London Consistory Court Depositions, 1586-1611: List and Indexes. Originally published by London Record Society, London, 1995.

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'Introduction', in London Consistory Court Depositions, 1586-1611: List and Indexes, (London, 1995) pp. vii-xxviii. British History Online [accessed 12 April 2024]

In this section


The records of ecclesiastical courts have long been recognized as invaluable sources of information, especially for social, legal, economic, and ecclesiastical historians and for literary scholars. (fn. 1) In early modern England, ecclesiastical courts adjudicated a wide variety of cases: church discipline, defamation, matrimony, testament, and tithe cases. G. R. Elton commented on the richness of these records: ecclesiastical records 'offer a most promising field to research because they illumine the history of Church and people in ways that no other source can. They take one to the realities. This is because of the wide range of cases that came before these courts, and because that range touched the human being so very near his personal centre'. (fn. 2) Within the ecclesiastical court system, the records of the Consistory Courts are particularly valuable for insight into Elizabethan and Jacobean culture: as Martin Ingram points out, 'the most important forum was the bishop's consistory court . . . . [I]t formed the hub of diocesan administration and justice'. (fn. 3) While other series in the records of the courts such as the act books (which set out procedures) also have real value in the study of early modern English culture, the deposition books (Liber examinationum), which record the testimony of plaintiffs, defendants, and witnesses to cases, are particularly rich sources of information about daily life both for their full detail on matters at issue and for information in them given incidentally. R. H. Helmholz underscores the richness of the depositions especially for marriage suits: 'they are the most informative and interesting documents which have come down to us from marriage causes'. (fn. 4) Depositions from cases other than marriage are extremely informative as well. Regardless of the exact complaint to which the witness deposes, the depositions are a source of information for class relations, economic conditions, the social and spiritual roles the church played, contemporary attitudes, social relations and events, legal knowledge and understanding, patterns of geographic mobility, ages at marriage, inheritance practices, patterns of behaviour, relationships within the community, household relationships, gender definitions, relationships between the sexes, and daily life in early modern London. Unlike those from the Archdeaconry Courts and the Court of Arches, the depositions from the Consistory Court are the most complete from London for the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries. (fn. 5) This Consistory Court handled cases from a wide range of social classes as well. While the jurisdiction of the diocese of London included 'the City of London, the counties of Middlesex and Essex and the greater part of Hertfordshire', (fn. 6) these records are especially informative when studying urban London, since more than half of the witnesses in the surviving, accessible documents of the period covered in this list came from metropolitan parishes.

Rich as their potential is, however, with the exception of the provocative recent work of Laura Gowing on defamation and marriage, the depositions from the London Consistory Court in early modern England still represent an untapped resource. While insightful analyses of ecclesiastical court depositions from medieval and early modern England have been published by Helmholz, Ralph Houlbrooke, Ingram, Diana O'Hara, and Richard Wunderli, for instance, the London Consistory Court depositions for the late sixteenth and early seventeenth centuries have only partially been analysed in print. While Wunderli's study focuses on a preReformation ecclesiastical judicial system in London, Gowing's Domestic Dangers: Women, Words, and Sex in Early Modern London (1996) uses Consistory Court depositions from defamation and marriage suits and is the first full-length study of the London records for this period. One reason that the London Consistory Court depositions have been overlooked may in part be owing to the fact that these depositions have been unindexed, until now. (fn. 7) These deposition books are not organized in terms of the litigants or the cause of a case. In fact, these books, unlike the act books for this period, intermix instance cases (party disputes) and office cases (disciplinary or moral correction). Instead, the deposition books are, for the most part, chronologically arranged according to the date on which the deposition was repeated. The volumes, which are written in a loose secretary hand, are also extremely difficult to scan. The present text seeks to overcome these difficulties by presenting a summary of the details of each case, with four indexes (names, places, occupations, and causes), in order to give researchers access to the valuable material the cases contain. I hope at a later date to edit a full calendar of selected proceedings.

Despite their richness, some consider another problem of these records is that they are unreliable, and they generally offer three reasons. First, our access in depositions to 'what happened' in early modern England is not unmediated because clerks wrote down the accounts of the deponents. But short of correspondence and diaries, what kinds of sources do we have that are not mediated? And even with diaries and correspondence one must always be wary of the self-fashioning of the writer. Of course, depositions represent the testimony as recorded by an intermediary, the court clerk, so that we cannot claim that these records represent the actual voices of the witnesses; nevertheless, these rich depositions contain vivid pictures, full of details of contemporary practices and attitudes. (fn. 8) Second, we are told not to consider cases as representative of the period since some cases have disappeared and in some of the extant cases the complaint is not always clear (we do not, for example, have much information about cases for which no witnesses were called). Nonetheless, for the twenty-five year period of this list many depositions are available that, regardless of the cause, provide insights into daily life in early modern London. The third potential problem scholars often cite is that these records do not show causes that proceeded without conflict or confusion. That is, because depositions were usually taken in the last steps of the litigation process before the final sentence (discussed below), they expose only those cases in which parties interpreted customs and practices so differently that the cases could not be settled out of court. On the contrary this perceived difficulty can be seen rather as proof of the very richness of these records, so that Jennifer Kermode and Garthine Walker point out one insight we gain when studying such cases: 'By closely examining behaviour when individuals exhausted social tolerance or broke fundamental taboos we gain insights difficult to achieve by other means'. (fn. 9) Furthermore, although the records of many of these lawsuits, unfortunately, do not include rulings, those that lack them nonetheless yield valuable information concerning practices and attitudes. Those lawsuits that do have sentences yield both legal prescriptions and practices so that they document the ideologies and restrictions on behaviours, speech, and ideologies that were upheld and enforced in Tudor and Stuart London. Thus, the records both with and without rulings all contain much valuable information.

Deposition Books at the London Metropolitan Archive

The depositions for the London Consistory Court were transferred from Doctors' Commons to Somerset House in 1874, then to the London County Council - subsequently the Greater London Record Office and now (1997) the London Metropolitan Archive - in 1956. In discussing this transfer in her volume London Consistory Court Wills 1492–1547 in 1967, Ida Darlington pointed out that 'Several consistory court volumes which had been sent in error to the Guildhall Library with records of the commissary court have since, by the good offices of Dr. Albert Hollaender, been sent to County Hall'. (fn. 10) However, two volumes containing Consistory Court depositions remain at the Guildhall Library: MS 9189, volumes 1 (6 December 1622–6 June 1624) and 2 (4 May 1627–26 February 1627/8). Almost all of the deposition books at the London Metropolitan Archive in the DL series are available for consultation on microfilm only. DL/C/217, however, is a heavily damaged manuscript, and even after conservation is too fragile to be microfilmed; nevertheless, a photocopy of this manuscript is available for consultation. Hitherto, the microfilms and photocopy of these valuable Consistory Court records were accessible only at the archive itself, since the archive adhered to a strict policy of not making duplicate films or copies. However, thanks to the generous help of Mr. John Butcher at the Corporation of London, this policy has been changed and readers can purchase microfilms and photocopies. This should make the present list of value to a greater number of scholars.

