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612 Southcott v Morrell

The Court of Chivalry 1634-1640.

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612 SOUTHCOTT V MORRELL

Sir Popham Southcott of Bovey Tracey, co. Devon, knt v William Morrell of Exeter, fuller

January - April 1639

Figure 612:

Seventeenth-century Exeter, showing the city's west gate and immediately inside it the parish of St Mary Steps, where, in July 1638 in widow Bond's house, William Morrell stirred up resentment against Sir Popham Southcott's soap monopoly.

Abstract

Southcott complained that in widow Bond's house in the parish of St Mary Steps, Exeter, on 30 July 1638, William Morrell had said 'that I was a base beggarly knight, and that if I were not a base beggarly knight I would not have meddled in the soape business, and that I had been in gaole long since if Sir George Southcott had not forgiven me fourteen hundred pounds which I ought him.' Morrell had also stirred up opposition to Southcott's monopoly, encouraging local soapmakers to refuse to pay him money and to throw 'boyl'd hot lee' at him and his officers when they came to their houses. In his defence, Morrell pointed out that he used a great deal of soap in his trade and the patent was costing him 5s.- 8s. a week. He admitted that he had spoken the words 'in passion and out of his greife and sorrowe for his losse, and not of any mallice or with intent to disgrace Sir Popham Southcott', but claimed that he had already offered Southcott 'any submission, acknowledgement or satisfaccon' that he should desire. He also attempted to discredit Southcott's principal witness Samuel Clarke, another fuller, by alleging that he was incontinent. Southcott gave his libel on 28 January 1639 and his witnesses were examined before William Stowell, gent, James Forbes, clerk, and Ambrose Potter, gent, on 13 March 1639 at the inn of John Pinsent, in Chudleigh, Devon. No further proceedings survive.

Initial proceedings

Cur Mil II, fo. 189, Libel

1. Sir Popham Southcott was descended from an ancient family that had been reputed gentry for up to 300 years.

2. William Morrell said 'that I was a base beggarly knight, and that if I were not a base beggarly knight I would not have meddled in the soape business; and that I had been in gaole long since, if that Sir George Southcott had not forgiven me fourteen hundred pounds which I ought [owed] him.'

3. These contemptuous and contumelious words were provocative of a duel.

Dated 28 January 1639.

Signed by Jos. Martyn.

Plaintiff's case

Cur Mil II, fo. 190, Letters commissory for the plaintiff[damaged]

Addressed to commissioners [Sir George] Chudleigh, baronet, William Stowell, gent, James Forbes, clerk, and Ambrose Potter, gent, and also, [damaged] Professor of Theology, Peter Bevis, esq, John Berry clerk, and Jermano Shapcott, gent, in a cause of scandalous words provocative of a duel, to meet from 11 to 13 March 1639 in the inn of John Pinsent, in Chudleigh, co. Devon,.

Dethick assigned Thomas Payne as notary public.

Dated 21 February 1639.

Signed by Gilbert Dethick, registrar.

Cur Mil II, fos. 184-187, Plaintiff depositions

Taken before commissioners William Stowell, gent, James Forbes, clerk, and Ambrose Potter, gent, in a cause of scandalous words provocative of a duel, to meet in the inn of John Pinsent, in Chudleigh, co. Devon, on 13 March 1639, in the presence of Thomas Payne, notary public.

fos. 185r-186r (Witness 1), Samuel Clarke of the city of Exeter, fuller, lived there for over 20 years, born at Dorchester, co. Dorset, aged about 40

To Southcott's libel:

1. He had known Southcott for two years, who was commonly reputed to be a gentleman, a knight and a J.P. for Devon.

2-3. On 30 July last, Morrell was in widow Bond's house in the parish of St Mary Steps, Exeter, where he said 'in a disgraceful and cursing manner', that 'if Sir Popham Southcote were not a base beggarly knight he would not have taken the business concerning the soapmakers.' The witness rebuked Morrell, but he replied that 'Sir Popham Southcote had been in the gaole long agoe if Sir George Southcote had not forgiven him fourteen hundred pounds'. Morrell also desired three Exeter soapmakers present to 'provide and have in readiness a kettle of boyl'd hot lee to through in Popham Southcote and his servants when they came into their houses about making of soap'. Thomas Warner, and the soapmakers John Glide, Humphrey Gilbert and Hugh Bidwell, were present. The witness shortly after had Morrell's words noted in writing.

