269 Gwynne v Lewes

The Court of Chivalry 1634-1640.

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269 GWYNNE V LEWES

Thomas Gwynne of Castlehay [Hay-on-Wye?], co. Brecknock, esq v Meredith Lewes of Pennant, co. Brecknock, esq

February 1639 - October 1640

Figure 269:

Brecon in 1610. Meredith Lewes was required to perform his submission 'in the great room of the house of Richard Gunter' in the town in October 1640 (From John Speed, Theatre of the Empire of Great Britain (1611))

Abstract

This was a quarrel between two senior local officeholders. Gwynne was a J.P. and deputy lieutenant and 'esteemed to be of the best family in the county', while Lewis was serving as high sheriff and a J.P. at the time of the incident. Gwynne complained that Lewes had said to him 'Sir, you were drunk yesterday. Is that newse to you?', adding, in an implicit challenge, 'I know the length of your sword.' The words were spoken at an inn in Presteigne, Radnorshire, at a meeting with Mr Hill, the king's auditor, attended by local gentry and officials on 31 October 1638. Gwynne's witnesses, including a former sheriff, supported his story, but one admitted that he had called Lewes and his brother 'peddling fellows'. Dr Gwynne presented the libel on Gwynne's behalf on 21 February 1639 and two days later the court attempted to arrange an arbitration, supervised by Mr Justice Rumsey and Sir Marmaduke Lloyd. But this failed and Gwynne's witnesses were examined before a commission headed by Robert Williams, esq, on 8 August 1639 in the inn of Richard Smith in Talgarth, Brecknockshire. Gwynne won the case and was awarded £30 in damages, with £30 costs. Lewes was ordered to perform his submission 'standing bareheaded', 'in the great room of the house of Richard Gunter' in Brecknock town on 7 October 1640 before the king's auditor and ten other gentlemen nominated by Mr Gwynne. He was to acknowledge that the sentence was just and that he was 'hartilie sorry' for his 'scandalous and provoking speeches', promising henceforth 'not to offend in the like kind but to carry my selfe with due respect toward Mr Gwyn and all the gentry of this kingdome.' For a man who at the time was serving as sheriff this was particularly humiliating.

Initial proceedings

EM132a, Libel

1. Thomas Gwynne's family had been gentry for up to 60 years. Meredith Lewes had said to Gwynne at Presteigne: 'Sir, you were drunk yesterday and repeated the same words. And said moreover, Is that newse to you? I know the length of your sword.'

No date.

Signed by Thomas Gwynne.

Plaintiff's case

EM132b, Letters commissory for the plaintiff

Addressed to commissioners Robert Williams, esq, Roger Gwyn, esq, William Watkins, gent, John Thomas, gent, and also, Matthew Williams, clerk, Ludovicus Jones, clerk, Edward Lewes, gent, and Thomas Lewes, gent, from 8 to 10 August 1639 in the inn of Richard Smith in the town of Talgarth, co. Brecknock.

Gwil Raw, assigned as notary public by Humphrey Terrick.

29 May 1639.

Signed by Humphrey Terrick.

EM132c, Defence interrogatories

1. How did he earn his livelihood?

2. What was his relationship to Gwynne?

3. When were the pretended words spoken?

4. Where were the pretended words spoken? Who was present, was the witness in the same room, and what were they doing?

5. 'What words had passed between Gwynne and Lewis that would have provoked Lewis to speak the pretended words? 'What was the occasion of that discourse'?

6. Was Mr Lewes 'a gentleman of a civill and sober conversation', and currently High Sheriff of Brecknockshire? Was Mr Lewes at the time of the pretended words a J.P. for co. Brecon? 'What near kindred is betwixt Sir William Lewis Barronett and the adverse party Mr Lewis?'

No date.

No signatures.

14/3e, Defence interrogatories

1. What was the witness's age, occupation and condition? The witnesses were warned of the penalty for perjury and bearing false witness.

2. Was the witness related to either party? Was the witness a household servant?

The rest identical to the above, EM132c

No date.

Signed by William Merrick.

EM132d, Plaintiff's depositions

Taken before Robert Williams, esq, Roger Gwyn, esq, William Watkins, gent, John Thomas, gent, Matthew Williams, clerk, Ludovicus Jones, clerk, and Thomas Lewes, gent, on the 8 August 1639 in the inn of Richard Smith in the town of Talgarth, co. Brecon, with Gwil Raw, notary public

(Witness 1), William Thomas Protherough of Llanfihangel Brynpabuan, co. Brecknock, gent, aged 78

To Gwynne's libel:

He had known Thomas Gwynne since his birth, had known his father, grandfather and great grandfather, and that all were reputed to be gentry. Gwynne's father and grandfather had been justices of the peace, and Gwynne and his father had been deputy lieutenants.

