1614, Samuel Willingham complains about men taking his corn and ploughing up his land

Samuell Willingham, clerk, parson of Stayn, Lincolnshire. SP 14/77 f. 29 (1614)

To the right honorable Sir Lawrence Tanfeld knight Lord Cheife Barron of his majesties Exchequor.

The humble peticion of Samuell Willingham clerk parson of Stayn in the countie of Lincoln.

He most humbly sheweth unto your lordship that whereas he hath bene [a?] long sutor in his highnes court of Exchequor for this xxitie yeares, for [certain?] landes in Hotoft in the countie of Lincoln, belonging to him in the right of his [illegible] reccory of Stayn a fore said, and having obtayned a decree in the sayd court and part of for the same landes being fownd by jury, certifyed accordingly, and sundry [illegible] a warded for the quyet enjoying therof

Notwithstanding John West one of the defendantes, wyth one Andrew Gedney and Thomas Stevenson servant unto the sayd West, in August or September last dyd in forr in [formable?] [illegible] and violent manner assalt and cast down your sayd orator, and in forcible manner did take and carry a way your said orators corne, being barly about 3 shockes of barly, and not so contented, but seweth your orators assignee for in the spirituall court for carrying the rest, which sute hath conty newed this year and a half to the utter undoing of your said orator and his assignee:

Also one Robert Hastinges of Hotoft a foresaid sonn of Robert Hastinges one other of the defendantes lykwise, being a very disquyet and troblesom person (as appeared at the assizes being found a common barrator, and an extorcioner) hath very maliciously caused certain of your suppliantes ley grownd to be plowed upp and sowed wyth oates and carryed part of yt a way, and this peticioners assignees carrying the rest he hath indited them for it. And more over hath sewed [illegible] your suppliantes assignee at the comon law, being a poor man destitut of meanes to mainteine sutes.

Your peticioner being a poore old man and destitut of mayntenance humbly beseecheth your lordshipp to take spedy order for his releif as to your grave wysdome shall seeme fytt, and he shall duly pray for your lordships long health and prosperity

And having obtayned a decree in the said court for the enjoying of the same landes wherof part being found by jury, and certifyed accordingly, for asmuch as your sayd orator cannot sett forth the resydue by butting and bownding therof a great part therof is held from your peticioner and he being a poore man old man, impotent and over weryed wyth suites is not able to wager law.

He humblye beseecheth your lordshipp to be pleased to call the deteyners into your honours court of Exchequor to shew such evidences as they have concerning the same landes etc

[paratext:] [Graunt an?] injunction to [illegible] both [ther…?] sutes [illegible] and to cause the same to be read this [illegible] [ex…?]

Report by Janette Storey

This petition is summarised in the Calendar of State Papers as follows: ‘Petition of Sam. Willingham, Parson of Stane, co. Lincoln, to Lord Chief Baron Tanfield, for protection against John West and others, who, having failed in a suit to deprive him of certain lands in Hotoft, co. Lincoln, persecute him in the enjoyment thereof.’

Sir Lawrence Tanfield

Sir Lawrence Tanfield from J.A.R. Marriott, The Life and Times of Lucius Cary, Viscount Falkland (1907)

The petition is addressed to the Lord Chief Baron of the Exchequer, Sir Lawrence Tanfield, appointed in 1607.[1]  He was born in 1551, the eldest son of Robert Tanfield of Burford. He was educated at Eton and then in 1569 Inner Temple. He was called to the bar and made a career under the patronage of MP and the Queen’s Champion, Sir Henry Lee of Ditchley.[2] Tanfield was elected as a Member of Parliament for Woodstock from 1584.[3] He had a fairly unremarkable time as an MP. His legal appointments progressed from Serjeant at Law in 1603, judge of the King’s Bench in 1606, to Chief Baron of the Exchequer.

