6 Argent v Crayford

The Court of Chivalry 1634-1640.

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Richard Cust. Andrew Hopper, '6 Argent v Crayford', The Court of Chivalry 1634-1640, British History Online https://www.british-history.ac.uk/no-series/court-of-chivalry/6-argent-crayford [accessed 25 June 2024].

Richard Cust. Andrew Hopper. "6 Argent v Crayford", in The Court of Chivalry 1634-1640, (, ) . British History Online, accessed June 25, 2024, https://www.british-history.ac.uk/no-series/court-of-chivalry/6-argent-crayford.

Cust, Richard. Hopper, Andrew. "6 Argent v Crayford", The Court of Chivalry 1634-1640, (, ). . British History Online. Web. 25 June 2024, https://www.british-history.ac.uk/no-series/court-of-chivalry/6-argent-crayford.

In this section


William Argent of Eastry, co. Kent, esq v William Crayford of London and Mongeham, co. Kent, gent

March 1638 - February 1639

Figure 6:

The fourteenth century Chequer Inn, Canterbury (on the left hand side of Mercery Lane) where commissioners met to take depositions for the defence in August 1638.


Argent complained that around March 1636, at the Pelican Inn in Sandwich, Kent, at 'an ordinary where gentlemen meete' on a market-day Saturday, Crayford had insulted him by taking the place above him at the table and then declaring that 'I was a base fellow and no gentleman, and that none of my ancestors were gentlemen, and that he would prove me so whensoever he met me, that he would kill me or I him, and badd some or one present tell me so to my face.' Crayford was married to the daughter of Argent's wife, 'Lady Mary Nevinson' [sic], widow of Sir Roger Nevinson. In his defence he claimed to have been systematically vilified by 'Lady Mary' whilst staying in Argent's house at Eastry during his wife's pregnancy. 'Lady Mary' told him that 'he came sneaking up and down the country till she took him in and married her daughter to him', persistently called him 'Will foole' and tried to bar him from his wife's bedroom. About a month before the incident in Sandwich, Argent had assaulted him in the house, leaving him with a bloody nose. He therefore insisted that his action had been provoked, although Argent claimed in interrogatories for Ann Price in Crayford's counter suit [see cause 140] that the local minister had reconciled this quarrel and the two men had 'received the sacrament of the Lord's Supper together.'

The commissioners, led by Sir Edward Boyes, took depositions on Argent's behalf at the Dolphin Inn, Sandwich, on 17 May 1638, with the witnesses including Thomas Blechenden, esq, Edward Boyes, esq, and John Gookin, gent, all of whom, had been present at the original dinner. Depositions for the defence were taken at the Chequer Inn, Canterbury, on 17 August 1638, with the commission led by Sir Edward Master and the witnesses including Argent's former butler and Mrs Crayford's nurse. The result of the case does not survive, but despite late efforts at arbitration, the sentence was ordered to be heard on 23 February 1639.

Initial proceedings

7/102, Petition to Arundel

'Your petitioner is discended of an ancient family; was gent usher in ordinary qtr wayter to K: James seaven yeeres next before his death and hath beene for nyne yeeres last past esqr of the body to our soveraigne Lord King Charles.

William Crayford of Mongeham in the county of Kent gent (who married the daughter of the Lady Nevinson your petitioner's wife) hath within these two years last past att a publique meeting at Sandwich taken place of your petitioner in an insolent and scornefull manner.

Within the time afforesayd hee hath uttered divers disgracefull and scandalous words against your petitioner, sayeing that hee is a base fellow, and noe gentleman, and that he would prove him soe, and tell him soe to his face where ever he mett with him, sayeing allsoe that neither your petitioner nor any of his ancestors were gentlemen, with divers other provokeing and contumelious speeches.'

Petitioned for a grant of process for his cause.

Dr Duck ordered Mr Dethick to grant process on 1 March 1637/8.

15/2m, Citation

Crayford to appear at the suit of Argent for scandalous words provocative of a duel.

Dated: 1 March 1637/8

By special direction of Gilbert Dethick, registrar.

7/99, Plaintiff's bond

1 March 1637/8,

Bound to duly prosecute his suit in the court in the painted chamber, Palace of Westminster.

Signed by Roger Nevinson on behalf of Argent.

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

EM120d, Libel

1. Argent's family had been gentry for up to 200 years.

2. Argent married Dame Mary Nevinson, the widow of Sir Roger Nevinson, knt.

4. Crayford said that 'I was a base fellow and no gentleman, and that none of my ancestors were gentlemen, and that he would prove me so whensoever he met me that he would kill me or I him, and badd some or one present tell me so to my face.'

