358 Knyveton v Greaves

The Court of Chivalry 1634-1640.

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'358 Knyveton v Greaves', in The Court of Chivalry 1634-1640, (, ) pp. . British History Online https://www.british-history.ac.uk/no-series/court-of-chivalry/358-knyveton-greaves [accessed 2 March 2024]

In this section


Sir Andrew Knyveton of Bradley, co. Derby, bart v William Greaves, clerk, rector of Brailsford, co. Derby

November 1638 - February 1639

Figure 358:

J.C. Buckler's 1833 drawing of the Consistory Court at Lichfield, where Sir Andrew Knyveton and William Greaves pursued their grievances against each other (Reproduced by permission of the Librarian of the William Salt Library, Stafford (WSL SV vi-24))


Knyveton's libel was based on an incident in late June 1637, at an inn in Belgrave, Leicestershire, on the way to London, when, in the presence of William Myles and George Vicars, Greaves said that Knyveton 'was a base fellowe, and a beggerly knight, and not worth a groate, and that hee would shew a better coate of armes' than Knyveton, 'and that hee would make itt appeare when he came to London'. This was apparently prompted by Myles offering to place a bet on the outcome of an impending law suit between Greaves and Knyveton. Greaves's wife Jane was Knyveton's aunt, and an ongoing quarrel had developed over her portion. There had been other lawsuits between the two men in the ecclesiastical court at Lichfield and in the Court of Wards. Knyveton also complained that in January 1638, at Derby, Greaves had said, in the presence of Myles and Mr Thomas Draper, that he 'was a base fellow and a beggerlie knight, and that hee had given him moneye when he was a school boye; and yet he thought he should live to relieve him again at his gates.' Greaves, in his defence, maintained that he had been provoked by Knyveton who had struck his son, William Greaves the younger, two years earlier, and had disabled Greaves's dogfor having run at Knyveton's deer. He also complained of an incident at John Barrowclough's house in Bradley Park, Derbyshire, between April and June 1638, when Knyveton had struck him on the head for allegedly giving him the lie. This became grounds for a countersuit by Greaves [see cause 253]. Dr Duck entered the libel on Knyveton's behalf in November 1638 and his witnesses were examined by a commission headed by John Chaworth, esq, on 18 January 1639 at the Talbot Inn at Ashbourne, Derbyshire.No sentence survives, perhaps because on 23 February 1639 it was proposed that the case be referred to the Earl of Huntingdon for arbitration.

Initial proceedings

9/3/9, Libel [damaged]

Between March and July 1637 in the parish of Brailsford, William Greaves in the presence of 'divers persons of dignity' said that 'I, Sir Andrew Knyveton, was a base fellowe, and a beggerly knight, and not worth a groate, and that hee would shew a better coate of armes then I ...and that hee would make itt appeare when he came to London'. Knyveton prayed for relief.

No date [November 1638]

Signed by Arthur Duck.

Plaintiff's case

9/3/8, Letters commissory for the plaintiff

Addressed to commissioners John Chaworth, esq, Sir John Fitzherbert, William Davenport, esq, and John Whithall, gent, and also Thomas Bagshawe, gent, John Hall, clerk, Richard Slack, clerk and Robert Hoce, clerk, to meet from 17 to 19 January 1638 at the Talbot Inn at Ashbourne, co. Derby.

Gilbert Dethick was named as Register.

Dated 15 December 1638.

Signed by Gilbert Dethick.

9/3/2, Defendant's interrogatories [damaged]

1. The witnesses were warned of the penalty for perjury and bearing false witness. What was the witness's age, occupation, and condition of living? Where had the witness lived for the last seven years? How did the witness know the parties?

2. Was the witness a relative, household servant or retainer to Knyveton, and if so by what degree or for what annual wage?

3. Did they live of their own or were they dependent upon another? How much were they worth in goods with their debts paid?

4. Did any of the witnesses bear 'hatred or malice' towards Greaves and did they stand 'partially affected towards' Knyveton?

5. When and where were the pretended words spoken?

6. What was the occasion of speaking the words? Was Sir Andrew present? Were there provocative words from Sir Andrew or others then present before Greaves spoke 'the pretended wordes'?

7. Was there 'not affinity or consanguinity between Sir Andrew' and Greaves?

8. Between April and June 1637 in Brailsford, did Sir Andrew call Greaves 'base fellow, rogue, rascall with other vilifying wordes' and did Sir Andrew break Greaves's head in two places or in one place?

9. What lawsuit had there been between Sir Andrew and Greaves? Had there been lawsuits between Greaves and the witness? Had the witness 'sollicited suites against Mr Greaves'?

