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108 CLAXTON V KING
Hugh Claxton of Bedminster, co. Somerset v William King of Compton Dando, co. Somerset
November 1637 - November 1638
Claxton prosecuted King for abusive words in Thomas Taylor's alehouse in Compton Dando, Somerset, at Whitsun in 1637. King admitted to the words in the libel, but claimed that he had spoken them after asking Claxton for security for a loan he was arranging for him and that he was provoked by Claxton calling him 'base drunken rogue' and striking him in the face. He also claimed Claxton's three main witnesses were 'base idle fellows', one of whom, his servant, Thomas Price, had wounded him with a pikestaff the previous summer when trying to arrest him at Claxton's suit and sworn against him in the Court of Common Pleas. Proceedings were under way by November 1637 and the defendant's witnesses were examined by a commission led by John Burges and Barnard Atkins, gents, at the Three Tuns Inn in Bath, Somerset, on 27 March 1638. It was ordered that sentence be heard on 6 November 1638, but no further proceedings survive.
14/1cc, Defence interrogatories
1. The witnesses were warned of the penalty for perjury and bearing false witness. What was the age, occupation and condition of the witness? Where had they lived for the last ten years? How long had they known the parties?
2. Were they a relative, household servant or retainer of Claxton or King? Were they indebted to Claxton or King?
3. How much were they worth in their own goods with their debts paid?
4. In exactly what place were the pretended words in the libel spoken, and at exactly what time? What was the occasion or provocation for the words?
5. Had the witness received or been promised anything from Claxton to testify? If so what and from whom?
6. Were he and his fellow witnesses present at the time of the 'pretended speaking of the words'? What were the names of those present?
7. Did Claxton gave ill words to King prior to the 'pretended words'? What was the ill language used, and did he strike King in the face with his fist?
8. Asks Davyes and Monke whether the plaintiff's witness Thomas Price was a 'capital enemy' to King who within the last year had wounded King in the side 'with a pikestaff or some other weapon'? Had Claxton maintained Price 'in dyett and lodging and clothes and money'?
9. Were the 'pretended' words spoken at an alehouse? Were Claxton and King drinking together? How much did they drink? For how long? And 'what did the reckoning come unto'?
Signed by William Merrick.
Cur Mil II, fo. 250, Defence
1. William King spoke the words in the libel at the time and place in the libel to Hugh Claxton, 'yet the words were spoken in an alehouse while William and Hugh were drinking and tipling together with other company in the alehouse'?
2. 'That before such time as the words are pretended to be spoken by William to Hugh, Hugh would have borrowed some money of William, which William offered to lend Hugh, for as Hugh would give William security for the same. Whereupon, and because William demanded security of Hugh, Hugh grew into a choler, and immediately called William base drunken rogue, and gave William a blow on the face; and the premises were so done before William spoke any of the pretended words against Hugh.'
3. 'That Thomas Price, witness, produced, sworn and examined on Claxton's behalf hath been and is for divers years last past a capitall and deadly enemy of William Kinge, and hath within the monthes of May, June, July, August or September last past, within the parish of Compton Dando beaten and wounded William Kinge with a picked staffe, and also came to arrest him at Claxton's suite and swore a recasse [sic] against him in the Court of Common Pleas at Westminster.'
4. 'That Thomas Price, Robert Poole and Thomas Monke have been and are base idle fellows, of noe credit or reputacon, and such as wilbe readily drawne either for favour or reward to depose an untruth upon theire oaths. And for such Price, Poole and Monke have been for diverse years commonly accompted, reputed and taken soe to be.'
Signed by William Merrick.
Cur Mil II, fo. 251, Letters commissory for the defence
Addressed to commissioners John Burges, gent, Barnard Atkins, gent, Nicholas Locke and John Locke, gents, and also, Thomas Brooke, gent, William Nevill, gent, Bartholomew Gifford and John Dowle, gents, to meet in a cause of scandalous words provocative of a duel, on 27-29 March 1638 in the Three Tuns Inn, in the city of Bath, co. Somerset.
Dethick assigned Alexander Jett as notary public.
Dated 12 February 1638
Signed by Gilbert Dethick, registrar.
Cur Mil II, fos. 222-39, Defence depositions
Taken before commissioners John Burges and Barnard Atkins, gents, on 27 March 1638 at the Three Tuns Inn, in the city of Bath, co. Somerset, with Alexander Jett, notary public.
