564 Rodes v Slater

The Court of Chivalry 1634-1640.

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Sir John Rodes of Barlborough, co. Derby, knight v Christopher Slater the elder of the same, gent, and Christopher Slater the younger, yeoman

May 1636 - February 1638

Figure 564:

St James’s church, Barlborough, Derbyshire. The quarrel between Sir John Rodes and the Slaters arose out of a dispute over the lead on the church roof.


This case involved two separate actions by Rodes and a countersuit by Slater the elder [see cause 597]. Rodes's initial complaint arose out of a quarrel with Slater the elder in August when Slater and some workmen were summoned to attend Rodes about repairing the lead on the roof of Barlborough church, Derbyshire. According to Slater's defence, there was a misunderstanding over whether he or his son, who was churchwarden at the time, had been sent for, which led to Rodes saying to him, 'Thou lyest like a base, rascally knave' and impugning his status by asking, 'Where you had your gentilitie or your manor house?' Slater was said to have responded 'civillie...saving some words that passed from him when he spoke about his gentilitie.' Slater was required to answer Rodes's libel in May 1636, and in June a commission headed by Ralph Clarke, gent, was appointed to meet 15-17 September 1636 at the Angel Inn, Chesterfield, Derbyshire, to examine witnesses for Sir John. Slater the elder began his defence in February 1637 and his witnesses were examined before a commission headed by Matthew Waddington and Immanuel Bourne, clerks, at the Angel Inn on 5 April 1637. Testimony included a statement by John Brewood, an elderly yeoman, describing how the Slaters had ascended through three generations from yeomen to gentlemen, mainly by dint of their landholdings and service in local office. Rodes won this case, with an award of £30 in damages. On 5 July 1637 Slater the elder was bound to perform a submission at the town hall in Chesterfield on 2 October and to certify the court of his performance; but on 14 October Dr Talbot complained that Slater had not acted sufficiently submissively and humbly.

In June 1637 Rodes commenced a second action, against Slater the younger, declaring in his libel that when he was served with a warrant to appear before the Marshal's court, he said of Sir John, 'Shite on him, lett him doe his worst; my father is as good a man as Sir John Rodes for my father never hid his face as Sir John Rodes did'. Slater admitted the words, but maintained that Rodes had provoked him by saying, 'Thou lyest like a base rascally knave'. On 31 October 1637 Slater the younger was sentenced to pay £30 in damages and £5 in expenses and he still owed this money on 3 February 1638.

Defendant's case

Cur Mil I, fo. 279, Defence

1. Thomas Osbourne and William Norburne, witnesses examined on behalf of Sir John Rodes, were either household servants, tenants or waged retainers of Rodes, and enemies to Slater.

2. Slater had been provoked by Sir John Rodes, who said to him, 'God save your worship Mr Slater, and asking me. Who sent for you, I answered, The workemen desired me to come to you. Sir John Rodes replied, Then, thou lyest like a base rascally knave.'

3. Slater's family had been among the foremost inhabitants of Barlborough for up to 200 years, and had been subsidy collectors there during the reign of Elizabeth I.

4. All this was true, public and notorious.

Slater pleaded to the judges that the cause be dismissed and his expenses paid.

No date.

Signed by Arthur Duck.

Cur Mil I, fo. 280, Letters commissory for the defendant

Addressed to commissioners Brian Heppenstall, clerk, Matthew Waddington, clerk, Thomas Oates and Henry Wigfall, gent, and also, Ralph Clarke, gent, Richard Burrowes, gent, Emmanuel Bourne, clerk, and James Foliambe, gent, to meet in a cause of scandalous words provocative of a duel from 5 to 7 April 1637 at the house Nicholas Clarke in Chesterfield, co. Derby.

Gilbert Dethick, registrar, assigned Humphrey Terrick as notary public.

Dated 11 February 1636/7

Signed by Gilbert Dethick.