Tanfield Memorial, commemorating Sir Lawrence Tanfield and his second wife Elizabeth Evans, in the Church of St John the Baptist, Burford, erected 1628

He purchased the manors of Burford and Great Tew. He married twice, and his second wife was Elizabeth Evans. Tanfield gained a reputation for corruption. His second wife was accused of taking bribes to influence her husband. The Tanfields also gained a reputation for treating their tenants harshly. In 1620 Lady Tanfield made threats to the tenants to “play the devil”. Lawrence Tanfield died on 30 April 1625. The couple were remembered  with loathing and hatred long after their deaths. There is a story of their ghosts in a fiery coach causing death to those who sight them. One redeeming feature was Lady Tanfield’s will that left alms money for six  poor widows each Christmas. She also commissioned a grand monument in Burford church in 1628.

Samuel Willingham

No record of Samuel Willingham’s origins has been found. He is estimated to have been born about 1550. He was a sizar student[4] at St John’s College, Cambridge in 1568. He matriculated with a B.A. in 1574/75.[5] He was ordained as a priest 4th March 1579/80 at the Bishops Palace, Peterborough by Bishop Edmund Scrambler[6]. He was initially appointed as rector of Water Newton, Huntingdonshire, on 10 May 1580.[7] He held this post until at least 1606.

In addition on 13 January 1584/5 Willingham was also appointed rector of Stain (Stayn, Stane), Lincolnshire. It is not possible to determine if this was a hamlet in Withern parish Lincolnshire, 4½ miles NNW of Alford[8] or up the coast from Huttoft, at Mablethorpe with Stane as listed by the Clergy of the Church of England Database. However the latter was not created as a separete ecclesiastical parish until 1660.[9] His patron is listed as Queen Elizabeth. In 1592 as he was responsible for the two parishes of Water Newton and Stain, a curate and notary was appointed at Water Newton to represent him at official meetings, synods, etc.[10] Later in his career, 1614, he was also recorded as being curate at Markby, Lincolnshire. He describes himself as a clerk parson.[11] The clergy were described as clerks (in holy orders).  Incumbents were responsible for spiritual guidance of the parishioners and held the benefice. Usually the rector, known colloquially as a parson received a tithe of the crops and grain, hay and timber from the parish, income was also derived from land associated with the church.

Disputes often arose from this practise. Samuel Willingham was involved in several and he seems to have been quite litigious. Some cases are mentioned in the State Papers of Elizabeth I and James I. Ironic as he later accuses Robert Hastings (junior) of being a barrator, i.e. one who instigates frequent and often groundless lawsuits. In 1601 Willingham claimed reimbursement for monies spent regarding works on fen drainage.[12] A lease of the tithes of the demesnes of land in Water Newton  was the subject of Chancery proceedings in 1590,[13] instituted by Christopher Smythe against Samuel Willingham, the rector, and Martin Furnilow. Willingham later pursued Christopher’s heir, one Millicent Smith (Smyth) in 1606 [14] for unpaid tithes. Another case in Stane parish concerned Gavin Shipwith in 1611[15] brought before the bishopric of Lincoln.

The petition of 1614 concerns lands at Hotoft, now Huttoft, near the coast of Lincolnshire. Proceedings had been going on long before that. In 1604/05 Willingham was the plaintiff against Thomas Houghton[16], John West and Robert Hastings in a deposition heard at Alford on 12th February concerning the “Parsonage of Staine and the lands of the late Sir Marmaduke[17] and Sir Robert Constable[18] [in the town of Huttoft], attainted; whether such lands paid rent to the parsonage? Metes and bounds of the land  and survey of the same. [The name of Richard White, clerk, late parson of Staine is mentioned]”[19]. Robert Constable was the son of Sir Marmaduke, the latter was loyal to Henry VIII but an insurrection in Yorkshire and refusal to meet the King, Henry VIII, afterwards caused him to be executed at Hull on 6 July 1537 and hanged in chains over Beverley Gate, Hull.

The result of the 1604/5 petition is recorded in 1608.[20] The King’s Remembrancer instructed the defendants to hand over possession of the disputed lands to Samuel Willingham as parson of Stain. The land was to be surveyed and records of the proceedings were annexed and it was recorded that Willingham leased the land to Thomas Payne, of Beseby, Lincoln.

