1641, John Meredith petitions for a hearing in the Court of Wards about the late Matthew Thimbleby’s property

John Meredith, gentleman. SP 16/476 f. 123 (1641)

To the reight honourable Fraunces Lord Cottington maister of his majesties Courte of Wardes and liveries

The humble peticion of John [Mereditt?] gentleman


That whereas your honnour was pleasd to give direccion that the case made uppon the offices taken after the death of Mathew Thimbleby esquier deceased should be argued in court upon the thirteenth daye of June last itt beinge desiered by the defendantes councell Master Serjeant Callis that he might be heard before your honnour and the lordes judges assistantes: whereupon your petitioner did accordingly petition your honnour for the said daye and likewise by your lordshippes direccions your petitioner did attend the lordes judges to give their lordshipps and the defendantes notice accordingly of the said daye

But soe itt is may itt please your honnour that the defendantes did not attend with their councell att the said daye to have the case argued before your honnour and the lordes judges assistantes: their lordshippes beinge reddie to [come?] to sitt with your honnour neither did the defendantes use any means att all in Michellmas terme last to bringe the [illegible] case on to be argued before your honnour your petitioner haveinge ever since attended in towne att his great costes and charges: hopeing once in 18 yeares to see the cause receave a finall end

May itt therefore please your honnour to appoint the 30th daye of January next beinge Satterday for the case to be argued before your honnour in court with the lordes judges assistantes and that the defendantes may bringe into court uppon that daye the deed of feoffment which they pretend to have; itt beinge the ground of their argument to the end the said deed may be veiwed by the court whereby his majesties title to the meane rates will then manifestlie appeare

And as in dutie bound he shall allwaies pray

[For Cottington’s decision, see full transcription here.]

Report by Sheila Douglas

John Meredith is petitioning for a date to be set for the case to be heard in the Court of Wards. This follows previous attempts for the case to be heard on 13 June 1640, but the defendant did not appear, nor has he asked a new date to be set. The petitioner has incurred costs by staying in the town waiting for a new date. It is suggested that the case be heard on Saturday 30 January.

Background to the petition: The Thimbleby Family

This petition above is dated 1641 and is an ongoing dispute over the ownership of a deed of property or land following the death of Matthew Thimbleby. John Meredith is requesting to see ‘the deed they pretend to have’, thereby his Majesty’s title to the mean rates.

There are several branches to the Thimbleby family tree.[1] There are also at least three different spellings of the name: Thimbleby, Thymelby, Thimoldby.[2] Earlier members of the Thimbleby family are called, expressly, Thomas de Thymelby, Nicholas de Thymbylby, thereby showing their connection to the parish. Over the centuries they acquired a very large amount of property and lands, many of them gained through advantageous marriages.

The main branch of the family lived at Irnham Park, near Grantham. Irnham Park was acquired around 1510 by Richard Thimbleby, by marriage to the heiress of Godfrey Hilton, whose ancestor, Sir Geoffrey Hilton, Knight, had also obtained it by marriage to the heiress of the Luterels, an ancient family, several members of whom were summoned to Parliament as Barons, in the 12th century. Richard was Matthew Thimbleby’s father.[3]

An Inquisition on 12 August 1550 following the death of Matthew Thimbleby, of Polam, Esq., showed he had married Anne, daughter of Sir John Hussey, ‘that he was seised of six manors besides that of Thimelby; also of lands in eight other parishes, with the advowsons of the churches of Tetforde, Farrafford, Ruckland, and Somersby’.

A deed dated 6th Feb 1554, grants certain lands belonging to the manor of Thimblebie, to an Anthony Kyme, for 21 years, at 10s per annum. In 1600 a further link is found to the Thimbleby family of Poolham (and elsewhere) where the manor is sold to a member of the Bolles family. A Mr Weir tells us that in the reign of Charles ll the manor of Thimbleby belonged to Sir Robert Bolles.[4]

Charles Murray’s Petition

On 9 November 1638, a petition of Charles Murray, his Majesty’s servant, to the King stated: “Matthew Thimbleby, long since deceased, was at his death seized in fee of divers lands, part held by knight’s service in capite, the tenure in the office after his death, which was in the 4th of Edward VI., the finding of that tenure was omitted, to the prejudice of his then Majesty. Of late time, upon a writ of melius inquirendum the tenure is found out, whereby your Majesty is entitled to the mean rates of the lands for not suing livery by the heir, one third part of which mean rates is by decree of the Court of Wards to be paid to your Majesty’s use, and the other two parts to be allowed to the prosecutor of the suit, one John Meredith, according to the custom of the court”.[5]