Cur Mil I, fo. 278, Plaintiff interrogatories

1. What was the witnesses' age, occupation and condition of living? How much were they worth in goods with their debts paid? How much were they taxed in the last subsidy?

2. Was the witness a relative of Slater's, and if so, in what degree? Was the witness obliged in money to Slater? Were they a household retainer or in any way dependent upon Slater?

3. Did the witness know that William Norbourne and Thomas Osbourne, two of Rodes's witnesses, were honest men who would not forswear themselves?

4. Had the witness heard Slater 'speake and utter contumelious words' of Rodes, 'especially words of comparing himself' to Rodes and 'of diminution of his birth and especiallie of knighthood'? 'If so let him express where and when, in whose presence', and what the words were.

No date.

Signed by Clere Talbot.

Cur Mil I, fos. 268-277, Defence depositions

Taken before commissioners Matthew Waddington, clerk, Immanuel Bourne, clerk, Bryan Heppenstall, clerk, Thomas Oates, gent, James Foliambe, gent and Ralph Clarke, gent, with Humphrey Terricke as notary public, at the Angel Inn, Chesterfield, co. Derby, 5 April 1637.

fos. 269r-270r (Witness 1), Robert Cutforthay of West Retford, co. Nottingham, 'plomer', lived there for 2 years, and before that at Rotherham, co. York since his birth, aged about 20

To Slater's defence:

1. He knew Thomas Osborne for 2 years before his death and had known William Norbourne for 7 years.

2. 'On a day happening in harvest was twelvemonth', Sir John Rodes commanded him to summon Christopher Slater the younger, churchwarden of Barlbrough to him. The witness first met with Christopher Slater the elder, and whether Christopher Slater the younger was then at his father's house he could not tell.

3. 'He cannot depose for that he never lived above a month in Barlbrough.'

To Rodes's interrogatories:

Not examined by consent of Rodes.

Signed by Robert Cutforthay, and by the above six commissioners.

fos. 270r-272r (Witness 2), Robert Bunnie of Nottingham, co. Nottingham, glasier and 'plomer', lived there for 21 years, born at Bilborough, co. Nottingham, aged about 40

To Slater's defence:

1. He knew Thomas Osborne 'upon the occasion hereafter expressed and not before', and 'came to knowe William Norbourne at that time; and he saith that Osbourne told him that he was tenant and servant to Sir John Rodes.'

2. That 'on a Monday morning happening about five weeks before Michaelmas was twelvemonth', Robert Cutforthaye went from Barlborough town to Sir John Rodes's house to desire him to come to Barlborough parish church to join Bunnie, Osbourne, Christopher Slater, William Norbourne '*and one Mr Brittayne*' and some others whose names he now remembereth not', to 'take order for the letting forth the castinge of the leades of the church to [Bunnie] and Thomas Osbourne being both plomers.' Cutforthay brought back answer from Rodes that he desired 'Mr Slater *and one of* the churchwardens of the parish and the plomers to come down to him'. So Osbourne, Norbourne, Slater the elder and Bunnie went to Rodes's house where once in the grounds they saw him riding towards them. 'Sir John Rodes put his hat from his heade and spake something lowed and said good morrow Mr Slater, *or God save you Mr Slater, but whither he saith he doth not now remember*, who sent for you'? Slater answered 'you'. Rodes replied 'You are a lying knave. Who made you churchwarden? I did not send for you'. Rodes then gave Slater 'some other odious words not fit to be spoken between friends'. Slater did not speak any words to Rodes but in answer. Rodes asked Slater 'where had you your gentilitie or your manor house'? Slater the elder replied 'I have a manor house although not so good as yours'. Rodes spoke to Slater the elder 'in a deriding manner', but Slater did 'behave himselfe civillie', and 'did not give any ill words' to Rodes at that time and place 'saving some words that passed from him when he spake about his gentilitie.'

3. The witness had heard that Slater the elder was 'one of the chief parishioners of the parish of Barlebrough and one that hath carried himself faire with him; and saith he hath heard Slater called Mr Slater *for the tyme he was at Barlebrough which was about three weeks space*'.

