1635, John Mesurier, mercer of Guernsey claims to have been falsely imprisoned

John Mesurier of Guernezey, mercer. SP 16/536 f. 1 (1636)

To the right honourable the lords of his majesties most honourable privie councell.

The humble peticion of John Mesurier of the island of Guernezey mercer


That whereas your lordships and honourable predecessours providing for the good and peace of that island and to avoide the strifes and contentions of malitious and evill disposed persons, and those who used to force, and bring over their adversaries under the name of doleance by warrantes from divers persons without giveing caution (amongst other thinges) 9o October 1580 did order that it should not be lawfull to appeall in any cause cryminall or of correccion, and the 27o Junii 1627 that no sute by way of doleance should be admitted without caution first given for payment of costes and charges and likewise caution of 10 shillings to be given to the poore of the island in cause the said [plaintiff?] should faile in his doleance. And that no warrantes should be served upon the inhabitantes of the said island but onely such as should come ymediatly from your lordships

That one Andrew Neale being ymprisoned in the castle of Guernezey at your petitioners suite for debt about February last, of revengefull and malitious purpose accused your petitioner for a great and notorious theefe and robber who was thereupon appryhended and forced to put in good caution to appeere and answere the accusacion and the said Neele being unable to make any conterable proofe thereof of like evill purpose in March last accused your petitioner of perjury and albeit there is every weeke a court held in the said island haver never since made proofe of any thing but of late is escaped out of the prison of the castle into this kingdome yet nevertheles your petitioner notwithstanding his caution hath byn committed prisoner ever since August last and is not thereof yet discharged.

Wherefore and forasmuch as the said accusacion and ymprisonment hath byn the utter discreditt and undoeing of your petitioner and for that the said Neele is in the Citty of London and endeavoreth by peticion by way of doleance without caution farther to vex and trouble your petitioner

He is an humble suiter to your lordships to appointe some tyme to heere your petitioners councell in this cause and to afforde your petitioner such redresse thereupon as to your lordships in your wisdomes and justice shall seeme meete and according to his duety he shall be bownde to pray for your lordships contynuance of health with increase of honour.

[paratext:] Received January 6th 1635 

Report by David Moffatt

This petition, as summarised in the Calendar of State Papers, was submitted by John Mesurier of Guernsey, mercer, to the Privy Council claiming that ‘Andrew Neale, being imprisoned in the castle of Guernsey at petitioner’s suit for debt, did of revenge accuse him of robbery and perjury, in February and March last, whereon he was arrested and forced to give caution to appear. Albeit a Court is held every week, Neale has never made proof of anything, but is now escaped out of prison into England, while petitioner has been committed prisoner ever since August last. Begs that his counsel may be heard, and that he may have redress.’[1]


Mercers were formerly merchants or traders who dealt in cloth, typically fine cloth that was not produced locally. Inventories of mercers in small towns, however, suggest that many were shopkeepers who dealt in various dry commodities other than cloth.[2] There is a City of London Livery Company of Mercers, but as Mesurier was based in Guernsey he was presumably not a member.[3]

Litigation in Guernsey

The inhabitants of the Islands seem to have been regularly engaged in litigation with the slightest provocation.  Some cases went for years, starting in the local court and progressing to London either to the King or Council, but they were often sent back to the Courts of the Islands. The sums involved were often so small that the expenses of the suit, and the cost of journeys to London, must have cost more than the amount in dispute.[4]

The dispute between John Mesurier v Andrew Neale

This petition dates from 6 January 1636. On 2o January the petition was referred to the Solicitor-General. Then on 1 March, there is a report by Edward Littleton, Solicitor-General, stating that Neale was questioned by Mesurier who accused him of oppression and perjury. It was claimed that there were witnesses but they were not heard. Neale asks that these witnesses be questioned by the Bailiff on the Island and proceed to sentencing. Neale, who claims to be poor, also states that Mesurier is too powerful on the Island. Masurier opposes the petition on the basis that appeals are not permitted in criminal cases. They both ask that Littleton should report the details and the Privy Council should rule a decision.[5]

