175 Duck v Hurt

The Court of Chivalry 1634-1640.

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Arthur Duck, LL.D., King's Advocate v William Hurt of St Helen, London, merchant

May - June 1634

Figure 175:

St Oswald’s church, Ashbourne, Derbyshire. The vicar and churchwardens certified that William Hurt was descended from an ancient Ashbourne family.


This was one of a trio of causes of office commenced by Dr Duck in May 1634 following the recent Visitation of London by Sir Henry St George, Richmond Herald [see also causes 180-1]. All were about displaying coats of arms to which the defendants were not entitled. In this case, Hurt was charged with falsely assuming the arms of the Hurts of Ashbourne, Derbyshire, and setting them up in the windows of St Helen's church, London, where he was churchwarden, despite having been disclaimed by St George. A special messenger of the court was sent to Ashbourne to enquire of Hurt's ancestors and on 2 June 1634 Nicholas Hurt of Ashbourne signed a certificate testifying that he knew William Hurt's father, Ralph, who had been mayor of Bristol, and that William was descended from a family of armigerous gentry in Ashbourne, to which he himself was related, although he did not know in what degree. This was supported by a certificate from the vicar and churchwardens of Ashbourne. On 25 June the heralds conceded that William Hurt was indeed related to the Hurts of Ashbourne and on 30 June Hurt petitioned that the case be dismissed as he had proved his descent and pedigree. Hurt was found not guilty and dismissed with the payment of £3 costs. His pedigree was registered at the 1634 Visitation of London.

Defendant's case

9/4/61, Certificate of descent

'Where it hath pleased the heralds to question this gentleman, William Hurt, for his decent, I can thus much afferme that his father Mr Raph Hurt, sonne unto Mr Robert Hurt did live in his youth at Ashborne in the same house that wyddow Mylward now liveth in and afterward was married [sic] unto Bristol where he lived in very good accountand afterward was Maior of the City; and I was in the same yeare at Bristoll and know these things both by fame and experience. Allso I did knowe the sisters of Mr Raph Hurt, aunts unto this gentleman, which one of them is still living I thinke in Lankeshire. And for their armes I have here sent my ring to shew it you and if you drawe a certificate to this effect my hand and seale shall bee readie to set unto it. Mr Thomas Hurt of the Greene can the more... signifye unto you both of the descent and the armes of the Hurts. And I am confident that wee are all of the Hurts of Ashborne, but I cannot justly discribe that degree that this gentleman is from us.

Signed by Nicholas Hurt, from Castern, co. Stafford, 2 June 1634.

Endorsed 7 June 1634.

9/4/59, Certificate of vicar and churchwardens of Ashbourne

'Theise are to certifye you that it is recorded in the church booke in the parish church of Ashborne in the Peak, Derbys, that Raphael Hurt was an inhabitant borne in this towne payinge church duties; and hee deceasinge in 1539, his sonn Robert Hurt continewed payinge the same church duties as his father did and lykewise dwelled in the towne and there dyed 1583; and had to his son and heir one Raph Hurt who in his youth leavinge the towne dwelled in the City of Bristoll, and there married and as wee are credibly enformed was Maior and Alderman of the city and there dyed. And wee by most of the ancients of Ashborne, people aged 70 or 80 yeares, are given to understand and are fully certefyed uppon their knowledge that the ancestors of Raph Hurt of Bristoll were descended from the family of the Hurts of Ashbourne, and for testimony of the truth we have hereunto subscribed our names 2 June 1634.

Signed by Thomas Peacocke, vicar of Ashborne, Raph Stringer, Ottewell Kintche, William Robenson, churchwardens.

Endorsed 7 June 1634.

9/4/56, Certificate of heralds

By John Borough, Garter, Richard St George, Clarenceux, Henry St George, Richmond, William Penson, Lancaster, and Henry Chitting, Chester, to Arundel, Office of Arms, 25 June 1634.

Having received an order from Arundel on 7 June they have examined the 'dicent of Mr William Hurt of the parish of St Helens London and doe find by severall deeds, as also by certaine certificates of credible persons testified by oath in this ho[norab]ble Court, that Mr William Hurt is discended out of the family of the Hurts of Ashbourne, Derbys, and that he hath right to bear the coate of the same family with some such fitting difference as may sufficiently distinguish him from the elder branches of that house, and yet shew that Mr William Hurt is of their bloud and kindread. All which we humbly submit to your lo[rdshi]p's great wisdom and judgement.'

Endorsed 30 June 1634.

Sentence / Arbitration

9/4/52, Defendant's petition

'Being warned to appeare before your lordship at the Court of Honnor to answeare aboute my decent and pedigree, it was your lordship's command I should take a course to prove my decent to be from the familie of the Hurts of Ashbourne, Derbyshire, which accordinglie, to my great charge and trouble, I have done. And the officers of armes, accordinge to your lo[rdshi]p's order have examined the certificates and the oath made in the honnorable court and accordingly have retorned unto your lo[rdshi]p theire certificat'.

My humble request unto your ho[nora]ble lo[rdshi]p is that the premises beinge considered, and my unabilities both of body and want of time, which to me is precious, that your honnor wilbe pleased to give an ende to this businesse and give order to dismisse me from further attendance.'

Endorsed 30 June 1634.

9/4/72, Plaintiff's bill of costs

Trinity term, 1634: £3-10s-10d

Trinity term, 1634: £6-5s-10d

Total: £9-15s-10d

Signed by Arthur Duck.

Taxed at £3.

Endorsed 30 June 1634.

Signed by Arundel.

Summary of proceedings

Dr Duck acted as counsel for the office and Dr Eden for Hurt. On 3 May 1634 Duck informed the court that many individuals of plebeian origins and parentage frequently and daily bore and displayed the arms and insignia of ancient gentry on their shields, windows, seals and in their funeral pomp, against the law of arms and to the disgrace and injury of the ancient nobility and gentry of this kingdom. William Hurt of the parish of St Helens, London, assumed the arms and insignia of the family of Hurts in the county of Derbyshire and set these up as his own arms in the church of St Helens in spite of being disclaimed at the recent visitation of London by Sir Henry St George. Dr Duck requested that Hurt be summoned to answer. He was summoned on 21 May and charged on the 24th. On 7 June 1634 Hurt appeared in person and was charged with assuming the arms of the Hurts of Derbyshire without being able to show any grounds for doing so. Dr Eden appearing for Hurt declared that in recognition of their duty to the court a special messenger had been dispatched to the town of Ashbourne, where Hurt's father and ancestors were born, to prove his contention and so that the truth of his claim might manifestly appear. The King of Arms was also required to certify his right to bear arms. Judgement was finally referred to the heralds and, on the strength of their certificate of 25 June Hurt was found not guilty and dismissed on the 30th, with the payment of £3 costs.


G. D. Squibb, Reports of Heraldic Cases in the Court of Chivalry, 1623-1732 (London, 1956), p. 5.

William Hurt of Bishopsgate Ward, London, merchant, appeared in the 1634 Visitation as the son of Ralph Hurt of Ashborne, co. Derby, and Alice, daughter of Roger Millard alias Philpott of Bristol. He presented a pedigree back to Robert Hurt of Ashbourne, d.1583, which showed that his father, Ralph, was Mayor of Bristol in 1602. William Hurt married three times and had at least three sons and five daughters.

J. J. Howard (ed.), The Visitation of London in 1633, 1634, and 1635, vol. I (Publications of the Harleian Society, 15, 1880), p. 406.


  • Defendant's case
    • Certificate of descent: 9/4/61 (7 Jun 1634)
    • Certificate of vicar and churchwardens of Ashbourne: 9/4/59 (7 Jun 1634)
    • Certificate of heralds: 9/4/56 (25 Jun 1634)
  • Sentence / Arbitration
    • Defendant's petition: 9/4/52 (30 Jun 1634)
    • Plaintiff's bill of costs: 9/4/72 (30 Jun 1634)
  • Proceedings
    • Proceedings before Arundel: 7/10 (3 May 1634)
    • Proceedings: 7/12 (21 May 1634)
    • Proceedings: 7/14 (21 May 1634)
    • Proceedings: 7/15 (24 May 1634)
    • Proceedings before Arundel: 7/17 (7 Jun 1634)
    • Proceedings: 17/2c/ii (7 Jun 1634)
    • Proceedings: 8/23 (30 Jun 1634)

People mentioned in the case

  • Borough, John, knight
  • Chitting, Henry, herald
  • Duck, Arthur, lawyer
  • Eden, Thomas, lawyer
  • Howard, Thomas, earl of Arundel and Surrey
  • Hurt, Alice
  • Hurt, Nicholas
  • Hurt, Ralph
  • Hurt, Raphael
  • Hurt, Robert
  • Hurt, William, merchant
  • Kintche, Ottewell, churchwarden
  • Millard alias Philpott, Alice
  • Millard alias Philpott, Roger
  • Peacocke, Thomas, vicar
  • Penson, William, herald
  • Robenson, William, churchwarden (also Robinson)
  • St George, Henry, knight
  • St George, Richard, knight
  • Stringer, Ralph, churchwarden

Places mentioned in the case

  • Derbyshire
    • Ashbourne
    • Lancashire
  • London
    • Bishopsgate Ward
    • St Helen's
  • Staffordshire
    • Castern

Topics of the case

  • cause of office
  • churchwarden
  • coat of arms
  • false claim to gentility
  • Herald
  • office-holding
  • Visitation