Signed by William Merrick.

Interrogatories 10-18 on second sheet:

10. Was he a gentleman and if so of what estate?

11. Had he 'lately stood surety for Sir Andrew Knyveton, and in how many bills and bonds'?

12. Had there been any lawsuits 'betweene you or any of your fellowe witnesses'?

13. Did the witness know of any attempt by Knyveton or another to get anyone to testify against Greaves?'Did you not send for Mr Greaves the younger, the defendant's son and informe him that William Myles of Canestone and Thomas Pegge of Yeldersley had moved you to sweare against Mr Greaves? What was the speech you then uttered to the defendant's son in lawe and did you say that Pegg and Myles moved you to sweare that which is false and untrue against the defendant with threatening wordes that they would bring you to London to appeare, and where was Sir Andrew then?'

14. Had Knyveton 'much vilifyed and likewise stricken Mr William Greaves the defendant's sonne' and much abused William Walter his son-in-law?

15. Was Mrs Jane Greaves, the defendant's wife, an aunt to Sir Andrew?

16. Was Knyveton present when the words in the libel were spoken? 'How came he to have notice of the pretended wordes? Did the witness or any of his fellow wittnesses informe Sir Andrew that Mr Greaves spoke the pretended wordes and what was the answer of Sir Andrew to him or them who informed him of the pretended wordes?'

17. 'Did Edward Battie, servant of Sir Andrew Knyveton, write unto you to come unto the commission at Ashborne overnight, that you should have your charges borne without showing you any warrant under the commissioners' hande? Did Battie shewe you the libell or declare to you the wordes in the libel, or did he showe you any interrogatory'?

18. Are you a tenant of Knyveton?

No date.

No signatures.

8/14, Plaintiff's depositions

Taken before commissioners John Chaworth, esq, William Davenport, esq, John Hall, clerk, and William Clarke, clerk, on 18 January 1639 in the Talbot Inn, Ashbourne, co. Derby, with Edward Latham as notary public.

(Witness 1), George Vicars of Sutton Bonington, co. Nottingham, husbandman, where he had lived since last December, aged 54

To Knyveton's libel:

1. Sir Andrew Knyveton 'hath bin a baronet ever since his father's death wch is about foure yeares since, and soe was his father Sir Gilbert Kniveton before him, but doth not remember Sir William Kniveton, Sir Andrew's grandfather... the Knivetons have descended of a verie ancient familie'.

2. 'About midsummer terme was twelvemonth', he was at Belgrave, co. Leicester, at one Dawson's, an inn there, where he heard William Greaves say to William Myles 'that Sir Andrew Knyveton was a begerlye knight, and not worth a groate, and that hee Mr Greaves could shewe a better coate of armes then Sir Andrewe could and that the heralds should bee judges therof'.

To Greaves's interrogatories:

3. 'Hee liveth uppon himselfe and is noe subsedie man, and is worth fortie shillings per annum.'

6. The above words were spoken upon occasion of placing a bet in wine by William Myles concerning a forthcoming trial between Mr Greaves and Sir Andrew Knyveton'. Knyveton was not then present.

15. He had heard that Mr Greaves's wife was aunt to Sir Andrew Knyveton.

16. He believed that William Miles informed Sir Andrew Knyveton 'of the words by him deposed'.

17. Edward Battie wished him to be a witness at this commission, 'and tould him hee should have his chardges borne, and withall shewed him the commission'.

18. He was a tenant to Sir Andrew Knyveton and paid him £20 per annum rent.

Signed by George Vicars, and by commissioners William Davenport, John Whithall, John Hall and Richard Issacks.

(Witness 2), Thomas Draper of Culland, in Brailsford parish, co. Derby, gent, where he had lived since birth, aged 26

To Knyveton's libel:

1. Sir Andrew Knyveton 'hath binn for these three or foure yeares last past accounted to bee a baronett, and soe was his father Sir Gilbert Knyveton, and also his grandfather Sir William Knyveton whoe was made a baronet in King James his tyme, and further sayth that Sir Andrew Knyveton hath binn of an auncient familie and borne armes ancientlie'.

To Greaves's interrogatories:

1. He 'hath knowen Sir Andrew Knyveton from his childhood and Mr Greaves for twentie yeares'.

3. 'He liveth of himself, and is a subsidie man, and hath land worth £100 pa of his owne'

13. William Miles told him that he would be brought to London as a witness to testify 'concerninge some wordes spoken at Darbie by Mr Greaves; and further sayth hee beleeves Sir Andrew Knyveton was at the tyme when the wordes were spoken beyond the seas'.

