670 Walcott v Knott

The Court of Chivalry 1634-1640.

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'670 Walcott v Knott', in The Court of Chivalry 1634-1640, (, ) pp. . British History Online https://www.british-history.ac.uk/no-series/court-of-chivalry/670-walcott-knott [accessed 29 February 2024]

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Thomas Walcott of Algarkirk, co. Lincoln, gent v Thomas Knott of the same, notary public

February - October 1639


Walcott, assessor for the ship money rate for the parish of Algarkirk, Lincolnshire, complained that on 6 January 1638 at an assessment meeting in the parish church, Knott had 'said I was a sherke and a cheater, and a bugg beare, and had as little reason in me as a dogg, and did cheat the towne, and fedd my fatt guts with wine and tobacco, like a base sherke and cheater'. Knott acknowledged having spoken the words - or something like them - but insisted that he had been provoked by the 'unjust and vexatious dealinge' of Walcott in refusing to pay the rent he owed him and then unfairly assessing him for ship money. Dr Exton presented the libel on 21 February 1639 and Walcott's witnesses were examined by Basil Berridge, rector of Algarkirk and George Caborne, gent, on 30 April 1639 at the Crown Inn, Boston, Lincolnshire. Knott, a notary public, was hindered from examining witnesses by his imprisonment in Lincoln Castle until 31 August 1639.After that he and Walcott had attempted to settle the quarrel by the arbitration of local gentry, but apparently with little success since on 12 October the witnesses for Knott were ordered to be examined by a commission headed by Thomas Ogle, esq., 29-31 October 1639 in the White Hart Inn, Spalding, co. Lincoln. No further proceedings survive.

Initial proceedings

Acta (4), fo. 238, Libel

Thomas Walcott came from an ancient family that had been gentry for up to 200 years. He complained that Knott 'said I was a sherke and a cheater, and a bugg beare, and had as little reason in me as a dogg, and did cheat the towne and fedd my fatt guts with wine and tobacco, like a base sherke and cheater'.

No date.

Signed by Thomas Exton.

R.19, fo. 25r, Summary of libel

'Walcott and his ancestors for above 200 yeares past is and have bin gentlemen of an ancient family. And that Knott said that Walcott was a sherke and a cheater and a buggbeare, and had as little reason in him as a dogg, and did cheate the towne and fedd his fatt gutts with wine and tobacco, like a base sherke and cheater, thereby to provoke and c.'


No signature.

Plaintiff's case

Acta (4), fo.239, Letters commissory for the plaintiff

Addressed to commissioners John Nixon, clerk, Basil Beridge, clerk, Henry Loune, gent, George Caborne, gent, and also, William Lockton, esq, Thomas Bale, esq, John Oldfield, esq, and Humphrey Robinson, gent, to meet from 30 April to 2 May 1639 at the Crown Inn, Boston, co. Lincoln.

Dated 21 February 1639.

Gilbert Dethick appointed Thomas Maydwell, to be the notary public for the hearing.

Acta (4), fos. 232v-234v, Plaintiff's depositions

Taken before Basil Berridge, rector of Algarkirk and George Caborne, gent, commissioners, at the Crown Inn, Boston, co. Lincoln, on 30 April 1639, with Thomas Maydwell, as notary public.

fos. 233r-v (Witness 1), Edmund Hopkins of Algarkirk, co. Lincoln, yeoman, born there aged 25

To Walcott's libel:

On 6 January 1638 in Algarkirk parish church, Thomas Knott said that Thomas Walcott 'was a sherke and a cheater, and lookt as bigg as a bugbeare, and that he had as little reason in him as a dogg, and that he did cheate the town and fedd his fatt guts with wine and tobacco, like a base sherke and cheater at the town's charge'. These words were spoken 'in a violent angry manner by Thomas Knott without any provocation or affront given him' by Walcott, in the presence of this witness, Matthew Clerke and Anthony Row and 'other persons of credit'. Knott repeated some of the scandalous words against Mr Walcott, and the witness believed that if the words 'had been spoken out of the church they might have provoked any man to quarrel or fight' with Knott.