Signed by Robert Bunny

To Rodes's interrogatories:

Not examined by consent of Rodes.

Signed by Robert Bunny, and by the above six commissioners.

fos. 272r-274r (Witness 3), John Brewood of South Normanton, co. Derby, yeoman, lived there for 19 years, born at Redburn [Radbourne], co. Derby, aged about 68

To Slater's defence:

1, 2. Not examined by Slater's consent.

3. He knew Alexander Slater, grandfather and Christopher Slater, father, of the defendant, and that Alexander was the witness's grandfather by his mother's side, and Christopher Slater the elder was the witness's uncle. He had known Alexander Slater for about 7 years before he died, about 50 years ago, and that Alexander was a freeholder in Barlbrough and roundabout, owning lands worth nearly £80 per annum. Alexander 'was reputed to be a good yeoman by his neighbours'. He knew Christopher Slater, father of the defendant, for 40 years, who before he died about 26 years ago, was freeholder of lands worth £100 per annum 'and saith that he hath heard good men call him Mr Slater many tymes and some of his neighbours did call him Mr Slater, and some others did call him goodman Slater'. Alexander and Christopher Slater, deceased, were 'the head men of the parish of Barlbrough (Sir John Rodes only excepted)' and saith that he hath heard that Christopher Slater was collector of a subsidie in Queene Elizabeth her tyme and that he hath heard that he was head borrowe and constable, and did bear such other offices. And saith whither Alexander and Christopher did beare themselves as gentlemen he knoweth not.' He had known the defendant for about 40 years, who had been since his father's death a freeholder of lands worth £100 per annum, 'and one of the chiefe of the parishioners of the parish'. He was 'called Mr Slater by many men and saith he hath and doth live as a gentleman for all his tyme for ought he knoweth to the contrary.'

Signed by John Brewood [his mark]

To Rodes's interrogatories:

1. 'He is an alehouse keeper and that he is worth his debts paid fourtie pounds and that he is no subsidie man.'

2. He and the defendant 'are brother and sister's children'. He favoured neither party more than the truth, and to the rest of the interrogatory, negative.

3. He did not know Thomas Osbourne, and only knew William Norbourne by sight.

4. Negative.

Signed by John Brewood, and by the above six commissioners.

fos. 274r-276r (Witness 4), Lawrence Brittayne of Barlbrough, co. Derby, clerk, lived there for about 3 years, before that at Edwinstowe, co. Nottingham for 8 years, born at Walesby, co. Nottingham, aged about 38

1. He had known Osbourne and Norbourne for about 3 years, and Norbourne had been for 3 years 'baily and tennant to Sir John Rodes', which he knew to be true because he had 'made bokes of the accompts of Norbourne to be made to Sir John Rodes of his tenements in Barlbrough'. That Osbourne had been a poor man, but Norbourne 'is a man well able to live'. That no credit should be given to either because Osbourne 'was a factious man and did sweare against [Brittayne] and Mr Heppenstall and did *unjustlie* charge [Brittayne] upon his oath that he had stolen 40s worth of goods out of the church of Barlbrough; and would have gotten [Brittayne] and Mr Heppenstall to be bound over to the assizes to answer the same.' Osbourne 'did caste scalding lead over the heade and upon the clothes of [Brittayne]. Christopher Harrison, churchwarden of Killwell marsh told him that Osbourne and his accomplices had stolen lead from the church there and hidden it in hedge bottoms. Osbourne then offered to lead Barlbrough church whose roof had been letting in rain in many places. About 2 years ago Godfrey Norbourne told him not to listen to his father William Norbourne 'for his father would say anything.'

