Margaret Shewyn alias Howsyn c. Adam Bagby

This is a case of disputed inheritance and whether legacies made by oral bequest were to be honoured even when not specified in the testament. Margaret Shewyn’s witnesses testified that Elizabeth Smyth had several times orally bequeathed to her a bed, a blue gown, and a blue girdle or belt decorated with silver, but Elizabeth’s executor Adam Bagby had not given them to Margaret when she asked (or at least not all of them). Bagby answered that he did not consider himself obligated as these items were not specified in her testament.

LMA, MS DL/C/A/001/MS09065, fols. 240v-242r, 245r

Deposition of Adam Bagby, Defendant, 18 Nov. 1495

Responses personally [made] by Adam Bagby on the positions

Adam Bagby sworn and examined on the positions etc. To the first and second positions, he admits that Elizabeth Smyth while she lived drew up a testament or last will, in which she named and constituted this witness as her executor, and he does not believe the other contents. To the third position, he admits its contents. To the fourth, fifth, and sixth positions, he admits their contents. To the seventh and eighth positions, he says that the said Margaret Shewyn often asked this witness to hand over and deliver to her that legacy, that is the gown and girdle, and this witness responded that he was not bound to give it to her because it was not specified in the deceased’s testament, and he does not believe the other contents. To the ninth position, he believes what is believed and does not believe what is not believed, and he does not believe the fame.

Deposition of Ann Tailour, Witness for the Plaintiff, 29 Nov. 1495

On behalf of Shewyn c. [Bagby]

Penultimate day of November

Ann Tailour, wife of a tailor, of the parish of St. Clement Eastcheap in the city of London, where she has lived for eight years, illiterate, of free condition, twenty-eight years old, as she says. Sworn as a witness etc., she says that she has known Margaret Shewyn alias Howsyn for eight years, and Adam Bagby for the same time, and Elizabeth for six or seven years before her death. To the first article of the libel, she says that she knows only that one hundred times within the two years before Elizabeth’s death, and especially within the four months preceding her death, this witness heard Elizabeth, both in Margaret’s dwelling house and in Elizabeth’s, [saying] that she gave Margaret one of her gowns, blue in colour, lined with shanks,1 and a silk girdle [belt], blue in colour, decorated with silver. And she says that on the last days before her death, she heard Elizabeth asking Margaret whether it would displease her if Elizabeth wore the gown while she was still alive, and that she would do her best not to do damage to the gown, and if she did, she would arrange to have it mended. And otherwise she knows nothing to testify regarding its contents. To the second and third articles, she says that their contents are true as far as she has heard, and because she knows well that it was Adam who administered the goods of the deceased as if he were her executor. And otherwise she knows nothing to depose. To the fourth, fifth, and sixth articles, she says that their contents are true and regarding them she refers herself to the laws. To the seventh and eighth articles, she says that she heard that [Margaret] asked the executor to hand over the bequest, that is the girdle and the gown, and that the executor agreed to give her the gown, but not the girdle. And otherwise she knows nothing to depose. To the ninth article, she says that what she said above is true and that public voice and fame circulated and circulate about it in the parish of St. Clement and other neighbouring parishes. To the first interrogatory, she says as she said above. To the second interrogatory, she says that she was asked by Margaret and at her own expense has come to offer testimony of the truth, and she does not care which party loses and she does not care about the victory as long as justice is done. And to its other contents she responds negatively. To the third interrogatory, she responds negatively to all its contents. To the fourth and fifth interrogatories, she says what she said above, and otherwise she knows nothing to depose.

