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624 Stepkin v Dobbins

The Court of Chivalry 1634-1640.

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624 STEPKIN V DOBBINS

John Stepkin of Stepney, co. Middlesex, gent v Daniel Dobbins of London, merchant

October 1637 - January 1639

Figure 624:

Early Stuart Worcester. Daniel Dobbins was required 'to confess himself and all his family to be plebeians... in the face of the whole countrey' at the city's quarter sessions in 1638. Arundel took pity on him and allowed further time to prove his gentility (From, John Speed, Theatre of the Empire of Great Britain (1611))

Abstract

Stepkin complained that Dobbins had assumed a coat of arms within the last five years which he boasted was 'the proper coate of armes belonging to him and his family', and also styled himself an esquire when he was merely 'a haberdasher of small wares'. Dobbins claimed that Stepkin had called him 'a base stinking clowne', commenced the suit 'uppon mere spleen', and wrongly claimed that Dobbins and his family were plebeians. Dobbins was lord of part of the manor of Kidderminster, Worcestershire, and a London merchant and freeman of the Merchant Adventurers, the Haberdashers, and the Turkey, East India and Muscovy Companies. He produced an array of witnesses, led by his own 80 year old father, Randolph Dobbins, gent, of Newent, Gloucestershire, and including James Kirle, esq, of Walford, Herefordshire, Francis Kirle of Much Marcle, Herefordshire, esq, Thomas Good of Redmarley D'Abitot, Worcestershire, esq, and Nathaniel Eston, clerk of Kidderminster, all of whom vouched for his gentility. His father insisted that the family had been gentry for over 120 years and had never previously had their status questioned. In support of this the witnesses cited numerous deeds, the fact that Dobbins' mother was a Kirle, and therefore a member of one of the ancient Herefordshire families, that his father had been a student at Oxford University in the 1570s and that Dobbins himself kept courts leet and baron in Kidderminster, contributed to poor relief in the town and had always been reputed a gentleman there. His father insisted that he was 'never a haberdasher', but lived as 'a merchant and gentleman' in London and elsewhere.

Proceedings were under way by October 1637 and Dobbins produced his defence in November. An initial certificate from the King of Arms concerning Dobbins' gentility was provided in January 1638, but Dr Tooker on his behalf insisted on taking statements from witnesses. To start with this was delayed by the outbreak of plague in the city of Worcester, but his witnesses were eventually heard before Peter Leigh, Caleb Moore and Thomas Boys, gent, on 13 March 1638 at the King's Head Inn in Newent.In spite of the heavyweight testimony supporting Dobbins, and the fact that his gentility had been confirmed by the London Visitation of 1634, on 1 June 1638 the Kings of Arms reported that they had seen no evidence that he or his ancestors were armigerous, although his grandfather had been styled a gentleman in several documents. They declared that the escutcheon of arms exhibited by Dobbins in court did not belong to him, and that he had no right to the title of esquire. He was ordered to make a submission and fined £20 to the king and £30 in costs. Dobbins appears to have accepted that he was not entitled to bear the coat of arms or use the title of esquire; but the prospect of a humiliating public submission was too much for him. On 23 December 1638 he petitioned to Arundel that, in spite of the fact that the heralds had confirmed his gentility, Stepkin was requiring him to make submission 'in the most ignominious and disgracefull manner that can be imagined at the open sessions at Worcester in the face of the whole country' and 'to confesse himselfe and all his ancestors to be plebeians'. Dobbins feared this would prove an 'indeleble blemish' to his family's posterity. Arundel granted Dobbins his request for time to prove his gentility before making the submission, allowing him until the first day of Easter term 1639. No further proceedings survive on this case, although Dobbins himself petitioned against Stepkin for insulting him; however, he would have had to prove himself a gentleman before the case could go forward and there is no indication that this happened.

Defendant's case

Cur Mil II, fo. 167, Defence

1. 'I am free of these several companies, vizt. the Merchant Adventurers, the Turkie East India and Muscovia companies, and of the companie and liverie of Haberdashers one of the twelve companies'. His family had been reputed gentry for up to 150 years. The documents were dated 28 October 10 Henry VIII and 4 December 24 Henry VIII. His mother was descended from the Scudamores, Crofts, Kirles and Vaughans in co. Hereford'.

2. He claimed to have been styled gentleman and merchant in various charters and documents and this was supported by information in the Court of Wards and Liveries, attested by Sir George Seymour and Sir Gerrard Kempe.

3. In the heralds' visitation for the city of London three years ago, the Dobbins family of co. Hereford were officially certified as a family of ancient gentry.

4. James Button, Edward Hill, Henry Baker and John Baker, witnesses produced and examined on behalf of John Stepkin all favoured Stepkin and had been capital enemies to Dobbins for up to the last five years. Dobbins pleaded to the judges to dismiss the cause and pay his expenses.

