256 Greisley v Somerfield

The Court of Chivalry 1634-1640.

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'256 Greisley v Somerfield', in The Court of Chivalry 1634-1640, (, ) pp. . British History Online https://www.british-history.ac.uk/no-series/court-of-chivalry/256-greisley-somerfield [accessed 5 March 2024]

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George Greisley of Ravenstone, co. Leicester, esq v John Somerfield of Hugglescote, co. Leicester

Trinity term, 1635 - Trinity term, 1637

Figure 256:

Henry Hastings, fifth Earl of Huntingdon, who was called in to arbitrate this case involving gentry from his native Leicestershire (From J. Nichols, The History and Antiquities of the County of Leicester , 4 vols (1795-1815))


Greisley complained that Somerfield had called him a knave. Somerfield's defence was that Greisley and three or four others had broken into his house at Hugglescote, Leicestershire, and frightened his wife, daughters and maidservant, and carried off his bitch. Provoked by this, he admitted to telling William Jakes, the constable of Ravenstone, that it was 'a knavish part of Mr Greisley' to have done this. The case was initially referred to the earl of Huntingdon for arbitration, but in May 1636 he certified the court that he had failed to achieve this. Greisley's witnesses were examined by a commission headed by William Mountney, gent, between 25 and 27 August 1636, at the Lion Rampant Inn, Ashby-de-la-Zouch, Leicestershire. Greisley won the case and was awarded £20 in damages and £20 in expenses.

Initial proceedings

10/10/8, Personal answer

On the night of 23 March 1635 at his house in Hugglescote, co. Leicester, he was awoken by the barking of his bitch and 'saw one man but did not know who he was, and heard the noise made by the rest'. At 2pm the following day, his house was 'violently entred into by four men, who came hither on horseback and alighting, a fifth man holding their horses. The foure men or three of them, the outward door being shut, and without any calling or knocking, drew the latch and violently entering into divers roomes of his house to the great terror and affrighting of his wife and two daughters and a maidservant who were in the house, and one of them taking away with him the bitch aforesaid, and carrying her away with him on horseback'. He came out of the home field to his house soon after the men were gone, 'and finding his wife and daughters so affrighted, goeing after the foure or five men to the field towards the next towne called Ranston [Ravenstone], and there finding in the fields one William Jakes (then constable of the towne of Ranston) and taking order with him to send hue and crie after the men'. He told the constable that his maidservant had told him that one of the men was Mr Grisley, 'and the constable replying that he knew the Greisleys and that he thought he was an honest man, [Somerfield] replied to the constable that it was a knavish part of Mr Greisley (whatsoever he were) to enter into his house and to be affright his wife, children and family in that manner; and otherwise he denieth the bill.'

4 November 1635.

Signed by John Somerfield.

Defendant's case

7/88, List of defendant's commissioners

Commissioners for Somerfield:

Edward Blunte, clerk, vicar of St Margaret's

William Ayre of Belton, gent

Robert Reanes of Stanford on Soar, co. Nottingham, gent

Thomas Wadland, gent

Sentence / Arbitration

EM3174, Plaintiff's sentence

For scandalous words, £20 damages to plaintiff, £20 costs

EM47, Plaintiff's bill of costs

£63-10s-10d, taxed at £20.

Trinity term, 1635 - Trinity term, 1637

Signed by Arthur Duck and Lord Maltravers

Summary of proceedings

Dr Duck acted as counsel for Greisley and Dr Eden for Somerfield. On 7 May 1636 the earl of Huntingdon granted a certificate of process to show that attempts at arbitration had failed. Greisley's witnesses were examined by a commission headed by William Mountney, gent, from 25 to 27 August 1636, at the Lion Rampant Inn, Ashby-de-la-Zouch, with their depositions to be ready for the following Michaelmas term. Their testimony was published on 16 February 1637, by which stage Dr Eden had begun to relate the material for the defence, including the arrangement of a commission to take depositions from Somerfeild's witnesses.


George Greisley, gent is described in Steer's supplementary catalogue as of Budworth, Cheshire; but in the calendar of Lord Keeper Coventry's docquets he appears as George Greisley, gent (in 1631), and esq (in 1638) of Ravenstone, co. Leicester.

J. Broadway, R. Cust and S. Roberts (eds), Calendar of the Docquets of Lord Keeper Coventry (List and Index Society, 2004), pp. 620, 729.

George Greisley may have been a relative of Sir George and Thomas Greisley of Drakelow, co. Derby, mentioned in the 1619 Visitation of Leicester. John Somerfield did not appear.

J. Fetherston (ed.), The Visitation of the County of Leicester in the year 1619 (Publications of the Harleian Society, 2, 1870), p. 24.


  • Initial proceedings
    • Personal answer: 10/10/8 (4 Nov 1635)
  • Defendant's case
    • List of defendant's commissioners: 7/88 (no date)
  • Sentence / Arbitration
    • Plaintiff's sentence: EM3174(no date)
    • Plaintiff's bill of costs: EM47(Tri 1637)
  • Proceedings
    • Undated proceedings: College of Arms MS. 'Court of Chivalry' (act book, 1636-8) [pressmark R.R.68C] (hereafter 68C), fos. 64r-67r (c. Apr 1636)
    • Proceedings before Maltravers: 68C, fos. 74r-83v (7 May 1636)
    • Proceedings before Arundel: 68C, fos. 51r-59r (28 Jan 1637)
    • Proceedings: 68C, fos. 23r-36v (11 Feb 1637)
    • Proceedings: 68C, fos. 14r-20v (16 Feb 1637)
    • Proceedings: 68C, fos. 70r-73v (c.1636-8)
    • Proceedings: 68C, fos. 100v-101v (c.1636-8)

People mentioned in the case

  • Ayre, William, gent
  • Blunte, Edward, vicar (also Blunt)
  • Duck, Arthur, lawyer
  • Eden, Thomas, lawyer
  • Greisley, George, esq (also Gresley)
  • Greisley, George, knight
  • Greisley, Thomas
  • Hastings, Henry, earl of Huntingdon
  • Howard, Henry, baron Maltravers
  • Howard, Thomas, earl of Arundel and Surrey
  • Jakes, William, constable
  • Mountney, William, gent
  • Reanes, Robert, gent
  • Somerfield, John
  • Wadland, Thomas, gent

Places mentioned in the case

  • Cheshire
    • Budworth
  • Derbyshire
    • Drakelow
  • Leicestershire
    • Ashby-de-la-Zouch
    • Belton
    • Hugglescote
    • Ravenstone
  • Nottinghamshire
    • Stanford on Soar

Topics of the case

  • constable
  • denial of gentility
  • office-holding
  • threatened violence