267 Gwyllim v Roberts

The Court of Chivalry 1634-1640.

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'267 Gwyllim v Roberts', in The Court of Chivalry 1634-1640, (, ) pp. . British History Online https://www.british-history.ac.uk/no-series/court-of-chivalry/267-gwyllim-roberts [accessed 4 March 2024]

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Thomas Gwyllim of Llangarron, co. Hereford, gent v John Roberts of Hentland, co. Hereford

January 1636 - February 1637


Gwyllim complained that Roberts had given him the lie on 20 April 1635 at the entrance of Doctors' Commons, in St Benet's parish, Paul's Wharf, in the city of London. He also complained that in Hentland parish, Herefordshire, Roberts said that 'I was noe gentleman and that I borrowed my armes'. Roberts maintained that he had been provoked by Gwyllim's accusation that he had forsworn himself in the Court of Arches, and that Gwyllim had said 'I will spend five hundred pound but I will have thy eares'. The libel was presented on 30 January 1636 and proceedings continued throughout 1636 and early 1637, but there is no record of sentence.

Initial proceedings

18/1h, Libel [damaged]

Gwyllim's family had been ancient gentry for up to 200 years, whereas Roberts's family were plebeians. Between March and May 1635, in St Benet's parish in the city of London, Roberts had said to Gwyllim in the presence of honest persons, 'thou lyest, or thou dost lie'. Gyllim complained that in Hentland parish, co. Hereford, Roberts also said that 'I was noe gentleman and that I borrowed my armes'.

Dated 30 January 1636.

Signed by Arthur Duck.

18/1j, Personal answer

Roberts had already been unsuccessfully sued for certain tithes by Gwyllim in the church courts at Hereford. Gwyllim appealed to the Court of Arches in London, but sentence was passed against him there also. Gwyllim confronted Roberts soon after this sentence, on the afternoon of 20 April, at the entrance to Doctors' Commons, London, where he said: 'John Roberts I did not think you would have travelled to London to take a false oath and to forswear yourself.' Roberts replied: 'Thomas Gwyllim I pray you consider what I have done before you say so of me'. Then 'in an outrageous manner', Gwyllim responded, 'Thou hast falsely forsworne thyself and art falsely forsworne and I will spend five hundred pound but I will have thy eares'. Roberts said 'if you spend never so much, I must and will answer anything which I have done'; so Gwyllim retorted, 'Thou art an arrant legger and art not able to answer that which thou hast done'. Roberts responded, 'You lie, I am no such man'. And 'otherwise he denieth the pretended libel to be true in any part thereof.'

Dated 2 February 1636.

Signed by John Roberts.

Plaintiff's case

14/1l, Defence interrogatories

1. When, where and in what order were the words spoken? Who was present within hearing? What were the words Gwyllim said of Roberts and who spoke first?

2. Did Gwyllim say to Roberts, 'I thought you would not have come up to London to forsweare yourselfe'; 'you are perjured knave and it shall cost me £500 bond but I will have your eares, or you shall loose your eares for [it].'

No date.

Signed by Thomas Eden.

Defendant's case

14/1f, First set of plaintiff 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 for the last seven years? Was the witness a gentleman and was he descended from gentlemen? Was the witness taxed in the last subsidy?

2. Was the witness a relative to either of the parties, and if so to what degree? Was the witness a household servant, retainer or waged employee of either of the parties? Was the witness in debt or under an obligation to either of the parties?

3. Had Gwyllim's ancestors been gentry for up to 200 years? Were the ancestors of Roberts yeomen or husbandmen and 'for tyme beyond the memorie of man accounted, reputed and taken'?

4. If any witness deposed that Gwyllim used provoking words against Roberts, they were to be asked whether Roberts used provoking words against Gwyllim first.

5. Whether Roberts said of Gwyllim in Hentland parish or an adjoining parish that Gwyllim was no gentleman 'and that he hath borrowed his armes, and whether the words were not spoken publiquelie before many persons of good quality in a contumelious manner with purpose (as such witness doth believe) to provoke and incite Thomas Gwyllim to quarrel and fight with John Roberts'?

No date.

Signed by Arthur Duck.

14/1e, Second set of plaintiff interrogatories

1. If any should depose of words of provocation having been given by Gwyllim, they were to be asked at what hour, day, week and month, at what place and in whose presence. Was the witness was close by? Did they see Gwyllim or only hear him?

2. If any should depose that there was a suit brought by Gwyllim against Roberts, they were to be asked how they knew, were they a proctor or solicitor for Roberts in that cause, and whether that cause was actually presented by John Stratford and James Rawlins.

No date.

No signature.

Summary of proceedings

Dr Duck acted as counsel for Gwyllim and Dr Eden for Roberts. Roberts was to prepare his defence from 7 May 1636. On 28 January 1637, Dr Eden, on behalf of Roberts challenged Gwyllim's witnesses, maintaining that they were his sons. On 11 February 1637 Gwyllim was ordered to prove his gentility before moving to sentence.


Thomas Gwillim of Langarron married Margaret, the daughter of Edward Rawlyns of the city of Hereford. He was the eldest son, aged 19 in 1634, of Thomas Gwillim of Little Birch, co. Hereford, living in 1634, and Mary, daughter of John Hereford of Walford, co. Hereford.

M. P. Siddons (ed.), The Visitation of Herefordshire, 1634 (Publications of the Harleian Society, news series, 15, 2002), p. 34.


  • Initial proceedings
    • Libel: 18/1h (30 Jan 1636)
    • Personal answer: 18/1j (2 Feb 1636)
  • Plaintiff's case
    • Defence interrogatories: 14/1l (no date)
  • Defendant's case
    • First set of plaintiff interrogatories: 14/1f (no date)
    • Second set of plaintiff interrogatories: 14/1e (no date)
  • Proceedings
    • Undated proceedings: 'Court of Chivalry' (act book 1636-8) [pressmark R.R. 68C] (hereafter 68C), fos. 64r-67r (c. Apr 1636)
    • Proceedings before Arundel: 68C, fos. 89r-100r (May 1636)
    • Proceedings before Maltravers: 68C, fos. 74r-83v (7 May 1636)
    • Proceedings: 68C, fo. 68v (9 May 1636)
    • Proceedings before Maltravers: 68C, fos. 112r-121v (Jun 1636)
    • Proceedings before Arundel: 68C, fos. 51r-59r (28 Jan 1637)
    • Proceedings: 68C, fos. 43r-49v (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)

People mentioned in the case

  • Duck, Arthur, lawyer
  • Eden, Thomas, lawyer
  • Gwyllim, Margaret (also Gwyllin, Gwillim, Gwillin)
  • Gwyllim, Mary (also Gwyllin, Gwillim, Gwillin)
  • Gwyllim, Thomas, gent (also Gwyllin, Gwillim, Gwillin)
  • Hereford, John
  • Hereford, Mary
  • Howard, Henry, baron Maltravers
  • Howard, Thomas, earl of Arundel and Surrey
  • Rawlins, James
  • Rawlyns, Edward
  • Rawlyns, Margaret
  • Roberts, John
  • Stratford, John

Places mentioned in the case

  • London
    • Doctors' Commons
    • St Benet's, Paul's Wharf
  • Herefordshire
    • Hentland
    • Little Birch
    • Llangarron
    • Walford

Topics of the case

  • allegation of perjury
  • coat of arms
  • Court of Arches
  • denial of gentility
  • giving the lie
  • judicial maiming
  • other courts