fos. 224r-227r (Witness 1), John Dando of High Littleton parish, co. Somerset, yeoman, lived there for over 20 years, born in Hinton Blewett parish, co. Somerset, aged about 71
To King's defence:
1, 2. At 3pm on last Whitsun Wednesday, before his examination, he went with the defendant to Thomas Taylor's alehouse in Compton Dando. In the hall there they found Hugh Claxton, Mr Vaughan, Thomas Price, Nicholas Priddie, John Browne and others, drinking beer and taking tobacco together. These men 'badd them friendlie welcome, and desired them to sit down and drink with them', which they did. They talked 'in a faire and friendlie waie for neere an howre's space, and then Hugh Claxton and William King arose from the table, and both of them went out into the backside together, where they had not long stayed before they came into the hall againe and weare and continued friends together for ought [Dando] perceived to the contrarie; and he verily believeth they were so, for they talked fairlie and friendlie each to the other, and drank each to the other in a loving and friendlie manner *after their coming in againe*'. Some time after their return Claxton said to King, Shall I have it?, Yes, quoth King (in a modest and civill waie), you shall have fortie shillings if you will give me security for the same, whereupon Hugh Claxton forthwith grew verie cholerick and angrie and called William King base drunken rascall, rogue, and with his fist struck the said King on the face; and shortlie thereupon William King and [he] *with Nicholas Priddie* departed away out of the alehouse and King went homewards'. The witness was with King for all the time he was in the alehouse, and King in 'no manner of waie provoked Mr Claxton to use those termes... or to strike him'. He did not hear King at any time call Claxton 'base, rascall rogue'.
3. He had known Thomas Price for about 1 or 2 years, who was well known 'to be a capital and deadlie enemie of William King'. Last summer 'by common and credible report', Price came to arrest King on Hugh Claxton's suit, and 'beate and wounded Kinge', which wound in King's side, [he] saw.
4. He had known Price and Thomas Monke, alias Menack, 'for some years past', and both were 'comonlie accompted, reputed and taken to be base and idle conditioned fellows and of no credit or reputacon amongst *their* honest neighbours, and such as *are* given *ordinarily* to swearing in common discourse, and therefore, he verily believeth, wilbe easily drawne for a reward to depose an untruth on their oathes.'
Signed by John Dando [his mark] and by commissioners John Burges and Barnard Atkins.
fos. 227r-231r (Witness 2), Nicholas Priddie of Publow, co. Somerset, tailor, lived there for about 6 years, before that in Marksbury parish, co. Somerset for about 4 years, and St Cuthbert's, Wells, co. Somerset, aged about 21
To King's defence:
1, 2. At about 3pm on last Whitsun Wednesday, before his examination, he went with 'Mr Thomas Vaughan, and one Robert Poole, a poore young fellow', to Thomas Taylor's alehouse in Compton Dando. Poole and Vaughan went in first and he followed soon after. In the hall there they found Hugh Claxton and Thomas Price of Marksbury, drinking beer and taking tobacco together. Claxton 'badd them welcome, and desired their companie to sit down and drink with them', which they did. Soon after William King and John Dando arrived and they were likewise welcomed by Claxton.
They talked 'in a faire and friendlie waie without any distaste for the space of an howre', and then Hugh Claxton and William King went out together. They returned soon after 'and were then also familiar together without any offence or distaste given or taken on either side that [Priddie] perceived, and they drank each to the other'. Shortly after, Claxton said to King, Shall I have it? King 'answered him in a faire sober and civil way, Yes, if you will give me securitie. Presently thereupon Hugh Claxton grew verie cholerick, hott and angrie, and in his choler and anger called William King base drunken rogue, and withall struck him two or three blowes as hard as he could in his face; and thereupon King standing up, and forbearing Mr Claxton, Claxton clenching his hand held up his fist unto him and said, Sirra I will order you, and quoth Thomas Price there present, Aye master, I know you can do itt; whereupon William King without giving of any distaste at all *to Mr Claxton* either in word or deed that [Priddie] perceived or heard (being present all the time they were there together), departed, and went his waie.' Priddie and John Dando went homewards with [King] towards King's house, but then Priddie returned to the alehouse where he found Mr Claxton and the rest of the company. On his return, Claxton asked [him] if he heard King call him base rogue. Priddie replied, No, whereupon Claxton said, 'he would call [him] upon his oath, and throw him in jaile and keepe him there as long as he lived if [he] would not swear it'. Soon afterwards they all went homewards.
3. He well knew Thomas Price, who for about a year was well known 'to be a mortal enemie of William King'. Last Christmas, Price told him that Mr Claxton 'had the king's broad seale to serve [Priddie] up to London, and [Priddie] asked him, For what, and he replyed, For to be a witness, and [Priddie] asked him, For what business, he said, For to testifie that King did call Mr Claxton base rascall rogue; and then [he] told Price that he could testifie no such words, and that he believed there were no such words spoken. Whereupon Price told [him] that he had heard King speak it, and withal persuaded [him] to goe to London and sweare itt, and told [him] that [he] should have a horse and money to beare his charges, and ride to London fortnight before the terme and there lye gentleman like... that in hay harvest last it was commonlie *and crediblie* spoken in Compton Dando and the countrie thereabouts that Thomas Price did beate and wound King with a peeked staffe and indangered his life; and as the report went he did it when he arrested King at the suit of Mr Hugh Claxton.'