Dated 28 November 1637.

Cur Mil II, fo. 168, Letters commissory for the defendant

Addressed to commissioners Stephen Richardson, gent, Thomas Parry, gent, and also, Caleb Moore and Thomas Boys, gent, to meet in the King's Head Inn, Newent, co. Gloucester on from 13 to 15 March 1638.

Dethick assigned John Adams as notary public.

Dated 3 February 1638.

Signed by Gilbert Dethick, registrar.

Cur Mil II, fo. 169, Letters substitutional

Arthur Duck, Dr of Law and King's Advocate, appointed Henry Stansbury and Richard Dewe to act for him on Stepkin's behalf in a cause of scandalous words provocative of a duel.

Dated 8 February 1638

Signed by Arthur Duck.

Cur Mil II, fos. 165-6, Act

Brief proceedings in Latin concerning the defendant's status, in which the attorneys were Dr Duck and Dr Tooker.

Dated 12 February 1638, before Lord Maltravers, Sir Henry Marten, Humphrey Terrick, notary public, and Gilbert Dethick, registrar.

Cur Mil II, fo. 150 and 14/1ff, Plaintiff interrogatories

1. The witnesses were warned of the penalty for perjury and bearing false witness. What was the witness's age? What was the occupation and condition of the witness during the last seven years? How long had they known the parties in this case?

2. Was he related to or dependent upon Dobbins? Was he taxed at the last subsidy, or for ship money? If yes, for how much? How much was he worth, his debts paid?

3. Had Dobbins been for several years 'a haberdasher of small wares' in London and its suburbs?

4. Had Dobbins 'lived in the rank and quality of a tradesman or a gentleman'? In the last 5 years, had Dobbins styled himself in writing as an esquire or gentleman? What such writings had the witness seen and read?

5. Had Dobbins in the last 5 years assumed a coat of arms and adorned his house with it 'in the walls or windows thereof and to be cut in brasse, wood, stone, gold, or silver'? Did Dobbins 'use a seale or ring with a coate of armes engraven thereon wherewith he used to seale divers writings' which he 'boasted... is the proper coate of armes belonging to him and his family'?

6. Did he know if Dobbins was lawfully descended from Guy Dobbins, and whether Guy Dobbins was reputed to be a gentleman in Henry VIII's time? Did he know the father and grandfather of Dobbins? Were they styled and reputed as yeomen? What were their names and in what fashion did they live?

7. Whether the witness knew John Button, Edward Hill, John Baker and Henry Baker. Were they 'persons of honest life and conversation, and such as will not depose untruely on their oathes'?

8. Was it the custom 'in the county of Gloucester as in other counties', that yeomen who served as jurors at the assizes, for that service were styled with the names and titles of gentlemen?

9. Was Dobbins ever styled a gentleman before he bought land in Worcestershire? Were his brother, father and grandfather 'commonly called Goodman Dobbins and not Mr Dobbins afore the purchase of land'?

10. Did he know, or had he heard, that Jonathan Andrews and William Norris were 'material and necessarie witnesses to prove the contents of the allegacon examined on behalf of Daniel Dobbins whereon the said witness hath now been examined; and whether Jonathan and William were in the months of December and January last past remaining and continually abiding altogether in the citie of Worcester, or where else did Jonathan and William abide during the moneths of December and January and was not Jonathan in or about the Citty of London sometimes in the said months?

Introduced Easter term, 1638.

Signed by Arthur Duck.

Cur Mil II, fos. 151-164, Defence depositions

Taken before commissioners Peter Leigh, Caleb Moore and Thomas Boys, gents., in the King's Head Inn, at Newent, co. Gloucester, on 13 March 1638, in the presence of John Adams notary public, with Henry Stansbury acting for Dr Arthur Duck.

fo. 153r (Witness 1), James Kirle of Walford, co. Hereford, esq, born at Shobdon, co. Hereford, aged about 42

To Dobbins's defence:

1-4. Dobbins's mother was sister to the witness's father Robert Kirle, esq. Dobbins's father, Randal Dobbins 'was always accompted, reputed and taken to be a gentleman of good worth and well reputed and esteemed of in his country where he lived'.

Signed by James Kirle and by the three commissioners.

fos. 153v-154r (Witness 2), Francis Kirle of Much Marcle, co. Hereford, esq, lived there for 36 years, born at Walford, co. Hereford, aged about 44

To Dobbins's defence:

1-4. Dobbins's mother was sister to Robert Kirle, esq, who was son of Walter Kirle, esq, who married 'a daughter of one Warmecombe esq as he believeth'. Dobbins's mother was therefore 'allied to an ancient family of the houses of Scudamore, Croftes and Kirles. Dobbins's father and his ancestors were 'always, accompted, reputed and taken to be gentlemen and of an ancient family'.