Signed William Thomas Ridd.

To Lewes's interrogatories:

1. He was a gentleman who lived off his land.

2. He was kin to Gwynne and 'cozen jermans' to Gwynne's grandfather.

Signed William Thomas Ridd, and by the commissioners Robert Williams, Thomas Lewis, William Watkins, Matthew Williams and Lod. Jones.

(Witness 2), William Jones of Gwernyfed, co. Brecknock, gent, aged 25

To Gwynne's libel:

He heard Lewes say to Gwynne, 'Is it newse for you to be droncke? and he also then and there said that he knew the length of Gwynne's sword'.

Signed by William Jones

To Lewes's interrogatories:

1. He was clerk and servant to Sir Henry Williams and now is clerk and servant to Mr Henry Williams.

2. 'He knows not that he is any way allied to Gwynne.'

3. The words he has predeposed were spoken in October 1638, between 8am and noon.

4. The words were spoken in an inn in the presence of Mr Hill, the king's auditor, Aythan Lewes, Mr John Lewes, William Watkins and others. 'He conceiveth that [Gwynne and Lewes] and the rest of the company had business with the auditor.'

Signed by William Jones

6. Meredith Lewes at the time was a Justice of the Peace, that he was now High Sheriff of co. Brecon and that 'he was and is a civell and sober gentleman'.

Signed William Jones and the above five commissioners.

(Witness 3), Aythan Lewes of Le Hay [Hay-on-Wye], co. Brecknock, tanner, aged 45

To Gwynne's libel:

On 31 October 1638 he heard Meredith Lewes say to Gwynne that he had been drunk the night before: 'and Thomas Gwyn calling and requiring witnesses, Meredith Lewes said again to Thomas Gwyn, Is it newse to you to be drunk? and he then also said that he knew the length of Gwynne's sword'.

To Lewes's interrogatories:

2. He was 'of the third degree of kindred unto Gwynne'.

Signed by Aythan Lewes

3. The words were spoken between 10am and 3pm on 31 October 1638.

4. The words were spoken in an inn or tavern in the presence of himself, Mr Hill, the king's auditor, William Jones, William Watkins of Brecknock town, the bailiff of Brecknock and others. The gathering had business with the king's auditor. The bailiff of Brecknock told Aythan Lewes that he was there to pay rent for the town of Brecknock.

6. 'Meredith Lewes is now High Sheriff of the County of Brecon.'

Signed Aythan Lewes and the commissioners Robert Williams, Roger Gwynne, Thomas Lewis, William Watkins, Matthew Williams, John Thomas, Lod: Jones.

(Witness 4), John Williams of the Park in Llanfihangel Brynpabuan, co. Brecvknock, esq, aged 60

To Gwynne's libel:

He had known Thomas Gwynne for thirty years, and his father for forty years before his death. Gwynne's father had been a justice of the peace and deputy lieutenant for the county of Brecon.

To Lewes's interrogatories:

1. He was a gentleman who lived off his lands and a Justice of the Peace in co. Brecon.

2. He was 'cosen jermans' with Gwynne's father.

6. Meredith Lewes was a justice of the peace in 1638 and high sheriff.

Signed by John Williams and the above seven commissioners.

(Witness 5), Geoffrey Jeffereis of Aber Cunriske in Llanbraham, co. Brecknock, esq, aged 40

To Gwynne's libel:

He was at Presteigne on 'All Hallow even' and heard words pass between Lewes and Gwynne of which he took no notice, 'being otherwise busied'. But in the end he heard Lewes say that he 'had heard of the length of Mr Thomas Gwyn his sword'.

To Lewes's interrogatories:

5. The brother of Meredith Lewes was bailiff of Brecknock and was there to pay the king's rent to the auditor to whom he 'endeavoured to come near to pay the same and Mr Thomas Gwynne being betwixt them and as he thought disturbed termed Mr Lewes and his brother pedling fellows'.

6. He had known Meredith Lewes for many years to be 'a gentleman of civil and sober conversation... friendly amongst his neighbours', and that in 1638 he was a justice of the peace and high sheriff for co. Brecon.