By the time the 1614 petition was written Samuel claims to be a poor old man. He would be in about his mid sixties. John West one of the defendants from 1604/5, along with Andrew Gedney and Thomas Stevenson physically attacked this old man and stole three stooks[21] of his barley and over eighteen months laid claim to the rest of the crop in the spiritual court. Even after the 1608 findings John West and others still want to claim to the Huttoft lands. Robert Hastings (junior) further aggravated and persecuted  Willingham by sowing oats on formerly unploughed or ley ground. Willingham also applied to Lord Ellesmere the Chancellor of the Exchequer[22] to check the records for evidence about the 1608 case and get legal protection from his assailants.

Samuel Willingham had to wait until on 12th February 1618/19 to get a definitive answer. The Exchequer found against defendants Robert Hastings (junior), Christopher Hastings, John Jowson, Thomas Hamars and Godfrey Carrington[23]. “Lands called ‘Constables Lands’ in Huttoft ‘determined by judicial decree to belong to the rectory and parsonage of Stayne’.”

When not petitioning Samuel Willingham was obviously a keen observer of natural phenomenon. In 1619 he sent a report[24] to James I on planting seeds and trees in relation to shadows at certain times.

Even then life was not entirely uneventful for Samuel Willingham, now aged about seventy four. In 1624 George Whitmore petitioned Auditor Sawyer[25] requesting him to negotiate the purchase of Stain parsonage from Willingham. Whitmore claims much of the land belongs to his manor of Huttoft, ‘if he could have his right’.[26] There is no evidence that the sale went ahead. Neither is there any further record of Samuel Willingham.


The Petition Defendants

The Hastings family

One of the co- defendants in the 1604/5 petition was Robert Hastings. Maddison[27] says the Hastings family as yeoman class were far wealthier than the class above them of small gentry, though not as yet bearing coat-armour or finding a place in the Visitations. The family continued as lesser gentry to the 18th century.

In Robert’s will proved 11th January 1616/17[28] he calls himself as ‘of Billesbie’ (Bilsby, Lincolnshire) and leaves a farm for life to his wife Emme. Sons William, John, Christopher and Robert plus a daughter Elizabeth are left land and properties. Christopher was left two messuages[29] in Huttoft. Business man Robert senior had purchased these, sold them and then bought them back again. Other plots in Huttoft are mentioned for John and Robert.

Although Robert senior was alive at the time of the 1614 petition because of his death it is his two sons Robert junior and Christopher, along with others, who are named in the findings of the Exchequer 1618/19.

Debbie Bradshaw published a Hastings family tree on Ancestry[30] showing Robert senior as born Bilsby 1560. The family tree details differ slightly from Maddison’s ‘Lincolnshire Pedigrees’ [31]. Neither offers the origin of the family. There are records of a later Robert Hastings marrying Katherine Gedney  4th February 1598/99 in Bag Enderby, Lincolnshire.[32] This could be a relation of the Andrew Gedney also mentioned in the petition.

John West

Little documentary evidence has been located other than a mention as the father of Jane West who married Thomas Houghton one of the subjects of the 1604/5 petition (reference 16). The 1611 will of one Thomas Wentworth[33] mentions a farm he bought from John West of Waltham.

Andrew Gedney

Andrew was baptised 7th September 1587, at Covenham St Bartholemew, Lincolnshire.[34] He was certainly related to the Gedneys of Bag Enderby. They were a family who had prospered over time. An earlier namesake,  Andrew Gedney was Sheriff of Lincoln in 1574.  By 1614 the will of one Richard Gedney shows he was badly in debt[35]. Maddison calls this the start of the decline of the family. Bag Enderby church was built in 1405 with money from Albinus de Enderby[36]. The memorial of 1591 shows Sheriff Gedney, his wife and four children.

Thomas Stevenson

Mentioned as servant to John West in the 1614 petition: Thomas Stevenson, son of Athure was baptised at Withern 22nd September 1577[37] and married Dorothe East on 2 May 1598 at Withern with Stain[38].

Other Defendants Mentioned in the 1618/19 Exchequer Ruling

Apart from the Hastings brothers three other men were named in the final Exchequer ruling:

John Jowson [39], who married Elizabeth Rudd on 18 June 1592 at Fieston, Lincolnshire.