The owners of the lands were many. With substantial means at their disposal, supplying proof of tenure they entered a plea to debar both the King and prosecutor of the means rates, stating these had been pardoned by several pardons of Queen Elizabeth and by that of 21st James I. It was argued that ‘unless the business carefully followed as not only that benefit that might arise to your Majesty in present, by reason of the said discovery, will be lost, but your Majesty may be much damnified for the future, in regard the judgment thereof will be a leading case, and if it should go against your Majesty would be a precedent in bar of mean rates that may arise upon other lands in like case. Petitioner prays a grant of the benefits of his Majesty’s third part of the mean rates, and he will at his own charge follow the business and bring it to the best issue that may be’.[6]

On 31 March 1639 , there was a grant to Charles Murray to a third part of the means rates on Matthew Thimbleby’s land, supposedly ‘to be due for not sueing livery by the heir after his death, if it shall appear that they are not pardoned’.[7]

An entry in the Catalogue of the Harleian Collection of Manuscripts reads ‘The cases upon the offices taken after the death of Matthew Thimbleby Esq; & the plea of the Rt.Hon. Thomas Lord Coventry Lord keeper of the great Seal of England Sir John Bolles Bart. Geo. Anton Gent & others respondents to the charge of £7633 7s 4d set upon the lands late of M Thimbleby Esq for means rates for want of Livery after his Death’.[8] Sadly, this entry is not dated, although Rt. Hon. Thomas Lord Coventry died in 1640.[9]  Sir Francis Cottington was appointed Master of Court of Wards and Liveries in March 1635.[10]   Sir John Bolles Bart[11] was father to Sir Robert Bolles Bart (owner of Thimbleby Manor)[12] who married Mary Hussey, daughter of Sir Edward Hussey, 1st Baronet, and his wife Elizabeth Anton, daughter of George Anton at Honington, Lincolnshire, so may be the defendants or heirs? It was not possible to identify with any degree of certainty which pieces of lands or properties the defendants stated they have the deed of ‘feofment’ for, or to provide a definitive answer to when the case was finally resolved, due to  changes in ownership by many different means,  seizure, Church, sovereign disfavour, pardons, etc.


[1] Thimelby Family Tree  https://wwtn.history.qmul.ac.uk/ftrees/Thimelby.pdf

[2] Thimbleby Church History and Restoration http://www.thimblebychurch.org.uk/?page_id=74

[3]  Geni Matthew Thimbleby https://www.geni.com/people/Matthew-Thimbleby/6000000071864750383

[4] James Conway Walter A history of Horncastle Chapter 22 https://bestlightnovel.com/novel_888107136/chapter_22

[5] ‘Charles I – volume 401: November 1-14, 1638’, in Calendar of State Papers Domestic: Charles I, 1638-9, ed. John Bruce and William Douglas Hamilton (London, 1871), pp. 85-104. British History Online http://www.british-history.ac.uk/cal-state-papers/domestic/chas1/1638-9/pp85-104

[6] ‘Charles I – volume 401: November 1-14, 1638’, in Calendar of State Papers Domestic: Charles I, 1638-9, ed. John Bruce and William Douglas Hamilton (London, 1871), pp. 85-104. British History Online http://www.british-history.ac.uk/cal-state-papers/domestic/chas1/1638-9/pp85-104

[7] ‘Charles I – volume 415: March 21-31, 1639’, in Calendar of State Papers Domestic: Charles I, 1638-9, ed. John Bruce and William Douglas Hamilton (London, 1871), pp. 588-636. British History Online http://www.british-history.ac.uk/cal-state-papers/domestic/chas1/1638-9/pp588-636.

[8] Catalogue of the Harleian Manuscripts in the British Museum, III, p. 412, https://books.google.co.uk/books?id=P6oDkaFm6OEC&pg=PA412#v=onepage&q=Thimbleby&f=false

[9] Diary of Samuel Pepys, ‘Lord Coventry’ https://www.pepysdiary.com/encyclopedia/10107/

[10] Wikipedia, ‘Francis Cottington’ https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Francis_Cottington,_1st_Baron_Cottington

[11] Geni: Sir John Bolles https://www.geni.com/people/Sir-John-Bolles-1st-Baronet/6000000020308559817

[12] Wikipedia, ‘Sir Robert Bolles’ https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sir_Robert_Bolles,_2nd_Baronet

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’.