Deposition Books in this Volume

The sheer quantity of these records can suggest something of their potential. The documents listed in this volume are the deposition books from the Consistory Court of London for 1586–1611, which are housed at the London Metropolitan Archive:

DL/C/213 6 December 1586–17 June 1591, 840 folios

DL/C/214 7 June 1591–13 November 1594, 653 folios

DL/C/217 3 February 1606/07–22 June 1607, 230 folios

DL/C/218 11 May 1608–23 November 1609, 672 folios

DL/C/219 28 November 1609–10 June 1611, 880 folios (fn. 11)

Unfortunately, at the time of writing, two volumes-DL/C/215 and DL/C/ 216-in the middle of the twenty-five year period that this list covers were 'unfit for consultation'; however, they are in the process of being conserved and, according to Dr. Deborah Jenkins, Head Archivist, London Metropolitan Archive, they should be available for consultation in 1998. (fn. 12) I have focused this list on the twenty-five year period of 1586–1611 for two reasons: (1) within this period there were sharp increases in the population of London and in the number of cases coming to the Consistory Court, (fn. 13) and (2) important changes occurred in canon law (1597 and 1604) and also in the monarchy. In addition, these twenty-five years are of great interest to literary scholars, given the important developments in poetry and drama during this time, especially since this is the period when Shakespeare was in London and drama was at a highpoint. In what follows, this introduction emphasises not legal theory or doctrine in these depositions, but practices which they record. Its purpose is to comment on the forms of the depositions, specifically on where certain kinds of information can be found in them, and to explain how to use this list and the categories of information it contains.

Procedure and Form

Depositions from instance cases (party disputes) rather than office cases (disciplinary or moral correction) make up the majority of those in this list. Though an examination of the litigation procedure of the London Consistory Court is beyond the scope of this brief introduction, the work of Brian Woodcock provides useful categories of the litigation process. He has identified five stages that usually occurred in practice in instance cases: 1) Citation of the defendant, 2) Constitution of Proctors, 3) Contestation of the Suit, 4) Proofs, and 5) Conclusion and Sentence. (fn. 14) Unfortunately, we do not have a complete record of the litigation procedure for many cases covered in this list. The depositions, which would have occurred in Stage Four, were usually given in private without the presence of the litigants or proctors; they were then usually repeated before the judge, who was a university-trained doctor of law. (fn. 15) As noted above, the arrangement of the entries in the surviving deposition books is by the date on which they were repeated.

The depositions themselves almost always contain an entry at the top of the deposition, subsequently referred to as a heading, that begins a new suit. In its fullest form, the heading is almost always in Latin and includes four types of information: 1) the type of the complaint to which the evidence is given — libel, allegation, and the like; 2) when the complaint was exhibited; 3) the names, occupations, and places of residence of the litigants; if a female litigant, sometimes the name of her husband is added; and 4) when the witnesses were examined. (fn. 16) In a few instances, the entry will appear in the left margin, rather than on the top of the deposition. Though the location differs, the form usually remains the same: 'super libello exhibit xximo die May 1587 ex parte Marie Hudson uxoris Richard Hudson contra Elizabetham Jackson' (151). (fn. 17) These forms can be as simple as 'In causa Bradforth alias ffarmor contra ffarmor' (51). Even when, as usual, the entry appears at the top, the surnames of the litigants are often written in the left margin of the deposition as well. In many cases, however, the heading conflicts with the marginal entry. For example, in 762 the heading reads 'John Hall contra Richard Simes'; however, written in the left margin in the same hand is 'Simes contra Hall'. The deposition identifies John Hall as the party producent (see also 930, 959, 962, 976, 979, 1074). In some instances, the marginal entries are written in a different hand, which may account for the conflict. In 715, for example, while the top has 'John How contra Phillip White', the left margin contains 'White contra How', and the deposition identifies John How as the producent. Many litigants countersued each other, which may account for the conflicting entries. Comments by legal personnel are rare in these records, but a heading in a matrimonial suit reveals an opinion toward the litigants. In 925, in listing the litigants, the heading reads: 'ex parte Willmi Dixon clerici contra Anna Dixon alias Tailer alias Mills eius (ut dicit) uxorem'.

The headings, as noted above, often include the date the charge was exhibited and sometimes when the witnesses were examined. In the left margin near the heading is the entry which in its full form tells when the deposition was repeated, before which official, where it was repeated, and the name of the notary public present. These entries often contain a combination of these items, such as 'repetit coram officiali xi Novembris 1587 inpresentia magistri William Cock notarii publici' (163). (fn. 18) Some depositions are particularly informative about the time it took for a case to go through the Consistory Court, since they provide dates that mark different stages in the litigation process: the exhibition of the charge, the examination of a witness or witnesses, and the repetition of the deposition. These stages represent numbers three and four of Woodcock's procedure labels. With some cases, we cannot turn to the act books to determine the length of time of a case because the act book has not survived, and even when an act book is available for many cases a final sentence is not included. The majority of the cases that include all three dates are in DL/C/218 and DL/C/219, though cases in other deposition books provide these dates as well. In 741, for example, the heading states that the exhibition of the charge occurred on 24 November 1592 and the examination of the witnesses took place on 27 January 1592/3; the sideentry tells us that the deposition was repeated on 29 January 1592/3. The time from the presentation of the libel to the repetition of the deposition could take a day or two (1278), a little over a week (1241) or a few weeks (977), although more took a few months, as did the case cited above (955, 978, 1212, 1254, 1265, 1422), and some even a few years (1011). (fn. 19) Because the examinations of multiple witnesses and the repetitions of the depositions did not occur all at once, these dates can vary for the same case. We should treat these figures with caution and only use them as guidelines. Houlbrooke points out, for instance, in regard to the time of litigation that 'Efficiency in dealing with cases naturally varied somewhat from court to court and from one decade to the next. Much depended upon the volume of cases currently being handled, the skill of individual chancellors and the attitudes of litigants'. (fn. 20)

Some depositions provide two of these dates: the exhibition of the libel and the repetition of the deposition. Again, the dates vary considerably. In 262, for example, the time between these two occurrences was almost three months, from 22 March to 12 June 1588. We do find examples of cases that took longer: in 180, for example, the libel in the case of the farmers of the rectory of St. Sepulchre against Henry Boden was exhibited on 20 May 1587. Though no date is included in the left margin noting when this deposition by Joan Guyn was repeated, the deposition preceding this one and the one directly following were repeated on 23 November 1587, thus indicating a delay of six months. (fn. 21) Some headings indicate when the witnesses were examined, rather then when the charge was exhibited. In some cases, the examination of witnesses and repetition of the deposition could occur on the same day (842, 1019, 1032, 1708), could take a day or two (735, 1692), could take a few weeks (515, 1021), or even months (607). (fn. 22) The time between the repetition of a deposition and the interrogatory could also be a few months, as DL/C/218 evidences: 1202 and 1253; 1203 and 1255; 1204 and 1252; 1212 and 1271; 1213 and 1270; 1214 and 1275; 1215 and 1277.

