Centre for Metropolitan History



William Le Hardy (editor)

Year published




Citation Show another format:

'Preface', County of Middlesex. Calendar to the sessions records: new series, volume 4: 1616-18 (1941), pp. VII-XV. URL: Date accessed: 24 April 2014. Add to my bookshelf


(Min 3 characters)



Work on this volume was begun in May, 1938, after the publication of Volume III, and the proofs of the calendar were submitted to the printers before the outbreak of the present war, but, owing to the difficult conditions under which work on the index had to be continued, it has not been found possible to complete the volume for publication until this year.

The style of the volume follows closely that of the previous volume and incorporates all the innovations introduced on that occasion (see Vol. III, pp. vi–viii).

The period covered by the present calendar begins with the General Sessions held in October, 1616, and closes with the Sessions held in March, 1618. During this time fourteen Sessions were held for which there are only nine rolls, but entries of the proceedings at all the Sessions are recorded in the three Register Books, Sessions Register, Volume 2, Gaol Delivery Register, Volume 2, and Process Register Book of Indictments, Volume I.

The rolls are numbered 554 to 563, but roll 556 does not exist, the documents having been transferred and numbered 508a, as they relate to roll 508 for the Sessions held in December, 1611. This is prior to the date of the beginning of the New Series and consequently has been omitted.

Lists of bailiffs and constables now occur quarterly instead of twice a year as hitherto.

A Session of Oyer and Terminer was held at the Justice Hall in the Old Bailey on 20 March, 1617, to try certain persons accused of riotous assaults and of breaking and pulling down houses. Three of them were found guilty of an attack made upon the house of Christopher Beeston, one of the players at the "Red Bull" theatre, while others, both men and women, were charged with similar attacks upon the houses of Richard Loe and Henry Bettes. Those who were found guilty, including the women, were sentenced to be "reprisoned" in irons for either three months with a fine of 40s., or a year with a fine of £6 13s. 4d. (pp. 108–9). Christopher Beeston, alias Hutchinson, appears elsewhere in the calendar—as the victim of a robbery in his house (pp. 306, 309); as a recusant, together with his wife Jane, when he is described variously as a "stageplayer", "player", gentleman, and yeoman (pp. 91, 143, 189, 343); and as failing to repair the highways, in company with the rest of the players at the Red Bull, i.e. Thomas Heyward [Heywood], Richard Perkins, Thomas Drew, Richard Harrison, and Ellis Worth. They pleaded that they had been at great charges to amend and put new railings along the footpath leading towards Woods Close at the upper end of St. John Street, which lay opposite their theatre, and along the church path leading to the parish church of Clerkenwell, and therefore process upon their former presentments was ordered to be stayed (pp. 37, 285). In the lists of recusants there is also a Robert Beeston, with a wife Etheldred or Audrey, described variously as stageplayer and yeoman (pp. 143, 189, 343). These, incidentally, are the only references to the theatre which occur in this calendar.

Roll 561 for the General Sessions held at Westminster on 2 and 3 October, 1617, is of unusual length, owing to the inclusion of 36 writs of outlawry (pp. 263–75). These writs were issued by Sir Thomas Lake, knight, on 1 May, 1617, and the Sheriff was charged to call certain persons from court to court, and if they did not appear to outlaw and waive them. They are endorsed that the persons were called at five courts, the last being held at Osulstone on 18 September, 1617, and did not appear, therefore by the judgment of the coroners they were outlawed. Each writ is subscribed with the date of a Session ranging from April, 1612, to March, 1616, and the names of the felons, often illegible in the writs, appear in the Process Register Book of Indictments, ff. 6d. to 68, with an inscription over each entry saying that they were outlawed [utlagat] in the case of men, and waived [waviat] in the case of women, on 18 September, 15 James I. Some of the names are those of well-known recusants who recur throughout the calendar (e.g. pp. 266–7, 269–71, 273), and who were subsequently presented for a similar offence (e.g. pp. 287–8, 343–4).

