47 Bisley v Bradford and Williams

The Court of Chivalry 1634-1640.

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In this section


Alexander Bisley of Abingdon, co. Berkshire, gent v Richard Bradford and John Williams of the same, yeomen

June - October 1640

Figure 47:

The thirteenth century St Helen’s parish church on the waterfront at Abingdon, Berkshire, near where Bradford and Williams insulted Bisley.


Bisley petitioned that on 15 May 1640 Bradford and Williams insulted him in the street in St Helen's parish, Abingdon, Berkshire. Bradford called him 'a base rogue and a beggarly rogue' while Williams did likewise and threatened to 'meet and fight with' him. Bisley entered bond to prosecute the cause on 16 June 1640 and his libel maintained that while his family had been gentry for two hundred years, Bradford and Williams were merely yeomen. On 6 July 1640, for good measure, Bisley added that Bradford had insulted the Court of Chivalry. Dr Tooker, acting on Bisley's behalf, produced several witnesses for the prosecution on 24 October 1640; but there is no indication of sentence. [For another cause involving Bisley see cause 48].

Initial proceedings

5/86, Petition

'Your petitioner is a gentleman discended from ancient and gentile family and of good quality yet on or about the 15th day of May last past Richard Bradford and John Williams both of Abingdon aforesaid combined and conspired to injure and disparage your petitioner, Bradford publiquely in the street there exclayminge your petitioner to be a rogue a base rogue and a beggarly rogue, and Williams threatening to assault your petitioner and calling your petitioner rogue and base rogue with other injurious and opprobrious language thereby provoking your petitioner to duell.'

Petitioned that Bradford and Williams be brought to answer.

Maltravers granted process on 16 June 1640.

5/85, Plaintiff's bond

16 June 1640

He was to 'appear in the Court in the Painted Chamber within the Pallace of Westminster'.

Signed by Alexander Bisley.

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

20/3o, Libel

1. Bisley's family had been ancient gentry for up to 200 years, while Bradford was a plebeian of the inferior sort.

2. Between last March and May in St Helen's parish, Abingdon, Bradford said that Bisley was 'a rogue, a base rogue, a filthy beggarly rogue and that he was a liar and told lyes'.

3. By these contemptuous words, Bradford endeavoured to provoke Bisley to a duel.

No date.

Signed by Charles Tooker.

20/3j, Libel

1. Bisley's family had been ancient gentry for up to 200 years, while Williams was a yeoman and of the inferior sort.

2. Between last March and May in St Helen's parish, Abingdon, Williams said that Bisley was 'a rogue and a base rogue, a beggarly rogue, and that he would meet and fight with me'.

3. Williams's contemptuous words tried to provoke him to a duel.

No date.

Signed by Charles Tooker.

12/4e, Additional libel

Bradford said that Bisley 'was a base rogue and rascall and bad him carry that to the Court of Honour and sayd that he carred not a [blank] for the Court of Honour'.

6 July 1640

Summary of proceedings

Dr Tooker acted as counsel for Bisley, and Dr Turner for Bradford and Williams. On 10 October 1640 the court requested the witnesses' examinations taken before the commissioners. On 24 October 1640 Dr Tooker, acting on Bisley's behalf, produced as witnesses Edward West, John Winsmore, Susanna Sivers and Margaret Harris, and they were warned to submit to examination in the next sitting. On 30 October he petitioned for their depositions to be published.


Alexander Bisley of Abingdon appeared in the 1665 Visitation of Berkshire as aged 62, and married to the daughter of Henry Machin of Crickley, co. Gloucester.

W. H. Rylands (ed.), The Four Visitations of Berkshire, 1532, 1566, 1623, 1665-6 (Publications of the Harleian Society, 56, 1907), vol. 1, p. 172.


  • Initial proceedings
    • Petition: 5/86 (16 Jun 1640)
    • Plaintiff's bond: 5/85 (16 Jun 1640)
    • Libel: 20/3o (no date)
    • Libel: 20/3j (no date)
    • Additional libel: 12/4e (6 Jul 1640)
  • Proceedings
    • Proceedings: 1/11, fos. 56r-64v (10 Oct 1640)
    • Proceedings before Stafford: 1/11, fos. 41r-44v (24 Oct 1640)
    • Proceedings before Maltravers: 1/11, fos. 19r-30v (30 Oct 1640)

People mentioned in the case

  • Bisley, Alexander, gent
  • Bradford, Richard, yeoman
  • Dynham, John
  • Harris, Margaret
  • Howard, Henry, baron Maltravers
  • Howard, William, baron Stafford
  • Machin, Henry
  • Tooker, Charles, lawyer
  • Sivers, Susannah
  • West, Edward
  • Winsmore, John
  • Williams, John, yeoman

Places mentioned in the case

  • Berkshire
  • Abingdon
  • Gloucestershire
    • Crickley
  • Middlesex
    • Westminster

Topics of the case

  • challenge to a duel
  • denial of gentility