Comments within the depositions about the litigation process are infrequent. Judith Pursell's complaint in 881 does provide an indication of the time an examination could take and the cost to the witness: 'that the producentes man did Cite this respondent to come to depose in this matter And she sayeth she hath not had any thinge for her labor but she sayeth she hathe bestowed iii dayes in goinge upp and downe to be sworn and examined which she hopeth Richard Oughton will have regard of her losse of time'. In addition to receiving a process, the physical structure of the Consistory Court could compel a person to testify, despite her or his reluctance. David Beddowes, for instance, was 'cooming to sollictt other causes in that Consistorie the partie producent desired him to bee a wittness in this cawse, which he would not have been if he could have avoided it, but by reason he was then present in the open Court the Judge did monish him to take his oath and for his expenses he hopeth to receave so much as the Courte will allow him' (654). Under some of the marginal dates, the scribe included the fees received. Appendix 2 is a transcription of GL MS 25, 188, 'The Table of ffees and dutyes belongeinge to the Lord Bishop of London his Chauncellor Register Generall Apparitor and other officers of hi{s} Consistory Court of London made in the yeare of our Lord god 1598', for reference. When discussing ecclesiastical fees for the Canterbury courts, Woodcock comments that 'the judges probably supplemented their private income from fees. Unfortunately, no information can be gained about the division of fees between the judges and the registrars' (fn. 23) Happily, this table provides just such information for London.

Unfortunately, the headings almost never list the causes, that is the categories of the complaints, of the suits, thus making these records much less accessible, especially since depositions for a case can be separated by hundreds of folios or even be found in separate deposition books. Testament cases can often be identified from their heading, since, rather than the names of the litigants, it often includes the name of the deceased and her or his place or parish of residence, and it sometimes even includes the occupation of the deceased. But in most cases, only the contents of the depositions will tell the cause. In a few cases that are not testamentary, however, the heading mentions the cause of the suit. For example, the heading in 302 identifies the case as a defamation suit: 'Super libello ex parte Jane ffelme contra et adversus Georgium Knighte in causa diffamacionus' (293, see also 449, 1777). In addition, some causes are difficult to determine since the witness testifies to the credibility of other witnesses (1096, 1147, 1654). In a defamation suit (984), for instance, Francis Lownes' testimony focuses on how the witnesses 'are all and every one of them . . . of so good Credit honestie estimacon and integritie that they will not depose or avowch any thing uppon their oathes untruly'.

The beginning of each deposition contains a brief biography of the witness. Information about the litigants in these records often comes from the testimony of the witness rather than from the heading. A rare example when a biography of a litigant occurs before her testimony is worth noting. In 311, in the personal response of Margaret Callowell to the libel on behalf of John le Sage, the recorder included a paragraph about the defendant: 'Thursdaie the xxith of November 1588 Margarett Callowell borne at Roan of the aige of xxv yeeres or thereabowtes beinge examined upon the articles or libell exhibited before the righte woorshipfull Doctor Edward Stanhope on the behalfe of John Le Sage answereth in vertue of her oathe taken before the said righte woorshipfull doctor That which heerafter ensuethe. To wytt'. This entry for a litigant is very rare indeed, however, especially since it is written in English rather than Latin. Though the headings are seldom very informative about the background of the litigants, we do learn quite a bit about the witnesses. These brief biographies differ depending on the sex of the witness. A male witness is almost always identified in order of (1) name, (2) current parish of residence, (3) occupation, (4) length of residence in the parish and place of birth, and sometimes name and length of residence in previous parishes, (5) age, and (6) often how long and how well the witness has known the litigants. These biographies can be as brief as 'Edwardus Littleburie de Enfeild Armiger etatis 63 annorum dicit quod partes litigantes bene novit' (1113). Sometimes the male witness's occupation is listed before his place of residence and this is usually the case with clergymen (253, 512, 513, 625). A female witness, on the other hand, is almost always identified in order of her (1) name, (2) status in relation to a man, whether it be widow, wife, or maiden: if a widow, sometimes the record contains the deceased husband's name; if a wife, the record almost always contains the husband's name; and if a maiden, the record usually includes her father's name, (3) parish of residence, (4) length of residence in the parish and place of birth, and sometimes name and length of residence in previous parishes, (5) age, and (6) often how long and how well the witness has known the litigants. Occasionally the woman's place of residence is listed before her marital status and husband's name (575, 708, 817, 1690). One very rare exception to this form concerns a wife who has a different surname from her husband: in a matrimonial cause of Adriane de la Pierre against Anthony Lambert, the deposition identifies the witness as Margaret Goteswine of St. Leonard Shoreditch, Middlesex, aged 65, married to Robert Motto, a silkweaver (1415). Though not given in the brief biography, the depositions themselves sometimes supply the occupations of the wives and widows. While the biographies indicate that a woman's identity in relation to a man is seen as more important than her parish of residence or her employment, the content of the depositions themselves does not fully support such dependence. The differences in the forms of the biographies may also be seen to be the result of degree rather than gender since many male as well as female servants are listed in terms of their name, occupation, employer's name, place of residence, and the occupation of their employer (697). However, the names of men immediately follow more women's names than follow male servants' names.

Regardless of the gender of the witness, these records are an invaluable source of information concerning patterns of relocation. The biography for Michael Pecocke, a cordwainer, for instance, records that he is from Staines in Middlesex, where he has lived for 14 or 15 months, but he previously lived in Farnham in Surrey for ten years, and he was born in Stanwell in Middlesex (1605). However, some witnesses, such as Katherine Stokes, a 34-year-old widow from the parish of St. Botolph Billingsgate, and Thomas Hearde, a 62-year-old yeoman, always lived near their birthplace; Hearde testified, for example, that 'he was borne in the parishe of Upminster, and hath never since his birthe dwellt owt of the parishe above two or three myles' (34, see also 82, 250, 432, 604, 1343). From the biographical information provided by witnesses in these depositions, Gowing has found that 'a sample of inhabitants between 1572 and 1640 shows that only one in ten Londoners were living in the parish in which they were born, and three-quarters came from outside London and Middlesex'. (fn. 24)

The bodies of the depositions themselves are usually in English, though a few are in Latin and some have been translated from French and Dutch. Each deposition is made up of responses by the witness to a series of questions, the number of which can vary greatly. 1073 contains five questions to which the respondent gave very brief responses, and 692 contains a very unusual seventy-four questions. Although the specific questions are not included in the depositions, the responses can be very full nonetheless. While some responses are simply an affirmative or a negative, others are many folio pages long. In some cases, the witness responds to several items in one answer. One witness, for instance, answered nine questions in one response (1249). Thus, the length of the testimony itself can vary from a few words (a personal response totalling twelve words in 1331) to many folios (1286).

