King’s Men and Bum-bailiffs: A Drama of State in Jacobean England

On a cold winter day in January 1619, six men arrived at an inn, in Eynsham, Oxfordshire. Amongst their number was Thomas Boyes, a carpenter and bailiff, Walter Whiting, a miller, and three other men, including John Wight, a sixty-year-old yeoman from Little Coxwell, Berkshire. The sixth man, though, was different. He was their prisoner….

When was it okay to bugger a horse in 1650s Yorkshire?

I recently came across an astonishing pair of documents in the National Archives. The documents are ‘depositions’, witness statements, collected for a trial at the Yorkshire Assizes – the local court which dealt with serious crimes – from 1656. They relate to an alleged case of bestiality. William Clarke, labourer, it was alleged, had been…

Sex, Whipping and Pottage in Stepney

One day, probably in 1618, William Wilton returned to his house in Artillery Lane, Spitalfields to find a piece of paper under his door. It was folded, ‘in manner and fashion of a letter’, and addressed ‘To his friend William Wilton give thee’. Unfolding it, William found it contained a verse. William Wilton in the…

The Pemberton Poisoner

Sometimes you find a source which is so rich and interesting that you have to share it straightaway. I was working through the papers of Lancashire’s Quarter Sessions for 1700 yesterday, and I stumbled across an absolutely fascinating document. It was a petition to the local magistrates, produced by (or for?) Margaret Orrell of Pemberton,…