Dated 14 April 1638.

No signatures.

17/4a, Personal answer

2. This was true.

3. On the occasion mentioned at Sandwich, co. Kent, he 'did sitt above or before William Argent as he did then and doth still conceive it is his right to doe.'

4-6. Negative.

No date.

Signed by Thomas Exton.

Plaintiff's case

EM120c, Letters commissory for the plaintiff

Addressed to commissioners Sir Edward Boyes, knt, William Byng, esq, George Wood, esq, and also, Sir Edward Master, knt, Edward Munings, esq, and Mr Boyes of Uffington, co. Kent, gent, in a cause of scandalous words provocative of a duel, to meet from 17 to 19 May 1638, at the Dolphin Inn, Sandwich, co. Kent.

Dated 9 May 1638.

Humphrey Terrick, or in his absence, Thomas Richardson assigned as notary public.

Signed by Gilbert Dethick.

EM120b, Defence interrogatories

1. The witnesses were warned of the penalty for perjury and giving false witness. What were the witnesses' age, occupation, place and condition of living for the last ten years and for how long had they known the parties in this cause?

2. How much were they worth, their debts paid, and how much were they taxed in the last assessment for the King.

3. Were they a household servant, retainer or relative to Argent, and if a relative by what degree? Which party did they favour and to whom would they give the victory if it were in their power?

4. Had they been asked to testify and how much had they received in expenses?

5. Had there been discord or controversy between the witnesses?

6. Had they communicated with others concerning their deposition and had they been instructed how to depose? If so by whom?

7. When and where were the alleged words spoken?

8. 'What provocacon did Mr Crayford give Mr Argent to speake those words and what words passed betweene them at time both before and after'?

Introduced 2 May 1638.

Signed by Thomas Exton.

EM120a, Plaintiff depositions

Taken before commissioners Sir Edward Boyes, knight, William Byng, esq, and George Wood esq, on 17 May 1638 at Robert Barham's Dolphin Inn, Sandwich, co. Kent.

(Witness 1) Thomas Blechenden of Woodnesborough, co. Kent, esq, born in Kennington, co. Kent, aged 52

To Argent's libel:

2. He had seen Lady Mary Nevinson alive that day 'and further to this article he cannot certainly depose.'

3. He met with other gentlemen at Sandwich and they were about to sit down to dinner together when Blechenden desired Argent to sit down. Mr Crayford desired Argent to take his place and sat. Crayford then sat down 'at the upper end of the table above Argent'.

To Crayford's interrogatories:

1. He had known Argent and Crayford for 10 years.

2. 'He lives on his own revenues and doth not depend on any man, he is worth his debts paid one hundred pounds at the least and he is taxed for the shipping at 44s. for the last cess.'

3. Argent was his 'neighbour, Crayford his kinsman, and he wisheth the right to take place, to the rest negative.'

7. The meeting 'was at a tavern in Sandwich at an ordinary where gentlemen meet and Bleachinden came to the ordinary for his pleasure and for the rest he can say no more then he hath deposed to the third article.'

Signed by Thomas Blechenden, and the three commissioners.

(Witness 2) Edward Boyes of Betteshanger, co. Kent, esq, lived there for over 30 years, born in Tilmanstone, co. Kent, aged 60

To Argent's libel:

3. He met 'divers other gentlemen' at the Pelican in Sandwich on market day, 'there being an ordinary for gentlemen where he met his friends'. He and some others left the table and asked Mr Argent 'to sit down at table and to take his place first if he pleased and he sitting uppermost on the bench side, Mr Blechinden next below him'.This witness sat 'at the forme side uppermost'. 'Mr Crayford took his place above Mr Argent and sat himself down at the upper end of the table where he sat at the dinner time above Mr Argent'. This witness told Mr Argent 'that there was room enough at the board end for them both'. Then 'Mr Crayford removed nearer to Mr Argent, thereby indeavouring to keep Mr Argent from the board end'.

To Crayford's interrogatories:

2. He was worth £200 at least, his debts paid. He paid 40s or more for the last cess of Ship Money.

7. 'There was neyther wyne nor beere drancke before dinner and therefore in probability the parties were not distempered with drink.' There were present himself, Mr Blechenden, Mr Gookin and others.

8. 'He heard no words of discontent at the time.'

Signed by Edward Boyes, and the three commissioners.

