John Croke c. Agnes Hill

The surviving testimony for this suit is incomplete, but reveals some interesting things about a marriage between two offspring of London’s civic elite. In February 1487, John Croke sued Agnes Hill to enforce a marriage contract. The only complete testimony is from John Dawes, likely Agnes Hill’s cousin, and concerns a skuffle that took place when one of the court’s summoners approached Agnes Hill to summon her formally to court. Agnes Hill’s own examination, unfortunately, is incomplete.

Both John Croke and Agnes Hill came from the highest tier of London’s mercantile families. Agnes Hill’s father, Sir Thomas Hill, had been mayor of London in 1484-85 (dying in office in 1485) and Croke’s father, also deceased, had been an alderman. Other evidence indicates that at the time of this lawsuit Agnes was still underage – and that the two did eventually marry, though not until about four years later. This was an advantageous marriage for Croke, as he was a younger son and Agnes Hill a significant heiress. John Croke’s relationship with the Hill family continued to be hostile even after their marriage, as he disputed with Agnes’s brother regarding her marriage portion. See McSheffrey, Marriage, Sex, and Civic Culture, 118.

1487-02-03, LMA, MS DL/C/A/001/MS09065 13r, 251v

Testimony of John Dawes, Summoned for impeding the defendant’s citation to court/defamation, 1487-02-03

Responses personally made by John Dawes, 3 February, in the home of the lord Official, by him, in my, Spencer’s, presence

John Dawes sworn etc. on the interrogatories etc. To the first and second interrogatories, he says that last Sunday a certain man whose name he does not know, in the public street near the aqueduct in Cheap,[1] cited Agnes Hill to appear before Master Thomas Ian in the church of St. Paul in London on the third day following, to respond to the matter between Croke and her. But at the time of this citation he [the summoner] did not show to Agnes any citatory order. There were present at the time of the citation this witness, Agnes, Lady Elizabeth Hill (Agnes’s mother), William Hill, James [blank], Sir Robert Harrison, Nicholas Lamberd, a certain servant of the Lady Elizabeth named Margaret, and Elizabeth Hill[2], and none others as he recalls. And to the other contents he responds negatively. To the third and fourth interrogatories, he admits that after the execution of this citation and because of it, this witness spoke the words contained in the third interrogatory. And afterwards this witness called Croke a knave, because the mandatary[3] said thus, “that be too much for thy Master to say” and this witness responded, “I shall prove him a knave and he that saith the contrary I shall prove it on him.”

[1] Cheapside, a street and market in London.

[2] Likely Agnes’s sister Elizabeth rather than a mistaken repetition of Agnes’s mother’s name (see Calendar of Letter Book L, 238, 249).

[3] Unfortunately, we don’t know what those words were: they were presumably defamatory in some way.

[3] Court official who delivers the court’s orders or mandates; in this case, a synonym for summoner.

Testimony of Agnes Hill, Defendant, undated: on or near 1487-02-03

Summary: After being sworn, this deposition cuts off.

Agnes Hill sworn etc. to say the truth concerning […] between her and John Croke and all things touching or concerning her.

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