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‘Scandalus to all us’: presenting an anti-alehouse petition from late Elizabethan Rickmansworth (Hertfordshire)

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  16 April 2020

Heather Falvey*
Institute of Continuing Education, University of Cambridge


In the early summer of 1588, twenty-seven inhabitants of the large parish of Rickmansworth (Hertfordshire) presented a petition to two local Justices of the Peace complaining about disorder in Mill End, on the outskirts of the main town, caused by those frequenting Richard Heyward’s alehouse. Most recent work on alehouse sociability has considered attitudes towards drinking and its regulation after the early Jacobean legislation; in contrast, this article considers attitudes towards drunkenness in late sixteenth-century England, including the views expressed in the official ‘homily against drunkenness’ and in the Sabbatarian pamphlet published in 1572 by Humfrey Roberts. Similarly, most work on early modern protest considers complaints against the activities of the protestors’ social superiors; in this instance petitioners complained about the conduct of their inferiors. Although, due to archival attrition, it is impossible to determine what action the authorities took against Heyward and his clientele, thanks to the chance survival of a personal letter it is possible to reconstruct the reactions of the JPs to whom the petition was addressed, thus shedding light on how JPs might act outside the Quarter Sessions.

Research Article
© The Author(s) 2020. Published by Cambridge University Press

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1 Hertfordshire Archives and Local Studies (hereafter HALS) 8430, endorsed ‘Peticion of the inhabitantes of Rickmerswoorth for the pullinge downe of Alehouses’, 1588. All dates have been modernised, the year beginning on 1st January rather than 25th March. In the documents, Richard Heyward’s surname is spelled in various ways, it has been standardised to Heyward except in those direct quotations where it differs.

2 See, for example, Hailwood, M., Alehouses and Good Fellowship in Early Modern England (Woodbridge, 2014)Google Scholar; Hailwood, M., ‘Alehouses, Popular Politics and Plebeian Agency in Early Modern England’, in Williamson, F., ed., Locating Agency: Space, Power, and Popular Politics (Newcastle, 2010), pp. 5176Google Scholar; Shepard, A., ‘“Swil-Bols and Tos-Pots”: Drink Culture and Male Bonding in Early Modern England, c. 1560–1640’, in Gowing, L., Hunter, M. and Rubin, M., eds, Love, Friendship and Faith in Europe, 1300–1800 (Basingstoke, 2005), pp. 110–30CrossRefGoogle Scholar; Withington, P., ‘Company and sociability in early modern England’, Social History, 32 (2007), 291307CrossRefGoogle Scholar; Withington, P., ‘Intoxicants and society in early modern England’, The Historical Journal, 54 (2011), 631–57CrossRefGoogle Scholar. The most detailed study of alehouses is still Clark, P., The English Alehouse: A Social History, 1200–1830 (London, 1983).Google Scholar

3 As defined by Hunt, William (W. Hunt, The Puritan Moment: The Coming of Revolution in an English County (Cambridge, MA, 1983), p. 146Google Scholar), quoted in Doran, S. and Durston, C., Princes, Pastors and People: The Church and Religion in England, 1500–1700, 2nd edn (London, 2003), p. 100.Google Scholar

4 See, for example, the most recent essays on this subject in Griffin, C. and McDonagh, B., eds, Remembering Protest in Britain since 1500: Memory, Materiality and the Landscape (Cham, Switzerland, 2018).CrossRefGoogle Scholar

5 See, in particular, Hindle, S., On the Parish? The Micro-politics of Poor Relief in Rural England, c. 1550–1750 (Oxford, 2004), pp. 407–28CrossRefGoogle Scholar; Healey, J., The First Century of Welfare: Poverty and Poor Relief in Lancashire, 1620–1730 (Woodbridge, 2014), pp. 87106.Google Scholar

6 Wrightson, K., ‘Two Concepts of Order: Justices, Constables and Jurymen in Seventeenth-Century England’, in Brewer, J. and Styles, J., eds, An Ungovernable People: The English and Their Law in the Seventeenth and Eighteenth Centuries (London, 1980), pp. 2146.Google Scholar

7 See, for example, Clark, P., ‘The Alehouse and the Alternative Society’, in Pennington, D. and Thomas, K., eds, Puritans and Revolutionaries: Essays in Seventeenth-Century History presented to Christopher Hill (Oxford, 1978), pp. 4772Google Scholar; King, W. J., ‘Regulation of alehouses in Stuart Lancashire: an example of discretionary administration of the law’, Transactions of the Historic Society of Lancashire and Cheshire, 129 (1980 for 1979), 3146Google Scholar; Wrightson, K., ