1644, Lady Mary Gee complains that the tenant of her Yorkshire manor is withholding rent

The Lady Gee. SP 16/500 f. 91 (1644)

To the right worshipfull the comittee at Kingston uppon Hull

The humble peticion of the Lady Gee

Humbly shewes:

That wheras there is a fee farme rent due to his majestie out of the manner of Bishopp Burton which your peticioner formerly paid to the auditors and nowe it is demaunded by one Master Walter Fowkes who hath power (as he affirmes) from the Parliament to receive the same which your peticioner is willing to satisfie out of the rentes that accrewes due to her forth of the landes belonging the said manner.

Nowe your peticioner did formerly lease out to the said Master Fowekes diverse closes belonging the said manner for fourty poundes per annum which is farre short of the yearly value of the said lands yet the said Master Fowkes refuses either to pay the said rent or allowe it for the fee farme rent which he demaundes and is issueing out of the groundes in his owne occupacion: and taking advantage of the times knoweing your peticioner to be without remidy for the present by lawe hath taken an occasion this day being the daye after it was demaunded to distreine and hath driven away twenty head of beastes of your peticioner tennantes for the said fee farme which your peticioner would willingly allowe out of the rent in his owne handes which he will not consent to but exercises his power to the utmost against your peticioner and undoubtedly will persist and goe on with rigor unlesse your worshippes be pleased to restraine and regulate him by your authority

Your peticioners humble suite is that your worshipps would be pleased to call the said Master Fowekes before yow and take such further order for your peticioneres releife herin as to your wisdome shall seeme requisite

A your petitioner shall dayley praye etc

[For the additional annexed documents, see the full transcription here.]

Report by Graham Camfield 

Lady Gee, who owns the manor at Bishop Burton in Yorkshire, is petitioning against Walter Fowkes, who is refusing to pay rent on a property he is leasing from her yet is demanding the fee due to Parliament on the same piece of land. 

Dame Mary Gee (1582-1649) was the widow of Sir William Gee (1553-1612). Sir William had been secretary of the Council of the North and Keeper of the Signet from 1604. He purchased the Bishop Burton estate, situated about ten miles from Hull, in 1603.[1]

Walter Fowkes, gentleman, was a native of Bishop Burton, born around 1595.[2] In 1636 he married the widowed daughter of Thomas Micklethwaite, rector of neighbouring Cherry Burton. He was evidently of some standing in the area and seemingly out to profit from the uncertainty of the times.

From 1642 the local district was witness to some of the first ravages of the Civil War. In one of the first acts of the War, in 1642, Royalist forces besieged the city of Hull in an attempt to capture the arsenal held there. Unsuccessful, the King and his army retreated to York. The following year they failed once more to take the Parliamentary stronghold at Hull commanded by Lord Fairfax, and early in 1644 anti-Royalist forces were boosted by invading Scottish Covenanters.[3]

Walter Fowkes’ Behaviour

This petition of Lady Gee against Walter Fowkes was one of several before the Committee on 27 January 1644 which complained of his actions in Yorkshire and the North seizing money and goods allegedly in the name of Parliament.[4]

Ministers and others of the East Riding complained that Fowkes “useth all rigour by violent taking away our goods, conveying them to places where we cannot find them; and although the money by him demanded was tendered before the driving away of the goods, yet he would not accept it, but taketh unreasonable fees by colour thereof. Petitioners pray they may not be so grievously oppressed in these necessitous times, and that further order may be taken that the money paid or to be paid might by him be deposited to prevent their paying it again”.

Richard Cooper of Routh complained that on 25 January “his goods were distrained by Fowkes, and he was appointed to come to Hull where he should have his goods; but bringing money he could neither find Fowkes nor his goods”.

Three further complaints of the same sort followed, in the light of which the Committee concluded:

