606 Somerville v Goodrich

The Court of Chivalry 1634-1640.

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'606 Somerville v Goodrich', in The Court of Chivalry 1634-1640, (, ) pp. . British History Online https://www.british-history.ac.uk/no-series/court-of-chivalry/606-somerville-goodrich [accessed 5 March 2024]

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Edward Somerville of Barford, co. Warwick, esq v Michael Goodrich the elder and Michael Goodrich the younger of Harborne, co. Stafford

October 1637 - April 1638

Figure 606:

St John's, Warwick, the house of Anthony Stoughton, the Warwickshire justice appointed commissioner to take statements from Edward Somerville's witnesses in April 1638 (Photograph : Richard Cust)


Somerville, the son of Sir William Somerville, complained that Goodrich the elder had called him 'a base fellow, a rascall and a knave' and Goodrich the younger said that he was 'a base beggarly rascall, and that he would make him as poore as Goodriche's dogg'. These incidents occurred in Goodrich the younger's house, where Somerville then lodged, on 25 March and 24 June 1637. Goodrich the elder claimed the initial quarrel had arisen when he had asked Somerville to repay his debts for land he was leasing from Goodrich the younger. Goodrich commenced a lawsuit to recover the debt and maintained that Somerville, a notoriously 'quarrelsome and contentious [man], of very uncivil behaviour', had given him reproachful and provoking language. Process was granted on 8 October 1637 and proceedings were under way in February 1638, when Dr Duck, acting for the Goodriches responded to the libel and questioned Somerville's gentility. On 4 April 1638 the depositions of Somerville's witnesses were taken before a commission consisting of Thomas Combe, esq, Anthony Stoughton, a Warwickshire J.P., and Edward Nicholls, clerk, in the inn of George Webber, at Warwick. No further proceedings survive.

Initial proceedings

3/132, Petition to Arundel

'Your petitioner is discended of ancient family in the county of Warr. and Glouc., and soe have been for many discents, and is the second sonne of Sir William Somervile, knt., deceased.

Michaell Goodrich the elder and Michaell Goodrich the younger, malitiously intending to defame your petitioner, Michael the elder did on or about 25 March 1637 without any wrong or injury offered by your petitioner speake and say to your petitioner that he was a base fellow, a rascall and a knave. Michaell Goodrich the younger, about 24 June 1637, did say that your petitioner was a base beggarly rascall, and that he would make him as poore as Goodriche's dogg. And at many other times, Michaell Goodrich the elder and Michaell Goodrich the younger have used many other scandalous and disgracefull speeches of this petitioner to the impeachment of his reputation and great damage.'

Petitioned that both Goodriches be brought to appear.

Maltravers granted process on 8 October 1637.

Signed by Maltravers.

3/131, Plaintiff's bond

19 October 1637

Bound to appear 'in the Court in the painted Chamber within the Pallace of Westminster'.

Signed by Edward Somervile.

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

Cur Mil II, fo. 37, Libel

1. Somerville's family had been reputed ancient gentry for up to 200 years.

2. Between January and May 1637, Michael Goodrich the elder in the parishes of Harborne and Barford and roundabout, said that Somerville 'was a base fellow, a rascall and a knave', which words were provocative of a duel.

No date.

Signed by William Lewin.

Plaintiff's case

Cur Mil II, fo. 39, Letters commissory for the plaintiff

Addressed to commissioners William Combe, esq, Anthony Stoughton, esq, Thomas Combe, esq, and Edward Yate, gent, and also, George Pudsey, gent, John Staunton, gent, Edward Nicholls, clerk, and John Walls, clerk, to meet in a cause of scandalous words provocative of a duel, from 3 to 5 April 1638 at the inn of George Webber, in Warwick.

Dethick assigned Edward Latham as notary public.

Dated 12 February 1638.

Signed by Gilbert Dethick, registrar.

Cur Mil II, fo. 29, Letters substitutional for the plaintiff

Arthur Duck, Dr of Law and King's Advocate, appointed Philip Cotton to act for him on Somerville's behalf in a cause of scandalous words provocative of a duel.

Dated 19 February 1638

Signed by Arthur Duck.

Cur Mil II, fo. 38, Defence interrogatories

1. The witnesses were warned of the penalty for perjury and bearing false witness. What was the witnesses' age, occupation and condition of living? For how long had the witness known the parties?

2. Was the witness a household servant, retainer, or indebted to Somerville and if so, for what sum? How much were they worth in goods with their debts paid?

3. Had the witness been instructed how to depose, by whom, and what had been given or promised them?

4. Had Somerville threatened the witness with discharge from his service if the witness failed to depose as he wished?

5. Was Somerville indebted to several persons and worth little once such debts were paid? Was Somerville also indebted to Goodrich, and had Goodrich commenced an action against Somerville for it?

6. Exactly where and when were the words spoken by Goodrich? Were the witness and Somerville present? Who else was present, and did the witness observe all the discourse?

7. At the time of the pretended words, had Goodrich demanded his rent or a debt from Somerville? In response, did Somerville then 'use many reproachful speeches and words of provocation against Goodrich'? What was said, and upon what occasion did Goodrich utter the supposed words?

8. Was Somerville 'a man quarrelsome and contentious, and of verie uncivill behaviour towards his neighbours and soe commonlie reputed'?

9. Had the witness given the truth?

No date.

