1617, Matthew Poker, supported by his mother and grandmother, asks for release from Dover castle

Mathew Poker. SP 14/90 f. 16 (1617)

To the right honnorable Edward Lord Zouch Sainte Maure, and Cantelupe constable of Dovor castell, Lord Warden, Chauncellor, Admirall of the Cinque Ports, and theire membres, and one of his majesties mooste honnorable privye counsell,

The humble petition of your honnors poore and daylie orator: Mathew Poker

In mooste humble wise, shewinge unto your good lordshipe, your saide suppliante Mathew Poker that whereas upon a certaine difference latlye faline out betweene your suppliante, and William Hale, one of the saide garrisone of Dovor castell uppon words urged, your suppliante in heat of blood rashlye and unadvisedlye, forgettinge where he was, offended the said Hale who complayninge thereof to your lordshipps marshall theire, was by him commytted close prysoner, where he hath remayned ever sence the 13th of December full of greife and sorrow for his offence, but acknowledginge his faulte with hartie repentance [illegible] for his fact, humblie throweth himselfe before your lordships gratious favour and mercie towards him beseechinge your honnor that he may be enlarged till your lordships cominge to Dovor castell at which tyme he trusteth your honnor beinge certified of the matter wilbe further favourable unto him but at this tyme your supplyante only beseecheth releasment out of prysson for that a grandmother of his which hath brought him up lieth sicke at the mercie of God beinge 94 yeares old hath often asked for him, but dare not be tould he is in pryson, whose absence from her will not only with sorrow hasten her end, but by his being from her in this her sicknes wilbe almooste his uttermost undoinge, in consideration whereof your poore suppliante beseecheth your lordship to compassinat his humble sute wherein he shall daylye be bound to praye for your lordshipps health and great prossperritie with increase of manye honnors longe to endure.

Margerye Bredgate and Elizabeth Poker, grandmother and mother of Mathew Poker. SP 14/90 f. 74 (1617)

To the right honourable Edward Lord Zouch, Sainte Maure, and Cantelupe, constable of Dovor castle, Lord Warden, Admyrall, and Chauncellor of the Cinque Portes, and their members, and of his majesties most honnorable pryvie counsell

The humble petition of Margerye Bredgate the grand mother, and Elizabeth Poker the mother of Mathew Poker, now under your lordshipps mercye

Most lamentably, and humbly, beseechinge your good lordshipp, that whereas it pleased your honnor, to bestowe upon their sonne Mathew Poker, a goonners rowme in the castell of Dovor for which himselfe, and your poore suppliants are (in dutye bound ever to praye for your lordshipp (soe itt is (most honourable that by an offence by him rashlie commytted, he is fallen into your lordships great displeasure, and althought for his forgettfullnes he hath beene woorthily punished by manye dayes imprisonment of which your lordshipp of honnorabl disposition upon humble petition gave him enlargment till your honnor where more certaynlye informed of the misdemeanour (your poore suppliants most humblie beseecheth your honnor, out of your wisdom and mercifull compassion to consider of him, and onlye for this his first offence with that punishment he hath already indured and your lordships further sharp rebukes of advertizement to bee pleased to admytte him to the discharging of his place againe, this beinge a warninge for him and others to beware how they offend in the like sort anye more (and herein your lordshipp shall comfort the heavy harts of your suppliants the grand mother and mother of theire sorrowfull harted sonne for his offence and binde them all to praye for your lordshipps health and great prosperitye (with increase of manye honnors longe to endure.

Report by Aelwyn Taylor

The petitions are addressed to Edward la Zouche who was the 11th Baron Zouche of Harringworth, Northamptonshire, 12th Baron St Maur. He was born on 6 June 1556, the son of George la Zouche, 10th Baron Zouche and died on 18 August 1625 at the age of 69. Zouche was appointed a Commissioner for the trial of Mary, Queen of Scots and was the only Commissioner to offer any dissent against the judgement and subsequent sentence of death. He held many important posts and was appointed Lord Warden of the Cinque Ports and Constable of Dover Castle for life on 13 July 1615.1

The Cinque Ports were five major ports on the south-east coast of England: Sandwich, Dover, Hythe, New Romney and Hastings. Edward I appointed the first Lord Warden in the 13th century to enable Crown control of the Cinque Ports. The Lord Warden was also Admiral of the Cinque Ports and, from 1267, Constable of Dover Castle. These titles gave the Lord Warden responsibility for the defence of Kent and Sussex, influence over the appointment of MPs, and powers in regulating maritime business. The Lord Warden appointed the gunners at Dover Castle.2

Dover has been fortified for thousands of years. It has a cliff top position overlooking the narrowest section of the English Channel and Dover harbour. The Normans invaded England in 1066 and constructed an early castle there. It was completely rebuilt by Henry II between 1180 and 1189 and then altered and remodelled many times over the centuries. It is the largest castle in England and was a royal residence as well as a fortress at times. It was continuously garrisoned from 1066 to 1958.3

Both petitions relate to Mathew Poker, who was one of the gunners at Dover Castle but it is not known when he was appointed. He got into a quarrel with another member of the garrison, William Hale, who complained to the Marshall at the Castle and as a result Mathew was imprisoned. The first petition to Lord Zouche is from Mathew himself accepting responsibility for his misdemeanour, expressing regret about what he said and requesting release. In particular, he expresses concern about the ill health of his elderly grandmother who had brought him up. He fears that if she learned that he was not visiting her because he was in prison, the distress might accelerate her demise.

In the Calendar of State Papers for January 1617, the petition from Mathew Poker is number 12 and dated as ‘Jan.?’ The next petition, number 13, is dated ‘Jan.10. St. Stephen’s’ and is from Sir Peter Manwood to Lord Zouche. It “begs that Matthew Poker, who was imprisoned for quarrelling with one of the garrison, and is now set free by Lord Zouch’s command, but suspended from his office, may be restored, on promise of amendment.”4

Sir Peter Manwood (1571-1625) was a noted antiquarian and English politician who was a Member of Parliament at various times between 1589 and 1621, representing Sandwich, Saltash and New Romney at different elections.  In 1614 he had been elected as MP for Kent and held various other important positions in the county during his political years.5

The petition from Mathew’s mother and grandmother is next, dated ‘Jan. 27’. They thanked Lord Zouche effusively for Matthew’s release but were now asking if he could possibly be reinstated in his previous role as this was a first offence and he had been punished for it. They were sure it would be understood as a warning not to offend again.6 It repeats the request stated in Sir Peter Manwood’s petition of earlier in the month so while it is clear that Lord Zouche had responded to the initial petition  and did not keep Mathew Poker in prison, he had not rushed to give him his job back.

However, Mathew did resume his post as a gunner at some date because on 28 Sept 1620 there is an entry in the Calendar of State Papers that says: “Matthew Poker, Gunner of Dover Castle, to Nicholas. Mr. Fulnetby has lent him 8l., which is to be deducted out of his pay, and the balance of 4l. 3s. 4d. delivered to his mother for him.”7 It gives no indication as to the reason for the loan was given or why it would be made to a poorly paid gunner.

In his book Soldiers of the Castle, Dover Castle Garrisoned (2003) Atherton states that in the period 1613-1642 it was manned by 16 or 17 gunners, nine gunners who would be paid 8d per day and seven assistant gunners who would get 6d per day. He also explains that some gunners lived in but others lived some distance away. According to Atherton the oath that gunners took upon appointment included the sentence: “You shall bee not Quarrel-picker nor Maintainer of Quarrells, discord or variances”.8

It is probable that the Mr Fulnetby making the loan was Thomas Fulnetby who married in December 1619 at St Nicholas Atwade, Kent when his address was given as Deal Castle.9 He went on to become the Captain of Deal Castle in 1625.10 Deal Castle came under the overall command of the Lord Warden of the Cinque Ports who appointed a captain. The captain was responsible for maintaining the castle, its garrison, guns and stores and led the garrison in wartime. The choice of captain was often influenced by service or loyalty.11

Mathew Poker was baptised on 23 Sept 1586 at St Mary the Virgin, Dover, Kent.12 His mother, Elizabeth Bredgate was baptised on 28 May 1564 at St Mary the Virgin, Dover13 and married Thomas Poker (or Pooker) of St Peter’s, Sandwich, Kent on 22 Sept 1585.14

Mathew Poker (or Pooker) married Ellen Edwards of St. George’s Canterbury on 20 Mar 1617 at Thanington, Kent. According to the record of Marriage Licences Britain, Mathew’s occupation at the time of marriage was transcribed as ‘gentleman’.15

It is likely that their first child was a son, Thomas Poker, baptised at St George’s Canterbury on 19 Dec 1617.16 Subsequent children included Judeth Poker baptised on 26 Oct 162017 and Bredgate Poker baptised on 11 May 162318 both at St Mary the Virgin, Dover, Kent.