Deposition of Elizabeth Dixson, Witness for the Plaintiff, 29 Nov. 1495

Elizabeth Dixson of the parish of St. Clement aforesaid, [where she has lived] for five years, and before that time in the parish of St. Leonard [Eastcheap or Foster Lane] for nine years, illiterate, of free condition, forty-seven years old, as she says. Sworn as a witness, etc., she says that she has known Margaret Shewyn alias Howsyn for five years, Adam Bagby for twenty years, and Elizabeth Smyth for twenty years before her death. To the first article of the libel, she says that on a certain feast day between about the hours of nine and ten pm, this witness was present in Elizabeth’s home together with Margaret Shewyn and Elizabeth Ree, where and when Elizabeth, lying at night on her death bed, disposed and bequeathed to Margaret a bed lined with fox, and a blue gown lined with shanks, and a silver girdle, which this witness deposes from her own sight and hearing. To the second and third articles, she says that their contents are true as far as she has heard, and because Adam administered and still administers the goods of the deceased. To the fourth, fifth, and sixth articles, she says that their contents are true. To the seventh and eighth articles, she says that on the last feast of St. Paul [30 June] in St. Clement’s church, Margaret asked Adam to give over to her the legacy, that is the bed, gown, and girdle, and the executor agreed to give her the gown and nothing else, and otherwise she knows nothing to depose. To the ninth article, she says that what she said above is true, and that public voice and fame circulated and circulate in the parish of St. Clement regarding it. To the first interrogatory, she says as she said above. To the second interrogatory, she says that she does not care which party loses, nor does she care about the victory as long as justice is done. And she responds negatively to its other contents. To the third interrogatory, she responds negatively to all its contents. To the fourth and fifth interrogatories, she says as she said above, and otherwise she knows nothing to depose.

Deposition of Thomas Tailour, Witness for the Plaintiff, 29 Nov. 1495

Thomas Tailour of the parish of St. Clement aforesaid, where he has lived for ten years, illiterate, of free condition, thirty-three years old, as he says. Sworn as a witness etc., he says that he has known Margaret Shewen for seven years, Adam Bagby and Elizabeth Smyth for the same time, before her death. To the first article, he agrees with the first witness examined above. To the third and fourth articles, he says that their contents are true as far as he has heard. To the fifth and sixth articles, he says that their contents are true and he refers himself to the laws. To the seventh and eighth articles, he says that Margaret, as he heard, asked Adam to pay and hand over to her the legacy, which Adam refused, except that he would agree to the gown, but not the girdle. And otherwise he knows nothing to depose. To the ninth article, he says that what he said above is true and that public voice and fame circulated and circulate about it in the parish of St. Clement. To the first interrogatory, he says as he said above, and he says that he is of the craft of tailors. To the second interrogatory, he said that he was asked by Margaret and at his own expense came to give testimony of the truth, and he does not care who loses the case, nor does he care about the victory as long as justice is done. To the third interrogatory, he responds negatively to all its contents. To the fourth and fifth interrogatory, he says as he said above. And otherwise he knows nothing to depose concerning their contents.

Deposition of Elizabeth Slee, Witness for the Plaintiff, 29 Nov. 1495

Elizabeth Slee of the parish of St. Clement aforesaid, where she has lived from the time of her birth and where she was born, illiterate, of free condition, thirty-nine years old, as she says. Sworn as a witness [etc.], she says that she has known Margaret Shewyn for nine years, Adam Bagby for twenty years, and Elizabeth Smyth from the time of her childhood. To the first article, she agrees with the first witness examined above. To the second and third articles, she says that their contents are true as far as she has heard. To the fourth, fifth, and sixth articles, she says that their contents are true. To the seventh and eighth articles, she agrees with the first witness. To the ninth article, she says that what she said above is true and that public voice and fame circulated and circulate about it in the parish of St. Clement. To the first interrogatory, she says as she said above. To the second interrogatory, she says that she was asked by Margaret and came to offer testimony at her own expenses, and she does not care which party loses nor about the victory as long as justice is done. To the third interrogatory, she responds negatively to all its contents. To the fourth and fifth interrogatories, she says as she said above.


1. Shanks: Fur from the legs of animals, especially goats and sheep, used to trim garments. (The manuscript here has “skanks,” an alternative spelling in the 15th century, and later “shanks”.)

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