Signed by Samuel Clarke and by the three commissioners.

fos. 186r-187r (Witness 2), Thomas Warner of the city of Exeter, clothier, lived there for 16 years, born at Bishopstoke, co. Southampton, aged about 38

To Southcott's libel:

1. He had known Southcott for twelve months, who was commonly reputed to be a gentleman, and a knight.

2-3. On 30 July last, Morrell was in widow Bond's house in the parish of St Mary Stepps, in the city and country of Exeter, where he said 'in a very disgraceful manner', that 'Sir Popham Southcote was a base beggarly knight'. Samuel Clarke rebuked Morrell, but he replied that 'if Sir Popham Southcote had not been a base beggarly knight he would never have taken the rate concerning soapmaking and further said that Sir Popham Southcote had been in gaol long ago if his uncle (meaning as this witness conceaved Sir George Southcote knight) had not forgiven him fourteen hundred pounds'. Morrell also desired some soapmakers present not to pay Sir Popham Southcote any money 'and to be provided with boyl'd hot lee to through in Sir Popham Southcote and his servants if they came to enter into their houses'. Samuel Clarke, John Glide, Humphrey Gilbert and Hugh Bidwell, were also present.

Signed by Thomas Warner [his mark], and by the three commissioners.

fos. 187r-188r (Witness 3), Hugh Bidwell of the city of Exeter, chandler, born there, aged about 35

To Southcott's libel:

1. He had known Southcott for over a year, who was commonly reputed to be a gentleman of an ancient family, a knight and a J.P. for Devon.

2-3. As witness 2.

Signed by Hugh Bidwell [his mark], and by the three commissioners.

Cur Mil II, fo. 188r-v, Notary public's certificate

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

27 April 1639.

Notary's mark.

Defendant's case

13/3b, Defence

1. 'Not long before the words pretended to be spoken Southcott had procured letters patent for the making, ordering and venting of soap in Exeter and other places thereabouts'.

2. 'William Morrell is a poore man charged with wife and children and is by a trade a fuller or a tucker and by reason of his trade hath occasion to use and spend much and soe hath and doth from tyme to tyme imploy and spend a great quantity of soap'.

3. 'The patent costs him 8-5s a week.'

4. 'If he spoke the words alleged he did so 'in passion and out of his greife and sorrowe for his losse, and not of any mallice or with intent to disgrace Sir Popham Southcott, and soe it is generally beleeved and conceyved by such as knowe Morrell and the business'.

5. 'After it was given out that William Morrell had spoken the words, and before the suit brought in the court of chivalry, he offered to make to Sir Popham Southcott 'any submission, acknowledgement or satsifaccon that Sir Popham Southcott should desire and that William Morrell were able to performe'.

6. Hugh Bidwell 'a pretended witness in this cause hath been arrested for fellony and stealing of a horse'.

7. A maid servant in Samuel Clarke's house 'was begotten with child incontinently and it was suspected and generally reported that Clarke was the father, and had lived incontinently with her; and that Clarke was 'convented before his ordinary or questioned in the ecclesiasticall court for begettinge his servant with childe'.

8. Clarke thought that Morrell was the means or cause that he was cited in the ecclesiastical court and Clarke had admitted to Morrell that all 'that he had deposed or would depose against Morrell in this cause was out of malice for that Morrell had proceeded or caused Clarke to be cited or questioned in the eccl. court.'

9. 'There was also a maidservant got with child in the house of Thomas Warner another of the witnesses in this cause and Warner was generally suspected to be the father.'

10. 'Bidwell, Clarke and Warner were 'capitall enimies, or enemy unto Morrell and they all or some of them have conspired the overthrow and undoinge of him'. They did 'scandalously tell Morrell's creditors, unto whome Morrell stood indebted unto in the summe of £600 or £700, that Morrell was running away or that he was ready to depart or be gone out of Exitor'. 'By reason of the tellinge or reportinge, Morrell was thereupon arrested and layd in prison where he lay a yeare to his great hurt and prejudice.'