Subsequent to some depositions are the witnesses' responses to additional questions. Subsequent to many more depositions, however, are the interrogatories — similar to cross-examinations — which record the answers of a witness to questions put to her or him by the opposing party. The interrogatory sometimes follows on the same folio page and sometimes appears later in the deposition book. These responses in the interrogatory are often shorter and more cryptic than those in the deposition. In 961, to item 13 Katherine Stanbanck responds 'that she never knew heard or doeth beleve any suche thing as is interrogated', while in 959, Robert Eyer states that he does not have to answer item 8: 'that this Interrogatory is not pertinent to this cause and therfore he sayethe he will not answer unto it'. Yet the interrogatories contain valuable information nonetheless. Helmholz identifies two basic kinds of interrogatories: the first was 'aimed at destroying the credibility of the witness', while the second 'sought to adduce positive evidence for the defendant's contentions'. (fn. 25) The former is much more prevalent for the records covered by the list, and it appears pro forma in this type of interrogatory to question the witness as to: (1) her or his total wealth, including whether the witness is in the subsidy book; (2) the relationship to the litigants, particularly to the plaintiff; (3) who paid his or her charges; (4) which party the witness thinks should win the case; and occasionally (5) past criminal records. In terms of the first of these categories, these interrogatories sometimes provide information on the occupation of the spouse of the witness or of fellow witnesses. In the interrogatory of Anne Legg, for instance, we learn that Frances Goodge lives 'partly by her husbandes maintenance of her and partly by her owne industrie of teaching gentlemans dawghters musick and to dance and suche like qualities' (1103). (fn. 26) In terms of the fourth category, the witnesses very often claim to be indifferent regardless of who paid their charges: 'that he beareth noe more affection to one then to another towchinge the matter in sewte and that he is indifferente which partye shall gett the victory, and he is conversante with all the partyes alike' (464) and 'for truth sake she will neither favor one or other and hath bynn moste conversant with Master Robinson and would yf she were Judge geive the victory to them that hath the righte' (475; see also 95, 458, 518, 868, 1102, 1163). In a few cases, however, the witness states a clear preference: 'she favoureth Marie Grey most and she is most conversant with her and for that she thinckethe that she the same Marie hathe most right in this Cause she sayethe she would give her the victorie therof if it weare in her power' (973; see also 961, 1107, 1164). In some cases the witness refers the case to the law: Joan Thomson 'wisheth the victory to them that the Lawe will geive itt' (472) and Christopher Palmer 'that he would give the victorie of this Cause to the right or to him that hathe right by lawe unto it if it wear in his power' (958; see also 1109, 1373). Many litigants state their awareness of the law by refusing to respond to various items: in 535 William Simpson responds to items 17 and 20 of his interrogatory by stating 'that towchinge hymselfe to answeare this Interrogatory he saieth the lawe doth not bynd hym to answeare', and 'that the lawe doth nott compell hym to answeare anythinge againste hymselfe'.

Editorial Method

The limitations of space have necessitated reducing this list to fundamental categories of information. I have used square brackets for information found in the documents at places other than the immediate deposition. Material that I have not been able to read clearly has been enclosed in curly brackets. With clarity as the objective, abbreviations have been expanded wherever the expansion is certain, and spellings of Christian names, places, and occupations have been extended, anglicised from Latin, and rendered according to modern usage. Errors may exist in reading unusual surnames, especially when deciding between 'n' and 'u'. ff has been transcribed as F. Commas have been added to distinguish names and titles in a series. For the spelling of surnames. I have used the first reference in the heading or the biography as the control. If it appears neither in the heading nor in the biography of the witness, I have used the first reference in the testimony. Given the great variety in spelling, I used the first entry since that is the entry representing how it was first recorded. In some instances, the depositions contain an 'als' (alias) both for surnames and place names. I have included both when given. I have included the depositions that have been crossed through. These seem to represent cases that were either settled out of court or not completed. Some depositions simply have sections crossed through, while the entire text of others has been crossed through. I have indicated those depositions that have been entirely crossed through in the list. Subsequent to some depositions are the witnesses' responses to additional questions. I have included the folio numbers of the responses to these additional questions with the folio numbers denoting the deposition of the witness, since they represent the witness's response. Interrogatories that appear more than twenty folios from the deposition are crossreferenced with a separate entry number. DL/C/217 has double pagenumbers starting at page 199–228; I have used the lower ones.

In the first column, the list provides an entry number for each separate deposition for the convenience of the reader. The following number represents the LMA call-number of the volume, followed by the folio numbers of the deposition. Below the call-number. I supply up to four different kinds of information as appropriate: (1) the folio numbers of the Interrogatory or Interrogatories; (2) the name of the deceased in a Testament or Ecclesiastical Burial case; (3) a note if the deposition has been translated; and (4) a note if the deposition has been crossed through. The third column may contain a date. The list follows the chronological arrangement of the deposition books themselves. As noted above, these dates represent when the depositions were presented in court, not when they were examined. I use these dates as the organizing principle for this list, since they were the organizing principle for the deposition books. In many cases, the scribe has written the "same day" or "as above" in the left margin to indicate when the deposition was repeated. In these cases, I have supplied the initial date in brackets. I have taken the beginning of the year to be 1 January, and I have shown both the old and the new dates from January 1 to 24 March.

The fourth column contains names of the litigants, with "c" representing contra. This information is taken from the heading, which is usually in Latin and found almost always on the first deposition for the suit within that particular set of depositions. Subsequent depositions immediately following and pertaining to the case usually do not repeat the heading of the litigants' names. I have used brackets to indicate that the litigant heading does not occur immediately before that particular deposition. In the interest of clarity, I do not reproduce the brackets from the first entry in the subsequent entries that I bracket. I have used the form of the litigants as it is listed on the first deposition of that particular set of depositions and have not standardized the litigants in the list, since the entries vary in terms of the information they provide. Though, as noted above, the heading is not always accurate, I have followed the heading on the deposition rather than the marginal one in order to represent how the case was recorded by the court official at the time of the examination. Moreover, the headings in many cases contain information about the litigants in terms of their parishes, places, occupations, and status. The marginal entries are not as reliable for this purpose, since the litigants are not always listed there and sometimes, as the handwriting indicates, they have been entered by a different person from the recorder of the deposition. For personal responses, all information from the heading is listed in the witness columns, since the litigant is testifying. Words such as 'the said', 'aforesaid', 'dictus', and the like have been omitted except when clarity necessitated their inclusion. While uxor and maritus are translated as wife and husband, mulier and vir are translated as woman and man.


The cause of the suit follows the names of the litigants. I have supplied the causes, since, as noted above, the cases almost never include the complaint in the heading. The causes are based on the content of the deposition only. I have used the following categories to identify the cause:

Defamation (Def)

Ecclesiastical Burial (Ecc Bur)

Ecclesiastical Conduct (Ecc Con)

Ecclesiastical Excommunication (Ecc Exc)

Ecclesiastical Order (Ecc Order)

Ecclesiastical Upkeep (Ecc Up)

Matrimonial Adultery (Mat Adu)

Matrimonial Cruelty (Mat Cru)

Matrimonial Enforcement (Mat Enf)

Testament (Test)

Tithe (Tithe)

Miscellaneous (Misc)

In the cause index, cases are indexed by the category of complaint. The following discussion exemplifies some of the cases in each cause, giving details that could not be included in the list itself.

Defamation (Def) cases include litigation based on words of insult. 'The crime of defamation', according to Ian Maclean, 'is intentional; one component of any successful prosecution must in theory be proof of malicious intent'. (fn. 27) From the depositions, it is clear that judges were concerned with the intent of the defendant in speaking the alleged insult, for the depositions often include the state of mind of the defendant; for example, the defendant spoke the words maliciously or spitefully. These causes point to the material and social circumstances of defamation. Slander was a dangerous tool that could do irreparable harm to women. In a deposition repeated on 8 October 1588, for instance, Henry Britton laments how 'Master Lea will never be abell to make sufficient satisfaccon, to his [Henry Britton's] mother and Sister, for the slanderous wordes spoken of them, by hym' (280). A wife was turned out by her husband because of the charges

that abowt fowre yeres since the sayd Helene Patenson upon some grudg defamed one Margery Hickes of Abchurch parishe as yt well appeared after and made such contencion betwene the sayd Margery Hickes and her husband that he turned her away the sayd Margery but afterwardes the sayd Margery did Justifie her good liffe by the testimony of her honest nighbors and the sayd Helene Pattenson was Condemned in yelde hall in thre pound or thereabowte for her slanderous speches which some was afterwardes upon humble sewte taxed or abridged by Sr Ed Osborne then L Maior unto a lesser some viz xxxs which Henry Pattenson did afterwardes paye for his wiffe to John Hickes and Margery his wiffe in respecte as is aforesyd. (195)