Signed by the above four commissioners.

(Witness 3), William Myles of Edlaston, in Brailsford parish, yeoman, where he has lived since birth, aged 46

To Knyveton's libel:

1. As witness 1.

2. About May twelve months ago he was with Greaves in Derby, and heard him say that Sir Andrew Knyveton was 'a base fellow and a beggerlie knight, and that hee had given him moneye when he was a school boye; and yet he thought he should live to relieve him again at his gates with other such like speeches'. In midsummer term, 1637, 'travelling towards London with Greaves upon the highway near Belgrave, or at the inn there, heard Greaves say that Sir Andrew Knyveton 'was a base fellow, a beggarlie knight and not worth a groat and whosoever trusted him he would deceive him and that he Mr Greaves should or could shewe better armes then Sir Andrew Knyveton or anie of the Knivetons could; and when he Mr Greaves came to London would shew him them'. And when he spoke the words at Derby, Thomas Draper, Gibert Mouslie with others were present, and at Belgrave Mr Greaves, his wife, and George Vicars.

4. As he conceived, the words were spoken 'in disgrace of Sir Andrew Knyveton'.

To Greaves's interrogatories:

1. He had known Sir Andrew Knyveton for 12 years and Mr Greaves for 26 years.

2. He was a subsidy man, 'liveth of himself' and is worth £500 his debts paid.

5. The words spoken at Derby were after sunset, but the ones at Belgrave he did not recall the time of day.

6. The words deposed were spoken 'upon some speeches of perswasion unto George Vicars to returne back againe in his journeye towardes London, Greaves telling him that Vicars should not trust the Knivetons; and thereupon Greaves said hee would shew him a better coate of armes then the Knyvetons could at his comeinge to London'. Then some wagers passed between Greaves and Myles: 'from a pottle of wine to a gallon and from a gallon unto a bushell and thereupon Greaves did speake the wordes before deposed'. He also said 'he came to London to Mr Greaves his chamber to see armes and Greaves shewed him a coate of armes'; but Myles said 'he knew not what belonged therunto but would bee judged by the heraulds'.

9. There had been a suit between Knyveton and Greaves in the ecclesiastical court at Lichfield and in the Court of Wards; and he had paid money and spoken to the counsel of Andrew Knyveton in both places concerning the same; and that there had also been several suits between Greaves and Myles.

11. He 'was bound for Andrew Knyveton in severall bonds, one of £100 to one of Langley, the other to Dale of Flagg for what certayne summ he knoweth not'.

13. He was served to appear in this by a note sent by Andrew Knyveton's servant Mr Battie.

14. He had heard that Greaves 'had his dogg or dogs... but by whom [Myles] cannot tell, saving Robt Lightwood'.

15. Greave's wife was Andrew Knyveton's aunt.

16. Knyveton was overseas when the words were spoken and he does not know how Knyveton came to know of them; but said that he had been asked about the words by Mr Battie, Sir Andrew Knyveton's servant

17. Battie showed Myles a note under the hand of Mr Davenport to appear at the commission and after required him to appear.

18 He was one of Sir Andrew Knyveton's tenants and held land worth £30 per annum from him.

Signed by John Chaworth and by the above four commissioners.

(Witness 4), Thomas Lightwood of Bradley, co. Derby and Cambridge, gent, aged 22

To Knyveton's libel:

1. Sir Andrew Knyveton 'hath bin ever since his father's death accounted and reputed to bee a baronett, and soe was his father and grandfather before him; and that the familie hath binn verie ancient and hath tyme out of mind borne armes'.

3, 4. He was with Thomas Bancrofte, John Barrowcloughe and Jane Atkins at the house of Barrowclough in Bradley Parke, 'and the reckoninge being to be paid, Mr Greaves offering to pay, Sir Andrew Knyveton said I pray you lett mee paye, although your estate bee better then mine. Whereunto Mr Greaves answered, It is a lye, reiteratinge the word lye divers tymes; and at the last said unto Sir Andrew Knyveton, By God, you lie, or to that effecte. And [he] belleveth that the wordes were spoken in contempt and disgrace of Andrew Knyveton. Greaves did by speaking thereof provoke Sir Andrew Knyveton to strike him'.

To Greaves's interrogatories:

1. He had known the parties for 12 years.

3. He 'liveth of himself and is worth £20 or better'.

5, 6. The words were spoken in Barrowclough's house in Bradley Park at about 1pm and the occasion was the payment of a reckoning in the presence of Sir Andrew Knyveton.

8. On that occasion Sir Andrew Knyveton 'did strike Mr Greaves and did breake his heade upon the forehead, but not much'.

