342 Keresforth v Scamaden

The Court of Chivalry 1634-1640.

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'342 Keresforth v Scamaden', in The Court of Chivalry 1634-1640, (, ) pp. . British History Online https://www.british-history.ac.uk/no-series/court-of-chivalry/342-keresforth-scamaden [accessed 5 March 2024]

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Thomas Keresforth of Dodworth, co. York, gent v Robert Scamaden of Barnsley, co. York, yeoman

February - October 1640


Keresforth complained that between March and August 1639, in Gray's Inn Lane, in St Andrew's parish, Holborn, London, Scamaden said that he was 'a base fellow and no gentleman' that his name was not Keresforth but Kesforth, for 'he knew all that were of the right house of Keresforth, and that I was not of that familie; and said that the coate of armes exhibited unto the Court Military (the milrines quartered with the three butterflies ) belonged not to me, and that he would make it good'. He also declared that Keresforth's father 'was merely a tailor'. Scamaden spoke these words after prompting by John Rainshaw who had raised the issue of the Eyre v Keresforth case [see cause 160] and allegedly said that 'he would give Scamaden £10 if he could justify that those arms did not belong to Thomas Keresforth.' Keresforth also claimed that Scamaden had given evidence that he was not a gentleman in an earlier suit against Eyre in March 1637.Process was granted on 15 February 1640 and Gervase Hanson deposed on behalf of Keresforth on 15 June; but no sentence survives.

Initial proceedings

5/6, Petition

'Your petitioner having a suite lately depending in your honors Court Militarie, and there suing and proceeding by the title of a gentleman (as indeed he is). One Robert Scamadyne of Barnsly in the countie of Yorke, being told of the same, said, in the presence of divers credible persons, that your petitioner was a base fellow and noe gentleman, for he knew all of them that was of the house of the Keresforths and that your petitioner's name was not Keresforth, but Kesforth, and uttered the words in a very disgracefull manner against your petitioner'.

Prayed that Scamaden might be brought to answer.

Maltravers granted process 15 February 1640.

5/5, Plaintiff's bond

24 April 1640

Bound to 'appear in the said Court in Arundel House in the Strand without Temple Bar, London'.

Signed by Thomas Keresforth

Sealed, subscribed and delivered in the presence of John Watson.

5/43, Defendant's bond

19 May 1640

To 'appear in the said court in the Painted Chamber within the Pallace of Westminster'.

Signed by Robert Scamaden.

Sealed, subscribed and delivered in the presence of John Watson.

20/3n, Libel

1. Keresforth was descended from an ancient and gentry family of Keresforth Hill, co. York, who had been gentry for up to 200 years.

2. Scamaden and his family were plebeians.

3. In March 1637, Keresforth had a cause of scandalous words provocative of a duel against Gervase Eyre, in which Scamaden gave evidence that Keresforth was not a gentleman.

4. Between March and August 1639, in St Andrew's parish, Holborn, London, Scamaden said 'that I was a base fellow and no gentleman, and that my name was not Keresforth but otherwise; and said that he knew all that were of the right house of Keresforth, and that I was not of that familie; and said that the coate of armes exhibited unto the Court Military belonged not to me, and that he would make it good'. By these words, Scamaden endeavoured to provoke Keresforth to a duel.

No date.

Signed by Thomas Exton.

Plaintiff's case

Cur Mil 1631-1642, fos. 212r-214r, Plaintiff depositions

fos. 212r-214r (Witness 1), Gervase Hanson of Worsbrough Dale, co. York, yeoman, born there, aged 21

29 June 1640

To Keresforth's libel:

1-2. Keresforth was reputed to be an attorney at law, and Scamaden was reputed a yeoman.

3. He had heard that Keresforth sued Gervase Eyre in this court, and believed Scamaden had heard of that suit.

4. On a day in one of the months in the libel, he was with Scamaden and John Rainshawe, and with Richard West, and this witness's father who were since deceased, at a Cookes house in Gray's Inn Lane, London. Scamaden said that Keresforth 'was noe gentleman and that his name was not Keresforth but Kesforth and further said that he never knew that *[Keresforth] was* of the family of the Keresforths; and also said that the armes, the milrines quartered with the three butterflies , did not belong to [Keresforth] but to the family of Keresforth'.

To Scamaden's interrogatories:

1. He had 40s per annum in lands.

2. 'He wisheth right may take place and careth not who hath the better in this cause.'