2. He was in Edward Kent's parlour in Barlbrough almost 2 years ago writing an agreement between Barlbrough's churchwardens and Thomas Osbourne and Robert Bunnie 'plomers', when he heard Cutforthay tell Slater that Sir John Rodes had sent for him, whereupon Slater the elder said 'I think he would not send for me', but Cutforthay replied 'Sir John Rodes bad me desire Christopher Slater to come to him; and then William Norbourne said to Christopher Slater the elder I pray good Mr Slater let me entreate you to goe downe to Sir John Rodes my master at his request; and then Christopher Slater the elder said, I know he sends for me for noe good. And he saith he saw Christopher Slater the elder and Norbourne goe towards the house of Sir John Rodes.'

3. He had heard that the defendant's father was a gentleman, and that his grandmother was descended from the Eyres of Kirton. [Slater] had a manor house at Harlesthorpe and was a freeholder in Barlbrough and elsewhere of lands worth £200 per annum, 'and saith Christopher liveth as a gentleman and is reputed to be a gentleman.'

To Rodes's interrogatories:

Not examined by consent of Rodes.

Signed by Lawrence Brittayne, and by the above six commissioners.

Cur Mil I, fo .277, Notary public's certificate

Certificate in Latin signed by Humphrey Terrick, notary public that the examinations had been completed and were now being returned.

Also signed by commissioners Matthew Waddington, Bryan Heppenstall, Thomas Oates, Ralph Clarke and James Foliambe.

No date.

Notary's mark.

Initial proceedings in later case

R.19, fo. 27r, Summary of libel

'Sir John is a knight and he and his Ancestors is, and have bin for 50, 100 or 200 yeares past, gentlemen descended of a noble family. And that Slater being served with a warrant under the seal of the Earl Marshall to appear before him at the suite of Sir John, Slater in a scornefull and jeering manner said of Sir John, Shite on him, lett him doe his worst; my father is as good a man as Sir John Rodes for my father never hid his face as Sir John Rodes did and c, thereby to provoke and c, and in contempt of the court and c.'

Third session, Trinity term [June], 1637.

No signature.

R.19, fo. 27r, Personal answer

'Christopher Slater in all humbleness saith that he acknowledgeth himself to be far inferior to Sir John Rodes, and that although indeed he cannot remember that ever he spake any the words in the libel yet to avoid expence of suite, for that he is a very poore man and noe way able in law to contend with Sir John Rodes, he confesseth the words in the libel and is heartily sorry that he hath given such cause of offence to Sir John Rodes. And he humbly desireth Sir John Rodes to pardon and remitt his offence, and your lordship and this court *in mercy* to commiserate his estate and case.'

Third session, Trinity term[June], 1637.

No signature.

Sentences and Submissions

3/147, Defendant's bond of submission

5 July 1637

Bound to perform an order of submission and to certify to the Court his performance of such by 14 October 1637 or the next Court day thereafter.

Signed by Christopher Slater and John Renshaw of St Martin-in-the-Fields, 'scriptator'.

Sealed, subscribed and delivered in the presence of Humphrey Terrick.

7/34, Miscellaneous commission

Tiny note of a commission entitled 'Sclater', to be held on 2 October [1637] in the town hall of Chesterfield between 11 and 12 noon.

10/12/20, Plaintiff's sentence

Slater charged with saying, 'Shite on Sir John Rodes, lett him doe his worst. My father... Slater senior is as good a man as Sir John Rodes for my father never hid his face as Sir John Rodes did', or words to that effect. Slater also allegedly had said, 'Are his... great brages come to thirty poundes. Wee (meaning him and his father) have four hundred poundes readie in the house for Sir John Rodes and badd them the mandatories goe and fetchit.'

Court awarded Rodes £30 in damages and £5 in expenses.

Signed by Thomas Eden and Clere Talbot.

No date [31 Oct 1637].

3/120, Defendant's bond on submission

The definitive sentence given by Arundel on 31 October 1637 condemned Slater to pay £30 damages and £5 costs to Sir John Rodes by the first court day of the next Hilary term. The bond required him to perform his submission 'in such manner and place as shalbe sett downe in a schedule of the same to be conceaved by the Register of this Court'.