Among the recurrent features may be noted a particularly long list of persons charged with not working in the highways with their labourers or with their carts (pp. 28–39). This list occurs in the Process Register Book of Indictments, ff. 79d–92d, and includes a number of well-known names, such as Sir Francis Bacon (p. 34), Lady Burleigh (p. 37), and the Countess of Sussex (p. 38). Several people were excused from paying their fines for various reasons—i.e. Edward Norgate, gentleman, was discharged because he was the servant of Sir Thomas Lake, First Secretary of State to the King (p. 38), and John Warren because he was ordered to do double labour instead (p. 39).

Among those prisoners mentioned in Gaol Delivery calendars, whose names are not found elsewhere, Lewis Marcott may be noted as being detained in Newgate for stealing the Lord Treasurer's goods, and Andrew Browne for making a collection in aid of churches by false letters (p. 204).

Only one coroner's inquest is bound up with the rolls, although there are references to two others (pp. 107, 115, 196–7). Two informations were laid by Bartholomew Benson, a well-known informer, one against John Carre for receiving 100 loads of hay with intent to re-sell the same (p. 61), and one against Oswald Smith for maintaining unlawful games (p. 82). In certain cases money was demanded from innocent persons as a composition for imaginary offences where no informations had actually been laid against them (e.g. pp. 165, 213). Such a case against Robert Yeomans and John Hammond, brought by Gilbert Hayes and Thomas Chapman, resulted in the former pair being indicted in London, and the latter being found not guilty of perjury (p. 194). After Matthew Hitchcock, a common informer, had given information against three men for divers offences, he took composition money, which resulted in a judgment being given against him that he was to be set upon a horse with his face to its tail, and to ride thus to the pillory, and there to stand for two hours in the open market with a paper over his head inscribed "for unjust compounding upon severall informacons without lycence", and afterwards to pay a fine of £10 (p. 235).

Most of the treasonable offences are concerned with the debasing, clipping, or counterfeiting of the coinage. Cuthbert Hulton was charged with such an offence, and respited to the "Compter of London" (pp. 103–4); Richard Slowe with uttering counterfeit money (p. 107); and Eustace Bissaker with washing and diminishing gold, for which he received sentence to be drawn [on a hurdle] and hanged (p. 290). Richard and Joan Thompson were charged with helping a prisoner, "one Reignolds", to escape out of Newgate through a vault. This "Reignolds" had been committed for clipping silver (p. 347), and in the next Sessions we find a certain Henry Reynoldes, possibly the same man, listed in the Gaol Delivery Register as not guilty of clipping money but respited without bail to the next Sessions (p. 368). Thomas and John Hanby were detained in Newgate for receiving an escaped prisoner, being a traitor, out of the Tower (pp. 239, 304). A blacksmith was bound over by a recognizance entered into at the General Gaol Delivery held at Canterbury Castle in July 1616, to appear at the "Sessions of the Peace to be held at Newgate" in the following Michaelmas term to prosecute two men for suspicion of treason, but no details are given, and one of the prisoners was delivered by proclamation in the subsequent December Sessions (pp. 60, 80). James Howeston of Stepney was bound to answer William Housigoe of Limehouse for treason, the specific charge being that of traitorous words spoken against the King, but no true bill was found and he was merely bound over to be of good behaviour (p. 211).

Several cases of counterfeiting or forgery are mentioned (pp. 54, 132, 177, 191, 310, 312, 317), the most important being that of Edward Yarworth of New Brentford, clerk, who counterfeited the hands of the Archbishop of Canterbury, the Lord Chancellor, and other members of the Privy Council (pp. 132, 310). Two men of St. Martin'sin-the-Fields were accused of conspiring to injure a man called Cornelius Vandernaught by forging a warrant for his arrest purporting to come from William Knollys, Viscount Wallingford, under colour of which one of the men, Robert Hamilton by name, arrested the said Cornelius, with intent to detain him injuriously in prison; but the forgery was discovered and Hamilton suffered the punishment of having to stand in the pillory with a paper over his head showing his offence; the other man was not caught (p. 191). There are also many cases of cheating or cozening, either by the use of false tokens, or at games of cards or dice. For example, three London cheats, who were wont to lie in wait in the highway to lure unsuspecting countrymen, persuaded two millers travelling from Canterbury to London to go with them to a certain house in East Smithfield, where they "seduced them to play at cards" and won over £10 from them "at decoy". Rather surprisingly the victims received most of their money back, as it appears that Thomas Wolfe, constable of the Tower Liberty, caught the cheats, and although one of them escaped out of his custody, he had managed to get £9 11s. from them, out of which he was ordered to pay 20s. to the use of the poor of that Liberty and return the balance to the former owners (pp. 64–6).