In a deposition repeated on 7 June 1591, Margery Newporte testified that, after Margaret Herde said that Margaret Hyde 'use to ryde upon mens backes' and had a child in Wales before she married, Margery Hyde's 'husbande doth take the said wordes of Margarett Heard very greviouslye and do{th} think more hardlier of his wyffe the producent then he was wont to doo, and doth bydd her Cleare her selfe of those speaches' (568). But defamation could do the same harm to men in terms of their social reputations as businessmen and as husbands: on 2 July 1590, John Brailsforde testified

that he thinketh in his conscience by reason Master Hale is a man of good wealthe, and of a good trade beinge a silkeman he the said Hale had better have spente twoe hundred powndes for his credit sake then to have hade suche bade speaches spoken of hym, soe openlye as they weare by Master Richarde Robinson both att the tyme and place aforesd, and dyvers other tymes as the examinant hath hard by reporte of dyvers credible men. (466)

After Dorothy Stockdale accused Robert Bridges that he 'hast had to deale with fower women besydes Hodgkins wife', Edward Title deposed that he 'and the rest of his fellowe Rulers [of the Company of Waterbeares] have putt the said Bridges out of their howse and sosietie' (597).

These depositions yield a cornucopia of insults, and are particularly rich in exposing a contemporary understanding of what the terms mean. 'Witch' and 'Thief' both appear more infrequently than might be expected in the surviving defamation depositions and are not gender-specific: a few references do occur such as the insult 'whore witch' (829) and Dorrell said that Hide 'useth black arte' (267). According to John Mahne, Katherine Fayermanners called Aveline Grace a 'Baggage and Curtall and theife' (631), while Mary Wharton is reported to have called William Hopwoode a 'theife' (613). The defamation depositions contain insults that are mainly based on female sexuality, whether the insult is directed at a male or female. Here, a taxonomy of words exist ranging from 'a naughtie unholsom woman' (891) to 'an whore an arrant whore a bitch yee woorse then a bitch a whott tayled whore for one nor two nor tene nay twentye will skante serve thy turne' (444) to a 'Cannibal whore' (468). These depositions also reveal contemporary understandings of the meanings and social stigmas of the words. After Elizabeth Draper allegedly said to Elizabeth Holborne 'If I be a welshe queane thow arte a westminster whore', Elizabeth Sowtche testified 'that the good name of Elizabeth Holborne is in the place where she dwelleth somewhatt impared by reason of the foresaid speeches uttred by the said Elizabeth and the rather bycause she termed the said Eliz Holborne a westminster whore which word whore with the addicion of westminster she for her parte taketh to be odious' (328). In an examination that occurred on 5 February 1606/7, Richard Cracroft explained that to be called a queen is not as damaging a term as whore: 'he thincketh . . . base queane arrant queane and baggage to be a slander to any honest woman that shall be so called but he doeth not thinck it so bad as base whore or arrant whore is' (949). However, in a deposition repeated on 18 November 1608, Frances Tillie living in the parish of St. Margaret New Fish Street testified that 'she doubtethe not but it is the opinion of every body that this word queane is alwayes understood being spoken in anger as muche as this word whore' (1180). Some witnesses also provide glosses for the term cuckold: George Moulde explains that 'in Colchester and other parishes therunto nere adioyninge, the meaninge, sense and signification of Cuckould spoken to a married man is taken to be, and doth importe these muche viz a man whose wyfe hathe played the whore and Comitted Adulterye in her husbandes tyme' (572; see also 1729).

Ecclesiastical Burial (Ecc Bur) refers to cases involving the burial of the person named in the heading. While these cases concentrate on the issue of burial, they can contain a wealth of information concerning the history of the specific church (257), controversies within the community concerning pew privileges (112), burial customs and costs, and even the parameters of the authority of the churchwardens. A deposition can provide, for instance, the 'breakinge the grownd' costs in Upminster in 1587: 'man or at mans estate' is '6s 8d' and a child is '3s 4d' (111; see also 250), while in Stepney in 1607 to bury a servant, one paid 7d to Master Goldman, Vicar of Stepney, 4d to the clerk, and 4d to the sexton (964). These cases also reveal contemporary attitudes to the clergy's role in the burial. In the burial case from Stepney mentioned above, Peter Pinder was reported as saying to Master Goldman, 'it was but a little lipp labor and if you would not have buried him quothe Peter Pinder you should have lett him a lone and so he refuse{d} to paye for the buriall therof' (968).

Ecclesiastical Conduct (Ecc Con) identifies cases concerning the conduct of the cleric. These contain a variety of behaviours, from accusations of the clergyman having a 'disordered lyffe in drinkinge in ill companye' (508) to sitting up 'all nighte att playe att cardes for candells in Writtle parish in a place nott fitt for his callinge within theise xii monethes laste past' (10). Clergy were charged with omitting items from the Book of Common Prayer, not reading the Queen's injunctions, not wearing the surplice, not signing the cross, questions concerning the texts used during services, whether the ring was used during weddings (422), questions concerning how benefices were secured (14), and questions concerning the learning of the clergy (355). These cases contain valuable information about contemporary attitudes towards the clergy. For example, George Cowper, a blacksmith from St. Gabriel Fenchurch, testified that 'he dothe not knowe whether Master Denton be a wyne drinker a taverne hawnter or a drunckerd neither doth this evidente know whether he be unlearned but he thincketh that he is so unsufficiente to preache that few in the parrishe wold staie in the churche to heere him preache If it weare not for disobeyenge the queenes maiesties lawes' (355).

Cases concerning the Excommunication of parishioners are rare in these records. I have categorized some cases as such (Ecc Exc) in which the depositions focus on the presence of a parishioner at service. In the few such cases in the depositions covered by this list, distinctions are not made concerning major or minor excommunication.

Ecclesiastical Order (Ecc Order) identifies a wide variety of concerns involving order within the community. They include such varied items as sequestration granted to collect profits, questions of paternity (172), penance for marrying a brother's wife (1029), limits of the authority of the churchwardens (248, 417), individuals who cause trouble amongst their neighbours, and recusancy. Several cases were brought against people for stirring up trouble; for example, many people testified against William Massey, identified as 'a busye man and reported of the neighbores to be a troblesome man amongest them and one that maketh very muche unquietnes in the parishe' (17; see also 268). Recusancy, however, appears in only a few cases covered in this list, and even in these cases is not given a great amount of attention other than whether someone received Communion. Magdalen Plonkett answered concerning her recusancy that 'shee sayth that shee thincketh shee is not bownd to answear by lawe' (598; see also 1044).

Ecclesiastical Upkeep (Ecc Up) cases concern the material circumstances of the church. Readers should also consult the Ecclesiastical Burial, Ecclesiastical Conduct, and Ecclesiastical Order cases, since, though not the main cause, much information concerning the church buildings is often provided in the testimony. For instance, in the Ecclesiastical Burial cause between William Latham and William Robotham, Thomas Boyland mentions that he 'being churchwarden of Upminster abowt thre years synce . . . [had] a glaiser to amend the Church likewise amend so much glasse abowt the chappell as cost xiiid or thereabowtes which this deponent had allowed upon his accompte to the parish' (253).