Bound to appear 'in the Court Military aforesaid in the painted Chamber at Westminster' between 8 and 10am on the first court day of Hilary term next.

Signed by Christopher Slater, William Innce of Eckington, co. Derby, baker, and John Renshawe of St Sepulchre, London 'script'.

Sealed, subscribed and delivered in the presence of Humphrey Terrick.

No date [Michaelmas term, Nov. 1637]

Summary of proceedings

Dr Talbot acted as counsel for Rodes and Dr Duck for Slater the elder. Slater the elder was required to appear in May 1636, and in June the commissioners for Sir John Rodes, Ralph Clarke, gent, Richard Burrowes, gent, Immanuel Bourne, clerk, James Foljambe, gent, were nominated to meet from 15 to 17 September 1636 at the Angel Inn, Chesterfield, co. Derby. The commissioners for Slater were Thomas Cotes, gent, Henry Wigfall, gent, Brian Heppenstall, clerk and Matthew Waddington, clerk. On 28 January 1637 Dr Talbot was required to prove the libel and send to the commissioners for the testimony of Rodes's witnesses. On 11 February 1637 the testimony of the witnesses for Rodes was published. Dr Duck was to relate the material for the defence before Sir Henry Marten within the next ten days, and the commission to examine Slater the elder's witnesses was to be nominated. On 20 February Dr Duck gave material for Slater's defence, but Dr Talbot refuted it and Dr Duck was required to prove it at a later sitting. On 14 October 1637 the court was to certify an agreement on the submission of Slater the elder as Dr Talbot complained that Slater had not made his submission properly, and had not acted submissively and humbly but in contempt and disdain of the court. A verdict of £30 in damages and £5 in expenses was given against Slater the younger, but he still owed the sums on 3 February 1638.


Sir John Rodes of Barlborough, co. Derby, knt, was the son of Sir Francis Rodes, knt, a Justice in the Court of Common Pleas. John Rodes was high sheriff of co. Derby in 1594 and knighted at the Tower of London in March 1603. He died on 16 September 1639. He married Anne, daughter of George Benson of co. Westmorland. His second wife was Dorothy, daughter of George Savile of Wakefield, co. York.

G. D. Squibb (ed.), The Visitation of Derbyshire, 1662-1664 (Publications of the Harleian Society, new series, 8, 1989), p.133; J. W. Clay (ed.), Familiae Minorum Gentium (Publications of the Harleian Society, 38, 1895), p. 585.

The Slaters did not appear in the Visitations of Derbyshire but a Christopher Slater of Barlborough was obliged to disclaim in 1634. He married Pelatia, daughter of Robert Rogers of Everton, co. Nottingham, esq. Slater was a benefactor to Barlborough and he died in March 1649.

Pedigrees contained in the Visitations of Derbyshire, 1569 and 1611 (Exeter, no date); G. D. Squibb (ed.), The Visitation of Derbyshire, 1662-1664 (Publications of the Harleian Society, new series, 8, 1989); J. W. Clay (ed.), Familiae Minorum Gentium (Publications of the Harleian Society, 37, 1894), p. 210; J. W. Clay (ed.), Familiae Minorum Gentium (Publications of the Harleian Society, 39, 1895), p. 1014.