There are further petitions and rulings in March 1636. On the 23rd, the Council dismisses the case and refers it back to the Court in Guernsey.[6]

On 11 December 1638 Secretary Windebank writes to the Bailiff of the Jurats of Guernsey about the case stating that the Bailiff had not acted as expected and should do so.  It is also claimed that John Bonamy, one of the Jurats is charged with bribery and he should not sit. An account of the proceedings should be sent to the Earl of Danby, who was the Governor of Guernsey, so that he may report to the King.[7] On 23 January 1639, Sir Edward Powell, Master of Requests, sets 1 February as the date for the next hearing at the Court of Inner Star Chamber.[8]

John Mesurier had a son, Nicholas, who gained his Batchelors from Trinity College Oxford in 1670, aged 19. He gained his Master from Jesus College in 1674. He became rector of St Andrews Guernsey in 1679, and dean of Guernsey in 1698. Nicholas had two sons Nicholas and Thomas who both attended Pembroke College Oxford. Nicholas gained his BA in 1707 and his MA in 1710. Thomas gained his BA in 1717.[9]

There does not appear to be any further background available on the two parties and in 1639 the story seems to stop.


[1] ‘Charles I – volume 536: January 1636’, in Calendar of State Papers Domestic: Charles I, 1625-49 Addenda, ed. William Douglas Hamilton and Sophie Crawford Lomas (London, 1897), pp. 522-523. British History Online http://www.british-history.ac.uk/cal-state-papers/domestic/chas1/addenda/1625-49/pp522-523.

[2] ‘Mercery’, Wikipedia, https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mercery

[3] The Mercers Livery Company  https://www.mercers.co.uk/our-history/700-year-timeline

[4] ‘Preface’, in Calendar of State Papers Domestic: Charles I, 1625-49 Addenda, ed. William Douglas Hamilton and Sophie Crawford Lomas (London, 1897), pp. ix-xlvi. British History Online http://www.british-history.ac.uk/cal-state-papers/domestic/chas1/addenda/1625-49/ix-xlvi

[5] ‘Charles I – volume 536: January 1636’, in Calendar of State Papers Domestic: Charles I, 1625-49 Addenda, ed. William Douglas Hamilton and Sophie Crawford Lomas (London, 1897), pp. 522-523. British History Online http://www.british-history.ac.uk/cal-state-papers/domestic/chas1/addenda/1625-49/pp522-523

[6] ‘Charles I – volume 536: March 1636’, in Calendar of State Papers Domestic: Charles I, 1625-49 Addenda, ed. William Douglas Hamilton and Sophie Crawford Lomas (London, 1897), pp. 525-528. British History Online http://www.british-history.ac.uk/cal-state-papers/domestic/chas1/addenda/1625-49/pp525-528

[7] ‘Charles I – volume 538: December 1638’, in Calendar of State Papers Domestic: Charles I, 1625-49 Addenda, ed. William Douglas Hamilton and Sophie Crawford Lomas (London, 1897), pp. 594-600. British History Online http://www.british-history.ac.uk/cal-state-papers/domestic/chas1/addenda/1625-49/pp594-600

[8] ‘Charles I – volume 538: January 1639’, in Calendar of State Papers Domestic: Charles I, 1625-49 Addenda, ed. William Douglas Hamilton and Sophie Crawford Lomas (London, 1897), pp. 600-601. British History Online http://www.british-history.ac.uk/cal-state-papers/domestic/chas1/addenda/1625-49/pp600-601

[9] Ancestry: John Mesurier https://search.ancestry.co.uk/cgi-bin/sse.dll?indiv=1&dbid=8942&h=151993&tid=&pid=&usePUB=true&_phsrc=Ces173&_phstart=successSource.


This report is part of a series on ‘Petitioners in the reign of Charles I and the Civil Wars’, created through a U3A Shared Learning Project on ‘Investigating the Lives of Seventeenth-Century Petitioners’.