616 Sprignall v Chapman

The Court of Chivalry 1634-1640.

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Richard Sprignall of Highgate, co. Middlesex, gent v Henry Chapman of the same, carpenter

October 1637 - August 1639


Sprignall, a captain of the trained bands in Middlesex, complained that in October 1637, in the town of Highgate, Middlesex, Chapman called him 'a base gentleman and a fiddler's sonne', saying 'what he had spoken he would justifie'. Process was granted on 18 October 1637 and Sprignall swiftly won the verdict. On 28 November 1637 Chapman was ordered to pay £20 damages and £6 costs. For reasons which are unclear his submission was delayed until 15 August 1639 when, in the schoolhouse at Highgate, before Sprignall and his friends, he was required to apologise and acknowledge Sprignall to be 'an honest gent, well descended, and a captayne of a trained band of soldiers'.

Initial proceedings

3/129, Advice of the King's Advocate

'Capt Rich Sprignall sueth Henry Chapman carpenter of Hygate for theise words, Base gentleman, fiddler's son.

For these I moved my L. Maltravers; they are fitt for the Court.

I desire Mr Dethick to issue these processes.'

18 October 1637

Signed by Arthur Duck.

3/130, Plaintiff's bond

Described Sprignall as of the parish of Hornsey in Middlesex.

18 October 1637

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

Signed by Thomas Bankes of St Bridgitte, Fleet St, London, tailor, on behalf of Sprignall.

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

20/2a, Libel

1. Sprignall's family had been gentry for up to 200 years, and Sprignall himself was a captain of a trained band, while Chapman was a plebeian. In last October, in the town of Highgate, Chapman said Sprignall was 'a base gentleman and a fiddlers sonne; and being demanded why he did so abuse me, answered that what he had spoken he would justifie', which contemptuous words were provocative of a duel.

Dated 31 October 1637.

Signed by Arthur Duck.

Sentence / Arbitration

17/3s, Plaintiff's sentence

Chapman was sentenced for having said of Sprignall that 'he was a base gentleman and a fiddler's son; and said he would justifie it.'

The plaintiff was awarded £20 damages and the case was taxed at £6.

Dated 28 November 1637.

Signed by Arthur Duck and Lord Maltravers.

17/3q, Plaintiff's bill of costs

Vacation before Michaelmas term, 1637: £3-18s-4d

Michaelmas term, 1637: £12-4s-2d

Sum total: £16-2s-6d

Signed by Arthur Duck.

Taxed at £6

Dated 28 November 1637.


3/66, Defendant's bond of submission

23 December 1637

That definitive sentence had been passed on 28 November by Lord Maltravers, which stipulated that Chapman was to pay Sprignall £20 damages and £6 costs; and was to 'perform such submission and be of good behaviour in such sorte, as in the sentence remayneing in the Registrie of this Courte is conteyned.'

Of this sum £13 was due to be paid on or before 27 January 1637/8, and the other £13 by the first court day of Easter term.

Chapman was required to certify his performance of the submission and attend the Court in the Painted Chamber between 8 and 11am on 27 January 1638.

Signed by Henry Chapman and Peter James of St Botolph's extra Bishopsgate, London, carpenter.

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

13/3aa, Submission

On 15 August 1639, 'in the schoolhouse at Highgate, before Mr Richard Springall, if hee shall think fitte to be there present, and such persons as Mr Springall shall bringe with him, standing bareheaded in some convenient place, shall, with an audible voice read, or after one readinge to him, say as followeth':

'Whereas I, Henry Chapman stand convicted, by sentence diffinitive given against me in the Court Militarie by the right Honorable Thos. Earl of Arundel and Surrey Earl Marshal of England, to have much abused in wordes Mr Richard Springall of this towne of Hygate, gent.; and, amongest other opprobrious speeches, to have sayd that he was a base gentleman and a fidler's sonne and that I would justify it, or wordes to that effect, I doe hereby humbly confesse that I am hartily sorry for anie such rash and unadvised speeches against Mr Springall whom I doe acknowledge to bee an honest gent., well descended, and a captayne of a trained band of soldiers in the county of Middlesex. And I doe humbly pray Mr Springall to forgive and forgett my such rash and inconsiderate speeches and I doe promise forever hereafter to carry and behave my selfe with all due respect towards him and all other gentrie of this kingdome.'

Summary of proceedings

Dr Duck acted as counsel for Sprignall and Dr Talbot for Chapman. Dr Duck gave the libel for Sprignall on 31 October 1637 and Chapman responded to the libel on 18 November. On 27 January 1638 Chapman appeared in accordance with his bond and still owed the sum of £3 for expenses and £10 damages.


Captain Richard Sprignell of Highgate (b. c.1602), was the son of Richard Sprignell of Highgate, esq, and Susan, daughter of John Daniel of Peldon Hall, co. Essex. Richard married Anne, daughter of Julian de Lawne of Blackfriars, London, esq.

G. J. Armytage (ed.), Middlesex Pedigrees (Publications of the Harleian Society, 65, 1914), p. 59.


  • Initial proceedings
    • Advice of the King's Advocate: 3/129 (18 Oct 1637)
    • Plaintiff's bond: 3/130 (18 Oct 1637)
    • Libel: 20/2a (31 Oct 1637)
  • Sentence / Arbitration
    • Plaintiff's sentence: 17/3s (28 Nov 1637)
    • Plaintiff's bill of costs: 17/3q (Mic 1637)
  • Submission
    • Defendant's bond on submission: 3/66 (23 Dec 1637)
    • Submission: 13/3aa (15 Aug 1639)
  • Proceedings
    • Proceedings before Maltravers: 8/28 (31 Oct 1637)
    • 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. 38-56 (12 Feb 1638)

People mentioned in the case

  • Bankes, Thomas, tailor
  • Chapman, Henry, carpenter
  • Daniel, John
  • Daniel, Susan
  • de Lawne, Anne (also de Laune)
  • de Lawne, Julian (also de Laune)
  • Dethick, Gilbert, registrar
  • Duck, Arthur, lawyer
  • Howard, Henry, baron Maltravers
  • Howard, Thomas, earl of Arundel and Surrey
  • James, Peter
  • Sprignall, Richard, gent (also Sprignell)
  • Sprignall, Susan (also Sprignell)
  • Talbot, Clere, lawyer
  • Terrick, Humphrey
  • Watson, John

Places mentioned in the case

  • Essex
    • Peldon Hall
  • London
    • Blackfriars
    • St Botolph-without-Bishopsgate
    • St Bridget, Fleet Street
  • Middlesex
    • Highgate
    • Hornsey
    • Westminster

Topics of the case

  • denial of gentility
  • military officer
  • trained band