  • Defendant's case
    • Defence: Cur Mil I, fo. 279 (no date)
    • Letters commissory for the defendant: Cur Mil I, fo. 280 (11 Feb 1637)
    • Plaintiff interrogatories: Cur Mil, fo. 278 (no date)
    • Defence depositions: Cur Mil I, fos. 268-77 (5 Apr 1637)
    • Notary public's certificate: Cur Mil I, fo. 277 (no date)
  • Initial proceedings in later case
    • Summary of libel: R.19, fo. 27r (Jun 1637)
    • Personal answer: R.19, fo. 27r (Jun 1637)
  • Sentences and Submissions
    • Defendant's bond on submission: 3/147 (5 Jul 1637)
    • Miscellaneous commission: 7/34 (2 Oct [1637])
    • Plaintiff sentence: 10/12/20 (31 Oct 1637)
    • Defendant's bond on submission: 3/120 (Nov 1637)
  • Proceedings
    • Proceedings before Arundel: College of Arms MS. 'Court of Chivalry' (act book, 1636-8) [pressmark R.R. 68C] (hereafter 68C), fos. 89r-100r (May 1636)
    • Proceedings before Sir Henry Marten: 68C, fos. 84r-88v (9 May 1636)
    • Proceedings before Maltravers: 68C, fos. 112r-121v (Jun 1636)
    • Proceedings: 68C, fos. 105r-110v (8 Nov 1636)
    • Proceedings before Arundel: 68C, fos. 51r-59r (28 Jan 1637)
    • Proceedings: 68C, fos. 23r-36v (11 Feb 1637)
    • Proceedings: 68C, fos. 14r-20v (16 Feb 1637)
    • Proceedings before Sir Henry Marten: 68C, fo. 11r (20 Feb 1637)
    • Proceedings before Arundel: 8/26 (14 Oct 1637)
    • Proceedings before Maltravers: 8/27 (14 Oct 1637)
    • Proceedings before Maltravers: 8/28 (31 Oct 1637)
    • Proceedings before Maltravers: 1/5, fos. 1-15 (27 Jan 1638)
    • Proceedings before Arundel: 1/5, fos. 23-35 (3 Feb 1638)

People mentioned in the case

  • Benson, Anne
  • Benson, George
  • Bourne, Immanuel, clerk
  • Brewood, John, yeoman
  • Brittayne, Lawrence, clerk (also Britten)
  • Bunnie, Robert, glasier and 'plomer' (also Bunny)
  • Burrowes, Richard, gent
  • Clarke, Ralph, gent
  • Cotes, Thomas, gent
  • Cutforthay, Robert, 'plomer'
  • Dethick, Gilbert, registrar
  • Duck, Arthur, lawyer
  • Eyres
  • Foliambe, James, gent (also Foljambe)
  • Harrison, Christopher
  • Heppenstall, Brian, clerk
  • Howard, Henry, baron Maltravers
  • Howard, Thomas, earl of Arundel and Surrey
  • Innce, William, baker
  • Kent, Edward
  • Marten, Henry, knight
  • Norbourne, Godfrey
  • Norbourne, William
  • Oates, Thomas, gent
  • Osbourne, Thomas
  • Renshawe, John
  • Rodes, Anne, lady (also Rhodes)
  • Rodes, Dorothy, lady (also Rhodes)
  • Rodes, Francis, knight (also Rhodes)
  • Rodes, John, knight (also Rhodes)
  • Rogers, Pelatia
  • Rogers, Robert, esq
  • Savile, Dorothy
  • Savile, George
  • Slater, Anthony, yeoman (also Sclater)
  • Slater, Christopher the elder, gent (also Sclater)
  • Slater, Christopher the younger, yeoman (also Sclater)
  • Slater, Pelatia (also Sclater)
  • Talbot, Clere, lawyer
  • Terrick, Humphrey, notary public
  • Tudor, Elizabeth I, queen
  • Waddington, Matthew, clerk
  • Wigfall, Henry, gent

Places mentioned in the case

  • Derbyshire
    • Barlborough
    • Chesterfield
    • Eckington
    • Harlesthorpe
    • Radbourne
  • London
    • St Sepulchre
    • Tower of London
  • Middlesex
    • St Martin-in-the-Fields
  • Nottinghamshire
    • Bilborough
    • Edwinstowe
    • Everton
    • Kirton
    • Walesby
    • West Retford
  • Westmorland
  • Yorkshire, West Riding
    • Rotherham
    • Wakefield

Topics of the case

  • assizes
  • churchwardens
  • constable
  • Court of Common Pleas
  • denial of gentility
  • giving the lie
  • high sheriff
  • office-holding
  • other courts
  • scatological insult
  • taxation