Signed by Francis Kirle and by the three commissioners.

To Stepkin's interrogatories:

1. He had known Dobbins for 28 years.

2. Dobbins's mother was sister to the witness's father.

8. 'He hath observed that the grand jurors at the assizes have been stiled and called gentlemen.'

Signed by Francis Kirle and by the three commissioners.

fo. 154r (Witness 3), Thomas Goode of Redmarley D'Abitot, co. Worcester, esq, born there, aged about 53

To Dobbins's defence:

1-4. Dobbins's father, Randal Dobbins 'hath always had the reputation of a gentleman and so stiled and called'. The witness had heard that his own great grandmother was a Dobbins, and a kinswoman of Randal Dobbins.

Signed by Thomas Good and by the three commissioners.

To Stepkin's interrogatories:

1. He had known Dobbins for many years and was related as above.

Signed by Thomas Good and by the three commissioners.

fos. 155r-156r (Witness 4), Henry Hyett of St John in Bedwardine, co. Worcester, gent, lived there for 12 years, born at the New Place, in Rodley, in the Forest of Dean, in the diocese of Gloucester, aged about 42

To Dobbins's defence:

1-4. Dobbins's father was 'reputed amongst men for the most parte to be a gentleman and of an ancient family'. The witness had a bond dated 1548 in which Roger Dobbins of Newent, co. Gloucester was styled a gentleman. The witness believed Daniel Dobbins was descended from this family. The witness also had a deed or release dated 10 June 1550 in which William Bridgeman of Mitcheldean, co. Gloucester, gent, released lands in Dymock, co. Gloucester to John Dobbins of Longden, co. Worcester, gent. The witness believed that this John Dobbins 'was elder brother of the halfe blood to William Dobbins, father to Randall Dobbins' and grandfather to the defendant. The witness also had a deed of release dated 17 August 1550 in which Richard Brayne of Little Dean, co. Gloucester, esq, released lands in Dymock to John Dobbins, then of Dymock 'and therein styled gentleman'. The witness also had 7 or 8 counterpart leases, one of which was dated 20 July 1550, 5 were dated 1569, in which Giles Dobbins was styled a gentleman, and the son of John Dobbins of Longdon. The witness had an inquisition after the death of one John Dobbins, son to Giles Dobbins, in which this John was styled gentleman. Daniel Dobbins 'is a gent of good life and conversation and hath land and living in Worcestershire', worth £320 per annum.

Signed by Henry Hyett and by the three commissioners.

To Stepkin's interrogatories:

1. He had known Dobbins for 14 years.

2. The witness was a gentleman and related to but not dependent upon Dobbins. The witness was taxed in the last subsidy and for ship money, but could not remember how much. He was worth over £500 with his debts paid.

8. As witness 2.

Signed by Henry Hyett and by the three commissioners.

fos. 156r-v (Witness 5), Elias Arche of Kidderminster, co. Worcester, clothier, born there, aged about 60

To Dobbins's defence:

1-4. He had known Dobbins for 6 years, during which time Dobbins had lived like a gentleman 'in good ranke, quality and condicon... and hath been and is lord of parte of the manor of Kidderminster', worth over £250 per annum, 'besides as much more in revercon'. Dobbins had tenants there and kept courts leet and baron. The witness said Dobbins 'was a gentleman borne as he believeth... Daniel is a man of good life and conversation, a charitable minded man to releeve the poore and ever since he purchased parte of the manor, he hath freely and liberally given towards the maintenance of the poore of Kidderminster, twelve pounds per annum; and Daniel Dobbins is a gentleman well beloved of all his neighbours.'

Signed by Elias Arche and by the three commissioners.

To Stepkin's interrogatories:

2. He was taxed 4 shillings at the last subsidy and 10 shillings for ship money. He was worth over £200, with his debts paid.

7. He knew everyone mentioned in the interrogatory and believed they would all speak the truth.

Signed by Elias Arch and by the three commissioners.

fos. 157r-v (Witness 6), Nathaniel Eston of Kidderminster, co. Worcester, clerk, BA, lived there for 12 years, born at Newton, co. Northampton, aged about 40

To Dobbins's defence:

1-4. He had known Dobbins for 4 years, during which time he had lived like a gentleman and had been lord of part of the manor of Kidderminster, which was worth over £250 per annum. Dobbins had many tenants, kept courts there, and was charitable, giving £12 per annum to the poor. Dobbins was 'of good life and conversation', and the witness had never heard him called anything other than gentleman.

Signed by Nathaniel Eston and by the three commissioners.

To Stepkin's interrogatories:

6. He knew John Baker and James Button and deposed that they were honest men who would not depose untruly. He knew several men in Kidderminster called Edward Hill and Henry Baker, but said they were all likewise honest men.

