Elizabethan Life: Disorder

By F. G. Emmison [Essex Record Office Publication No 56] Essex County Council, Chelmsford (1970), 354pp

Added by Pat Marsden

A volume in the main confined to felonies or lesser offences in Elizabethan Essex compiled from Essex Session and Assize Records; a number of entries relating to Wivenhoe are cited.

Presentments [the act of presenting to an authority a formal statement of a matter to be dealt with] by the Petty Sessions or High Constables’ Juries, 1562-1568
Seven men from Wivenhoe and Stanway were presented for selling bread, beer and other victuals without licence, one of whom also ‘keeps unlawful games, viz. (bowling) alleys, cards and slidethrift (shove-ha’penny)’, 1568, p32.

Sedition
In 1586, Edward Burges (sic) ‘minister of the Word of God of Wivenhoe parish church’ declared, ‘Let us also commend in our prayers my right reverend sister Elizabeth, by the grace of God of England, France and Ireland Queen, Defender of the Faith’. Asked what he meant, he replied that he was King Henry’s son and that she was his sister both by father and mother. Burges was vicar of Fingringhoe as well as rector of Wivenhoe from 1572 to his death in 1589, p54.

Libel and Slander
The Presentment of a Wivenhoe man took place in 1576 citing that he ‘is a common slanderer of his neighbours and bears himself evilly towards the constable’, for which he was fined 3s 4d – a typical though not frequent dual charge, p 66.

Arson
Alleged sorcery led to a fire on 10 March 1584. A barn (worth £30), a stable (£10), a cartload of hay (20s), a waggon with harness (£3), a saddle with harness (10s). and many unspecified domestic utensils (£5), all belonging to Edward Burgess, were burnt at Wivenhoe. The defendant was Edmund Mansell who is described as ‘of Fingringhoe yeoman alias of Feering, clerk’ (he was certainly not the incumbent of either). According to the indictment the outbreak was caused by Mansell exercising magic and incantation. The calendar of prisoners described him as ‘Edmund Mansell clerk – a witch’. At the same Assizes he was prosecuted for having used the same arts on Burgesse (sic) on 10 September 1581, causing him to languish for six months – the victim was the rector of Wivenhoe (1572-89), p98.

Murder and Homicide
Self defence as a factor of a homicide could result in a verdict of ‘manslaughter but not of malice aforethought’. Such a plea was certainly justified in the eyes of a coroner’s jury who met at Wivenhoe on 14 and 23 December 1566 to consider a violent incident there between two Wivenhoe men. One was ‘quietly going about his business’ near his house in the road called the ‘entry’, from the quay leading to Colchester. The other, intent on murder, ran up shouting ‘Whoremaster’ and attacking, The victim in self-defence, used his bill, killing the assailant instantly, p158.

Games and Sports: Shovegroat
In a Lexden petty sessions presentment of 1568, a Wivenhoe victualler maintained ‘unlawful games, to wit, alleys, cards and slidethrift’ [a predecessor of shoveha’penny], p 223.

Extracts by courtesy of Essex Record Office.

This page was added on 25/03/2017.

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