Out of thirteen cases of persons charged with murder only one, a woman, was found guilty and hanged (p. 168). Of the others a verdict of manslaughter was brought in on four occasions, although one of the accused was hanged after an unsuccessful plea of benefit of clergy, and the rest, of whom four were women accused of childmurder, were found not guilty, respited further, or delivered by proclamation; in one case the charge was perforce dropped because the accused had already died and been buried, as was sworn on oath by his former sureties (p. 83). In one case, Richard Ingram of Islington successfully pleaded benefit of clergy when charged with the murder of Samuel Armitage; at the inquest it was related how a drunken quarrel had sprung up in an inn between the two men who had fought together and made an affray, and it was held that the victim had struck the first blow, and as a result had been killed by a knifethrust in his side (pp. 196–7).

Out of a further eighteen cases of persons charged with manslaughter, seven were found not guilty, the victims of three being declared to have died by the visitation of God, although it would seem difficult to exculpate Henry Bull, who led a horse-drawn cart over the body of Thomas Haggert, giving him a mortal bruise on the head (p. 142); two were found guilty and hanged; a similar sentence passed on Stephen Rogers was altered to transportation to Virginia "because he is of the Art of the Carpenters" (p. 115); while the ultimate fate of eight remains unknown. One would like to know what became of Lady Cornelia Farmer, wife of Sir Richard Farmer of Somerton, co. Oxford, knight, who shot John Onley, a gentleman, with a pistol, wounding him in the leg, after which he eventually died (pp. 133–4).

There are two cases of causing death by poison, in one of which the defendant was found not guilty, as it was judged that the victim had committed suicide (pp. 110, 356); in a third case the charge included the employment of witchcraft as well as poison, when John Chaunsey and Joan Brombricke were charged with practising to destroy Edmond Moore by these means, and the same John and Katherine Spencer with taking away the wife, children and goods of the said Edmond; but the plot must have miscarried because Edmond was present to give evidence against them, and they were assessed at very heavy fines, £200, £100, and £50 respectively (pp. 303, 310).

Witchcraft on enchantment is also referred to when the wife of a brewer at Edmonton was accused of bewitching a child (p. 133), and when Mathias Evans of Rosemary Lane, gentleman, was bound in £100 to answer "concerninge the erectinge of figures and southsayinge" (p. 309).

There are four cases of bigamy, one of which continues the story of John Jolles which is recorded in Vol. III, p. 182; he was found not guilty (p. 83). One man was charged with having become "suitor to Hellen Fludd in the way of marryage having a wife living" (p. 123). There are also two cases of women being charged with having two husbands, Alice Barnaby alias Pennington (p. 339), and Frances Carpenter, formerly Williams, who was found not guilty (pp. 6, 73).

In addition to the riots already mentioned in connection with the Session of Oyer and Terminer, there were several other tumults, among which may be noted the riotous de meanour of five carpenters "at the Bulwark of the Tower of London" (p. 211); an assault by two men and a woman on some boys in Whitechapel, the woman threatening them with a knife (p. 236); a riot at the house of Bridget Pasmore, a notorious keeper of a bawdy-house and alehouse, who although suppressed continued on her disorderly course (pp. 336, 352); and a riotous assault made by some wine-porters on Doctor James Chambers, the King's Physician, and Dennis Lee his servant, as they were passing peaceably through Holborn (pp. 354–5). The usual disturbances seem to have occurred on Shrove Tuesday, both in 1617 and 1618. On the former occasion a baker who refused to aid the constable in keeping the peace was fined £20, and had to stand in the open with a paper over his head, seek the constable's pardon, and go to prison for one year (p. 146); in 1618 fourteen persons were committed by order of the Lord Chief Justice; of these, two were fined, two discharged, three respited further, and seven sent to the House of Correction (p. 341).