The ecclesiastical courts had wide jurisdiction concerning Matrimonial matters: 'They adjudicated', as Ingram outlines, 'disputes over marriage contracts, issued marriage licences, heard petitions for separation and annulment, and brought prosecutions for irregular marriage, unlawful separation and similar offences'. (fn. 28) 'There was no competing secular jurisdiction in England', (fn. 29) for, unlike ecclesiastical courts, civil courts usually litigated marriage suits in terms of remuneration for economic damages. Even though very few cases involved the gentry or aristocracy, these litigations are nonetheless a more socially representative source than marriage allegations. As Vivien Brodsky Elliott points out, marriage allegations are biased to the higher status groups in the London diocese . . . . Licence marriages form about one-sixth of all marriages celebrated in the diocese during the years 1598–1619'. (fn. 30) The depositions from the Consistory Court of London for the late sixteenth and early seventeenth century in particular are extremely valuable repositories of information for actual courtship and marriage practices and attitudes toward what makes a valid marriage. Owing to this diversity and richness, I have broken down the Matrimonial entries into three categories (Adultery, Cruelty, and Enforcement), rather than just Enforcement and Separation, to indicate more clearly the basis of the complaint. Since either cruelty or adultery could lead to separation, the latter seemed too broad a category to understand quickly the basis of the complaint. With suit and counter-suit, the cause could vary according to the plaintiff. The castrated or impotent Gervasye le Page sued Anne le Page for adultery, partly since she knew of his previous physical condition and married him anyway: according to Gervasye, 'she knew he wanted his stones yet shee would not refuse him but marry with him' (720). When Anne sued Gervasye, however, it was for cruelty, claiming that 'she now desereth that seeing she hath beefore lived so unquiet with him she may now bee sett free from him according to lawe' (732).

Matrimonial Adultery (Mat Adu) cases involve sexual relations between a married person and someone other than her or his spouse. Given the flexibility and confusion that could surround whether a couple were married, many of the cases start off by the witness testifying as to whom the defendant is married in order to identify the adulterous spouse. Evidence in these cases was, of course, based more on eye-witness accounts: namely, what was heard and seen. These cases focus more on exactly what sexual acts were done by whom with whom than on moral indignation by the witness.

Matrimonial Cruelty (Mat Cru) deals with spousal abuse, whether verbal or physical, or the threat of physical violence from one spouse to the other. Often such cases reveal a complaint similar to the following (324) in which the defendant Simon White explains his treatment of his wife as correction rather than abuse: 'that he hath sondrie tymes within the yeeres and monethes arlate beinge thereto muche provoked by the said Elizabeth given her a blow upon the cheeke with his hand, and so left her, And abowte iiiior yeeres now last past he did upon iuste occasion chastice and correcte the said Elizabeth with a small beechen wand for her misusage and intollerable misbehaviour towardes him which he did in honest reasonable and moderate sorte as he beleeveth (see also 490, 651).

Most of the extant matrimonial depositions are from Matrimonial Enforcement (Mat Enf) suits. These suits can involve determining whether a contract occurred, enforcing conjugal rights, restitution, and jactitation, since all of these issues revolve around the matrimonial contract. Some of the most valuable evidence in the London Consistory Court depositions, I believe, bears on the contemporary attitudes toward what makes a valid marriage. The witnesses in the matrimonial enforcement cases do demonstrate an understanding of the letter of the marriage law, though Helmholz has argued that 'whereas the canon law regarded the contract by verba de presenti as a complete marriage, many laymen continued to regard it simply as a contract to marry. There was a clear difference between the formal law and the popular attitude on this score'. (fn. 31) The depositions from London document that many litigants and witnesses understood the legal validity of clandestine verba de presenti contracts. That is, in terms of canon law as practised in England after the Reformation, the validity of marriage depended on what was said, not where it was said or who officiated, and, as the depositions indicate, this idea of what constituted marriage was also very widely accepted by the parishioners and was carried out in practice. In a case from 1591 between Henry Procktor and Alice Deacon, for instance, Katherine Lloyd from St. Sepulchre parish, aged 50, testified that 'she thincketh to give faith and troth one to another is a Contract' (517), and, in a case almost twenty years later, 'at the widowe Perries howse the sayd Richard Warren sate downe at the tables ende and tooke the sayd widdowe Margaret Perrie als More uppon his knee . . . and . . . sayd here Pegge once againe here is my hand my faith and my troathe thow art my wife and none but thow' (1457; see also 514). While the words are the most substantive proof of the kind of contract, these depositions from the matrimonial enforcement suits document the other technical evidence that became important in making a valid marriage in addition to the exact words used. In practice, as the depositions reveal, marriages did not focus only on the single moment of verbal exchange, but included other stages in the courtship process and in the progression in personal relations, such as the goodwill of the parties, exchanges of tokens, and the like. The pattern which O'Hara has documented in her insightful study of the court depositions from Canterbury is evident here as well: namely, 'The establishment of a marriage, in practice, was not simply an individualised exchange of verbal consent, defined by a single event, but was rather a process which involved a complex series of formalities observed in varying degrees'. (fn. 32)

A large part of the business of this court was Testamentary (Test). The depositions in these cases focus on the circumstances under which the will was written, who was present, and what state the testator was in when he or she composed the will. Cases that deal with past debts of an estate are categorized as a testament case since they focus on the debts of the deceased. An interesting feature of these cases is the number of women that were appointed the executrixes of their husbands' estates.

Tithe (Tithe) cases: Ingram outlines that 'Despite encroachments by the royal courts, the church in early modern England still had an extensive jurisdiction in disputes over the payment of tithes and of various fees due to the clergy'. (fn. 33) Tithe cases are particularly revealing in terms of the customs and costs of the tithes. Richard Wilson explains, for example, 'that the tenth parte of the herbage of his medow which he fed with his cattell mentioned in the fyste article is woorth iiiid an acre and no more for that in Mariborne [St. Marylebone] parrishe they have a custome to pay but onelie iiiid for everye acre If the same be fedd' (314). These cases also offer many agricultural details concerning economics and production in early modern England: Thomas Willett, a 36-year-old farmer from Blackmore, Essex, testified that 'a Cowe thereabowtes dothe geive in the pryme of the yeare a gallone of mylke and eche gallon beinge worthe three pence' (526). This category also applies to cases involving rents paid to local churches from houses and shops.

I have included all cases in the Miscellaneous (Misc) category that did not readily fall into one of the others. The only extant deposition in the case of 'John Adames, Cleric contra George Adams' (522), for instance, consists of only four very brief responses and is thus too incomplete to determine cause, while Agnes Sutley's deposition (121) provides evidence that a servant named Richard Nicholas 'did not run awaye' from his master's house, but was 'Commanded . . . to departe'.