(Witness 3) John Gookin of Ripple, co. Kent, gent, lived there for 7 years, before that at Canterbury for 3, born at Northbourne, co. Kent

To Argent's libel:

3. He was present to dine at the Pelican. 'Mr Argent being sat down at the boards end as he remembers and Mr Blechinden next him, at the bench side and Mr Boys sitting at the upper end on the forme side, Mr Crayford being in the room, came hastily and sat himself down at the board end so neare Mr Argent that he was forced to give Mr Crayford way and then Mr Argent sat at the corner of the same table, where Mr Crayford sat above Mr Argent all the dinner time; and Mr Crayford said grace both before and after meale although there were present 2 or 3 ministers.'

To Crayford's interrogatories:

2. He was worth £100 his debts paid, and he paid 25s in the last cess of Ship Money.

4. He came to testify 'at the request of Argent, for otherwise he should have been compelled thereunto as he believeth.'

7. 'The Pellican was then an inn or tavern and the meeting was on a Saterday being a market day where he had and usually hath business of his owne.'

8. As witness 2.

Signed by John Gookin and the three commissioners.

Defendant's case

Cur Mil I, fo.187, Defence

1. Crayford was from a family that had been ancient gentry for up to 200 years.

2. William Argent and Lady Mary Nevinson his wife, did before the 'pretended words' in the libel, 'use diver scandalous and disgraceful speeches to and of William Crayford vizt Mr Argent called me foole and badd me come to dinner Will foole and hath often wished their servants or mine servants to call Will foole to dinner.'

3. Under a month before words mentioned in the libel, Crayford and his pregnant wife were lodging in a chamber in Argent's house at Eastry, when Argent entered and without any provocation 'in a furious angry and outrageous manner flue at and struck William Crayford diverse and several blowes or at least one on the face and head with his fist and drew blood'. Crayford bled so much from the blows that his 'wife was soe affrighted therewith that it caused her to swound [sic] and fall to the ground to the great danger of her life.'

4. If Crayford did say the words in the libel, they were 'spoken upon great wronge abuse and provocation offered and given me by William Argent immediately or within a month before such the speaking thereof, vizt I and my wife living and cohabiting with William Argent at William Argents house in Eastry in the countie of Kent. When I, William Crayford, have gone about my affaires and business at my returne William Argent hath kept me out of doores & not suffered me to come to my wife.'

No date.

Signed by Thomas Exton.

Cur Mil I, fo.188, Letters commissory for the defence

Addressed to commissioners Sir Edward Master, knight, Edward Munnings, esq, and John Sackett, clerk, and also, Sir Edward Boyes, knight, William Byng, esq, and George Wood, esq, to meet in a cause of scandalous words provocative of a duel on 17-19 August 1638, at the Chequer Inn, in the city of Canterbury.

Gilbert Dethick assigned Richard Birkened as notary public.

Dated 19 June 1638.

Cur Mil I, fo.185, Plaintiff interrogatories

1. The witnesses were warned of the penalty for perjury and bearing false witness. What was the witnesses' age, occupation, place and condition of living for the last ten years? How long had the witness known Crayford and what was Crayford's status?

2. Had the witness came voluntarily to testify or was he compelled? Did the witness knew the parties? If so, for how long?

3. Whether the witness received or expected to receive 'any satisfaction, gratuity or reward' for testifying? If so, how much and from whom?

4. Was the witness of kin or allied to Crayford? If so, how or to what degree?

5. Was the witness in debt to Crayford? If so, how much, and how did such a debt come about?

6. Which of the parties was the witness closest to, and to which would he give victory?

7. Had the witness discussed his testimony with anyone or received any instructions? If so, from whom and what exactly was instructed?

8. Was the witness currently or formerly one of Crayford's tenants or servants, or in any way 'obliged or ingaged unto him or to any of his near friends and kinfolk?'

9. How much was the estate of the witness worth, in money, goods or lands, with all debts paid?

10. Had the witness ever known or heard of any quarrel between Argent and Crayford? If so, how did they fall out and 'what words of provocation or blows passed between them? Who was the author or beginner of any such quarrel? Where or in what place did they so fall out and upon what occasion? On what day of the month or yeare of the Lord did they so quarrel or fall out? And who was then present or took notice thereof besides yourself? And how many yeares or months is it now since their such falling out? Let every witness punctually sett downe his whole knowledge touching all and every of these particulars fully and at lardge.'

No date.

No signatures.