4. He well knew Thomas Price, Robert Poole and Thomas Monke, alias Mennck, who were 'people of noe credit or reputation where they live, and Thomas an ordinary common baylief, Robert Poole a young fellow of no abilitie or estate, and Thomas Monke... a man verie poore and of late had relief from the parish of Compton Dando where he liveth.' The witness thought 'they would be easily drawne to depose an untruth on their oathes'. Before going to London to testify, Poole voluntarily swore to [Priddie] that he could not testify that King called Claxton 'base rascal rogue or that he spake any other abusive terms unto him, onlie he said that all that he said at the alehouse was that Mr Claxton called King whoremaster.' The witness had also heard that Claxton gave Monke half a crown to buy him a pair of shoes to go to London to testify in this business'.
Signed by Nicholas Priddie [his mark], and by the two commissioners.
fos. 231r-232r (Witness 3), Robert Horsington of Compton Dando, co. Somerset, husbandman, lived there for about 40 years, born in Litton, co. Somerset, aged about 75
To King's defence:
3. Since last hay harvest, Price 'hath been and is a capital enimie of William King' because 'he swore a rescue against King when as to [Horsington's] knowledge, being present at the time when it was pretended the rescue was, there was no such rescue made. But to [his] knowledge in haie harvest last, in a cloase in the parish of Compton Dando, Thomas Price with a picked staffe fought with Kinge, and then at the tyme Kinge received a wound in his side; and [he] verily believeth Price gave him the wound'. On this occasion, Price had come to arrest King at Mr Claxton's suit.
4. Thomas Price and Thomas Monke, alias Mennck were well known as men 'of little or noe credit or reputation... of poore condicon'. Monke had recently taken parish relief.
Signed by Robert Horsington [his mark], and by the two commissioners.
fos. 232v-233v (Witness 4), John Browne of Compton Dando, co. Somerset, husbandman, lived there for about 40 years, born in Litton, co. Somerset, aged about 60
To King's defence:
3. He well knew Thomas Price, and since last hay harvest 'about midsummer', Price had been King's enemy, where he fought with King, in a meadow of King's mother's in Compton Dando, 'and there with a picked staffe did grievouslie beate and wound Kinge and indangered his life at the time, which [Browne] plainly saw, being near unto the ground when *he used him soe*.' On this occasion, Price had come to arrest King at Mr Claxton's suit. Since then it was well known that King and Price were enemies.
4. Thomas Price and Thomas Monke, alias Mennck were well known as poor men, 'of mean rank or condition'. Last year Monke had taken parish relief. Both were 'of no credit or reputacon amongst their honest neighbours but accompted and reputed for base people.'
Signed by John Browne [his mark], and by the two commissioners.
Cur Mil II, fos. 234r-v, Notary public's certificate
Certificate in Latin signed by Alexander Jett, notary public that the examinations had been completed and were now being returned.
27 March 1638.
Summary of proceedings
Dr Duck acted as counsel for Claxton and Dr Merrick for King. On 27 January 1638 Dr Duck presented the libel for Claxton and King contested it. Then Duck produced John Davies, Thomas Price and Thomas Muncke as witnesses for the prosecution. King provided bond of £100 which Richard Waterman guaranteed on his behalf. On 3 February Dr Duck produced Robert Poole as an additional witness for the prosecution. On 12 February the commissioners for taking the defence witnesses' depositions were nominated as in the letters commissory for that date. Order was given that sentence was to be heard on 6 and 20 November 1638.
Hugh Claxton was the son of William Claxton of Bedminster, esq, and was seven years old at the Visitation of 1623, making him only 21 at the beginning of this cause.
F. T. Colby (ed.), The Visitation of the County of Somerset in the year 1623 (Publications of the Harleian Society, 11, 1876), p. 24.
- Plaintiff's case
- Defence interrogatories: 14/1cc (no date)
- Defendant's case
- Defence: Cur Mil II, fo. 250 (no date)
- Letters commissory for the defence: Cur Mil II, fo. 257 (12 Feb 1638)
- Defence depositions: Cur Mil II, fos. 222-33 (27 Mar 1638)
- Notary public's certificate: Cur Mil II, fo. 234 (27 Mar 1638)
People mentioned in the case
- Atkins, Barnard, gent
- Brooke, Thomas, gent
- Browne, John, husbandman
- Burges, John, gent
- Claxton, Hugh
- Claxton, William, esq
- Dando, John, yeoman
- Davyes John (also Davies)
- Dethick, Gilbert, registrar
- Dowle, John, gent
- Gifford, Bartholomew, gent
- Horsington, Robert, husbandman
- Howard, Henry, baron Maltravers
- Howard, Thomas, earl of Arundel and Surrey
- Jett, Alexander, notary public
- King, William
- Locke, John, gent
- Locke, Nicholas, gent
- Merrick, William, lawyer
- Monke alias Menack, Thoomas
- Nevill, William, gent
- Poole, Robert
- Price, Thomas
- Priddie, Nicholas, tailor
- Taylor, Thomas, alehouse keeper
- Vaughan, Thomas
- Waterman, Richard
Places mentioned in the case
- Compton Dando
- High Littleton
- Hinton Blewett
- St Cuthbert, Wells
Topics of the case
- Court of Common Pleas
- denial of gentility
- drinking healths
- other courts
- tavern brawl