9. He had heard there had been suits between the parties, and he was once at Lichfield to see what was done in a suit against Sir Andrew Knyveton by Mr Greaves at Knyveton's request.

12. He 'beleeveth he is a gentleman, and hath an estate to keepe himselfe, but doth not know his armes'.

13. He was asked to appear at the commission but was not asked by anyone to swear an untruth.

14. He had heard that 'Robt Lightwood did haughe synowe [sic] Mr Greaves his dogg for running at Sir Andrew Knyveton's deare'.

17. Mr Battie asked him to appear at this commission, but did not show him any 'warrant, libell or interrogatories'.

18. He was a tenant to Sir Andrew Knyveton 'for a peece of ground which another man payeth rent for'.

Signed by John Chaworth, and by the above four commissioners.

(Witness 5), Jane Atkins wife of Henry Atkins of Mugginton, co. Derby, yeoman, where she had lived for 3 months, aged 22 years

To Kyveton's libel:

3,4. She was in her father John Barrowclough's house, where she heard Greaves 'divers tymes tell Sir Andrew Knyveton that he lyed, and that Sir Andrew Knyveton did wish Greaves that he would forbeare and give him the lye no more. Whereupon, Greaves did afterwards give him the lye again, and beleeveth that the wordes were spoken in a disgracefull and contemptuous manner against Sir Andrew Knyveton and that he did much move him to anger'.

To Greaves's interrogatories:

6. She did not hear Knyveton offer any provocation.

8. Sir Andrew Knyveton did strike Greaves on the head 'and as she beleeveth did breake his head but not verie much'.

14. She had heard that Mr Greaves his dog 'was haugh sinewed' [sic], but by whom she knew not.

Signed by John Chaworth, and by the above four commissioners.

(Witness 6), John Cotton of Brailsford, co. Derby, yeoman, where he had lived twenty years, aged 73

To Knyveton's libel:

1. As witness 1.

3-4. In May 1638 Knyveton told Greaves 'of some wordes which Greaves had spoken concerninge him whereunto Greaves replied and said it was a lye two severall tymes; and 'he belleves the wordes were not anie disgrace unto Sir Andrew Knyveton'.

8. Sir Andrew Knyveton 'with his hand or a cann which he then had in his hand' did 'strike Greaves on the head in so much that the bloud did come out'.

9. There had been suits between the two men for Greaves 'his wife's porcon as he beleeveth'.

14. Mr Greaves's 'grayhound was haugh sinewed but by whom' he did not know.

Signed by John Chaworth, and by the above four commissioners.

(Witness 7), John Barrowclough of Bradley Park, co. Derby, yeoman, where he had lived 30 years

To Knyveton's libel:

1. He 'hath ever heard them accounted to bee of a verie ancient house and famelie, and alsoe that divers others of that familie have binn knightes in former tymes, and that they have and doe beare armes'.

3-4. At his house he heard Greaves tell Knyveton 'that it was a lye and, Begod, it was a lye. Whereupon, Andrew Knyveton wished Greaves to forbeare those wordes for he could not forbear any longer, and beleeveth that the wordes did much provoke Andrew Knyveton unto anger'.

8. He 'saw Andrew Knyveton and Greaves strucklinge together' whereupon he parted them and saw that Greaves's head was broken and bloody. But he did not see the blow given, 'but beleeveth it was Sir Andrew Knyveton'.

14. He had heard that about 2 years ago Sir Andrew Knyveton had struck William Greaves, the defendant's son, and also that 'Mr Greaves his dogg was hough sinewed about the same tyme'.

18. He 'is servant and keeper to Sir Andrew Knyveton and soe was unto his father and grandfather and that in liewe of his wages hee holdeth under him groundes and hath pasturage for some cattell worth £10 a year and better'.

Signed by John Chaworth, and by the above four commissioners.

(Witness 8), Thomas Bancroft, schoolmaster of Brailsford, co. Derby, where he had lived a year or more, aged 40 years

To Knyveton's libel:

3, 4. He confirmed the earlier evidence, that Greaves had given Knyveton the lie.

Signed by Chaworth, Davenport, Whithall and Hall.

8/14, Notary public's certificate

Certificate in Latin signed by Edward Latham, notary public of the diocese of Coventry and Lichfield, that the above examinations had been completed and were now being returned.

No date.

Notary's mark.

Summary of proceedings

Dr Duck acted as counsel for Knyveton and Dr Merrick for Greaves. Dr Duck delivered the libel on 20 November 1638 and Dr Merrick refuted it on 5 December 1638. On 23 February 1639 a proposal was raised to refer the case to the arbitration of the earl of Huntingdon to negotiate an amiable reconciliation.