An internet search of “Matthew Poker 1617” brought up several references to a map. For example, an entry about Kent in The Gentleman’s Magazine of 1845 states “The copper-plate of a fine old map of Romney Marsh has been found, dated 1617, by Matthew Poker. It was dedicated by James Cole (the engraver) to the Lords and Commissioners of the Levels, and contains much valuable information respecting the sewers and watering.”19 A more modern document by Shepway District Council in 2006 refers to Mathew Poker’s (1617) map of Romney Marsh which ‘depicts “The Cabins” at Dungeness which were used by the local fishermen, probably Lydd.’20 Historic England and the Royal Museums Greenwich are other websites mentioning the map.21

Two articles published by Kent Archaeological Society give more information. The first is by F. Hull on ‘Kentish Map-makers of the Seventeenth Century’ (1991).22 He writes:

The earliest survey of the Romney Marsh area appears to be a splendid map by Mathew Poker, 1617. The original was found among the Papillon archives at Acrise, which might suggest a link with the Lords of the Marsh, but there is no evidence to suggest that they commissioned the work and, in any event, the map covers the whole marshland area from Rye to Hythe, which means that it has more in common with the county maps of the period than with the majority of estate plans. Poker shows towns and villages, the course of the Rother at that time, the hills to the north of the marsh pictorially and a whole armada of little ships in Romney Bay. As a map of a whole geographical area this work is outstanding, and it seems incredible that such a fine example of cartography should be the sole surviving work of a man of whom we know nothing. That this man was appreciated at the time is evident by the fact that there was a printed version published, another similarity with the county maps of the period.

Acrise Place is a brick-built house dating from the 16th century located about 6 miles north of Folkestone in the village of Acrise. It was originally built by the Hamon family in the 16th century, but acquired in 1666 by the Papillon family, and passed down in that family for several generations.23

The other older article is called ‘The Oldest Map of Romney Marsh’ by E. William Cock (1914)24 in which he presents the results of his investigations into the origins of the Mathew Poker map and also who Matthew Poker was. Cock found the original map at Maidstone Museum. He also refers to copies elsewhere made from Cole’s engraving of it.

The inscription on the map which was copied onto the engraving begins: “The Description of ROMNEY MARSH, WALLAND MARSH, DENGE MARSH & GUILDEFORD MARSH with the divisions of their Waterings, Heads, Arms, Pinnokes, Bridgs and principal Gutts for the sewing of the fresh waters that fall into the same.”

The inscription ends “Math. Poker 1617”.

Cock suggests that “the most interesting thing on it is the representation of a fleet of what was practically every kind of sea-vessel then in use, which is shewn riding in the East and West Bays. It is quite a lesson in the shapes of our then sea-craft.”

Neither Hull or Cock can provide any information to confirm or deny that Mathew Poker the map maker is the same person as Mathew Poker the petitioner. The research in this report identifies ‘Mathew Poker’ as a gunner who was imprisoned for quarreling, a gentleman, the recipient of a loan and a skilled map maker. No other persons named Mathew Poker were found in the online Kent genealogical records of that time but that is not conclusive evidence.

In his book, Atherton explains that in the first half of the 17th century gunners were appointed by the Lord Warden and sworn in individually to the King’s allegiance. The jobs were sought after as they carried exemptions from various civic duties. It also seems that gunners could provide substitutes for musters or duties. “They appear to have had to be on duty in pairs every 8th day and would often find regular substitutes,” so this role could have suited a well less well-off gentleman as a part time source of additional income and also could potentially provide opportunity for other activity such as map making.25

In his article ‘A History of the Ordnance Survey’ (1980),26 Seymour looks at the origins of the maps and goes back to the Elizabethan period when the Board of Ordnance, headed by the Master General of the Ordnance, became a Department of State. He describes it at this time as a “shambling, complex and even contradictory organization” but with a responsibility for cartography although mapmaking was a tiny part of its responsibility compared with munitions. He states that as far as cartography was concerned the most important aspects of the military surveyors and engineers work from the reign of Henry Vlll onwards were directed to fortification, harbour improvement and coastal mapping because in England the principal threat came from the sea.

