1612, Robert Meverell petitions about his lands in Nottinghamshire

Robert Meverell, esquire. SP 14/68 f. 72 (1612)

To the right honourable Robert Earle of Salisbury Lord High Tresuror of England.

The humble peticion of Robert Meverell esquire.

Humbly sheweth unto your lordshipp that wheras a scire facias was directed unto the sheriffe of the county of Nottingham to summon the peticioner to shew cause why he should not give an encrease of rent or a fine for certaine landes in Darletonne in the saide county of Nottingham which he holdeth by custody from his majestie: it may please your lordship to be enformed that Sampson Meverell esquire, (father to your said peticioner,) and his auncestours were seised and (as their inheritance) have enjoyed contynually by the space of 300 yeares the capitall messuage of the mannor of Darleton aforesaid and certaine other landes and tenementes within the said mannour, as by antient deedes and charters may appeare. which said landes were demised by the said Sampson (not many yeares before his decease) unto certaine of the frindes of Elizabeth his then wife (now Lady Leighton) to her use for the terme of xxi yeares from the day of the date therof, and after the decease of the said Sampson were found by office to be holden of the late Quennes majestie (in capite) by reason wherof there was a wardship accrewed. During the minoritie of which warde, the said Lady Leighton (mother in lawe unto the saide warde), when the terme granted by her husband was more then halfe spente, compounded for a lease or custody of the said landes, and tooke it in her owne name, and being called into the court of wardes by the gardian of the said warde towching the same, it was then ordered by the right honourable the Lord Burleigh then Lord Treasurer of England, and master of that court, that the said lease or custody should be recalled and made voyd (according to a provisoe therin conteyned), and a newe lease therof granted unto the heire, as by the same order yet appeareth. The prosecucion of which sayd order was neglected by the heire (when he came unto full age) being confidently advysed by counsell that soe auntient a tytle would never be impeached, and therefore [seived?] his livery and soe lost the benefite of the same order. After which tyme your said peticioner (being unwilling to enter into troublesome and chargeable sutes and searches) did compound with the said Lady Leighton for her custody lease: not long after which composicion there were other severall custodies therof granted (one after another) with contynewall increase of rente, which your said peticioner likewyse bought in, to his great charge, and afterward surrendered all his interest and estate unto the Kinges majestie, (in the second yeare of his reigne), and caused a newe survey to be taken of the said landes (at his owne charge) and therupon tooke a newe custodye for xl yeares with a newe increase of rente hoping then fully to settle a quiet estate for his terme, yet neverthelesse is at this tyme called by the said writt of scire facias to make a newe composicion for the same eyther for further increase of rent or a fyne.

And therefore humbly prayeth that your honour wilbe pleased upon tender consideracion of the premisses, and in regard of his auntient right and his great charges he hath bene at and losse susteyned, to accept from him some reasonable encrease of rent or fyne for a terme of by lx yeares, leaving out the provisoe of si quis plus dare voluerit etc according to his majesties commission for that purpose granted unto your good honour and Sir Julius Caesar knight.

[paratext:] This gentleman deserveth favour as we thinke because he and his auncestors held the same as ther owne inheritance (and were in warde some of them for it) tyme out of mynde, untill about xxxviio Elizabeth at which tyme the first custodie was graunted as appeareth by the certificate of the clerke of the pipe, before which tyme the crowne had nothinge but a fee farme rent out of thereof.

The rent nowe by twoe late increases we fynd to be lxvi shillings viii pence per annum and he is contented to make his rent 6 pounds 13 shillings 4 pence and to pay C pounds for a fine for a lease for 60 yeares without proviso which we thinke reasonable if your lordship please to allowe of it, his case being considered

31 January 1611

James Altham
Walter [Cope?]

Report by Penny Bidgood

This petition at the beginning of 1612 is similar, although more detailed, to one submitted in December 1611.(1) In that Robert Meverell petitions Salisbury for a lease without the clause of “si quis plus dire volerit” (i.e. if a man is more willing to give) of certain lands in Darleton, Nottinghamshire. This followed a writ of “scire facias” (i.e. make known) issued by the sheriff of Nottingham, for Robert Meverell to explain why the rent should not be increased nor a fine levied.

At the time of the petition the Meverells had had custody of this and other lands for about 300 years. Their seat was at Throwley Old Hall,(2) now in ruins, in Staffordshire which was described in the 16th century as “a very ancient house of gentlemen and of goodly living”. In fact an Oliver de Meverell is reported to have settled in the area in 1203.
Robert Meverell was the last male of the line; he succeeded his father, Sampson(3), who was the son and heir of Francis Meverell (1514-1564) and grandson of George Meverell. Francis left Sampson, then 17, the manors of Throwley and Froddeswell in Staffordshire, Tiddeswell in Derbyshire and Darleton in Nottinghamshire(4), the latter the subject of the petitions. Sampson married twice, first to Margaret Trentham whom we assume was Robert’s mother and then to Elizabeth Hopton, who later remarried and became the Lady Layton (or Leighton), mentioned in the petitions and responses.