Cur Mil I, fos.175r-181v, Defence depositions

Taken before commissioners Sir Edward Master and John Sackett, clerk, on 17 August 1638 in the Checkar Inn, in the city of Canterbury.

fos.177r-178r (Witness 1), John Sladden of Walmer, co. Kent, yeoman, lived there for 2 years, before that at Selling, co. Kent, aged about 23

To Crayford's defence:

1. He had known Crayford for 4 years and Crayford was from an 'ancient and gentle stock & family'.

2-3. The witness was 'household servant & butler to Mr William Argent and the Lady Mary Nevinson his wife where he now dwell in Eastry', since 'Allhallowtide last past was two years till about Candlemas then next following and in that time often times heard Marie Nevinson bidd some or other then were unto her call Will foole (meaning naming and demonstrating William Crayford) to dynner. At times in that time she speaking to William Crayford himself then present hath bidd him say come Will foole sitt down to dinner. After and in the time happening between Christmas and Candlemas last past was two years the witness was in the buttery of Mr Argent's house (where Mr Crayford and his wife the Lady Nevinson's daughter then sojourned) hearing a great noise or struggling in the chamber over his head (which was Mr Crayford and his wifes bedchamber) presentlie stepped up the staires to see what the matter was, when at the staires coming out his chamber he mett Mr William Crayford much discontented and there in the chamber Mr William Argent and Mr Crayfords wife and none else that he observed. Whereupon he immediately followed Mr William Crayford downe the staires againe into Mr Argent's hall, where he found him bleeding at the nose as though he had latelie before received some blowe. Soon after which came hither unto them Dame Marie Nevinson and verie disgracefully called Mr William Crayford rogue and rascall and bade him out of doores.'

Signed by John Sladden and by the two commissioners.

fos.178r-180r (Witness 2), Anna, wife of Robert Ryden of Great Mongeham, co. Kent, yeoman, lived there for 4 years, before that at Littlebourne, co. Kent, for about 8 years

To Crayford's defence:

1. As witness 1.

2. 'On or about Candlemas day last past was two yeares, she (being then nurse to Mr William Crayford) whose wife at that time lay in child bedd in Mr William Argents house in Eastry, heard Dame Marie Nevinson wife of Mr Argent in verie outrageous and disgracefull manner *in the chamber over the butterie in Mr Argents house* call Mr William Crayford foole and rogue to his face, and told him he came sneaking up and down the country till she took him in and married her daughter to him, and then wished him hanged, and withal in his owne presence bade her daughter, Mr William Crayford's wife, not to love or respect him, and not only so, but also warned him not to come in his wife's chamber, but to get him another, for as she said he should not come where his wife was or used words to the very same effect.' About a month later she heard William Argent say 'that Crayford was a foole and ever had been.'

Signed by Anna Ryden [her mark] and by the two commissioners.

To Argent's interrogatories:

1. She had known Argent and Crayford for 4 years and she came to testify at Crayford's request, not by compulsion.

8. For 26 weeks before last harvest was two years, she nursed Crayford's children at home at her house 'all save about the first fortnight', for which Crayford paid her as agreed. 'And her husband now sewes to halves with Crayford's mother about sixtie acres of land lying in Rapple [Ripple] in the county of Kent, of which she [Crayford's mother] hath one half of the corne (except the tethes [sic]) and, her husband the other.'

10. 'Crayford's wife was present and in hearing of the disgraceful words uttered by Dame Marie Nevinson to and against Mr Crayford, and none else to her remembrance.'

Signed by Anna Ryden [her mark] and by commissioners Edward Boyes, Sir Edward Master and John Sackett.

fos.180r-181r (Witness 3), John Wright of Eastry, co. Kent, yeoman, lived there for 3 years, before that in Surrey for 7 years, aged about 50

To Crayford's defence:

1. Crayford was known to be from an 'ancient and generous family' for as long as he had known him.

2. Three years ago Wright had been a household servant to Argent, and had 'heard it noysed in Mr Argent's house that Mr Argent had strook Mr Crayford on the nose or face and made him to bleed.'

To Argent's interrogatories:

3-5, 7-8. Negative

6. 'He is Crayford's servant but favours both parties alike'.

Signed by John Wright [his mark] and by the two commissioners.

fos.181r-v (Witness 4), Joanna Smith of Eastry, co. Kent, widow, lived there for 50 years, before that in River, co. Kent for 8 years, aged about 60

To Crayford's defence:

1. As witness 3.

To Argent's interrogatories:

7-8. Negative

Signed by Joanna Smith [her mark] and the two commissioners.

Cur Mil I, fo.186, Subpoena

'Cited the within named John Wraight alias Wright and Widdow Smith personally to appeare the day and at the tyme & place prefixed according to the tenor of this decree the 19th day of this instant month of August 1638. Per me Thomas Allen.'

'To appear before Sir Edward Boys & Sir Edward Master knights & John Sackett Clarke or any two or one of them at the signe of the Checkar in the City of Canterbury the seaventh day of September 1638 between the houres of two and foure in the afternoone their to testify their knowledges on the behalf of Mr William Crayford *in a suite* communicated against him by Mr Argent before the Lord Marshall of England.'