Signed by Nathaniel Eston and by the three commissioners.

fos. 157v-158r (Witness 7), Walter Kirle of Dymock, co. Gloucester, gent, born at Shobdon, co. Hereford, aged about 39

To Dobbins's defence:

1-4. Dobbins's mother was descended from the Abrahells and the Kirles 'being gentlemen of ancient descent'. She was likewise of kin to the families of Lord Scudamore, Harleys, Crofts, Blunts and Barrowes, all ancient Hereford families. He had known Dobbins's father for 30 years, during which time he lived 'in good credit and estimacon and every man did call and title him gentleman'.

Signed by Walter Kirle and by the three commissioners.

To Stepkin's interrogatories:

2. The witness was 'cosen german' to Dobbins.

8. As witness 2.

Signed by Walter Kirle and by the three commissioners.

fos. 158r-v (Witness 8), John Hyett of Newent, co. Gloucester, gent, born at the New Place, in Rodley, in the Forest of Dean, in the diocese of Gloucester, aged about 62

To Dobbins's defence:

1-4. He knew the defendant's father, Randal Dobbins for 50 years, during all which time he was 'reputed to be a gentleman and a man of good life and conversation'. Randal and Daniel Dobbins were never styled otherwise than gentlemen. Randal Dobbins 'lived in good creditt' and 'by his good indeavours hath done much good to end controversies between party and party'.

Signed by John Hyett and by the three commissioners.

To Stepkin's interrogatories:

1. He had known Dobbins for 12 years.

2. The witness was a gentleman and related by marriage to Dobbins 'but in what degree he doth not now remember'. The witness was taxed in the last subsidy at £3 and he was worth £30 with his debts paid.

8. As witness 2.

Signed by John Hyett and by the three commissioners.

fos. 158v-159r (Witness 9), Arnold Collwall of the city of Gloucester, notary public, lived there for 55 years, born at Newent, co. Gloucester, aged 66

To Dobbins's defence:

1-4. He had known William Dobbins and Randal Dobbins, the defendant's grandfather and father for 60 years, during which time 'they were allwaies accompted, reputed and taken and stiled gentlemen and never heard them stiled otherwise'. Randal was reputed a 'man of honest life and good conversation', well 'esteemed amongst the better sorte of the gentlemen', 'very charitable to the poore and a peacemaker amongst his neighbours'.

Signed by Arnold Collwall and by the three commissioners.

To Stepkin's interrogatories:

2. The witness was a gentleman and related to Dobbins 'but in what degree he doth not now remember'. The witness was taxed 10 shillings for ship money. He was worth £100 with his debts paid.

Signed by Arnold Colwall and by the three commissioners.

fos. 159v-160v (Witness 10), Philip Dobbins of Newent, co. Gloucester, born there, aged about 40

To Dobbins's defence:

1-4. 'Daniel Dobbins and his predecessors have lived in as good rank and fashion as any men in the county of Gloucester *of their rank* as they are gentlemen of an ancient family and so always stiled themselves both by writings and otherwise and so do continue to this present without exception or contradiction until this suite began.' He had seen the deed and bond 'to the allegations and commission exhibited *annexed*'. The deed concerned Dobbins's ancestors and the witness delivered it to Dobbins. He also saw a deed dated 20 September 1553 in which Dobbins's grandfather, William Dobbins, was styled a gentleman. He had seen another deed dated 1553/4 in which a younger brother, Alexander Dobbins, was styled a gentleman. He had also seen a licence of alienation under the great seal of England, dated 1559, where Dobbins's grandfather was again styled a gentleman. He had seen another deed dated at Newent on the feast of St Lawrence the Martyr, 1444, which mentioned Guy Dobbins of Compton Green in the parish of Newent, the great, great grandfather of Dobbins. He had also seen a survey of Newent in 1561 in which Dobbins's grandfather was styled a gentleman. He had heard that Randal Dobbins 'was some times bredd up in the University of Oxford'.

Signed by Philip Dobbins and by the three commissioners.

To Stepkin's interrogatories:

1. He had known Dobbins since his birth.

2. The witness was a gentleman 'as he believeth', and brother to Dobbins but not dependent upon him. The witness was taxed 20 shillings for ship money, but was now rated at 50 shillings. He was worth £500 with his debts paid.

5. He believed Dobbins had arms properly belonging to the family.

Signed by Philip Dobbins and by the three commissioners.

fos. 160v-161r (Witness 11), Thomas Dabitott of Redmarley D'Abitot, co. Worcester, born there, aged 66

To Dobbins's defence:

1-4. Daniel and Randal Dobbins were accounted gentlemen by all, and their ancestors had lived in good rank and fashion. The witness had seen a deed dated 1409, in which one of the defendant's ancestors living in Dobbins Place, at Pauntley, co. Gloucester, was named gentleman. The witness held several deeds dated from 1521 which showed that Dobbins's predecessors were gentry.