No date.

No signatures.

Summary of proceedings

Dr Martin acted as counsel for Southcott and Dr Gwyn for Morrell. The cause came before Lord Maltravers and Sir Henry Marten on 28 January 1639. On 21 February 1639 Dr Gwyn denied the libel and commissioners were appointed to hear Southcott's witnesses.

Notes

Sir Popham Southcott (1605-43), was the eldest son of Thomas Southcott of Mohun's Ottery, co. Devon, esq, and Katherine, daughter of Sir William Popham of Colcombe, co. Devon. Sir Popham was appointed a J.P. for Devon on 11 August 1637. He and Nicholas Southcote secured the soap monopoly to levy duties of 6d per 12lbs on the south western counties and the city of Exeter on 9 January 1638 (confirmed on 5 March 1638). He later became a colonel of a royalist regiment recruited from local tin miners.

F. T. Colby (ed.), The Visitation of the County of Devon in the year 1620 (Publications of the Harleian Society, 6, 1872), p. 266; M. Wolffe, Gentry Leaders in Peace and War: The Gentry Governors of Devon in the Early Seventeenth Century (Exeter, 1997), p. 31; J. Broadway, R. P. Cust and S. K. Roberts (eds.), A Calendar of the Docquets of Lord Keeper Coventry 1625-1640 (Lists and Index Society, spec. ser. 34-7, 2004), pp. 48, 74, 232; P. R. Newman, Royalist officers in England and Wales, 1642-1660: A biographical dictionary (London, 1981), p. 353.

Documents

  • Initial proceedings
    • Libel: Cur Mil II, fo. 189 (28 Jan 1639)
  • Plaintiff's case
    • Letters commissory for the plaintiff: Cur Mil II, fo. 190 (21 Feb 1639)
    • Plaintiff depositions: Cur Mil II, fos. 184-8 (13 Mar 1639)
    • Notary public's certificate: Cur Mil II, fo. 188 (27 Apr 1639)
  • Defendant's case
    • Defence: 13/3b (no date)
  • Proceedings
    • Proceedings before Maltravers: 1/9 (28 Jan 1639)
    • Proceedings before Arundel: 1/6, fos. 20-33 (21 Feb 1639)

People mentioned in the case

  • Berry, John, clerk
  • Bevis, Peter, esq
  • Bidwell, Hugh, chandler
  • Bond, widow
  • Chudleigh, George, baronet
  • Clarke, Samuel, fuller
  • Dethick, Gilbert, registrar
  • Forbes, James, clerk
  • Gilbert, Humphrey, soapmaker
  • Glide, John, soapmaker
  • Gwyn, Thomas, lawyer
  • Howard, Henry, baron Maltravers
  • Howard, Thomas, earl of Arundel and Surrey
  • Marten, Henry, knight
  • Martin, Joseph, lawyer (also Martyn)
  • Morrell, William, fuller
  • Payne, Thomas, notary public
  • Pinsent, John, innkeeper
  • Popham, Katherine
  • Popham, William, knight
  • Potter, Ambrose, gent
  • Shapcott, Jermano, gent
  • Southcott, George, knight (also Southcote)
  • Southcott, Katherine (also Southcote)
  • Southcott, Nicholas (also Southcote)
  • Southcott, Popham, knight (also Southcote)
  • Southcott, Thomas, esq (also Southcote)
  • Stowell, William, gent
  • Warner, Thomas, clothier

Places mentioned in the case

  • Devon
    • Bovey Tracey
    • Chudleigh
    • Colcombe
    • Mohun's Ottery
  • Dorset
    • Dorchester
  • Exeter
    • St Mary Steps
  • Hampshire
    • Bishopstoke
  • Somerset

Topics of the case

  • allegation of illegitimacy
  • debt
  • denial of gentility
  • military officer
  • monopoly
  • office-holding
  • royalist
  • taxation