Robert Meverell died on 5 February 1626/27 and his tomb can be found in the Church of the Holy Cross in Blore Staffordshire (2). He is buried with his wife, Elizabeth who died on 5 August 1628. Their only child, also called Elizabeth, married Thomas, Lord Cromwell, a descendant of Thomas Cromwell, Chancellor to Henry VIII.

Salisbury’s response (1) to the first petition is to refer the matter to the Clerk of the Pipe, who at this time was Sir Arthur Mainwaring.

Sir Arthur Mainwaring (5) (c1580-1648) had been appointed as Clerk of the Pipes in 1610, which position he held until 1616. After graduating from Oxford, he was steward in the household of Sir Thomas Egerton and also became a courtier, serving as carver in the household of Henry, Prince of Wales from 1604. He was knighted in 1603 and became a member of the House of Commons from 1624 to 1626.

The Pipe Office(6) was a part of the English Exchequer and the Clerk was responsible for the pipe rolls on which government income and expenditure was recorded as credits and debits (5) ; it was only abolished in 1834. The pipe rolls also included information on wardships and feudal levies.

Two days later, on 13 December 1611, the Pipe Office replied (1) that according to information held in the pipe rolls the land mentioned in the petition was granted to Elizabeth, Lady Layton, in the 37th year of Elizabeth I’s reign ie 1595, for 21 years at a rent of 55 shillings 4 pence per year. Before that time Darleton and other property held by the Meverells at Ravenhall were charged together at the entire yearly rent of £14. Afterwards the lands were granted to Robert Meverell sometime in the reign of James for 40 years at a rent of 66 shillings 8 pence per year.
On 23 January 1611/12(1) Salisbury refers the matter to Sir James Altham and Sir Walter Cope to consider the matter and what they “think fit to be done”.

Both James Altham(7) and William Cope(8) trained as lawyers at Gray’s Inn and had successful careers.

Sir James Altham (c1555-1617) was the third son of another James Altham, a prosperous London merchant, and Elizabeth Blank, sister of a previous Lord Mayor of London. Altham had a distinguished career in the law, becoming a judge; he was also MP for Bramber in Sussex. In 1603 he was created serjeant-at-law and 4 years later was knighted. Later he became a baron of the exchequer which office he held for the rest of his life.

In 1570 Walter Cope (c1553-1614) became gentleman usher to William Cecil and four years later an official of the Court of Wards, where he dealt mainly with its financial aspects. In 1580 he became the Court’s feodary (ie an official appointed to receive rents) for Oxfordshire and in 1601 for the City of London and Middlesex also. These posts were lucrative as feodaries were paid a percentage of the revenue they brought to the court. Cope also bought wardships and thus gained financially from managing wards’ lands. He was a trusted friend of Robert Cecil and knighted by James I. He built Cope Castle (later renamed as Holland House as his only surviving child, Isabel, married the Earl of Holland) and it was here that James I spent the night after the death of Prince Henry. So Sir Walter Cope was well connected. In 1609 he was made chamberlain of the exchequer; in 1611/12 public registrar-general of commerce and keeper of Hyde Park with Cecil. He became Master of the Court of Wards in 1612.

Altham and Cope responded on 31 January 1611/12 in Meverell’s favour, stating that the lands had been held in his family for generations until about the 37th year of Elizabeth I’s reign.

They recommended that the rent be increased to 66 shillings and 8 pence per annum and noted that Robert Meverell was willing to pay 6 pounds 13 shillings and 4 pence (i.e. twice the annual rent) and 100 pounds for a lease of 60 years.

We can only assume that Cecil took their advice and the matter was settled in Meverell’s favour.


(1) ‘James 1 – volume 67: December 1611’, in Calendar of State Papers Domestic: James I, 1611-18, ed. Mary Anne Everett Green (London, 1858), pp. 96-109. British History Online http://www.british-history.ac.uk/cal-state-papers/domestic/jas1/1611-18/pp96-109

(2) Wikipedia: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Throwley_Old_Hall

(3) The National Archives, PROB 11/72/372: Will of Thomas Trentham, https://discovery.nationalarchives.gov.uk/details/r/D924267

(4) Robert Thoroton, ‘Darleton, Ragnall and Kingshaugh’, in Thoroton’s History of Nottinghamshire: Volume 3, Republished With Large Additions By John Throsby, ed. John Throsby (Nottingham, 1796), pp. 233-235. British History Online http://www.british-history.ac.uk/thoroton-notts/vol3/pp233-235

(5) Wikipedia: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Arthur_Mainwaring

(6) Wikipedia: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pipe_rolls

(7) Ibbetson, David. “Altham, Sir James (c. 1555–1617), judge.” Oxford Dictionary of National Biography. 23 Sep. 2004. https://www.oxforddnb.com/view/10.1093/ref:odnb/9780198614128.001.0001/odnb-9780198614128-e-429

(8) Allen, Elizabeth. “Cope, Sir Walter (1553?–1614), administrator.” Oxford Dictionary of National Biography. 23 Sep. 2004. https://www.oxforddnb.com/view/10.1093/ref:odnb/9780198614128.001.0001/odnb-9780198614128-e-6257


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’.