Signed by Thomas Dabitott and by commissioners Leigh and Moore.

To Stepkin's interrogatories:

1. He had known Dobbins since he was born.

2. The witness was a gentleman and was related to the defendant because his grandmother was a Dobbins, 'but in what degree of kindred he knoweth not'. He was taxed at £4 in lands at the subsidy, and rated at 19 shillings for ship money. He was worthy £1,000 with his debts paid.

8. As witness 2.

Signed by Thomas Dabitott and by commissioners Leigh and Moore.

fos. 161r-162v (Witness 12), Randolph Dobbins of Newent, co. Gloucester, gent, born there, aged about 80

To Dobbins's defence:

1-4. He was the defendant's father, who over 60 years ago was a student in St Mary Hall in Oxford. The family had been gentry for over 120 years, and styled themselves gentlemen in their writings. This was never questioned until this suit began. The mother of this witness's wife was descended from a Mr Warmecombe of co. Hereford, esq, on her father's side, and from the Bromwiches, ancient esquires, on her mother's side. The deed and bond to the allegation attached to the commission were true, and they concerned his ancestors. His grandmother was descended from the Abrahalls and Radhalls on her father's side. He had a deed dated 20 September 1553, in which his father, William Dobbins, was styled a gentleman. He had seen another deed of 1553/4 in which Alexander Dobbins, his grandfather's youngest brother, was also styled a gentleman. He also had a licence of alienation dated 1562 in which his father William Dobbins was styled gentleman. He believed that Guy Dobbins was his great grandfather. The witness's wife was a Kirle by her father's side 'and cosen jerman to Baronett Kirle now living in Herefordshire. 'All which deeds and writings were delivered to Philip Dobbins his sonne.'

Signed by Randal Dobyns and by commissioners Leigh and Moore.

To Stepkin's interrogatories:

1. He had known the defendant, his son, since he was born.

2. He was a gentleman taxed at £4 in lands during the last subsidy, and paid 50 shillings for ship money. He was worth about £500 with all his debts paid.

3. His son 'was never a haberdasher, but only a merchant in London and elsewhere.'

4. His son 'liveth in London as a merchant and gentleman'.

5. Negative.

6. His son was descended from Guy Dobbins, and he and his father were always reputed gentlemen.

7. Negative.

8. 'All grand jury men at the assizes are called gentlemen whether they be so or not.'

9-10. Negative

Signed by Randal Dobyns and by commissioners Leigh and Moore.

fos. 162v-163v (Witness 13), Edward Hooke of Pauntley, co. Gloucester, gent, born there, aged about 59

To Dobbins's defence:

1-4. He had known Randal Dobbins for 45 years, 'an honest man of good life and conversation', who was always styled, written and called a gentleman upon all the occasions the witness met him.

Signed by Edward Hooke.

To Stepkin's interrogatories:

1. He had known Daniel Dobbins for over 30 years.

2-3. He and Daniel Dobbins called each other cousins, but he knew not 'of what degree of kindred' they were. He was taxed at £5 in lands at the last subsidy, and was taxed in several places for ship money, but cannot remember how much. He was worth £500 with his debts paid.

4. Daniel Dobbins lived as a merchant in London.

5. He had heard Daniel Dobbins had arms, but he had not seen them.

6-7. Negative.

8. As witness 2.

9. Daniel Dobbins was entitled gentleman before he bought any land, while his father and grandfather were 'reputed and taken to be gentlemen of an ancient family'.

Signed by Edward Hooke.

fos. 163v-164r (Witness 14), John Barker of Kidderminster, co. Worcester, gent, born in the parish of St John in Bedwardine, co. Worcester, aged about 30

To Dobbins's defence:

1-4. Daniel Dobbins was lord 'of parte of a faire and goodly manor and other possessions' in co. Worcester, valued at £400 per annum, on which he had tenants 'that doe suite and service at the court leet and court baron there'. Dobbins was 'well beloved of his neighbours and is a charitable minded man to the poore'. For the last 3 years he had given the poor of Kidderminster £12 per annum 'besides other giftes in corne and otherwise'.

Signed by John Barker and by commissioners Leigh and Moore.

To Stepkin's interrogatories:

1. He had known Daniel Dobbins for 4 years.

2. He was Daniel Dobbins's servant.

3-6. Negative.

7. He knew all the parties in the interrogatory to be men 'of good life and conversation'.

Signed by John Barker and by commissioners Leigh and Moore.

Cur Mil II, fo. 164v, Notary public's certificate

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

14 March 1637/8.

Notary's mark.

