23 Balleston v Snell

The Court of Chivalry 1634-1640.

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Richard Cust. Andrew Hopper, '23 Balleston v Snell', in The Court of Chivalry 1634-1640, (, ) pp. . British History Online https://www.british-history.ac.uk/no-series/court-of-chivalry/23-balleston-snell [accessed 28 May 2024].

Richard Cust. Andrew Hopper. "23 Balleston v Snell", in The Court of Chivalry 1634-1640, (, ) . British History Online, accessed May 28, 2024, https://www.british-history.ac.uk/no-series/court-of-chivalry/23-balleston-snell.

Cust, Richard. Hopper, Andrew. "23 Balleston v Snell", The Court of Chivalry 1634-1640, (, ). . British History Online. Web. 28 May 2024, https://www.british-history.ac.uk/no-series/court-of-chivalry/23-balleston-snell.

In this section


Thomas Balleston of Cringleford, co. Norfolk, gent v Richard Snell of the same, yeoman

May 1638 - Trinity term, 1639


In the spring of 1638 Thomas Balleston charged Richard Snell, a yeoman from the same village who believed he was a better man than the plaintiff. In his interrogatories, Snell suggested that Balleston engaged in trades and labour, implied that his father was a cooper, and challenged Balleston to prove his gentility with a coat of arms. Balleston did so; commissioners met to take depositions on his behalf in the winter of 1638/9; and during Trinity term 1639 he won the case and was awarded £40 damages and £20 costs.

Initial proceedings

6/151, Defendant's bond

6 May 1639

Bound to appear in the 'Court Military in the Painted Chamber within the Palace of Westminster'.

Signed by Richard Lambert.

Signed and delivered in the presence of Thomas Drake, Michael Leels and Richard Lambert the younger.

2/143, Defendant's bond

[Date left blank] August 1639

Bound to appear in the Court Military in the Painted Chamber in the Palace of Westminster.

Signed by Richard Snell, Robert Blith of Cringleford, yeoman [his mark] and Thomas Drive of the same [his mark].

Sealed and delivered in the presence of Humphrey Terrick.

Plaintiff's case

20/2l, Defence interrogatories

1. Did the witness know Balleston and Snell and for how long? Was the witness kin, servant, dependent, indebted or allied to Balleston? How much was the witness worth with their debts paid?

2. Had the witness been instructed or informed how to depose and by whom?

3. At what time and place, and upon what occasion did Snell speak the words? Who were present?

4. Were there other lawsuits between the parties in several courts of justice?

5. Did Balleston 'utter many disgracefull and opprobrious speeches' against Snell before and after the words in the libel were spoken, in order to provoke Snell? Had Balleston previously endeavoured to provoke Snell 'of purpose to get advantage of him in this and other courts of Justice'? Each witness was to declare the exact words and actions in order.

6. Did the witness know Balleston's grandfather and father? Where was their abode, and 'in what condition and quality did they live? What was the trade, occupation or profession of them or either of them? Were they not both or one of them by trade coopers, and how long did they or either of them use that trade, or any other trade? How were they accounted, whether 'they had any markes or insignes of gentlemen or did they live in any other fashion then of tradesmen or yeoman'?

7. How long had the witness known Balleston? Was he brought up as a cooper or in another trade, 'and hath he not or doth he not live in a poore and meane fashion and hath he not oftentimes taken upon him to thatch houses, to worke masons, tillers, and bricklayers for divers years last past, and is he not usually commonlie called Goodman Balleston and hath he not well accepted of that title'?

8. 'Whether [Bailston] doth challenge any coate armour, if yea, by what right or authority doth it belong unto him; what are the particular armes by name; from what ancestor doth he derive them; let him set downe the truth of his descent from such ancestor'?

9. 'Is not the defendant generally accounted the better man than the playntiffe, both in estate and abilitye and doth he not live in a more gentlemanly fashion'?

No date.

Signed by Clere Talbot.

Sentence / Arbitration

13/3d, Plaintiff's sentence

Plaintiff awarded £40 and £20 respectively.

13/3gg, Plaintiff's bill of costs

Easter term, 1638: £8-17s-4d

Trinity term, 1638: £7-7s-4d

Vacation following: £4-0s-0d

Michaelmas term, 1638: £7-4s-8d

Vacation following: £12, inc. £5 for the notary public for expediting the commission and £6 for provisions and expenses of the commissioners.

Hillary term, 1638: £6-14s-8d

Vacation following: £2-16s-8d

Easter term, 1639: £3-5s-0d

Trinity term, 1639: £10-10s-0d

Total: £62-16s-8d

Signed by Arthur Duck.

Taxed at £20.

Signed by Maltravers.

Summary of proceedings

Dr Lewin acted as counsel for Balleston, Dr Talbot for Snell. On 6 November 1638 Dr Lewin gave the libel and Dr Talbot was to respond. It was also ordered that the Kings at Arms, Sir John Borough, Sir William Le Neve and Sir Henry St George provide a certificate of Balleston's gentility. On 20 November 1638, Dr Talbot responded to Balleston's libel and challenged Dr Lewin to prove Balleston's gentility by the first session of the next term (from 23 January 1639). On 28 January 1639, Dr Lewin was ordered to prove the libel and Dr Talbot related material for the defence on 21 February 1639.


Balleston may well have been on the fringes of gentry status and did not appear in the Visitation of Norfolk of 1664.

A. W. Hughes Clarke and A. Campling (eds.), The Visitation of Norfolk, anno domini 1664, part I (Publications of the Harleian Society, 85, 1933); A. W. Hughes Clarke and A. Campling (eds.), The Visitation of Norfolk, anno domini 1664, part II (Publications of the Harleian Society, 86, 1934).


  • Initial proceedings
    • Defendant's bond: 6/151 (6 May 1639)
    • Defendant's bond: 2/143 (Aug 1639)
  • Plaintiff's case
    • Defence interrogatories: 20/2l (no date)
  • Sentence / Arbitration
    • Plaintiff's sentence: 13/3d (no date)
    • Plaintiff's bill of costs: 13/3gg (Tri 1639)
  • Proceedings
    • Proceedings before Maltravers: R.19, fos. 454r-468v (6 Nov 1638)
    • Proceedings before Maltravers: R.19, fos. 400v-412v (20 Nov 1638)
    • Proceedings before Maltravers: 1/9 (28 Jan 1639)
    • Proceedings: 1/7, fos. 36-47 (9 Feb 1639)
    • Proceedings before Arundel: 1/6, fos. 20-33 (21 Feb 1639)
    • Proceedings before Marten: 1/6, fos. 9-12 (2 Mar 1639)

People mentioned in the case

  • Balleston, Thomas, gent (also Bailston)
  • Blith, Robert, yeoman
  • Borough, John, knight (also Burrough)
  • Drake, Thomas
  • Drive, Thomas
  • Duck, Arthur, lawyer
  • Lambert, Richard, the younger
  • Leels, Michael
  • Le Neve, William, knight
  • Lewin, William, lawyer
  • Howard, Henry, baron Maltravers
  • Howard, Thomas, earl of Arundel and Surrey
  • Marten, Henry, knight
  • St George, Henry, knight
  • Snell, Richard, yeoman
  • Talbot, Clere, lawyer
  • Terrick, Humphrey, lawyer

Places mentioned in the case

  • Middlesex
    • Westminster
  • Norfolk
    • Cringleford

Topics of the case

  • allegation of tradesman status
  • coat of arms
  • comparison
  • heraldry
  • King of Arms