Signed by Arthur Duck.

Cur Mil II, fos. 31-33, Plaintiff's depositions

Taken before commissioners Thomas Combe, esq, Anthony Stoughton, esq, Edward Nicholls, clerk, in the inn of George Webber, in the town of Warwick, on 4 April 1638.

fos. 32r-v (Witness 1), Edward Windmills of Langley, co. Warwick, labourer, aged about 26

To Somerville's libel:

1. Somerville was the natural and lawful son of the late Sir William Somerville, knight, and that the family had always been 'accounted and reputed to be gentlemen of an ancient family'.

2. He was Somerville's servant, and 'betwixt Candlemas and our Lady day was twelvemonth being to discharge Michael Goodrich the younger by the appointment of Mr Somerville of some grounds which he held from Michael Goodriche the younger, he did hear Michael Goodrich the elder tell Mr Somerville... that he was a fiddling fellow. And he used to shifte from place to place'. Mary Chamberlayne was also present.

To Goodrich's interrogatories:

2. 'He is little worth of his owne estate'.

3-5. Negative.

6. 'The words were spoken in the house of Michael Goodrich the younger where Mr Somerville did then live', at about 9 or 10pm, 'Goodrich being then in his bed and not well'.

7. At that time he heard Somerville tell Goodrich 'that he used the basest termes to his familie that any man did in Warwickshire, but what was the occasion of the words, this witness knoweth not'.

8. Negative.

Signed by Edward Windmills [his mark] and by the three commissioners.

fos. 32v-33r (Witness 2), Mary Chamberlayne of Barford, co. Warwick, spinster, born there, aged about 22

To Somerville's libel:

1. Somerville was 'commonlie reputed and taken to be of an ancient familie and stocke'.

To Goodrich's interrogatories:

1. She was born at Barford.

2. She was servant to Somerville, 'and is worth little but what she getteth in her service.

3-5. Negative.

8. Negative.

Signed by Mary Chamberlayne [her mark] and by the three commissioners.

Cur Mil II, fos. 33v-34r, Notary public's certificate

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

12 April 1638.

Notary's mark.

Summary of proceedings

Dr Lewin acted as counsel for Somerville with Dr Duck for the Goodriches. On 18 and 28 November 1637 Dr Duck sought a hearing. On 27 January 1638 Dr Lewin introduced paper schedules, and on 3 February Dr Duck considered the articles. On 12 February Dr Duck responded to the libel and questioned Somerville's gentility.


None of the parties appear in the Visitations of Warwick or Stafford: J. Fetherston (ed.), The Visitation of the County of Warwick, 1619 (Publications of the Harleian Society, 12, 1877); W. H. Rylands (ed.), The Visitation of the County of Warwick, 1682-3 (Publications of the Harleian Society, 62, 1911); G. J. Armytage and W. H. Rylands (eds.), Staffordshire Pedigrees based on the Visitation of that County made by William Dugdale, 1663-4 (Publications of the Harleian Society, 63, 1912).


  • Initial proceedings
    • Petition to Arundel: 3/132 (8 Oct 1637)
    • Plaintiff's bond: 3/131 (19 Oct 1637)
    • Libel: Cur Mil II, fo. 37 (no date)
  • Plaintiff's case
    • Letters commissory for the plaintiff: Cur Mil II, fo. 39 (12 Feb 1638)
    • Letters substitutional for the plaintiff: Cur Mil II, fo. 29 (19 Feb 1638)
    • Defence interrogatories: Cur Mil II, fo. 38 (no date)
    • Plaintiff depositions: Cur Mil II, fos. 31-3 (4 Apr 1638)
    • Notary public's certificate: Cur Mil II, fos. 33-4 (12 Apr 1638)
  • Proceedings
    • Proceedings before Maltravers: 8/29 (18 Nov 1637)
    • Proceedings before Maltravers: 8/30 (28 Nov 1637)
    • Proceedings before Maltravers: 1/5, fos. 1-15 (27 Jan 1638)
    • Proceedings before Arundel: 1/5, fos. 23-35 (3 Feb 1638)
    • Proceedings before Arundel: 1/5, fos. 38-56 (12 Feb 1638)

People mentioned in the case

  • Chamberlayne, Mary, spinster (also Chamberlain)
  • Combe, Thomas, esq
  • Combe, William, esq
  • Cotton, Philip
  • Dethick, Gilbert, registrar
  • Duck, Arthur, lawyer
  • Goodrich, Michael the elder
  • Goodrich, Michael the younger
  • Howard, Henry, baron Maltravers
  • Howard, Thomas, earl of Arundel and Surrey
  • Latham, Edward, notary public
  • Lewin, William, lawyer
  • Nicholls, Edward, clerk
  • Pudsey, George, gent
  • Somerville, Edward, esq
  • Somerville, William, knight
  • Staunton, John, gent
  • Stoughton, Anthony, gent
  • Terrick, Humphrey
  • Walls, John, clerk
  • Webber, George, innkeeper
  • Windmills, Edward, labourer
  • Yate, Edward, gent

Places mentioned in the case

  • Middlesex
    • Westminster
  • Staffordshire
    • Harborne
  • Warwickshire
    • Barford
    • Langley

Topics of the case

  • debt
  • denial of gentility
  • justice of the peace
  • other courts
  • previous litigation