3. At the time of the words, Scamaden came to supper with the witness and the company.

4. Scamaden spoke the words in answer to the questions and interrogations 'upon the speeches of John Rainshawe', who was speaking of the suit between Eyre and Keresforth. Rainshawe asked Scamaden whether Keresforth and his ancestors were gentlemen. Scamaden replied that 'Thomas Keresforth was not a gentleman... for that his father was a taylor'. Then Rainshawe told Scamaden of a coat of arms 'Keresforth had brought in proofe of his gentrie'. Scamaden replied this was the arms of the Keresforth family and not Kesforth. Then Rainshawe said he would give Scamaden £10 if he could justify that those arms did not belong to Thomas Keresforth. Scamaden replied he would justify that the arms belonged to the Keresforths.

5. Scamaden 'is a plaine country man and not any way knowing or able to distinguish of the armes of gentlemen... Mr Keresforth was attorney in a suite against Scamadyne before the speaking the words'.

6. Keresforth told Hanson that Rainshawe and West came to him in his chamber the same night the words were spoken, and told him what Scamaden had said of him. Keresforth desired Hanson to remember those words. Afterwards Keresforth's man showed the witness a note he said was written by Rainshaw of the words spoken by Scamaden, and asked the witness what he could depose. The witness replied 'he could not depose all the words in the note but that when he came legally to be examined he would declare the truth.'

Signed by Jervase Hanson.

Repeated in court before Sir Henry Marten on 29 June 1640 in the presence of John Longland.

Summary of proceedings

Dr Exton acted as counsel for Keresforth and Dr Talbot for Scamadyne. On 30 October 1640 Dr Exton produced witnesses in support of Keresforth's libel before Lord Maltravers.


For another account of this case, see G. D. Squibb, Reports of Heraldic Cases in the Court of Chivalry, 1623-1732 (London, 1956), p.48.

Thomas Keresforth of Puell-Hill, co. York (c.1598-1665), son of Gabriel Keresforth of Keresforth Hill (d.1641), was married to Elizabeth, daughter of Humphrey Clyncard of Abingdon, co. Berkshire. He allegedly founded the Grammar School at Barnsley.

R. Davies (ed.), The Visitation of the County of Yorke begun in 1665 and finished in 1666, by William Dugdale (Surtees Society, 36, 1859), p. 2; R. Jackson, History of the Town and Township of Barnsley (London, 1858), pp. 150-1.

At the Heralds' Visitation of Yorkshire in 1665 (College of Arms Ms: C.40/4b) a family of Keresforth recorded arms of Quarterly (1 and 4) Azure two Millrinds Fessewise in pale Argent (2 and 3) Argent a Fess embattled Sable between three Butterflies Gules .

The editors are grateful to Mr. Thomas Woodcock, Norroy and Ulster King of Arms for the above passage.

For a brief report of this case see J. T. Cliffe, The Yorkshire Gentry from the Reformation to the Civil War (London, 1969), p. 10.


  • Initial proceedings
    • Petition: 5/6 (15 Feb 1640)
    • Plaintiff's bond: 5/5 (24 Apr 1640)
    • Defendant's bond: 5/43 (19 May 1640)
    • Libel: 20/3n (no date)
  • Plaintiff's case
    • Plaintiff's depositions: Cur Mil 1631-42, fos. 212-4 (29 Jun 1640)
  • Proceedings
    • Proceedings before Maltravers: 1/11, fos. 19r-30v (30 Oct 1640)

People mentioned in the case

  • Clyncard, Elizabeth
  • Clyncard, Humphrey
  • Exton, Thomas, lawyer
  • Eyre, Gervase, gent
  • Hanson, Gervase, yeoman
  • Howard, Henry, baron Maltravers
  • Keresforth, Elizabeth (also Keresford)
  • Keresforth, Gabriel (also Keresford)
  • Keresforth, Thomas, gent (also Keresford)
  • Longland, John
  • Marten, Henry, knight
  • Rainshaw, John
  • Scamaden, Robert, yeoman (also Scamadyne, Scamadine)
  • Talbot, Clere, lawyer
  • Watson, John
  • West, Richard

Places mentioned in the case

  • Berkshire
    • Abingdon
  • London
    • Arundel House
    • Gray's Inn Lane
    • St Andrew's, Holborn
    • Strand
    • Temple Bar
  • Middlesex
    • Westminster
  • Yorkshire, West Riding
    • Barnsley
    • Dodworth
    • Pule Hill
    • Keresforth Hill
    • Worsbrough Dale

Topics of the case

  • allegation of tradesman status
  • coat of arms
  • denial of gentility
  • heraldry