Assaults in the highway, without robbery, were dealt with leniently, the only punishment inflicted being a fine (e.g., pp. 15–16, 229), but highway robbery was a different matter. All those found guilty of such an offence were sentenced to be hanged, although one at least was subsequently respited and three others were outlawed (pp. 90, 106). The death penalty was even incurred for robbing the victim of such trifles as a cloak worth 20s. and a handkerchief worth 2d. with 10s. in it, or 6s. out of a lady's purse (pp. 326, 365); but when one highway robber had been proved to be not guilty of robbery, but merely of assault and wounding, he was fined £40 and respited for good sureties during his life (p. 344).

References to the stealing of horses, cattle and sheep are numerous, and in at least one instance seem to indicate the existence of a gang of thieves who systematically stole the horses of countrymen when they had come to London. In this incident one of the men endured the punishment of the peine forte et dure, and the others either escaped or were presumably respited to the Buckinghamshire Assizes, their prosecutors having been bound over to appear there (p. 323). Another horse-thief also underwent the torture of the peine forte et dure (p. 77). There are two cases of stealing tame deer (pp. 76, 163), and two of hunting the King's deer in Hyde Park (pp. 345, 366). Other thefts from the King include a pair of iron racks (p. 105), 40lb. weight of lead (p. 116), and divers unspecified goods (p. 345). There was also an attempt to rob "the King's payhouse at Whitehall" at 10 o'clock one night, but both the thieves escaped (p. 229).

Among the many cases of burglary, house-breaking and larceny there are very few that call for special mention. Four thefts from gardens are recorded, when artichokes, cabbages and young trees were removed (pp. 173, 210, 295, 298), and some iron was stolen from a forge in the French Ambassador's garden (p. 198); after one burglary, when clothes, a carpet and a pewter charger were taken, one of the accused escaped, two were found not guilty, but the third stood mute and had judgment of the peine forte et dure (p. 362), as did another man in a burglary charge whereof no details are given (p. 291); a mariner of Limehouse stole three barrels and a half of pitch and tar worth 30s. belonging to the East India Company, but he was found guilty of petty larceny only, to the value of 11d., and sentenced to be whipped in the place where the offence was done (p. 77); the thief who stole some curtains out of Sir Ralph Winwood's coach pleaded benefit of clergy, but as it was found he had made this claim before, he was not allowed the book and was sentenced to be hanged (p. 303).

There are two cases mentioned of the robbing of ships; in one, James Burte of Shadwell, sailor, Thomas Slater and four others of the same place were indicted for stealing a number of valuable goods, including pillowbeers wrought with silk and gold worth £20, six pairs of holland sheets worth £30 and a piece of tapestry hanging worth £20, belonging to Sir Edward Coke, knight, out of a barque near Woolwich, for which crime the four who were found guilty sought the book, but as the said James could not read he was hanged (pp. 67–8); in the other case, William Reignoldes, Agnes Cooke and Robert Slater were charged with taking away a box and £8 in money out of the ship called the "Mary Fortune" of Lynn, but were found not guilty (p. 180).

The suppression of nuisances is exemplified when a maltster and a brewer caused annoyances with their brew-houses (pp. 208, 367), and when a baker greatly annoyed and injured his neighbours by enclosing a pump and a common "house of easement" (p. 217). There are two cases of injury to passers-by in the streets through dangerous driving or riding (pp. 42, 142).