Sentence / Arbitration

13/2s, Kings of Arms' Report

To Thomas, Earl of Arundel, Earl Marshal:

'Whereas your lordship was pleased by your order made in the court of chivalrie 9 May last to command us to certifie what we beleve of the veritie, validitie or invaliditie of certaine evidences, instuments and exhibits, as allsoe of an escochen of armes exhibited on the part of Daniel Dobbins in a cause wherein John Stepkin, gent., is plainteif against Daniel Dobbins; and whether the escochen of armes do by hereditary right belong unto Dobbins; and by what right Dobbins doth call himself esquire and assume the name of esquire.'

'May it please your lordship, in obedience to your lordship's order and directions we have maturely considered of all the premises and do humblie certifie your lordship that we do not find any thing exhibited in court or otherwise produced before us, that Daniel Dobbins is, or any of his auncestors were gentlemen of coate armour; yet we find that his grandfather and some others of his name inhabiting about the place where his father now dwelleth were written gentilmen in divers evidences. And we do not fynde the escochen of armes produced by Dobbins in court to belong to him, or his ancesters; nor that he Dobbins hath any right to call himself esquire or to assume the name or title of esquire.'

Dated at the Office of Armes, 1 June 1638.

Signed by John Borough, Garter, William Le Neve, Clarenceux, Henry St George, Norroy.

R.19, fos. 174r-v, Kings of Arms' Report

As 13/2s.

13/2y, Plaintiff's sentence

Having no right, Dobbins had taken to himself arms that were not properly his, and had wrongfully assumed the titles of 'gentleman' and 'esquire'. He was ordered to make a submission and fined £20 and £30 costs.

No date.

No signatures.

13/2o, Plaintiff's bill of costs

Easter term, 1637: £8-6s-10d

Trinity term, 1637: £5-6s-8d

Vacation: £19-3s-4d

Michaelmas term, 1637: £12-14s-8d

Hillary term, 1637/8: £4-10s-6d

Vacation: £10-11s-8d

Easter term, 1638: £12-8s

Trinity term, 1638: £5-6s-8d

Total: £78-13s-4d

Signed by Arthur Duck.

Taxed at £30.

Signed by Arundel and Surrey.

7/24, Defendant's petition to Arundel

'Whereas, upon an information exhibited in the court military by John Stepkin against the peticoner for writing himselfe esqr. and assuming a coate of armes, your lordship was pleased by a just sentence to declare that the peticoner ought not to assume that title, nor to beare that coat of armes, and by the sentence was ordered to pay his Majestie twenty pounds for a fine and thirtie pounds to the relator, for his costs, to all which he doth most humbly submit, renouncing the title of an esqr. and disclayming the use of the armes till he shall make better title thereunto.

But soe it is may it please your good lordship that, albeit the heralds never denied that the peticoner and his ancestors were gentlemen, and have not onely been soe in reputacon but by ancient deedes and writings in the tymes of H.4., H.8., Ed.6., Queen Mary and Q. Elizabeth, have been so called and stiled. Nevertheless the peticoner is now required by Stepkin (whose malice hath not end or lymitt), in performance of a sentence (which the peticoner presumes your lordship never pronounced) in the most ignominious and disgracefull manner that can be imagined at the open sessions at Worcester in the face of the whole country to confesse himselfe and all his ancestors to be plebeians, and not gentlemen, with many other things in the sentence mentioned.

May it therefore please your lordship, the premises considered, to give order that the execucon of the sentence (for soe much as concernes the publique acknowledgement therein mentioned) may be suspended till he shall endeavour to make it appeare to your lordship that he is a gentleman of ancient discent, which he doubte not but he shalbe well able to prove. And whereas the peticoner for his defence exhibited divers deeds a,nd writings by which he proves his discent and birth, he humbly alsoe prayeth that your lordship wilbe pleased to order that the same may be delivered backe againe unto him.

And lastly he most humbly beseecheth your lordship to be informed of the cause and motives of this suite and by yourself, or any other whom your lordship shall appoint, whither he have wronged [Stepkin] or any other gentleman in the premises, upon proofe whereof he will make any further satisfaction. If it doe appeare upon reviewe of the sentence and sight of the petitioner's proofes and exhibits that the peticoner is a gentleman of ancient discent, that then your lopp. wilbe graciously pleased that the sentence which lyes soe heavy upon him and his whole family, and wilbee an indeleble blemish to them and theire posterity, may be taken off the file and cancelled.

And the Peticoner shalbe bound to pray andc.

23 December 1638

In regarde the peticoner is so confident to prove himselfe a gentleman of ancient discent, lett the execution of the sentence (for so much thereof as concernes his acknowledgment at the sessions) be suspended until I give further order therein, and lett his evidences nowe remaining in courte be delivered unto him, and lett him have tyme to make the proofe hee offers until the first day of Easter tearme next.'