Signed by Edmund Hopkin, the two commissioners and the notary public.

fos. 233v-234r (Witness 2), Matthew Clarke

To Walcott's libel:

2. Was in church at Christmas time, 1637, 'att a meeting for the taxing of ship money', where he heard Knott tell Walcott 'that he kept monie of the townes in his hands and made no accompt of it, but fedd his fatt guts with it; and upon the speaking of these words this witness, fearing that Walcott and Knott would fall into more words and angry speeches, withdrew himself out of the church and heard none of the rest of the speeches mentioned in this article, to his best remembrance.'

Signed by Edmund Hopkin, and by the two commissioners.

fos. 234r-v (Witness 3), Anthony Roe of Algarkirk, co. Lincoln, yeoman, born in Helpringham, co. Lincoln, aged 39

To Walcott's libel:

2. Thomas Knott 'in or about twelfth day in anno dm. 1637, according to the stile of the Church of England, did in the parish church of Allgerkerke, where divers of the parishioners were met to tax ship money, did say and afform in a cholericke passionate manner that Tho. Walcott, gent, was a sherker and a cheater, and a bugbeare, and had no more reason in him than a dogg, and fedd his fatt guts with wine and tobacco like a base sherking fellow, at other men's charges and cheated the town'. He was 'present for all the time of speaking the premises, knoweth that Mr Walcott did not give or return any ill language as provoking speeches to or against Thomas Knott; and the premises in this witness's deposition were spoken in the presence of this witness, his fellow witnesses Edmund Hopkins and Matthew Clarke, and other persons of credit, but whether they tooke notice of the words this witness knoweth not.' If the scandalous words had 'been spoken out of the church they would have provoked most men to quarrel with him that should have spoke such words against them.'

Signed by commissioners Anthony Roe, Basil Beridge, George Caborne, and Thomas Maydwell, notary public.

Acta (4), fo. 235, Notary public's certificate

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

Also signed by commissioners Basil Beridge and George Craborne with their seals

Notary public's mark.

Dated 30 April 1639.

Defendant's case

13/3o, Defence

1. Walcott's witnesses were his relatives and household servants, capital enemies to Knott, who could be brought to depose untruthfully.

2. Knott claimed that if he used any of the words in the libel of Walcott it was 'only by way of interrogacon and communicacon with Walcott, I, Knott, being twentie miles distant from Algerkirk and cominge thither at a meeting concerninge the rateinge of the ship money and for rente due to mee by Walcott in which rate and detaininge of my rente I conceaved myselfe abused. And I, desireinge the recognisance and just taxacons to be redressed, and my rentes to bee paid, I used these wordes following to Mr Walcott: Mr Walcott goe come hither to sesse the shipp money; I could wish you could carrie a better conscience with you in sessinge then heretofore you have; doe to other men as you would bee done to yourself and not to shirke and shift of yourself from bearing charge suitably but to impose buthensome taxes uppon me. And when you goe about the towne's occasions you are verie free to call for wine, beare and tobacco to feast your fatt guttes withall, which is but a base trick of you soe to doe; you have noe more reason or conscience then a dogge to sesse me soe deepe and yourselfe at soe litle a rate. You domineare over the townsmen and sesse tham at your pleasure and carrie greate sway like a bugbeare[sic], with wordes or the like in effect. I spoke in sudden passion being thereunto provoked by the unjust and vexatious dealinge of Mr Walcott, who hath used all meanes to impoverish mee both in deteyninge my rents and imposinge or causinge excessive and unjust rates or taxes to bee laid uppon mee'

3. At the time when these words were alleged to be spoken 'divers persons of the better sorte, and others of good creditt of the parishe of Algerkirke, were presente and heard and attended the language and passages between Thomas Walcott and Thomas Knott; and they did not nor could not heare mee utter anie other wordes then are in the next precedente article menconed, and in my aunswers confessed, nor in anie other sorte or manner. And if I had used anie other wordes they could not but have heard the same, they beinge verie neare us and observinge all the wordes that passed betwene us. And neither did I utter the wordes to disparage and disgrace Thomas Walcott, but beinge in greife and passion to vindicate the injurie formerly done and prevente future greivances. And neither was Thomas Walcott anie waies injured or disparaged by the words, and soe the persons then present did understand and conceave of the same.'

