1621, Edward Harwaid (or Harward) seeks arbitration after escaping from prison in Hythe

Edward Harwaid, lately a poor prisoner in the town and port of Heith. SP 14/119 f. 129 (1621)

To the right honerable Edward Lord Souch: Lord Warden of the Sinke Portes

The humble petision of Edward Harwaid late a poore prisoner in the towne and porte of Heith

Shewing that whereas your petisioner was about 3 yeres sinc a prisoner and in execution in the towne of Heith at the suite of on Larence Baker, at which time your supliant sued the saied Baker before youre lordship in the honourable court of chancerie for the portes and it pleased your good lordship then, upon your oraters petision: to order that your suplyant putinge in sufitient baile to stand to the order of the court should have his libertie but the said Baker by no means would consent but rather starve your petisioner in prison to the utter undoeing of his wife and cheeldren, to prevent soe great amiseri your petisoner made his es cape for which the sayd Baker sueth the towne of Heith in chanceri befor your lordshipe

Wherefor your poore petisioner most humbly prayeth your good lordship will be pleased to prevent the great charge, of hime and the towne by re feringe the cause to in diferent arbytraters, in the cuntrie to heere and determine upon bands geeven on bothe parts to stand to ther awarde and your daily orator with is wife and cheeldren as they are bounde will ever praye for your lordship longe ahape life

[paratext:] To these 4 here under named both partes wer once agreed to refer the cause with condicion that if they could not end it they should choose a [haimpere?] which should / For your petision William Hall knight Jhon Hawtray gentleman / For Baker William Willcocks gentleman Jhon Allen gentleman / 6 February 1620. Peticion of Edward Harwaid.

Report by Lesley Scott-Stapleton

This case, from the perspective of the history of the town of Hythe, is referred to in print[1] and online in a history blog (albeit without sources).[2] But the circumstances behind this petition are far more complicated than these accounts might suggest.

Lawrence Baker

Few details have been confidently ascribed to this individual. He lived in Old Romney and was either a churchwarden or held an administrative position with the church.[3] His brother is given as being Robert, married to Alice, but these two have not been located.[4] A burial for Lawrence is recorded in the town for August 1626;[5] and that of a probable wife, Shirley, the year before.[6]

Edward Harward

Although sometimes described as coming from Ashford, he is mostly recorded as being from Smeeth, a settlement five miles southeast of Ashford. His wife Katherine appears to have come from Brookland (a settlement three miles west of Old Romney), their marriage is given as September 1604 at Brookland[7] and she is described as ‘sister and heir of John Epps’.[8] The only child traced is William, born in 1612.[9]   A burial for Katherine is recorded in Ashford town for March 1621, the year of the original petition.[10]

The Dispute

The combined names of Edward Harward and Lawrence Baker first appear – apparently peaceably – as witnesses for two land transactions in June 1608.[11] This petition of  Edward Harward seems to have its roots in the will of John Epps[12] from May 1614, where Catherine and Edward are mentioned in relation to it.[13] A year later the Harwards have started a legal action against members of the Baker family and others, claiming falsification of the will and that land under dispute has been leased out.[14] Whatever the outcome of this action, it was clearly not the end of the matter, since five years later in 1620 an administrative order to carry out a provision of the will was issued.[15]

Haward being imprisoned for debt in 1618 (a source for this date has not been seen), but at a distance from home, it would have been difficult to arrange money for his sustenance, meaning that starvation was a real possibility. The circumstances of his escape are undiscussed; but the apparent intransigence of Baker over bail (and possible unpopularity in the town) could conceivably have inclined the gaoler to a lapse of security.

In any case, when Haward brings the petition to Lord Zouch in 1621, there is no instant return to custody and he ‘Prays that the cause between them may be settled by arbitration’, which could be thought restrained in the circumstances.[16] A few days later sees Baker’s counter-petition to Zouch, which mentions the alleged debt; but holding the town responsible for the escape – and it being a more likely source of ready money – becomes the focus of his attentions.[17] A source has not been seen, but apparently the Chancery order to pay the debt was enforced.

The last mention of the dispute found is three months later where Harward petitions for money due to him since the date of John Epps’ will, but hedges his bets by offering a compromise, the details of which are not recorded.[18]


[1] Katherine Maud Elisabeth Murray, The Constitutional History of the Cinque Ports (1935), p. 115.