There is no indication as to who would have commissioned the Mathew Poker map or why. Could the fact that the person drawing the map has such detailed knowledge of shipping could be consistent with someone who had worked as a gunner at a coastal defence station or had a maritime career? Could it have been part of an ‘Ordnance’ task? Nothing is known about his training or life before 1617 by which time he was over 30 years old but the detailed description written on the map demonstrates that it was compiled by an educated man.

In researching the loan from Thomas Fulnetby and learning that he had been a Captain at Deal Castle, it was noted that a Mathewe Bredgate became Captain of Deal Castle in 1599.27 He had a long and illustrious naval career as a ship’s captain in the late 16th century, early 17th century being mentioned numerous times in the Calendar of State Papers. Mathewe Bredgate was baptised at St Mary the Virgin, Dover on 21 July 1561,28 which was three years before Mathew Poker’s mother Elizabeth (nee Bredgate) was baptised there, so it is feasible that they were siblings. There is no additional information to confirm this.

There is also mention in the Calendar of State Papers of a John Bredgate who was Mayor of Dover in 1602. This is only an association by surname but could indicate that the Bredgate family was important in the area– Mathew Poker called one of his sons Bredgate after all. Further research would be required to establish more about the family history.

It remains an open question whether this report provides information about one Mathew Poker or two.

The images above are from the article by Cock. The original map is now at the Kent History and Archives Centre in Maidstone. A copy of James Cole’s engraving of the map is in the British Library.


  1. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Edward_la_Zouche,_11th_Baron_Zouche
  2. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lord_Warden_of_the_Cinque_Ports#Constable_of_Dover_Castle
  3. https://www.english-heritage.org.uk/visit/places/dover-castle/history-and-stories/history/
  4. https://www.british-history.ac.uk/cal-state-papers/domestic/jas1/1611-18/pp421-430
  5. https://www.historyofparliamentonline.org/volume/1604-1629/member/manwood-sir-peter-1568-1625
  6. https://www.british-history.ac.uk/cal-state-papers/domestic/jas1/1611-18/pp421-430
  7. https://www.british-history.ac.uk/cal-state-papers/domestic/jas1/1619-23/pp176-182#highlight-first
  8. G.M.Atherton, Soldiers of the Castle: Dover Castle Garrisoned (2003)
  9. https://www.findmypast.co.uk/transcript?id=GBPRS%2FCOA%2FMARRLICENCE%2F00120985%2F1
  10. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_Captains_of_Deal_Castle
  11. https://www.english-heritage.org.uk/visit/places/deal-castle/history-stories/
  12. https://www.findmypast.co.uk/transcript?id=GBPRS%2FCANT%2FB%2F96729701
  13. https://www.findmypast.co.uk/transcript?id=GBPRS%2FCANT%2FB%2F96728676
  14. https://www.findmypast.co.uk/transcript?id=GBPRS%2FCOA%2FMARRLICENCE%2F00115403%2F2
  15. https://www.findmypast.co.uk/transcript?id=GBPRS%2FCOA%2FMARRLICENCE%2F00115402%2F1
  16. https://www.findmypast.co.uk/transcript?id=GBPRS%2FCANT%2FB%2F96910333
  17. https://www.findmypast.co.uk/transcript?id=GBPRS%2FCANT%2FB%2F96732063
  18. https://www.findmypast.co.uk/transcript?id=GBPRS%2FCANT%2FB%2F96732319
  19. The Gentleman’s Magazine (1845)
  20. https://www.folkestone-hythe.gov.uk/media/1677/Dungeness-Conservation-Area-Appraisal-section-1/pdf/Dungeness_Conservation_Area_Appraisal-section-1.pdf?m=637103760826570000 p9
  21. https://historicengland.org.uk/listing/the-list/list-entry/1016682 ; https://collections.rmg.co.uk/collections/objects/540280.html
  22. https://www.kentarchaeology.org.uk/sites/default/files/archcant/1992%20109%20Kentish%20Map%20Makers%20of%20the%20Seventeenth%20Century%20Hull.pdf
  23. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Acrise_Place
  24. https://www.kentarchaeology.org.uk/sites/default/files/archcant/1914%2030%20The%20Oldest%20Map%20of%20Romney%20Marsh%20Cock_2.pdf
  25. G.M.Atherton, Soldiers of the Castle: Dover Castle Garrisoned (2003)
  26. https://www.ordnancesurvey.co.uk/documents/resources/os-history.pdf
  27. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_Captains_of_Deal_Castle
  28. https://www.findmypast.co.uk/transcript?id=R_940025843


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’.