4. On the basis of this Knott sought justice.

No date.

Signed by Charles Tooker.

19/2b, Defence

1. For the last 3 years, Walcott had been Knott's tenant, leasing 7 acres, but had still not paid him any rent.

2. In the last 3 years, ship money had been levied on the parish of Algarkirk, where Thomas Knott owned lands and tenements, and Thomas Walcott held a messuage and 60 acres. Walcott was an assessor for setting the rate, and caused Knott to be taxed at 37 shillings for his 28 acres, while only taxed himself at 14 shillings, despite owning 60 acres; 'and this he did of purpose to grieve and injure me, Thomas Knott, because I had moved and urged Walcott to pay the rentes in arreare due to me.'

3. If Knott did use the words in the libel, he 'did not speake and pronounce the same as they are laid, but only by way of interrogation and communication with Walcott, I, Knott, then living about twentie miles distant from Algarkirk and coming thither to a meeting concerning the rateing of ship money, and desiring the grievance and unjust taxation to be redressed where I used these words following to Mr Walcott: Mr Walcott what time of the year do you use to pay your rente? You will neither pay rents, sessements or other debts without suites? What is your meaning so to doe? Doe you meane to sherke or cheate me of my rent? Why do you carry yourself in such a way that noe man dare speake to you to aske their owne at your hands like a bugbeare? And when you sessed the ship money about two yeares since you unconscionably sessed me at thirty seaven shillings that occupied but twenty eight acres of ground at the moste, and you had then threescore acres of ground in your owne occupation and sessed yourself but fourteen shillings, wherein I conceive you had no more reason than a dogge so to do being against equitie and conscience. And when you are about the towne's affaires you deceive the towne's officers to unnecessary charges and care not what you spend on beare and tobacco and wine if it be to be had to feed your fatt gutts withal, which words I spake in sudden passion being thereunto provoked by the unjust and vexatious dealings of Walcott, who hath used allwaies to impoverish me, both in detaining my rents, and imposing or causing excessive and unjust rates and taxes to be laid upon me in my absence.'

4. At the time of the pretended words several 'persons of the better sort and others of good credit' in the parish were present, and they did not hear him say any other words than those above. And if he had used any other words, they would have heard him as they were very near and heard all that passed between him and Walcott. 'Neither did I utter the words to disparage or disgrace Thomas Walcott but being in grief and passion to vindicate the injuries formerly done and prevent future grievances. Neither was Thomas Walcott anie wayes injured or disparaged by the words and soe the persons then present did understand and conceive of the same.'

5-6. In Latin.

Dated 1639.

Signed by Charles Tooker.

19/2a, Letters commissory for the defendant

Addressed to commissioners Thomas Ogle, esq, John Oldfield, esq, Basil Berridge, clerk, rector of Algarkirk, and Robert Ram, clerk, and also, Maurice Williams, gent, Henry Lonn, gent, George Caborne, gent, and John Nickson, clerk, to meet in a cause of scandalous words provocative of a duel from 29 to 31 October 1639 in the White Hart Inn, Spalding, co. Lincoln.

Humphrey Terricke assigned as notary public

Dated 12 October 1639.

17/5d, Affidavit

Knott was a notary public, and aged about 46. He made oath that, after he gave his defence and a commission was decreed for examining his witnesses upon his defence during last Trinity term, to be returned on the first court day of Michaelmas term, he was hindered from taking out this commission by being imprisoned in Lincoln castle until 31 August last. Since then he and Mr Walcott had 'oftentimes beene in treatie of peace and of referringe the cause to the determination and ending of divers gentlemen in the countrie.'

Dated 12 October 1639.

Signed by Thomas Knotts.

