John Palmer c. Christopher Manser

In February 1487, John Palmer sued Christopher Manser over unpaid debts. The witnesses both testify that sometime during the first three weeks of Lent (February or early March) 1486 they heard Manser acknowledging that he owed money to Palmer and swearing an oath to repay a specific amount in the next two weeks. He presumably did not do so, and Palmer thus sued him for perjury or breach of faith for breaking his oath (the legal basis for debt suits in the Consistory court).

LMA, MS DL/C/A/001/MS09065, fols. 13v-14r

Testimony of Roger Carpenter, Witness for Plaintiff, 1487-02-23

On behalf of John Palmer c. Christopher Manser

23 February, in the year etc. [14]86[1]

Roger Carpenter of the parish of St. Katherine Crichurch of the city of London, where he has lived for four years or thereabouts, illiterate, of free condition, thirty-six years old or thereabouts, as he says. Inducted as a witness etc., he says that he has known John Palmer from the feast of Christmas a year ago, and Christopher Manser for a year or thereabouts. To the second article, he says that on a certain day in the first or second week of last Lent, which day this witness cannot otherwise specify, this witness was present in the dwelling-house of Christopher Manser in the parish of Tottenham, where and when, after Christopher, John Palmer, and the others in the house had a meal, John, in the presence of this witness, Thomas Martyn, and another old man whose name he does not know, asked Christopher when he would pay him the money that he owed him. The same Christopher answered that he did not have in ready money to pay John[2], but he asked him if he would accept oats and a quarter of wheat in partial payment of his debt, and although John said to him that he would willingly accept the wheat and oats as partial payment of the promised money, if Christopher would give his promise; he declared to him that many other times he had promised him and then afterwards had not fulfilled his promise. And Christopher swore on the faith of his body that that week or the next following the same John Palmer would have from him three quarters of oats and one quarter of wheat in partial payment of the aforesaid debt. And the same John said to him that he would subtract from the total of his debt according to what the grain would fetch at the common market. And moreover he says that since John Palmer was going back that same day to London, the same Christopher spoke to the same John Palmer, this witness, and Thomas Martyn at the Hermitage [3] […] in the public street in the parish of Tottenham, and there John said to Christopher that he would remember well the promise he had made earlier that day, and Christopher, taking him by the right hand, swore by his faith that he would faithfully fulfill that promise. This witness deposes these things from his own sight and hearing, as he says. To the third and fourth articles, he says that he knows nothing concerning their contents. To the fifth and sixth articles, he says that the things he said above are true, and concerning fame and the other contents of the articles he knows nothing.

[1] By modern reckoning, this is 1487; until the 18th century the new year started on 25 March rather than 1 January.

[2] MS: Christopher, scribal error for John.

[3] The Hermitage and Chapel of St. Anne was situated on the high street of Tottenham; the hermitage was a cell dependent on the monastery of the Holy Trinity in London. William Robinson, The History and Antiquities of the Parish of Tottenham, 2 vols., 2nd ed. (London: Nicholls and Son, 1840), 1:16 (online).


Testimony of Thomas Martyn, Witness for Plaintiff, 1487-02-23

Thomas Martyn of the parish of St. Katherine aforesaid, brewer, where he has lived for fifteen years, illiterate, of free condition, thirty-six years old or thereabouts, as he says. Inducted as a witness etc., he says that he has known John Palmer for four years and Christopher Manser for a year or thereabouts. Questioned further regarding the second article of the libel, he agrees with Roger Carpenter examined above, except that he says that these doings were in the second or third week of last Lent. To the third and fourth articles of the libel, he says that he knows nothing concerning their contents. To the fifth and sixth articles of the libel, he says that the things he said above are true, and concerning fame he knows nothing.

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