The remaining columns all provide information about the witnesses or about a litigant if the deposition is a personal response. Owing to space constraints, it was not possible to include in this list all of the information that the biographies offer. The parish or place names of the current residence of the witness are listed as they appear in the biography, and when known the spellings of these names have been regularised. A place-name and a parish are both listed when provided in the biography. Counties are in parentheses and are included only when included in the biography. Parishes in the city of London most often include only the parish name in the biography, but sometimes include the city of London as well. They are listed by parish name only. I have supplied a map of London parishes for reference. (fn. 34)

The next column contains the occupation and status, whether it be marital or social, of the witness. As noted above, the biographies often include only a woman's marital status, but give the occupation of the husband, even when the wife supports the husband. The biography for James Stockdell from St. Bride, London, aged 90, lists his occupation as a silkweaver; however, in the interrogatory he explains 'that he being so old a man is not hable to work but lyveth by his wife who being a midwief gettethe his lyving therby' (1081). When the body of the deposition itself, rather than the biography, provides occupational information, I include it in square brackets. Female servants, however, usually have their occupations included in the biography along with the name of their employer. A woman's marital status is usually either uxor, vidua, or puella. I have translated these terms as wife, widow, and maiden. (fn. 35) Soluta appears only a few times in these depositions, and I have translated it as 'unmarried'. A puella in these records appears to indicate that a woman is unmarried rather than to denote her sexual status or her age as a 'girl', as the word is often translated: the biography of Cecily Person, for example, identifies her as a puella from Barking in Essex and servant to Henry Hatton, aged 23 (364), and the biography for Rose Gyles records that she is a puella aged 41 or more years (981). That puella is not simply a synonym for 'spinster' may be evidenced by a scribe's substitution of the word 'spinster' for puella in a deposition repeated on 16 February 1614/5 in the Commissary Court of London. (fn. 36) In a Consistory Court deposition in which the witness was examined on 29 January 1623/4, soluta points to a woman who is unmarried and of some financial worth. The scribe identified Anne Fryer first as uxor, then crossed it out and added soluta, from the parish of St. Clement Danes, Middlesex, aged 22. In the interrogatory, she states that 'she lyveth of herself and she is worth Is at least her debtes paid'. (fn. 37) In the few instances where soluta is used in the depositions covered by this list, the biographies of the women include the names of their fathers, which does not indicate financially independent women. Other contemporary records use a wider range of terms for an unmarried woman. These labels include not only puella and soluta, but also virgo and 'spinster'. As far as I have been able to determine, neither virgo nor 'spinster' appears in any biography from any deposition included in this list. (fn. 38)

The final column of the list contains the age of the witness. Apparently, the witness had to be above fifteen years of age, since that is the youngest age given by a witness (1301). The usual form when supplying their ages appears as 'etatis xlii annorum aut eo circiter libere' (604). In some cases, when the phrase 'et ultras' or 'et amplius' appears, I have included a + following the age. In a few cases, 'et minus' occurs, so I included a — after the age. Sometimes two ages are presented: 'etatis sue 37 vel 38 annorum libere' (951). In these instances, I have placed a solidus between the numbers. The list gives ages in arabic numerals, though in the manuscript they may be given in arabic, roman numerals or be spelt out.

At the end of the list, this volume contains four indexes based on names, places, occupations, and causes. The numbers contained in these indexes refer to the entry numbers in the far left column of the text. In the name index, although I have used the first reference to a surname as a control, I have here also included variant spellings of the surnames when the divergence from the first usage is considerable.


I would like to dedicate this book to Professor Thelma Nelson Greenfield, for her unstinting patience, encouragement, good humour, sound critical expertise, and friendship. I am indebted to Professor Martine Watson Brownley, Professor Susan P. Cerasano, Professor Dolora Cunningham, Dr. Diana Greenway, Professor Richard Helmholz, Professor Earl Knies, Professor Anne Lancashire, Dr. William Owens, Dr. Nigel Ramsay, Professor Vance Ramsey, Professor Compton Reeves, Professor Jane Sayers, and Dr. Michael Stansfield for their invaluable suggestions, advice, and clarifications. Professor Ramsey generously read and reread the introduction and his insightful criticism has greatly improved it. I am grateful for the support and friendship of Lodge Davies, Toni Dorfman, Janet Giese, Janelle Giese, Rosalind Giese, Olivia Giese, June Kurtz, Janine Nelson, and Herta Rodina, and I am especially grateful to Maria Moiel. I also want to thank the staffs at the Bodleian Library, the British Library, the Guildhall Library, and the London Metropolitan Archive, especially the Bishop of London, Dr. Deborah Jenkins, and the Guildhall Library for publication permission. I am particularly thankful to Dr. Marie Nitschke, Emory University Library, and Ms. Nicola Avery, Mrs. Harriet Jones, and Ms. Sarah Millard of the London Metropolitan Archive, who have been very generous with their time and advice, and to Ms. Denise Brem, who created the map of London parishes. The completion of the research for this volume was made possible by the generous support of The Baker Research Committee at Ohio University, the College of Arts and Sciences and the Department of English at Ohio University, and the Ohio University Research Committee, with special thanks to Dr. Carol Blum, Dr. T. Lloyd Chesnut, Dr. Peggy Codding, Ms. Joyce Kohan, Dean Hwa-Wei Lee, Dean Harold Molineu, and Provost David Stewart. I would also like to thank Mr. Shane Gilkey, Ohio University, and Ms. Shelley Hays, Ohio University. Any errors that remain are my own.