Thomas Hamars is recorded as having fathered four children baptised in Huttoft from 1621 to 1635.[40] His wife’s name is not shown.

Godfrey Carrington, for whom records show a marriage by licence of Godfrey Carrington of Alford to Mary Bartholomew of Wragby on 17 June 1599[41]. Also recorded is the death  of an attorney at law, Saleby, Lincolnshire on 30 September 1637.[42] Being named in the Exchequer ruling he could well have been an attorney.


[1] Carlyle, E. I., and David Ibbetson. “Tanfield, Sir Lawrence (c. 1551–1625), lawyer.” Oxford Dictionary of National Biography. 23 Sep. 2004; https://www.oxforddnb.com/view/10.1093/ref:odnb/9780198614128.001.0001/odnb-9780198614128-e-26959.

[2] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lawrence_Tanfield; Portrait image: Sir Lawrence Tanfield from The life and times of Lucius Cary, Viscount Falkland; Memorial image: Tanfield Memorial, commemorating Sir Lawrence Tanfield and his second wife Elizabeth Evans, in the Church of St John the Baptist, Burford, erected 1628.

[3] ‘TANFIELD, Lawrence (c.1554-1625), of Burford, Oxon.’ in The History of Parliament: the House of Commons 1558-1603, ed. P.W. Hasler (1981), http://www.historyofparliamentonline.org/volume/1558-1603/member/tanfield-lawrence-1554-1625

[4] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sizar: ‘At the University of Cambridge, a sizar is an undergraduate who receives some form of assistance such as meals, lower fees or lodging during his or her period of study, in some cases in return for doing a defined job.’

[5] Alumni Cantabrigienses, Part 1, Vol. IV, https://archive.org/details/p1alumnicantabri04univuoft

[6] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Edmund_Scambler

[7] https://theclergydatabase.org.uk/jsp/search/index.jsp, CCEd Person ID 154099.

[8] http://parishes.lincolnshire.gov.uk/WithernwithStain/section.asp?catId=35887. To the east of Withern lies the hamlet of Stain, once a parish in its own right. The ancient church of St John the Baptist, which stood on Stain Hill, was demolished towards the end of the 17th century.

[9] http://www.visionofbritain.org.uk/unit/10434932#tab0

[10] ‘Queen Elizabeth – Volume 243: October 1592’, in Calendar of State Papers Domestic: Elizabeth, 1591-94, ed. Mary Anne Everett Green (London, 1867), pp. 277-285. British History Online http://www.british-history.ac.uk/cal-state-papers/domestic/edw-eliz/1591-4/pp277-285 .

[11] https://www.familysearch.org/wiki/en/Clergy_of_Church_of_England_(in_England)

[12] ‘Queen Elizabeth – Volume 281: July 1601’, in Calendar of State Papers Domestic: Elizabeth, 1601-3 With Addenda 1547-65, ed. Mary Anne Everett Green (London, 1870), pp. 61-79. British History Online http://www.british-history.ac.uk/cal-state-papers/domestic/edw-eliz/addenda/1547-65/pp61-79.

[13] ‘Parishes: Water Newton’, in A History of the County of Huntingdon: Volume 3, ed. William Page, Granville Proby and S Inskip Ladds (London, 1936), pp. 230-233. British History Online http://www.british-history.ac.uk/vch/hunts/vol3/pp230-233 .

[14] ‘James I: Volume 23, August-November, 1606’, in Calendar of State Papers Domestic: James I, 1603-1610, ed. Mary Anne Everett Green (London, 1857), pp. 328-336. British History Online http://www.british-history.ac.uk/cal-state-papers/domestic/jas1/1603-10/pp328-336 ; ‘James I: Volume 28, July-December, 1607’, in Calendar of State Papers Domestic: James I, 1603-1610, ed. Mary Anne Everett Green (London, 1857), pp. 362-393. British History Online http://www.british-history.ac.uk/cal-state-papers/domestic/jas1/1603-10/pp362-393 .

