Thomas Byrch c. Elizabeth Barker

The examinations in this case do not much concern the marriage case in question, in which (we can infer) Thomas Byrch claimed that he had made a contract of marriage with Elizabeth Barker three years before, which she denied; Christopher Rotherey, the first person examined, appears to have been organizing a solemnization of marriage with Barker, so he was perhaps also involved in the suit directly and certainly indirectly as a third party. Those three people, Rotherey, Barker, and Byrch, were brought before the court between November 1487 and April 1488 and questioned primarily about what was happening outside the court in relation to the case: allegations of harassment and violence towards the court’s officers. Rotherey indicates that he and Elizabeth Barker’s father, John, had made a move to arrest William Flory or Storey, Thomas Byrch’s master, ostensibly for debt; again to infer, Flory/Storey and Byrch had told the Consistory court that Rotherey and John Barker were doing this only to harass them (and it is indeed a suspicious coincidence!). Thomas Byrch’s examination gives some interesting information about the process of summoning a party or witness to the Consistory court: he evidently tussled with the summoner in the delivery of the notice of summons (the citation) and then he arranged for a scribe to make him a copy.

LMA, MSS DL/C/A/001/MS09065 and DL/C/A/001/MS09065B MS09065, 39r, 42r; MS09065B, 9v-10r

Testimony of Christopher Rotherey, Third Party, 22 Nov. 1487

Responses personally made by Christopher Rotherey, 22 November

Christopher Rotherey sworn etc. concerning the interrogatories etc. To the first, he admits all its contents. To the second, he believes that Elizabeth was cited by the apparitor of that Court. To the third interrogatory, he says the knows nothing concerning its contents, nor concerning any part of it. To the fourth interrogatory, he says that John Barker, the father of Elizabeth Barker, made for this witness a certain letter of attorney to arrest and attach William Story* because William had taken from him some of his money against his will and, by virtue of this, this witness had him arrested; he did not do this on occasion of the citation or the suit, and he would have arrested William Florey even if marriage had been openly solemnized between this witness and the foresaid Elizabeth, as he says, and he says that he had these letters of attorney before such a case was begun at the Consistory between the aforesaid parties. To the fifth interrogatory, he denies all its contents as far as it concerns himself.

*Note that his name appears as both William Flory and William Story in this and the following deposition.

Testimony of Elizabeth Barker, Defendant, 18 Dec. 1487

[NB: this folio (42r) is damaged and very difficult to read]

Responses personally made by Elizabeth Barker 18 December, in the house of the lord Official, in my, Richard Spencer’s, presence

Elizabeth Barker, sworn etc. on the positions etc. To the first position, she says that a certain Story, master of Thomas Byrch, about three [years] ago, spoke to this witness in [Roffington? word unclear] about whether she would accept Thomas as her husband, and she answered him then that she was not disposed to marry him or anyone else. And she does not believe its other contents. To the second, third, and fourth positions, she does not believe them nor that their contents are true. To the fifth position, she does not believe it nor that its contents are true. To the sixth position, she believes what is believed and does not believe what is not believed and does not believe the fame.

Responses personally made by the same Elizabeth on the contents [of the interrogatories]

To the first interrogatory, she admits its contents. To the second, she admits it and says that she was cited by virtue of the summons made about ten weeks ago to appear before the consistory of London. To the third interrogatory, she admits that William is and was the master of Thomas, and Thomas is his servant, and William made efforts on Thomas’s behalf. And she does not believe the other contents of the interrogatory. To the fourth and fifth interrogatories, she says that after the citation made to the witness and while the case was pending undecided, because William at another time, that is about three years ago, tried to kill this witness’s father and called him a false churl, this witness both in the name of her father and in her own name sought an action of security of peace against William, and she says that if William had done nothing against this witness in the aforesaid cause this witness […] would still have attempted the aforesaid action as quickly as she could to have his person as then at this time [….] as she says. And she denies the other contents of the position.

Testimony of Thomas Byrch, Plaintiff, 17 Apr. 1488

17 April 1488, in the Consistory of London, before the lord Official, in my, Richard Spencer’s, presence

Responses personally made by Thomas Byrch

Thomas Byrch, sworn etc. on the interrogatories etc. To the first and second interrogatories, he admits their contents and says that on the feast of the Annunciation of the blessed Mary [25 Mar.] last past, Stephen Folton, having certain folded letters in his hand, cited this witness in a certain lane next to the hospital of the College of St. Anthony, to appear before the Official of London, for which day he does not recall, in the presence of Sir Gilbert, Sir John Philip, a certain man named Turvey, and others. To the third interrogatory, he responds negatively to all its contents. To the fourth interrogatory, he says that after the citation of this witness, this witness immediately said, “Who made thee a summoner? Let me see thine authority, if it be lawful I will obey it.” And because Stephen refused to give him the citation, this witness, saying “I will see it and thee no leave,” put his hand on the citation to take it away from him, Stephen holding on to the citation, and they pulled back and forth until the seal was twisted, folded, and broken, and thus this witness grabbed the citation from him, the two still tugging back and forth, and this witness said, “Let me see, it if it be lawful I will obey it.” And thus Stephen gave this witness the citation and after he had seen it, he said that he would obey it, and he asked for a copy of the same citation, and he gave it back to Stephen, who gave it to John Coke to write a copy. On that same day John gave this witness the original citation and since then he has had it in his custody and has it at present. And he responds negatively to its other contents. To the fifth interrogatory, he says that after the execution of the citation, John Coke in the name of the mandatory [a Consistory court official] requested this witness to give him back the citation, and this witness said to him that he did not have the citation with him to give him right away. Who was there present he does not now recall. To the sixth interrogatory, he says as he said above, and to its other contents he responds negatively.

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