Introduced 30 January 1638/9.

Signed by Arundel and Surrey.

EM126, Defendant's petition

Dobbins styled himself as a merchant of London, and Stepkin as of Wapping, co. Middlesex.

Petitioned that Stepkin had preferred a bill in the Court of Chivalry against the petitioner 'for that he hath bin written esq. in some pretended deeds and writeings by him executed.' Dobbins asserted that he had never claimed any title beyond that of merchant as will be seen (inter alia) 'in the late visitation of London remayning in the office of armes.' He complained that Stepkins called him 'base stincking clowne, and hath layed in his libel that neither your petitioner nor his ancestors have bin or be accounted gentlemen, but plebeians, the contrary of which your petitioner humbly conceiveth he hath sufficiently proved and can make appeare.' He petitioned that Stepkin had commenced the suit 'uppon mere spleen', submitted himself and prayed for censure.

No date

1/5, fo.75, Debt schedule

Schedule of the debts of Daniel Dobbins subscribed by Charles Tooker.

Summary of proceedings

Dr Duck acted was counsel for Stepkin and Dr Tooker for Dobbins. There were early proceedings on 14 October, and on 31 October 1637 Dr Tooker produced as witnesses Arnold Whitfield and Richard Bollington. On 18 November Dr Duck petitioned for a hearing and on 28 November the court examined letters from the Kings of Arms concerning Stepkin's arms, with Mr Philpott, Somerset Herald, mentioned. There were further proceedings on 2 December 1637 and on 27 January 1638 a certificate from the King of Arms concerning the gentility of Dobbins was presented. Dr Duck pressed the court to move to sentence at the next hearing, but Dr Tooker asserted the need to hear witnesses was delayed because of plague in the city of Worcester. On 3 February 1637/8 the court was to hear the verdict on renewing the commission for the city of Worcester, with Gilbert Havers, Robert Abbott, Joseph Manley, and Henry Smith mentioned as witnesses and William Norris and John Andrewes referred to as necessary witnesses for the defence who lived in Worcester. Dr Duck again argued that this retarded process. On 12 February the verdict of Sir Henry Marten was heard concerning a fine for delaying the process and then the commission for hearing of witnesses on behalf of Dobbins was nominated, with Dr Tooker nominating Peter Leigh, Stephen Richardson and Thomas Parry, gents, and with Dr Duck nominating Caleb Moore and Thomas Boyes, gents, to sit in the King's Head in Newent, co. Gloucester, from 13 to 15 March 1638. There were further proceedings on 20 November and 28 January 1639, in which Dobbins was required to certify his gentility in order to avoid the submission.

Notes

For another account of this case see, G.D. Squibb (ed.), Reports of Heraldic Cases in the Court of Chivalry, 1623-1732 (London, 1956), pp. 30-33; F.W. Steer (ed.), A Catalogue of the Earl Marshal's Papers at Arundel Castle (London, 1964), p. 21.

Stepkin did not appear in the Visitations of London. Daniel Dobbins of London, merchant, was mentioned in the 1634 Visitation of London as the son of Randall Dobbins of Newent, co. Gloucester, and Ursula, daughter of Robert Kirle of Walford, co. Hereford, esq. Daniel married Ursula, daughter of Robert Waller of Beaconsfield, co. Buckingham, esq.

J. J. Howard and J. L. Chester (eds.), The Visitation of London, 1633, 1634 and 1635, vol. I (Publications of the Harleian Society, 15, 1880), p. 234.

The pedigree of Daniel Dobbins was entered at the Visitation of London in 1633-4 (College of Arms ms C.24, fo. 258). Arms and crest were drawn in trick on the page, and below the drawing is written: 'granted by Wm. Camden Clar. [Clarenceux] to Mr Dobbin but respited for further proofe'. The arms and crest appear in four or five entries in College of Arms' registers having been confirmed by Camden in May 1616 to a man resident in Westminster, whose first name is not given; at least two of these entries record the surname as Dobbinson. It is clear the heralds making the Visitation required further proof of Dobbins' entitlement to arms, and the statements made during the Court of Chivalry case suggest that he had not provided such proof.

The editors are grateful to Miss Carol Hartley for the above passage.

