613 Southcott v Spiller

The Court of Chivalry 1634-1640.

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'613 Southcott v Spiller', in The Court of Chivalry 1634-1640, (, ) pp. . British History Online https://www.british-history.ac.uk/no-series/court-of-chivalry/613-southcott-spiller [accessed 1 March 2024]

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Sir Popham Southcott of Bovey Tracey, co. Devon, knt v John Spiller of Curland, co. Somerset, yeoman

August - October 1639


Southcott complained that on 2 August 1639 in Curland, Somerset, when he tried to execute his patent, Spiller, a soapmaker, gave him a 'bastinado', striking him in the face with his fist, and thrusting him from the door, saying, 'Art thou a man? Thou art noe man, thou art base'. When bystanders cautioned Spiller, he replied 'I am sufficient to answer a better man than thou art, and a greater matter than this is.' Process was granted on 20 August 1639 and Southcott gave the libel on 12 October; but no further proceedings survive.

Initial proceedings

6/54, Petition

'Your petitioner being at Curland in the county of Somerset the second day of this instant August 1639, conversant about the execucon of his Majestie's letters patents for soape, which he then shewed, was publiquely affronted by one John Spiller of Curland, soapmaker, who (without any injury done him by your petitioner) thrust your petitioner with his staff in the face, told him that he was a base fellow, and offered him many other fowle abuses and provocations.'

Signed Joseph Martyn.

Petitioned that Spiller be brought to answer.

Maltravers granted process on 20 August 1639.

6/53a, Defendant's bond

22 August 1639

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

Signed by John Allen of London, gent on behalf of John Spiller.

Sealed, subscribed and delivered in the presence of [left unsigned].

6/27, Defendant's bond

Spiller was here described as a husbandman.

7 October 1639

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

Signed by John Spiller [his mark]

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

17/5e, Libel

Spiller was here described as a yeoman.

1. Southcott was a justice of the peace, and his family had been ancient gentry for up to 300 years.

2. In 1637 and 1638 Southcott was granted letters patent for making and ordering the making of soap in Somerset.

3. In July and August 1639, Spiller 'gave me the bastinado and struck me in the face with his fist, and thrust me from the dore, and said, Stand further, or I'le make thee stand further of; and further, in taunting manner, said, Art thou a man? Thou art noe man, thou art a base -; and question being made concerning his sufficiency by some then present, he replied with much scorne, I am sufficient to answer a better man than thou art, and a greater matter than this is.'

4. These contemptuous words were provocative of a duel.

No date but filed under 12 October 1639.

Signed by Joseph Martyn.


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.


  • Initial proceedings
    • Petition: 6/54 (20 Aug 1639)
    • Defendant's bond: 6/53a (25 Aug 1639)
    • Defendant's bond: 6/27 (7 Oct 1639)
    • Libel: 17/5e ([12 Oct 1639])

People mentioned in the case

  • Allen, John, gent
  • Howard, Henry, baron Maltravers
  • Martin, Joseph, lawyer (also Martyn)
  • Popham, Katherine
  • Popham, William, knight
  • Southcott, Katherine (also Southcote)
  • Southcott, Nicholas (also Southcote)
  • Southcott, Popham, knight (also Southcote)
  • Southcott, Thomas, esq (also Southcote)
  • Spiller, John, yeoman
  • Watson, John

Places mentioned in the case

  • Devon
    • Bovey Tracey
    • Colcombe
    • Mohun's Ottery
  • Middlesex
    • Westminster
  • Somerset
    • Curland

Topics of the case

  • assault
  • comparison
  • denial of gentility
  • justice of the peace
  • monopoly
  • office-holding
  • provocative of a duel
  • taxation