19/2c, Plaintiff interrogatories

'The interrogatories of Mr Thomas Walcott to bee opened by the Commissioners at the tyme of speedinge this Comission'.

1. The witnesses were warned of the penalty for perjury and bearing false witness.

2. Did the witness live of their own or depend upon another? How much were they worth in goods with their debts paid? How much were they taxed at the last subsidy to the King?

3. Was the witness a household servant or retainer to Knott? Was the witness a relative to Knott, and if so, in what degree? Whom did they favour in this cause and to whom would they give the victory if it were within their power?

4. Was the witness requested or compelled to testify and had they received or been promised expenses for doing so?

5. Had there been discord or controversy between the witnesses and Walcott?

6. Had the witness spoken with anyone concerning their testimony? Had they been directed or instructed how to depose? If so by whom and how, and what had been said?

No date

Signed by Thomas Exton.

Summary of proceedings

Dr Exton acted as counsel for Walcott and Dr Tooker and Dr Sweit for Knott.On 21 February 1639 Tooker and Swett appeared on behalf of Knott, and Dr Exton presented the libel. Dr Tooker and Dr Sweit denied the libel and a commission was appointed.


Thomas Walcot of Walcot and Algarkirk (b.1598), was the son of William Walcot of Walcot and Agnes, daughter of Paul Leeke of Hardwick. He married Bridget, daughter of Mr Littlebury of Hagworthingham.

A. R. Maddison (ed.), Lincolnshire Pedigrees (Publications of the Harleian Society, 52, 1904), vol. 3, pp. 1032-3.


  • Initial proceedings
    • Libel: Acta (4), fo. 238 (no date)
    • Summary of libel: R.19, fo. 25r (1638)
  • Plaintiff's case
    • Letters commissory for the plaintiff: Acta (4), fo. 239 (21 Feb 1639)
    • Plaintiff depositions: Acta (4), fos. 232-4 (30 Apr 1639)
    • Notary public's certificate: Acta (4), fo. 235 (30 Apr 1639)
  • Defendant's case
    • Defence: 13/3o (no date)
    • Defence: 19/2b (1639)
    • Letters commissory for the defendant: 19/2a(12 Oct 1639)
    • Affidavit: 17/5d (12 Oct 1639)
    • Plaintiff interrogatories: 19/2c (no date)
  • Proceedings
    • Proceedings before Arundel: 1/6, fos. 20-33 (21 Feb 1639)

People mentioned in the case

  • Bale, Thomas, esq
  • Berridge, Basil, rector
  • Caborne, George, gent
  • Clarke, Matthew, yeoman
  • Dethick, Gilbert, registrar
  • Exton, Thomas, lawyer
  • Hopkins, Edmund, yeoman
  • Howard, Thomas, earl of Arundel and Surrey
  • Knott, Thomas, notary public
  • Leeke, Agnes
  • Leeke, Paul
  • Littlebury, Bridget
  • Littlebury, Mr
  • Lockton, William, esq
  • Loune, Henry, gent (also Lonn)
  • Maydwell, Thomas, notary public (also Maidwell)
  • Nixon, John, clerk (also Nickson)
  • Ogle, Thomas, esq
  • Oldfield, John, esq
  • Ram, Robert, clerk
  • Robinson, Humphrey, gent
  • Roe, Anthony, yeoman (also Row)
  • Terrick, Humphrey, notary public (also Terricke)
  • Tooker, Charles, lawyer
  • Walcott, Agnes (also Walcot)
  • Walcott, Bridget (also Walcot)
  • Walcott, Thomas, gent (also Walcot)
  • Walcott, William (also Walcot)
  • Williams, Maurice, gent

Places mentioned in the case

  • Lincolnshire
    • Algarkirk
    • Boston
    • Hagworthingham
    • Hardwick
    • Helpringham
    • Lincoln Castle
    • Spalding
    • Walcot

Topics of the case

  • allegation of cheating
  • arbitration
  • debt
  • denial of gentility
  • office-holding
  • provocative of a duel
  • ship money
  • taxation
  • tobacco