Signed by Jeff. Jeffreyes and by commissioners Robert Williams, Thomas Lewis, William Watkins, Matthew Williams, John Thomas, Lod. Jones.

(Witness 6), William Games of Powerthyrdoys in Llavuris, co. Brecknock, gent, aged 60

To Gwynne's libel:

He had known Thomas Gwynne many years and his father before him 46 years. Gwynne's father had been a justice of the peace, high sheriff, deputy lieutenant, and captain of a trained band, and so had Gwynne since the death of his father. The Gwynnes 'were always accounted an ancient family of the best ranke of the county.'

To Lewes's interrogatories:

2. He was cousin to Gwynne's father 'in the second degree'.

Signed by William Game and by commissioners Roger Gwynne, Thomas Lewis, William Watkins, Matthew Williams, John Thomas and Lod: Jones.

(Witness 7), John Maddox of Llanfrynach, co. Brecknock, esq, aged 65

To Gwynne's libel:

He had known Gwynne's ancestors for 50 years. His father, grandfather and great-grandfather were all called Howell Gwynne, and were of an ancient family of esquires 'and esteemed to be of the best familie in the county.' They had been justices of the peace and were thought to be descended from Brycham, lord of Brecknock, whose arms they display.

To Lewes's interrogatories:

1. He was an esquire and lord of a manor and had been high sheriff.

2. He was kin to Gwynne 'in the sixth or seventh degree.'

6. Meredith Lewes was a gentleman 'and one that he knoweth no ill by' and lately a justice of the peace, and now high sheriff.

Signed by John Maddox and by commissioners Robert Williams, Roger Gwynne, Thomas Lewis, William Watkins, Matthew Williams, John Thomas and Lod: Jones.

(Witness 8), William Beavan of Allexanderton in Llanthew [Llan-ddew], co. Brecknock, gent, aged 75

To Gwynne's libel:

He had known Gwynne and his ancestors for 55 years and they were accounted to be esquires. Thomas Gwynne was a Justice of the Peace and deputy lieutenant and had served as High Sheriff.

To Lewes's interrogatories:

6. 'Meredith Lewes is a civil and sober gentleman and liveth friendly with his neighbours'.

Signed by William Beavan and by commissioners Robert Williams, Thomas Lewis, William Watkins, Matthew Williams, John Thomas and Lod: Jones.

(Witness 9), Thomas Games of Llanfeugan, co. Brecknock, gent, aged 47

To Gwynne's libel:

On All Hallows Eve last at the house of Francis Richards in Presteigne he heard Lewes say to Gwynne that 'he did think that Gwynne was overthrown in drink the night before and that he knew the length of Gwynne's sword: spoken in the presence of [Games], Mr Hill, the king's auditor, the auditor's clerk and divers others whose names he now remembreth not'.

To Lewes's interrogatories:

1. He 'lyveth with Mr Charles Sarbert and hath his maintenance from him being his cosen jerman.'

2. 'He is cosen jerman removed to Gwynne'.

4. The words were spoken at about 11am in an inn or tavern, in Auditor Hill's chamber.

Signed by Thomas Games [his mark] and by commissioners Robert Williams, Thomas Lewis, William Watkins, Matthew Williams, John Thomas and Lod: Jones.

(Witness 10), Lewis Thomas of [illegible], co. Brecknock, yeoman, aged 37

Brief passage in Latin.

Signed by Lewis Thomas and by commissioners Roger Gwynne and Thomas Lewis.

Sentence / Arbitration

18/5a, Plaintiff sentence

The plaintiff was awarded £30 damages and the case was taxed at £30.

Signed by Thomas Gwynne, Arthur Duck, and Lord Maltravers

No date marked, but filed under Trinity term, 1640.

18/5b, Plaintiff's bill of costs

Hilary term, 1638 - Trinity term, 1640

Sum total: £50-18s-8d

Signed by Thomas Gwynne and Arthur Duck.

Taxed at £30.

Signed by Lord Maltravers.

No date marked, but filed under Trinity term, 1640.

Submission

5/95, Bond of submission

26 June 1640

Lewes had been sentenced to pay to Thomas Gwyn £20 by All Saints Day, £15 on the next 1 February, £15 on 1 May next for costs and damages.

Lewis was also bound to perform his submission and provide certification thereof.

John Lewis of Brecknock, gent and James Williams of Clifford's Inn, London acted on behalf of Meredith Lewis.

Signed by John Lewis and James Williams.

Signed, subscribed and delivered by John Watson and John Dynham.