Documents

  • Defendant's case
    • Defence: Cur Mil II, fo. 167 (28 Nov 1637)
    • Letters commissory for the defence: Cur Mil II, fo. 168 (3 Feb 1638)
    • Letters substitutional for the defendant: Cur Mil II, fo. 169 (8 Feb 1638)
    • Act: Cur Mil II, fos. 165-6 (12 Feb 1638)
    • Plaintiff interrogatories: Cur Mil II, fo. 150; 14/1ff (Eas 1638)
    • Defence depositions: Cur Mil II, fos. 151-64 (13 Mar 1638)
    • Notary public's certificate: Cur Mil II, fo. 164v (14 Mar 1638)
  • Sentence / Arbitration
    • Kings of Arms' Report: 13/2s; R.19, fos. 174r-v (1 Jun 1638)
    • Plaintiff's sentence: 13/2y (no date)
    • Plaintiff's bill of costs: 13/2o (Tri 1638)
    • Defendant's petition to Arundel: 7/24 (23 Dec 1638)
    • Defendant's petition: EM126 (no date)
    • Schedule of the debts of Daniel Dobbins: 1/5, fo. 75 (no date)
  • Proceedings
    • Proceedings before Arundel: 8/26 (14 Oct 1637)
    • Proceedings before Maltravers: 8/27 (14 Oct 1637)
    • Proceedings before Maltravers: 8/28 (31 Oct 1637)
    • Proceedings before Arundel: 7/20 (31 Oct 1637)
    • Proceedings before Maltravers: 8/29 (18 Nov 1637)
    • Proceedings before Maltravers: 8/30 (28 Nov 1637)
    • Proceedings: 8/30 (2 Dec 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)
    • Proceedings before Maltravers: R.19, fos. 400v-412v (20 Nov 1638)
    • Proceedings before Maltravers: 1/9 (28 Jan 1639)

People mentioned in the case

  • Abbott, Robert
  • Abrahell (also Abrahall)
  • Adams, John, notary public
  • Andrewes, John
  • Arche, Elias, clothier
  • Baker, Henry
  • Baker, John
  • Barker, John, gent
  • Barrowe
  • Blunt
  • Bollington, Richard
  • Borough, John, knight (also Burrough)
  • Boys, Thomas, gent (also Boyes)
  • Brayne, Richard, esq
  • Bridgeman, William, gent
  • Bromwich
  • Button, James
  • Button, John
  • Collwall, Arnold, notary public
  • Croft
  • Dabitott, Thomas (also D'Abitot)
  • Dethick, Gilbert, registrar
  • Dewe, Richard
  • Dobbins, Alexander, gent
  • Dobbins, Daniel, merchant
  • Dobbins, Giles
  • Dobbins, Guy
  • Dobbins, John, gent
  • Dobbins, Philip
  • Dobbins, Randolph, gent (also Dobbins, Randal)
  • Dobbins, Ursula
  • Duck, Arthur, lawyer
  • Eston, Nathaniel, clerk
  • Good, Thomas, esq (also Goode)
  • Harley
  • Havers, Gilbert
  • Hill, Edward
  • Hooke, Edward, gent
  • Howard, Henry, baron Maltravers
  • Howard, Thomas, earl of Arundel and Surrey
  • Hyett, Henry, gent
  • Hyett, John, gent
  • Kempe, Gerrard, knight
  • Kirle, James, esq( also Kyrle)
  • Kirle, Ursula (also Kyrle)
  • Kirle, Walter, esq (also Kyrle)
  • Leigh, Peter, gent
  • Le Neve, William, knight
  • Manley, Joseph
  • Marten, Henry, knight
  • Moore, Caleb, gent
  • Norris, William
  • Parry, Thomas, gent
  • Philpott, Mr, herald
  • Radhall
  • Richardson, Stephen, gent
  • Scudamore
  • Seymour, George, knight
  • Smith, Henry
  • Stansbury, Henry
  • Stepkin, John, gent
  • Terrick, Humphrey, notary public (also Terricke)
  • Tooker, Charles, lawyer
  • Tudor, Edward VI, king
  • Tudor, Elizabeth I, queen
  • Tudor, Henry VIII, king
  • Tudor, Mary I, queen
  • Vaughan
  • Waller, Robert, esq
  • Waller, Ursula
  • Warmecombe, Mr, esq
  • Whitfield, Arnold

Places mentioned in the case

  • Buckinghamshire
    • Beaconsfield
  • Gloucestershire
    • Compton Green
    • Forest of Dean
    • Gloucester
    • Little Dean
    • Mitcheldean
    • Newent
    • Pauntley
    • Rodley
  • Herefordshire
    • Much Marcle
    • Shobdon
    • Walford
  • India
  • London
  • Middlesex
    • Stepney
    • Wapping
  • Muscovy
  • Northamptonshire
    • Newton
  • Oxfordshire
    • University of Oxford
  • Russia
  • Turkey
  • Worcestershire
    • St John in Bedwardine
    • Kidderminster
    • Redmarley D'Abitot
    • St Johns

Topics of the case

  • allegation of plebeian status
  • assizes
  • city company
  • coat of arms
  • Court of Wards
  • custom
  • denial of gentility
  • escutcheon
  • false claim to gentility
  • Herald
  • other courts
  • plague
  • ship money
  • taxation