his wife charged Sheffield for felony for taking £10 from them 'as they pretended', and Sheffield should that day have gone north to wait on the king as his horses were saddled and ready, but he was delayed by 3 or 4 days by Wheeler and his wife. The charge of felony was 'a great disparagement to Mr Sheffield'.

8. At the quarrel, he heard Wheeler call Sheffield 'base fellow'.

To Wheeler's interrogatories:

1. He had served Sheffield for about 2 years, and before that lived at Broughton where he was born. He had known Wheeler for 12 months and Sheffield for the time he had served him. He 'wisheth right may take place'.

2. He had formerly been examined for Mr Sheffield in Sheffield's cause against Wheeler.

Signed by John Watson.

Repeated in court before Sir Henry Marten on 13 June 1640.

Cur Mil 1631-1642, fos. 179r-182r, Defence depositions
fos. 179r-v (Witness 2), John Dillingham of Whitefriars, London, tailor, lived there for 2 and a half years, born at Cranford, co. Northampton, aged 44

12 June 1640

To Sheffield's defence:

2. The day after the argument, Sheffield came to his house in Whitefriars, where he was served with a warrant by a constable and taken to Mr Recorder's chamber in the Temple, where Mr Wheeler and his wife awaited. The witness asked Wheeler why he had provoked Sheffield 'with such evil language as to say he was a bafler and a wrangler'. One of them replied 'they were told so by one that would justify the same'. He believed they had given Mr Sheffield the first provocation.

3-4. Wheeler kept an apothecary's shop and let out lodgings to gentlemen. Sheffield lodged in Wheeler's house at that time but was preparing to wait upon the king in the north.

7. As witness 1.

To Wheeler's interrogatories:

1. 'He wisheth right may take place'. He had known Mr Sheffield for 15 years and Mr Wheeler for 2 years.

2. As witness 1.

Signed by John Dillingham.

Repeated in court before Sir Henry Marten, lieutenant, 13 June 1640, in the presence of John Longland.

fos. 180r-182r (Witness 3), Edward Grange of St Dunstan-in-the-West, London, barber surgeon, lived there for about 3 years, born at Cranford, co. Northampton, born at Wells, co. Norfolk, aged about 30

13 June 1640

To Sheffield's defence:

2. The day after the argument, he was at Mr Recorder's chamber in the Temple, with Mr Sheffield, Mr Wheeler and others. Sheffield there charged Wheeler that he gave him the first provocation by 'calling him bafler', and saying 'he did bafle and wrangle with those he had to doe and by saying that Wheeler was told so; and Mr Sheffield said he would lay his life that no man had told Wheeler soe, but that Wheeler had invented it of his own head'.Wheeler denied this and named the man who told him so, but the witness had since forgotten the name. John Dillingham, Mr Foster, Mr Sheffield, Mr Wheeler and his wife, Jonathan Warde and John Watson were present. He thought Mr Wheeler 'did seem to confess that he had given Mr Sheffield the first provocation by calling him bafler, and using the speeches aforesaid'.

3-4. As witness 2.

7. As witness 1, except the Wheelers claimed Mr Sheffield had taken the £10 from them 'by violence'.

8. He heard Mrs Wheeler say in Fleet Street that day, that Mr Sheffield 'was a base fellow in drawing his sword and putting her in fear of her life'.

To Wheeler's interrogatories:

1. 'He is by trade a bondseller, and hath known Mr Sheffield 4 years and Mr Wheeler two years or thereabouts and careth not who hath the better, but wisheth right may take place'.

2. As witness 1.

Signed by Edward Grange.

Repeated in court before Sir Henry Marten, lieutenant, 13 June 1640.

Summary of proceedings

Dr King acted as counsel to Wheeler and Drs Merrick and Exton to Sheffield. On 4 February 1640 Dr King presented Wheeler's libel before Lord Maltravers.


Elizabeth, daughter of John Wheeler of London, merchant, had married the grocer Simon Aston by the time of the visitation of 1634.

J. J. Howard and J. L. Chester (eds.), The Visitation of London, 1633, 1634 and 1635 (Publications of the Harleian Society, 15, 1880), p. 29.