  • 1. For a bibliography on ecclesiastical courts and their records, see Appendix 1.
  • 2. G. R. Elton, England, 1200–1640 (London, 1969), p. 105.
  • 3. Martin Ingram, Church Courts, Sex and Marriage in England, 1570–1640 (Cambridge, 1990), p. 35.
  • 4. R. H. Helmholz, Marriage Litigation in Medieval England (Cambridge, 1974), p. 19.
  • 5. For a discussion of the records from the Court of Arches, see M. Doreen Slatter, 'The Records of the Court of Arches', Journal of Ecclesiastical History, 3 (1952), pp. 139-53. For a survey of ecclesiastical archives, see L. M. Midgley (ed.), Survey of Ecclesiastical Archives (Pilgrim Trust, 1951).
  • 6. Ida Darlington (ed.), London Consistory Court Wills 1492–1547 (London, London Record Society, vol. III, 1967), p. xvi.
  • 7. A contemporary index (DL/C/642) has survived for one of the deposition books covered in this list (DL/C/219), but it is of limited assistance. DL/C/642 is an index that is alphabetically arranged by the surname of the plaintiff and contains the surname of the defendant and the folios on which the depositions can be found.
  • 8. For an insightful discussion of the narrative patterns in these depositions, see Laura Gowing, Domestic Dangers: Women, Words, and Sex in Early Modern London (Oxford, 1996), pp. 41–58 and 232–62.
  • 9. Jennifer Kermode and Garthine Walker, Women, crime and the courts in early modern England (London, 1994), p. 8.
  • 10. Darlington, p. xii. For a discussion of the transfer of these documents, see Anthony J. Camp, Wills and their whereabouts, 4th edn (London, 1974), p. xxxiii.
  • 11. The date on the final deposition in DL/C/219 is 20 October 1612. It is the only deposition from 1612 included in this volume and is clearly out of place. This fragmentary deposition is crossed through on folio 440v and continues onto the back cover of the deposition book, what would be folio number 441r. Because this deposition is an anomaly. I have considered this list as covering the twenty-five year period of 1586–1611.
  • 12. DL/C/215 contains depositions from 12 October 1597–9 June 1600. It is 8" wide, 13 1/8" long, and 2 3/4" high (20.32 cm x 33.34 cm x 6.99 cm). Overall, the volume has damp and severe rodent damage, and the binding is completely destroyed. DL/C/216 contains depositions from 3 October 1600–7 June 1603. It is 8 1/2" wide, 13" long, and 3" high (21.59 cm x 33.02 cm x 7.62 cm). According to Mr. Jonathan Rhys-Lewis, Senior Conservator at the London Metropolitan Archive, this manuscript is currently in worse condition than the previous one, since it has more water damage and has had more exposure to atmosphere pollutants. I wish to thank Mr. Rhys-Lewis for kindly showing me these manuscripts.
  • 13. According to Gowing, 'Between 1590 and 1624, a period when London's population rose by 63 per cent, numbers of cases coming to the consistory court doubled' ('Women, Sex and Honour: The London Church Courts, 1572–1640', Ph.D. thesis (University of London, 1993), p. 10). The population of early modern London continues to provoke debate. See, for example, Roger Finlay and Beatrice Shearer, 'Population growth and suburban expansion' in A. L. Beier and Roger Finlay (eds.), London 1500–1700. The making of the metropolis (London, 1986). pp. 37–59, and Vanessa Harding. 'The Population of London, 1550–1700: a review of the published evidence', London Journal, 15:2 (1990), pp. 111–28. Based on Gowing's assessment, the number of cases coming to the London Consistory Court reflects the growth in London's population, regardless of the exact population figures.
  • 14. Brian L. Woodcock, Medieval Ecclesiastical Courts in the Diocese of Canterbury (Oxford, 1952), pp. 50–74. For a fuller treatment of litigation procedure, see Colin R. Chapman, Ecclesiastical Courts, Their Officials and Their Records (Dursley, 1992), pp. 43–51; H[enry] C[onset]. The Practice of the Spiritual or Ecclesiastical Courts. 3rd edn (London, 1708), pp. 75–183; Helmholz, Marriage, pp. 112–40; Ralph Houlbrooke, Church Courts and the People during the English Reformation 1520–1570 (Oxford, 1979), pp. 38–54; Ingram, Church Courts, pp. 47–52; and J. S. Purvis, An Introduction to Ecclesiastical Records (London, 1953). pp. 64–95.
  • 15. For a discussion of the legal personnel, see C.W. Brooks, R. H. Hemholz [sic.], and P. G. Stein, Notaries Public in England since the Reformation (London, 1991). chapters 1–3; Chapman, pp. 29–42 and 57–64, Helmholz, Marriage, pp. 141–54; Houlbrooke, Church Courts, pp. 21–38; Brian P. Levack. The Civil Lawyers in England 1603–1641: A Political Study (Oxford, 1973); G. D. Squibb, Doctors' Commons: A History of the College of Advocates and Doctors of Law (Oxford, 1977); and Woodcock, pp. 37–49.
  • 16. A heading in English appears in 1354: 'The full awnswere of George Bright made to the ixth and xth posicons of the libell given against him on the behaulfe of Leonarde Smithe Clerke' (see also 123, 1560).
  • 17. Reference numbers to cases are the entry numbers in the far left column of the list.
  • 18. For a discussion of the Consistory Court calendar, see C. R. Cheney, Handbook of Dates for Students of English History (Cambridge, 1995), p. 74.
  • 19. Many cases took a few months for these steps to occur: 965, 968, 969, 973, 974, 978, 988, 1009, 1031, 1036.
  • 20. Houlbrooke, Church Courts, p. 42.
  • 21. 631, 747, 784, 794.
  • 22. Repeated on the same day: 730, 754, 844, 1019, 1245, 1673; a day or two later: 591, 728, 1035, 1310, 1692.
  • 23. Woodcock, p. 126.
  • 24. Gowing, 'Language, power and the law: women's slander litigation in early modern London', in Kermode and Walker (eds.), Women, crime and the courts (London, 1994), p. 28.
  • 25. Helmholz, Marriage, p. 18.
  • 26. For a discussion of female labour as evidenced in the London Consistory Court depositions for 1650–1750, see Peter Earle, A City Full of People: Men and Women of London 1650–1750 (London, 1994) and 'The female labour market in London in the late seventeenth and early eighteenth centuries', Economic History Review, 2nd ser., 42 (1989), pp. 328–53.
  • 27. Ian Maclean. Interpretation and Meaning in the Renaissance: The Case of Law (Cambridge, 1992). p. 187.
  • 28. Ingram, Church Courts, p. 3.
  • 29. Helmholz, Marriage, p. 117.
  • 30. 'Single Women in the London Marriage Market: Age, Status and Mobility, 1598–1619', in R. B. Outhwaite (ed.). Marriage and Society Studies in the Social History of Marriage (1982), p. 82. See also Elliott, 'Mobility and Marriage in Pre-Industrial England: a demographic and social structural analysis of geographic and social mobility and aspects of marriage, 1570–1690. with particular reference to London and general references to Middlesex, Kent. Essex and Hertfordshire', Ph.D. thesis (University of Cambridge, 1978).
  • 31. Helmholz, Marriage, p. 31.
  • 32. Diana O'Hara, 'The Language of Tokens and the Making of Marriage', Rural History, 3 (1992). p. 10.
  • 33. Ingram, Church Courts, p. 2.
  • 34. Discussions of social relations within parishes and neighbourhoods include Susan Dwyer Amussen. An Ordered Society, Gender and Class in Early Modern England (New York, 1988), Ian W. Archer, The Pursuit of Stability, Social Relations in Elizabethan London (Cambridge, 1991), especially pp. 58–99, and Boulton, Neighbourhood and Society. A London Suburb in the Seventeenth Century (Cambridge, 1987). In terms of the spellings of place and parish names, I have used three main sources: Eilert Ekwall, The Concise Oxford Dictionary of English Place-Names, 4th edn (Oxford, 1991); for the London parishes. A handlist of parish registers, 6th edn (London, 1990); and for the Middlesex parishes, A handlist of parish registers, 7th edn (London, 1994). If a name does not appear in Ekwall, I base the spelling on that found in the Gazetteer of the British Isles, 9th edn (Edinburgh, 1970). For more detailed maps of the London parishes, see The A to Z of Elizabethan London, compiled by Adrian Prockter and Robert Taylor (London, 1979), and 'Parish Boundaries prior to Union of Parishes Act, 1907' (London Topographical Society).
  • 35. For a discussion of widows, see Vivien Brodsky, 'Widows in Late Elizabethan London: Remarriage, Economic Opportunity and Family Orientations', in Lloyd Bonfield, Richard M. Smith, and Keith Wrightson (eds.), The World We Have Gained: Histories of Population and Social Structure (Oxford, 1986), pp. 122–54.
  • 36. GL MS 9065A. vol. 4, fol. 227v
  • 37. GL MS 9189, vol. 1, fols. 149r and 149v, respectively.
  • 38. In a rare instance a deposition includes the term 'single woman' to identify a woman's marital status (GL MS 9065A. vol. 3, fol. 57r). The word 'spinster' occurs in GL MS 9065A, vol. 4, fol. 71r; GL MS 9057, vol. 1, fols. 100r, 151v, 166r, 187r, 188v, and 201r; virgo appears in GL MS 9065A. vol. 4, fol. 218r; and GL MS 9065A, vol. 3, fols. 41v, 183v, and 199v The ages of the three women for which the scribe used this term are 20, 55, and 40 respectively. For a discussion of the contemporary usage of the term spinster, see Baker, 'Male and Married Spinsters'. The American Journal of Legal History. 21:3 (1977). pp. 255–9, in which he concludes that the historian 'can never assume as a matter of course that a "spinster" is a single woman' (p. 259).