Agnes Waltham c. Richard Heth

Agnes Waltham sued Richard Heth in 1487 to enforce a marriage contract she said they had made. Testimony reveals some interesting evidence about neighbourhood surveillance of relationships: one of the witnesses, John Gosnell, said that he had confronted Heth about his improper visits to Waltham’s house and pressured him into contracting marriage with her in front of several men.

LMA, MS DL/C/A/001/MS09065 12v-13r

Testimony of John Gosnell, Witness for Plaintiff, 1487-01-31

Summary: Testifies that he told Richard Heth that he could not visit Agnes Waltham so frequently unless he intended to marry her, after which he witnessed, along with Roger Colard, John Hale, and Thomas Webbe, Heth and Waltham contract a future marriage.

On behalf of Agnes Waltham c. Richard Heth

The penultimate day of January in the home of the lord Official, and by him

John Gosnell of the parish of Leyton [Essex], London diocese, where he has lived for four years, illiterate, of free condition, forty-four years old, as he says. Inducted as a witness concerning the libel etc., he says that he has known Agnes Waltham for three years, and Richard Heth for a year or thereabouts. To the first article of the libel, he says that within three or four days before the last feast of All Hallows [1 Nov.], which day he cannot otherwise specify, he was present in Agnes’s dwelling-house, situated at Walthamstow [Essex]. There and then, because it was publicly said in the parish that Richard too suspiciously frequented Agnes’s house, this witness said to him that he would not have such frequent recourse to her unless he knew whether he wished to have her as his wife or not. And at length in the presence of Roger Colard, John Hale, and Thomas Webbe, Richard said that Agnes was his wife and then this witness said to him thus: “Richard, will thou have Agnes to thy wife?” And Richard, taking her by the right hand, said, “By my faith and troth, I will have her and forsake all other women as long as our lives last.” And then she took Richard by the right hand and said to him, “And I will have you to my husband, and all other men forsake, for as long as our lives last, and therto I plight you my troth.” This witness deposes these things from his own sight and hearing, as he says. To the second article, he says that its contents are true, as public voice and fame circulated and circulate in the parish. To the third article, he says that the things he has deposed above are true, and concerning them public voice and fame circulated and circulate in the parish of Walthamstow, as he says.


Testimony of Roger Colard, Witness for Plaintiff, 1487-02-01

First day of February in the home of the lord Official, in my, Richard Spencer’s, presence

Roger Colard of the aforesaid Walthamstow, where he was born and has lived since birth, illiterate, of free condition, thirty years old, as he says. Inducted as a witness etc., he says that he has known Agnes Waltham for two years, and Richard Heth for a year or thereabouts. To the first and second articles of the libel, he agrees with John Gosnell examined above. To the third article of the libel, he says that the things that he said are true, and public voice and fame circulated and circulate concerning them in the parish of Walthamstow and other neighbouring places, as he says.

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