Sampson Sheffield (b. c.1606), was the son and heir of Sampson Sheffield of Seaton and Elizabeth, daughter of Robert Woodroffe of London. Sampson Sheffield was appointed a parliamentary commissioner for subscriptions in Ongar division, Essex, on 11 July 1642. He was a county committee man released from Colchester by the royalists during the siege in 1648. Sheffield had formerly been a servant to the king but had been discharged for disloyalty for refusing to serve against Parliament in the first civil war. He was an active parliamentarian and after the king's execution asked for a grant out of the dead king's estate. He was among the commissioners appointed for the trial of Henry Rich, earl of Holland, George, Lord Goring and Arthur, Lord Capell and Sir John Owen, knt, in 1649.

Robert Ashton, Counter-Revolution: The Second Civil War and its Origins, 1646-8 (New Haven: Yale University Press, 1994), pp. 106-7; Lords Journals , vol. 5, p. 203;

Beinecke Rare Book and Manuscript Library, Yale University, Osborn Shelves, fb155, John Browne, Commonplace Book, fo. 307; G. J. Armytage (ed.), The Visitation of the County of Rutland in the year 1618-1619 (Publications of the Harleian Society, 3, 1870), p. 19.


  • Initial proceedings
    • Libel: 15/3f (4 Feb 1640)
  • Plaintiff's case
    • Defence interrogatories: EM142 (no date)
    • Plaintiff deposition: Cur Mil 1631-42, fos. 39-40 (2 Mar 1640)
    • Plaintiff deposition: Cur Mil 1631-42, fos. 73-4 (22 Apr 1640)
    • Plaintiff deposition: Cur Mil 1631-42, fos. 77-8 (24 Apr 1640)
    • Defence: Cur Mil II, fo. 181 (no date)
    • Defence depositions: Cur Mil, 1631-42, fos. 175-7 (12 Jun 1640)
    • Defence depositions: Cur Mil, 1631-42, fos. 179-82 (13 Jun 1640)
  • Proceedings
    • Proceedings before Maltravers: 8/31 (4 Feb 1640)

People mentioned in the case

  • Ashwell, William, cutler
  • Aston, Elizabeth
  • Aston, Simon, grocer
  • Billing, John
  • Bond, Thomas, woodmonger
  • Bowles, John
  • Capel, Arthur, baron Capel
  • Clarke, Alice
  • Dillingham, John
  • Exton, Thomas, lawyer
  • Foster, Mr
  • Goring, George, baron Goring
  • Grange, Edward, barber surgeon
  • King, Robert, lawyer
  • Lake, Sarah, spinster
  • Longland, John
  • Marten, Henry, knight
  • Merrick, William, lawyer
  • Owen, John, knight
  • Rich, Henry, earl of Holland
  • Sheffield, Edmund, earl of Mulgrave
  • Sheffield, Elizabeth
  • Sheffield, Mrs
  • Sheffield, Sampson, gent
  • Staples, Miles
  • Stuart, Charles I, king
  • Urian, Richard, farrier (also Urin)
  • Ward, Jonathan
  • Watson, John
  • Watson, John, servant
  • Wheeler, Elizabeth
  • Wheeler, John, apothecary
  • Wheeler, Sarah
  • Woodroffe, Elizabeth
  • Woodroffe, Robert

Places mentioned in the case

  • Essex
    • Colchester
    • Fyfield
    • Navestock
    • Ongar
  • London
    • Faringdon
    • Fleet Street
    • St Bridget's
    • St Dunstan-in-the-West
    • St Martin Ludgate
    • Shoe Lane End
    • Temple
    • Whitefriars
  • Norfolk
    • Wells
  • Northamptonshire
    • Cranford
  • Nottinghamshire
    • Upper Broughton
  • Salop / Shropshire
    • Boycott
    • Pontesbury
  • Somerset
    • Woodcombe
  • Scotland

Topics of the case

  • apothecary
  • comparison
  • Bishops' Wars
  • calling sirrah
  • civil war
  • constable
  • debt
  • denial of gentility
  • giving the lie
  • parliamentarian
  • royal servant
  • scatological insult
  • sexual insult
  • threatened violence
  • weapon