4/49, Submission

Lewes was to perform his submission 'standing bareheaded' and 'with an audible voice' between 9 and 10am on Wednesday 7 October 1640 'in the great room of the house of Richard Gunter in the towne of Brecknock before the King's Majestie's Auditor and

such other gentlemen as shalbe brought thither by Mr Gwyn not exceeding the number of tenn'.

'Whereas I Meredith Lewes stand convict... to have abused in words Thomas Gwyn of Castlehay [Hay-on-Wye?] in the county of Brecknock, esq, and, in particular, to have told Thomas Gwyn that he had been drunke the night before, and that it was no newes to see him drunke, and that I knew the length of his sword, I do hereby confesse and acknowledge that I am hartilie sorry for those my scandalous and provoking speeches and that I did Mr Gwyn great wrong by uttering of the same; and the sentence of the Court Militarie against me for the same is most just and honourable.'

'And I do hereby earnestly and hartilie desire Mr Gwyn to forgive and forget my speeches and do promise for the future not to offend in the like kind but to carry my selfe with due respect toward Mr Gwyn and all the gentry of this kingdome.'

'Lett his submission be made in manner and form abovesaid

subscript Mowbray and Ma[l]travers'

[Overleaf]

'This submission being performed in manner aforesaid Meredith Lewes is to subscribe his name thereto and to desire some persons of quality present to subscribe their names in testimony of his performance thereof, and to certify his performance thereof the third court day holden in the Courte Militarie in Michaelmas Terme next ensuinge.'

Signed by William Lewin, Registrar.

Summary of proceedings

Dr Gwyn acted as counsel to Gwynne and Dr Merrick to Lewes. On 21 February 1639 Gwyn presented the libel, but two days later an attempt at arbitration was arranged by appointing Justice Rumsey and Sir Marmaduke Lloyd as commissioners in co. Brecknock.

Documents

  • Initial proceedings
    • Libel: EM132a (no date)
  • Plaintiff's case
    • Letters commissory for the plaintiff: EM132b (29 May 1639)
    • Defence interrogatories: EM132c (no date)
    • Defence interrogatories: 14/3e (no date)
    • Plaintiff depositions: EM132d (8 Aug 1639)
  • Sentence / Arbitration
    • Plaintiff's sentence: 18/5a (Jun 1640)
    • Plaintiff's bill of costs: 18/5b (Jun 1640)
  • Submission
    • Bond on submission: 5/95 (Jun 1640)
    • Submission: 4/49 (7 Oct 1640)
  • Proceedings
    • Proceedings before Arundel: 1/6, fos. 20-33 (21 Feb 1639)
    • Proceedings before Arundel: 1/6, fos. 1-9 (23 Feb 1639)

People mentioned in the case

  • Beavan, William, gent
  • Duck, Arthur, lawyer
  • Dynham, John
  • Games, Thomas, gent
  • Games, William, gent
  • Gunter, Richard
  • Gwyn, Roger, esq
  • Gwyn, Thomas, lawyer
  • Gwynne, Thomas, esq (also Gwyn, Gwynn)
  • Howard, Henry, baron Maltravers
  • Jeffereis, Geoffrey, esq
  • Jones, Ludovic, clerk
  • Jones, William, gent
  • Lewes, Meredith, esq (also Lewis)
  • Lewin, William, registrar
  • Lloyd, Marmaduke, knight
  • Maddox, John, esq
  • Merrick, William, lawyer
  • Protherough, William Thomas, gent
  • Raw, Gwil, notary public
  • Ridd, William Thomas
  • Rumsey, Justice
  • Sarbert, Charles, Mr
  • Smith, Richard, innkeeper
  • Terrick, Humphrey (also Terricke)
  • Thomas, John, gent
  • Watkins, William, gent
  • Watson, John
  • Williams, Matthew, clerk
  • Williams, Robert, esq

Places mentioned in the case

  • Brecknockshire
    • Brecknock
    • Castlehay [Hay-on-Wye]
    • Gwernyfed
    • Le Hay [Hay-on-Wye]
    • Llan-ddew
    • Llanfeugan
    • Llanfihangel Brynpabuan
    • Llanfrynach
    • Pennant
    • Talgarth
  • London
    • Clifford's Inn
  • Radnorshire
    • Presteigne
  • Wales

Topics of the case

  • allegation of tradesman status
  • denial of gentility
  • deputy lieutenant
  • drunkenness
  • high sheriff
  • inns of court
  • justice of the peace
  • office-holding
  • royal servant