[2] Anne Petrie, Writing Hythe History, https://hythehistoryblog.wordpress.com/2015/09/29/the-middling-sort-part-four/

[3] ‘Lawrence Baker detaineth and denyeth a legacy given to the poor people of our church by the last will of one Edmonde Barton deceased.’ Extracts from the Visitations of the Archdeacon of Canterbury: Old Romney (undated), https://sites.rootsweb.com/~mrawson/ekent.html

[4] The National Archives (TNA), STAC 8/161/6  Short title: Harwarde v Baker, May 1615, https://discovery.nationalarchives.gov.uk/details/r/C5571749

[5] ‘England Deaths and Burials, 1538-1991’, database, FamilySearch (https://familysearch.org/ark:/61903/1:1:JDC9-8NT, 11 April 2018), Laurence Baker, burial 15 Aug 1626

[6] ‘England Deaths and Burials, 1538-1991’, database, FamilySearch (https://familysearch.org/ark:/61903/1:1:JDC9-8NG, 11 April 2018), Shirly Baker, burial 13 Jan 1625

[7] Ancestry.com, England, Select Marriages, 1538-1973 [search:- Catheren Epps, Brookland, Kent], Catheren Epps, Marriage Date: 23 Sep 1604, Marriage Place: Brookland, Kent, England, Spouse: Edward Harwood.

[8] As note 4 above.

[9] ‘England Births and Christenings, 1538-1975’, database, FamilySearch (https://familysearch.org/ark:/61903/1:1:NN2M-M8R), William Harwarde.

[10] Other information in the record of Katherine from ‘England Deaths and Burials, 1538-1991’, Burial Date: 18 Mar 1621, Burial Place: Ashford Towne, Kent, England, Spouse’s Name: Edward Harwald, https://www.familysearch.org/ark:/61903/1:1:JD4R-TZ8

[11] West Sussex Record Office, WISTON/4536, 13 June 1608, Grant, in consideration of £500, from James May of Mersham, gent., to John Fagg of Brensett, gent., bailiff of Romney Marsh, and William Fagg, his son. Witnesses: Robert Button, John Greene, Edward Harward, Roger Hellifield, Lawrence Baker, https://discovery.nationalarchives.gov.uk/details/r/3241fba3-17ca-4ab7-a155-bbbbdb1f81d6 ; West Sussex Record Office, WISTON/4671, 28 June 1608, Lease for 9 years, at the yearly rent of £17 12s. 6d., from John Fagge of Brensett, gent., bailiff of Romney Marsh, and William Fagge, his son, to James May of Mersham, gent. Witnesses: Robert Button, John Greene, Edward Harward, Roger Hellifield, Lawrence Baker, https://discovery.nationalarchives.gov.uk/details/r/be631991-3bf1-45d1-b653-88a93b3ab6cc.

[12] Assumed to be a direct relation of John Epps, buried 27 May 1604, Ancestry.com, England, Select Deaths and Burials, 1538-1991 [search on ancestry.co.uk – John Epps, Death, 1619, Brookland, Kent]. The connection to John Epps ‘an old bacheller’, buried 10 February 1619 is unclear [search:- John Epps, Death, 1619, Ashford].

[13] Tyler Index to Wills, 1460-1882 [search on ancestry.co.uk – Johannis Eppes, Brookland, Kent], Johannis Eppes, Probate Date: 3 May 1614, Testator: Johannis Eppes, Relationship: Testator, Last Residence: Brockland.

[14] As note 4 above.

[15] Tyler Index to Wills, 1460-1882, 20 September 1620,  Admin of goods to John Epps late of Bruckland, granted to Catharine Harwood alias Epps, wife of Edward Harwood of Ashford, yeoman, and sister of the deceased [search on ancestry.co.uk – Edward Harward, Smeeth, Kent]

[16] ‘James 1 – volume 119: February 1621’, in Calendar of State Papers Domestic: James I, 1619-23, ed. Mary Anne Everett Green (London, 1858), pp. 218-230, British History Online http://www.british-history.ac.uk/cal-state-papers/domestic/jas1/1619-23/pp218-230.

[17] ‘James 1 – volume 127: February 1622’, in Calendar of State Papers Domestic: James I, 1619-23, ed. Mary Anne Everett Green (London, 1858), pp. 341-353, British History Online, http://www.british-history.ac.uk/cal-state-papers/domestic/jas1/1619-23/pp341-353.

[18] ‘James 1 – volume 130: May 1622’, in Calendar of State Papers Domestic: James I, 1619-23, ed. Mary Anne Everett Green (London, 1858), pp. 383-401, British History Online http://www.british-history.ac.uk/cal-state-papers/domestic/jas1/1619-23/pp383-401 .


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’.