Dated 18 August 1638

Signed with seals by Edward Boyes, Sir Edward Master and John Sackett.

Cur Mil I, fo.182r, Notary public's certificate

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

1 October 1638.

Notary's mark.

Summary of proceedings

Dr Duck was acting as counsel for Argent, Dr Exton for Crayford. Although on 20 October 1638, the sentence was ordered to be heard at the next sitting, efforts were made to arrange a settlement and a further order for the sentence to be heard was issued on 23 February 1639.


The Visitation of Kent in 1619 shows a William Craford, aged ten, who was the grandson of Sir William Craford of Great Mongeham. Craford's father, Edward, had married Anna, daughter of Sir Rowland Hayward, a lord mayor of London. By a later Visitation of 1663-8, there is mention of a Sir William Craford of Mongham in co. Kent.

R. Hovenden (ed.), The Visitation of Kent, 1619-1621 (Publications of the Harleian Society, 42, 1898), p. 34; G. J. Armytage (ed.), A Visitation of the County of Kent, 1663-8 (Publications of the Harleian Society, 54, 1906), p. 115.

For a further summary of proceedings, see G. D. Squibb, Reports of Heraldic Cases in the Court of Chivalry, 1623-1732 (London, 1956), p.29. For a full transcript of the defence, see G. D. Squibb, The High Court of Chivalry: A Study in the Civil Law in England (Oxford, 1959), appendix XIX, pp. 258-9.


  • Initial proceedings
    • Petition to Arundel: 7/102 (1 Mar 1638)
    • Citation: 15/2m (1 Mar 1638)
    • Plaintiff's bond: 7/99 (1 Mar 1638)
    • Libel: EM120d (14 Apr 1638)
    • Personal answer: 17/4a (no date)
  • Plaintiff's case
    • Letters commissory for the plaintiff: EM120c (9 May 1638)
    • Defence interrogatories: EM120b (2 May 1638)
    • Plaintiff's depositions: EM120a (17 May 1638)
  • Defendant's case
    • Defence: Cur Mil I, fo. 187 (no date)
    • Letters commissory for the defence: Cur Mil I, fo. 188 (19 Jun 1638)
    • Plaintiff interrogatories: Cur Mil I, fo. 185 (no date)
    • Defence depositions: Cur Mil I, fos. 175-181 (17 Aug 1638)
    • Subpoena: Cur Mil I, fo. 186 (18 Aug 1638)
    • Notary public's certificate: Cur Mil I, fo. 182 (1 Oct 1638)
  • Proceedings
    • Proceedings before Arundel: R.19, fos. 434r-449v (20 Oct 1638)
    • 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: 1/9 (28 Jan 1639)
    • Proceedings: 1/7, fos. 36-47 (9 Feb 1639)
    • 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

  • Allen, Thomas
  • Argent, Mary
  • Argent, William, esq
  • Barham, Robert, innkeeper
  • Birkenhed, Richard, notary public (also Birkened)
  • Blechenden, Thomas, esq (also Bleachinden, Blechynden)
  • Boyes, Edward, esq (also Boys)
  • Boys, Edward, knight
  • Byng, William, esq
  • Crayford, William, gent (also Craford)
  • Dethick, Gilbert, registrar
  • Duck, Arthur, lawyer
  • Exton, Thomas, lawyer
  • Gookin, John, gent
  • Hayward, Rowland, knight
  • Howard, Henry, baron Maltravers
  • Howard, Thomas, earl of Arundel and Surrey
  • Master, Edward, knight (also Masters)
  • Munings, Edward, esq
  • Nevinson, Mary, lady
  • Nevinson, Roger, knight
  • Price, Ann
  • Richardson, Thomas, notary public
  • Ryden, Anna
  • Ryden, Robert, yeoman
  • Sackett, John, clerk
  • Sladden, John, yeoman
  • Smith, Joanna, widow
  • Stuart, Charles I, king
  • Stuart, James I, king
  • Terrick, Humphrey, lawyer
  • Wood, George, esq
  • Wright, John, yeoman

Places mentioned in the case

  • Kent
    • Betteshanger
    • Canterbury
    • Eastry
    • Kennington
    • Littlebourne
    • Mongeham
    • Northbourne
    • Ripple
    • River
    • Sandwich
    • Selling
    • Tilmanstone
    • Uffington
    • Walmer
    • Woodnesborough
    • Surrey

Topics of the case

  • assault
  • challenge to duel
  • denial of gentility
  • drunkenness
  • nicknaming
  • office-holding
  • reconciliation
  • royal servant
  • sexual insult
  • ship money
  • threatened killing