1677, Francis Savage pursues a fine placed upon John Bill

Transcription from ‘Petitions in the State Papers: 1670s’, in Petitions in the State Papers, 1600-1699, ed. Brodie Waddell, British History Online, Francis Savage, esquire. SP 29/390 f. 144 (1677).

To the Kings most excellent majestie

The humble peticion of Francis Savage esquire.

Sheweth that John Bill esquire for offering some abuse unto your petitioners mother was fined by the judges of your majesties bench the summe of two hundred pounds and comitted unto prison untill he should pay the same.

Now soe it is may it please your majestie that there is some dispute whether this fine doth belong to your majestie the Citty of London or the Earle of Dorsett.

Your petitioner (beleiving that it doth belong to your majestie) humbly prayes that (in regard the fine was sett for an injury done to your petitioners mother) your majestie will be graciously pleased to bestow your majesties right to the said fine on the peticoner.

And your petitioner shall ever pray etc.

The peticion of Francis Savage esquire

By Nicola Baker and David Moffatt

Francis Savage is petitioning the king because he hopes to pursue a £200 fine levied upon John Bill. Bill allegedly offered ‘some abuse’ towards Savage’s mother Elizabeth, Countess Rivers. Francis Savage believes that the fine belongs to Charles II and hopes that ‘your majestie will be graciously pleased to bestow your majesties right to the said fine on the peticoner’.

Francis Savage (1617-1681)

Francis Savage was born in Wiltshire in 1617 the son of Thomas Savage and Elizabeth Darcy. He married Anne Sheldon (b. 1622) and they had one child.[1]

Elizabeth Savage (1584-1650) mother of Francis Savage

Mary Kitson (1567-1644) married Sir Thomas Darcy 1st Earl of Rivers on 14 May 1602. One of their children was named Elizabeth Darcy (1584-1650). She married William, 1st Viscount Savage, and Francis Savage was one of their 19 children.[2]

On the death of Lady Savage’s father in 1640, the Earldom of Rivers passed to her eldest son, John. She was created Countess Rivers for life in 1641 and her portrait is part of the National Trust’s collection.[3]

Elizabeth Savage was a keen supporter of Charles I. She appeared before the Essex Justices as a recusant and her home was searched for arms. In the uprising known as the Stour Valley Riots she was chased from her home, St Osyth, which was ransacked, and the mob followed her to her Long Melford home, which was destroyed with an estimated loss of £100,000.

Parliament later ordered that her estates should be restored but her tenants subsequently refused to pay rent. After a second invasion of her estates by Parliamentarian soldiers in May 1643, she sought permission to go to France. Upon her return, she successfully petitioned Parliament to have her estates restored but the attacks on them and the fines imposed upon her and her son left her penniless. When she died in 1651, she was said to have been bankrupt. She was buried at St Osyth.

Francis Savage brought a case in the Court of Chancery in 1683 regarding the personal estate of John Bill, presumably in connection with this petition.[4]

John Bill (1630-1681)

Robert Barker held the office of Printer to the Queen and King in English from 1593. In 1615 he assigned houses, lands and his printing business to Bonham Norton and John Bill (1576-1630) as security in lieu of debts. In 1615, for the sum of £5,000 Robert Barker entered a three-way partnership with Bonham Norton and John Bill. In 1617, Barker assigned his interest to Bonham Norton and John Bill alone for the sum of £6,500. John Bill was a collector of books for James I and travelled the continent searching for books and acting as a spy for James. He was married to Anna Mountford.[5]

On John Bill’s death in 1630 his interest passed to his son John. Following several years of improvement in business, Barker reclaimed part of his interest.

After the Restoration, the King reinstated Major John Bill and Christopher Barker III as Kings Printers based in Blackfriars.[6] On several occasions Norton tried to reclaim his interest without success. Their printing premises, Hunsdon House, was destroyed in the Great Fire but was later rebuilt by Christopher Wren.

In 1661, John Bill married Lady Pelham, the widow of Sir Thomas Pelham and daughter of Sir Henry Vane.

During the spring of 1670 John Bill presented a Bill to the Parliament for permission to sell lands in Kent and Surrey which was approved. It is not known if this was to settle his debts.[7]


[1] Francis Savage Ancestry: https://www.ancestry.co.uk/genealogy/records/francis-savage-24-1hcjn2y?geo_a=r&geo_s=ca&geo_t=uk&geo_v=2.0.0&o_iid=41016&o_lid=41016&o_sch=Web+Property.

[2] ‘Elizabeth Savage’: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Elizabeth_Savage,_Countess_Rivers.

[3] Portrait of Elizabeth Savage: http://www.nationaltrustcollections.org.uk/object/926814.

[4] TNA C 8/310/97 Short title: Savage v Bill. Plaintiffs: Francis Savage, Darcy Savage and Diana Savage, 1683: https://discovery.nationalarchives.gov.uk/details/r/C5459687.

[5] ‘A Brief History of the Kings Printing House’: http://www.english.qmul.ac.uk/kingsprinter/publications/transcripts/Reader_Aids/A_Brief_History_of_the_Kings_Printing_House.pdf.

[6] A. F. Johnson, ‘The King’s Printers, 1660-1742’, The Library s5-III:1 (1948), pp. 33-38 https://doi.org/10.1093/library/s5-III.1.33.

[7] ‘A Brief History of the Kings Printing House’: http://www.english.qmul.ac.uk/kingsprinter/publications/transcripts/Reader_Aids/A_Brief_History_of_the_Kings_Printing_House.pdf; ‘House of Commons Journal Volume 9: 23 March 1670’, in Journal of the House of Commons: Volume 9, 1667-1687 (London, 1802), pp. 145-146. British History Online http://www.british-history.ac.uk/commons-jrnl/vol9/pp145-146.

This report is part of a series on ‘Petitioners in the reign of Charles II, 1660-1685’, created through a U3A Shared Learning Project on ‘Investigating the Lives of Seventeenth-Century Petitioners’.