The unlawful sale of tobacco was greatly on the increase, and it would seem that the habit of smoking was apt to interfere with the duties of the Watch (pp. 221, 241). In September 1617 seven tobacco-sellers were bound over because, having been formerly warned by the Lord Chief Justice's order to desist from victualling, they yet continued to do so (p. 215).

Robert Tapping of Charterhouse Lane was charged for his several contempts in not appearing at the Musters (p. 282).

Definite orders by the Justices assembled in Court, and set down at some length, include such matters as the repair of bridges (pp. 101–2, 366); the settlement of vagrants and maintenance of destitute wives and children (e.g. pp. 158–9, 166, 207); purveyance for the Royal Household (pp. 102–3, 335); the ordering of the House of Correction (pp. 89–90, 157–8, 282) and a payment to its late governor (p. 367); payments to maimed soldiers (e.g., pp. 156–7, 335–6); the appointment of a body of special informers to enquire into the negligence of petty constables in not punishing rogues (p. 367); the prevention of mutiny in Newgate, where a disorder had of late been committed (p. 242); and the suppression of a particular form of begging that took place during certain festivals known as Whitsun Ales (pp. 283–4). At such times great numbers of women and children went about the streets and highways begging upon pretence that it was for the repair of churches, and many unlawful games were played, for both of which "they allege ancient custom and long continuance", therefore the Justices decided to order the churchwardens and constables in the several parishes where such games and begging were used to put an end to these practices, and to bring before the Justices any person who resisted their authority in this matter.

Many alehouse-keepers were charged with being unlicensed or keeping ill rule in their taverns, as well on the Sabbath as on other days, but only one such inn is mentioned by name, the "Princes Arms" at Hoxton, whose proprietor, Richard Ransdale, having assaulted and wounded two gentlemen, was imprisoned in irons and suppressed from keeping any alehouse in Middlesex, nor was any other man to victual in that particular house thereafter (p. 117). A theft was committed at the "Black Bear" in St. Giles'-in-the-Fields (p. 318), and the "Red Lion" in St. Katherine's is mentioned (p. 337), but these are the only inn-signs that occur in this volume.

A gradual encroachment was already taking place on the common land in the county. There are three entries in the Process Register Book of Indictments relating to George Thorpe who enclosed ten acres of land in Sunbury common (pp. 91, 160, 288). Similar charges were brought against John Page of Bedfont, for enclosing the common called "Hatton Moore barne" (p. 208), and against William Tuckey, for enclosing three acres in the common at Hounslow Heath (pp. 160, 289). The highways were also sometimes enclosed and obstructed, one such being the way called "Bromehill way" leading between Teddington and Kingston Wick (p. 160). There were seven bridges concerning which presentments were made because they needed repairing, including Howe bridge in Sunbury, in the highway leading from Oatelands up to Hampton Court, which Sir Thomas Lake ought to have repaired (pp. 91, 288); Bow bridge, where Thomas Mewtas, esquire, had defaulted in its repair (p. 287); and Maltman's bridge in East Bedfont, for which Sir Michael Stanhope was first presented in May 1617; he appeared in Court in July 1617, was presented again in October 1617, and finally process against him was stayed by order of the Court in March 1617–18 because the bridge was by then sufficiently repaired, as certain of the Justices certified the Court (pp. 160, 288, 366).

With these few examples of the types of cases which called for the attention of the Justices of Middlesex, I will close this preface and refer you to the calendar and to the very ample index for further details.

It is hoped that the present troublous times will not altogether interrupt continuance of this work, as it is only by making records of this nature available to those who are not necessarily experts in paleography, that the general student of history is able to obtain an unprejudiced insight into the life and bearing of past generations living in the county.

Furthermore the continued existence of original records is at the present time in great jeopardy, and the transcribing and translating of them should help to secure the preservation of valuable material, for even if the originals were unfortunately destroyed, some at least of the copies might be preserved.

I should again like to express my sincere thanks to Miss Cicely Baker, who compiled the Calendar and Index, and to Miss Cameron for the constant help she has given to me, help which was especially valuable in the adverse circumstances during which this volume has been completed.

June, 1941.