[15] ‘Supplement to the Addenda’, in Calendar of State Papers Domestic: James I, 1623-25, ed. Mary Anne Everett Green (London, 1859), pp. 565-599. British History Online http://www.british-history.ac.uk/cal-state-papers/domestic/jas1/1623-5/pp565-599.

[16] Thomas Houghton, Houghtons of Boston Lincs. Married Jane, daughter of John West of Huttoft.  https://archive.org/details/lincolnshireped01larkgoog/page/n145

[17] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Marmaduke_Constable_(died_1545)

[18] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Robert_Constable

[19] The Thirty-Eighth Annual Report of the Deputy Keeper of the Public Records [2nd March 1877], page 472

[20] ‘James I: Volume 34, June, 1608’, in Calendar of State Papers Domestic: James I, 1603-1610, ed. Mary Anne Everett Green (London, 1857), pp. 436-444. British History Online http://www.british-history.ac.uk/cal-state-papers/domestic/jas1/1603-10/pp436-444.

[21] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Stook: ‘A stook is an arrangement of sheaves of cut grain-stalks placed so as to keep the grain-heads off the ground while still in the field and prior to collection for threshing. Stooked grain sheaves are typically wheat, barley and oats.’

[22] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Thomas_Egerton,_1st_Viscount_Brackley

[23] The Thirty-Eighth Annual Report of the Deputy Keeper of the Public Records [2nd March 1877], page 683

[24] ‘James 1 – volume 110: October 1619’, in Calendar of State Papers Domestic: James I, 1619-23, ed. Mary Anne Everett Green (London, 1858), pp. 82-89. British History Online http://www.british-history.ac.uk/cal-state-papers/domestic/jas1/1619-23/pp82-89 .

[25]‘SAWYER, Edmund (c.1586/7-1676), of London and Heywood, White Waltham, Berks.’ in The History of Parliament: the House of Commons 1604-1629, ed. Andrew Thrush and John P. Ferris, 2010, https://www.historyofparliamentonline.org/volume/1604-1629/member/sawyer-edmund-15867-1676

[26] ‘James 1 – volume 173: October 1624’, in Calendar of State Papers Domestic: James I, 1623-25, ed. Mary Anne Everett Green (London, 1859), pp. 347-369, British History Online, http://www.british-history.ac.uk/cal-state-papers/domestic/jas1/1623-5/pp347-369 .

[27] Lincolnshire Wills Second Series A.D. 1600-1617 by Rev A.R. Maddison, p. xlv.

[28] Lincolnshire Wills Second Series A.D. 1600-1617 by Rev A.R. Maddison, p. 134

[29] Messuage: https://en.wiktionary.org/wiki/messuage

[30] https://www.ancestry.co.uk/family-tree/person/tree/112997161/person/410112413654/facts?_phsrc=jhl309&_phstart=successSource

[31]Lincolnshire pedigrees’ by A.R. Maddison, https://archive.org/details/lincolnshireped01larkgoog/page/n97

[32] https://www.familysearch.org/ark:/61903/1:1:NVGQ-J9X

[33] https://archive.org/details/lincolnshirewil00maddgoog/page/n125

[34] https://archive.org/details/lincolnshireped01larkgoog/page/n27

[35] https://archive.org/details/lincolnshirewil00maddgoog/page/n141

[36] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bag_Enderby

[37] https://www.familysearch.org/ark:/61903/1:1:NFMV-654

[38] https://www.familysearch.org/ark:/61903/1:1:NVRH-FZD

[39] https://www.familysearch.org/ark:/61903/1:1:NVGW-Z4V

[40] https://www.familysearch.org/search/record/results?surname=hamars&film_number=504253&count=20&offset=0

[41] https://search.findmypast.co.uk/record?id=S2%2FGBOR%2FCOA%2FMAR-WL-LINCOLN-MARRIAGE-LICENCES-1598-1628%2F0008&parentid=GBPRS%2FCOA%2FMARRLICENCE%2F00202260%2F1

[42] https://www.familysearch.org/ark:/61903/1:1:JH1L-926


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’.