Sir Andrew was the eldest son of Sir Gilbert Knyveton of Mercaston, co. Derby, knt and bart, and Mary, daughter of Andrew Grey, esq. He was a royalist colonel during the civil wars and his brother Peter served as his lieutenant-colonel.

G. D. Squibb (ed.), The Visitation of Derbyshire, 1662-1664 (Publications of the Harleian Society, new series, 8, 1989), p. 48; P.R. Newman, Royalist officers in England and Wales, 1642-1660: A biographical dictionary (London, 1981), p. 219.

On 27 November 1643, Sir William Savile at York, wrote to Major Richard Beaumont at Sheffield that William Greaves, the rector of Brailsford, had been captured by Sir John Gell's parliamentary forces, and that Greaves should be exchanged for Mr Nicholas Heathcoat a prisoner in the royalist garrison at Sheffield.

J. Hunter, Hallamshire: The History and Topography of the Parish of Sheffield in the County of York (2nd edn, London, 1869), p. 140.


  • Initial proceedings
    • Libel: 9/3/9 (Nov 1638)
  • Plaintiff's case
    • Letters commissory for the plaintiff: 9/3/8 (15 Dec 1638)
    • Defence interrogatories: 9/3/2 (no date)
    • Plaintiff depositions: 8/14 (18 Jan 1639)
    • Notary public's certificate: 8/14 (no date)
  • Proceedings
    • Proceedings before Maltravers: R.19, fos. 400v-412v (20 Nov 1638)
    • Proceedings before Maltravers: R.19, fos. 422r-428r (28 Nov 1638)
    • Proceedings before Maltravers: R.19, fos. 474r-484v (5 Dec 1638)
    • Proceedings before Maltravers: 1/9 (28 Jan 1639)
    • Proceedings before Arundel: 1/6, fos. 1-9 (23 Feb 1639)

People mentioned in the case

  • Atkins, Henry, yeoman
  • Atkins, Jane
  • Bagshawe, Thomas, gent
  • Bancroft, Thomas, schoolmaster
  • Barraclough, John, yeoman (also Barrowclough, Barrowcloughe)
  • Battie, Edward, servant (also Batty)
  • Beaumont, Richard, gent
  • Chaworth, John, esq
  • Clarke, William, clerk
  • Cotton, John, yeoman
  • Davenport, William, esq
  • Dethick, Gilbert, registrar
  • Draper, Thomas, gent
  • Duck, Arthur, lawyer
  • Fitzherbert, John, knight
  • Gell, John, knight
  • Greaves, Jane
  • Greaves, William the elder, clerk
  • Greaves, William the younger, Mr
  • Grey, Andrew, esq
  • Grey, Mary, esq
  • Hall, John, clerk
  • Hastings, Henry, earl of Huntingdon
  • Heathcoat, Nicholas, gent
  • Hoce, Robert, clerk
  • Howard, Henry, baron Maltravers
  • Howard, Thomas, earl of Arundel and Surrey
  • Isaacks, Richard
  • Knyveton, Andrew, baronet (also Kniveton)
  • Knyveton, Gilbert, knight (also Kniveton)
  • Knyveton, Mary (also Kniveton)
  • Knyveton, Peter (also Kniveton)
  • Knyveton, William, knight (also Kniveton)
  • Latham, Edward, notary public
  • Lightwood, Robert
  • Lightwood, Thomas, gent
  • Merrick, William, lawyer
  • Mouslie, Gilbert
  • Myles, William, yeoman (also Miles)
  • Pegge, Thomas
  • Savile, William, knight and baronet
  • Slack, Richard, clerk
  • Vicars, George, husbandman
  • Walter, William
  • Whithall, John, gent

Places mentioned in the case

  • Derbyshire
    • Ashbourne
    • Bradley
    • Bradley Park
    • Brailsford
    • Canestone
    • Culland
    • Edlaston
    • Flagg
    • Langley
    • Mercaston
    • Mugginton
    • Yeldersley
  • Leicestershire
    • Belgrave
  • London
  • Nottinghamshire
    • Sutton Bonington
  • Staffordshire
    • Lichfield
  • York
  • Yorkshire, West Riding
    • Sheffield

Topics of the case

  • allegation of bankruptcy
  • assault
  • church court
  • civil war
  • coat of arms
  • comparison
  • Court of Wards
  • denial of gentility
  • gambling
  • giving the lie
  • Herald
  • hunting
  • insult before gentlemen
  • military officer
  • other courts
  • previous litigation
  • royalist