“Articles against Mr. Walter Fowkes. This part of this country is so exhausted by the late numerous Popish army, so long lying among them during the siege of Hull, that they are not able to contribute any considerable proportion towards the support of the Lord General’s forces here, insomuch that they are daily ready some to mutiny and some to disband for want of pay; therefore it is very unfit so much money as the sum of this collection should be sent hence where the soldiers are ready to starve, and do daily petition against this very thing. That Mr. Fowkes proceedings very much cross the execution of the Ordinance of Sequestration, occasioning great trouble to the Committee and vexation to the country. That he impoverisheth the country by exacting unreasonable fees and costs for his distresses, and multiplieth distresses without cause. That he is tenant to Dr. Hodgshon, a notorious delinquent living in York, and hath great sums in his hands of the arrears of his rent due to the said Doctor, which he endeavoureth to conceal in contempt of the order of Parliament. As it appears to the Committee, upon Mr. Fowkes’ confession, that he hath considerable sums in his hands of a notorious delinquent, and the Committee conceives he hath more than he will confess, which in part they have already found, and in time hope more fully to discover, and he hath sent money to the said delinquent[5] contrary to the ordinance of Parliament, and there is just cause to fear he may misemploy more: the Committee thinks fit the money in his hands should be seized till the Parliament give further order”[6]

In spite of the trouble caused by Fowkes within four years his revenue collecting abilities were evidently valued by Parliament. In March 1648 the House of Commons passed an order appointing him Receiver-General of Yorkshire in place of John and Thomas Bland.[7] In April, however, his former activities caught up with him following the death (in 1646) of the above mentioned Dr Hodgson,[8] prompting an enquiry into the money allegedly concealed from Parliament. On 19 April, Walter Fowke, living behind Bride’s Church, London, was summoned to appear before the Committee for the Advance of Money, having in his hands £500 of the Doctor’s money now belonging to the State. The examination continued into the following year. On 24 June Francis Thorpe, Recorder of Hull, gave evidence on behalf of Walter Fowke:

“I am requested by Mr. Fowke to certify about Dr Hodgson. During the troubles, the committee at Hull, under Lord Fairfax, got in some of his rents at Bishop’s Burton. When York was surrendered, and a Parliament committee settled, he repaired to us, and begged leave to receive his rents, having done nothing to occasion their detention. We made enquiries, and I assure you some among us had a good mind to sequester him if we could find cause, but we found nothing except that he remained at home at York, so we gave him leave to receive his rents.”

On 29 June Walter Fowkes was discharged by the Committee because Dr Hodgson was found not to be ‘delinquent’[9] but within a week on 6 July he had to pass on the coveted Receivership of Yorkshire to a certain Colonel Aluered.[10] 

The subsequent history of Walter Fowkes is not known.


[1] Papers relating to the Gee family and the Bishop Burton estate are held by the Hull History Centre, http://catalogue.hullhistorycentre.org.uk/files/u-ddge.pdf.

[2] His family were the Fowkes of Brewood, Staffordshire. By marriage he was related to Sir John Micklethwaite, Physician to Charles II and his son Phineas Fowke also had a distinguished medical career. Wikipedia: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Phineas_Fowke.

[3] British Civil War Project, http://bcw-project.org/military/english-civil-war/northern-england/yorkshire-1642

[4] The Committee for the Advance of Money for the Service of the Parliament sat from 1642 to 1650. ‘Charles I – volume 500: January 1644’, in Calendar of State Papers Domestic: Charles I, 1644, ed. William Douglas Hamilton (London, 1888), pp. 1-10. British History Online http://www.british-history.ac.uk/cal-state-papers/domestic/chas1/1644/pp1-10.

[5] ‘Delinquent’ was a term commonly used of Royalists.

[6] ‘Charles I – volume 500: January 1644’, in Calendar of State Papers Domestic: Charles I, 1644, ed. William Douglas Hamilton (London, 1888), pp. 1-10. British History Online http://www.british-history.ac.uk/cal-state-papers/domestic/chas1/1644/pp1-10

[7] ‘House of Commons Journal Volume 5: 25 March 1648’, in Journal of the House of Commons: Volume 5, 1646-1648 (London, 1802), pp. 513-515. British History Online http://www.british-history.ac.uk/commons-jrnl/vol5/pp513-515

[8] Dr Phineas Hodson, chaplain to James I and Chancellor of York Minster.

[9] ‘Cases brought before the committee: April 1648’, in Calendar, Committee For the Advance of Money: Part 2, 1645-50, ed. Mary Anne Everett Green (London, 1888), pp. 874-880. British History Online http://www.british-history.ac.uk/cttee-advance-money/pt2/pp874-880

[10] Perhaps Colonel John Alured, regicide, 1607-1659.  ‘House of Commons Journal Volume 6: 6 July 1649’, in Journal of the House of Commons: Volume 6, 1648-1651 (London, 1802), pp. 251-254. British History Online http://www.british-history.ac.uk/commons-jrnl/vol6/pp251-254.


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’.