1602, Edward Hall petitions against his imprisonment for treasonous words

Edward Hall, prisoner in the Gatehouse at Westminster. SP 12/283a f. 100 (1602)

To the right worshipfull Master Cooke her majesties attornie generall.

In most humble manner sheweth unto your worshippe your poore oratour Edwarde [Hall.we?] prisoner in the gatehouse at Westminster: that whereas your said oratour was this last Thursdaie beinge the iiiith of this [instant?] Marche, before the right honourable the Lord Keeper, and examined by his lordship upon such causes as your worshippe saied could be objected [againest?] him your said oratour by witnesses which matter and all other touchinge your oratours allegeaunce, your oratour utterly denieth [and?] will deny the same unto death the wordes objected againest your oratour unto his honour and your worshippe by your [oratours?] accusers onely excepted) soe it is right worshipfull that my Lord Keeper upon the hearinge of the matters objected [againest?] your oratour ys readie to dischardge your orator yf your worshippe doe and will consente thereunto. May it therfore please your worshippe in consideracion aswell of your oratours great chardges beinge in prison as [also?] for that your oratours master is keeper of the castle of Wisbich in the county of Cambridge and hath many [recognizaunces?] to be ingrossed and certified unto the assises to be holden at Ely within these three weekes next ensuinge, [beinge?] in bookes and loose papers under your oratours custodie beinge the said keepers clearke to graunte your oratour a full [dischardge?] or upon his sufficient bonde your worshipps licence to departe into his countrey to certifie the forsaid [recognizaunces?] to save his master harmeles concearninge the same and your oratour will retourne againe, and appeare before [your?] worshippe at a daie by your worship to be lymited to answere to all such matters as nowe or in the meane while [illegible] his apparaunce shalbe objected againest him and your oratour shall daily pray to God for the prosperous estate of your worship in life and health longe to continewe to the helpe and succour of all poore and distressed people.

Report by Keith Baldwin

There is some evidence that Edward Hall was a porter at Wisbech Castle[1] imprisoned for reputedly uttering words favouring popery[2] in 1595, initially interrogated at Wisbech Castle by his newly appointed master William Medeley (aka Medley) and later questioned at Westminster Gatehouse in March 1596[3] by General Coke.

At this time Wisbech Castle[4] was holding 33 religious prisoners, mainly Catholics, and a total of 111 have been accounted for.[5]

Hall revealed that the catholic priests imprisoned at Wisbech received regular visitors and monies for maintenance which included plenty of wine! He was also questioned regarding an escape about which he provided detail. He points to Williams, “his greatest enemy”, as his accuser and reveals he is destitute.

The above petition dates some 6 years later and it is unclear if he has been in prison for the whole time. It has not been possible to ascertain the outcome of this petition.


From the little contemporary evidence it is just possible to determine a few facts. Hall was a relatively young man (as his father is still alive) and neither has any money with which to secure his release from jail.

William Medley was appointed keeper of Wisbech Castle in May 1594,[6] introducing a more lax regime[7] which Hall might have had difficulty coming to terms with. Could it be that “Williams”, his enemy, was in fact William Medley and he did not get on with him at all? If conversation in the tavern by Hall was at all critical of the new regime it is quite possible that Medley saw an opportunity to get rid of him as he was effectively judge and jury (first interrogation 1595).

The second interrogation seems to reveal that Hall is being used as an informant on the inside revealing the method of escape and visitors to the recusants. He reaffirms his innocence and points again to Williams, in this case not having made any report.

The only other evidence is the 1602 petition which would appear to indicate that Edward was still employed at Wisbech Castle. This would imply that he had been released after March 1596 but again imprisoned at a later date – reason unknown. Clearly there are records somewhere which might fill in the gaps, for instance, state papers on or after 31st March 1596; 4th March 1602 Edward Hall questioned by Lord Keeper; and State Papers on or after 10th March 1602.



[1] John Morris (ed.), The troubles with our catholic forefathers related by themselves: second series (1875), pp. 250 and 268

[2] ‘Queen Elizabeth – Volume 255: December 1595’, in Calendar of State Papers Domestic: Elizabeth, 1595-97, ed. Mary Anne Everett Green (London, 1869), pp. 138-148. British History Online, http://www.british-history.ac.uk/cal-state-papers/domestic/edw-eliz/1595-7/pp138-148.

[3] ‘Queen Elizabeth – Volume 256: March 1596’, in Calendar of State Papers Domestic: Elizabeth, 1595-97, ed. Mary Anne Everett Green (London, 1869), pp. 180-196. British History Online. https://www.british-history.ac.uk/cal-state-papers/domestic/edw-eliz/1595-7/pp180-196

[4] T D Atkinson, Ethel M Hampson, E T Long, C A F Meekings, Edward Miller, H B Wells and G M G Woodgate, ‘Wisbech: Recusants in the castle’, in A History of the County of Cambridge and the Isle of Ely: Volume 4, City of Ely; Ely, N. and S. Witchford and Wisbech Hundreds, ed. R B Pugh (London, 2002), pp. 252-253. British History Online.  https://www.british-history.ac.uk/vch/cambs/vol4/pp252-253

[5] Francis Young, ‘The Catholic Prisoners at Wisbech Castle’ https://drfrancisyoung.com/2015/08/04/the-catholic-prisoners-at-wisbech-castle/

[6] Two Elizabethan Treatises on Rhetoric: The Foundacion of Rhetorike, p. 20

[7] From the Archives: The Jesuits and Wisbech Castle. https://www.jesuit.org.uk/blog/archives-jesuits-and-wisbech-castle

This report is part of a series on ‘Petitioners in the reigns of Elizabeth I and James I, 1600-1625’, created through a U3A Shared Learning Project on ‘Investigating the Lives of Seventeenth-Century Petitioners’.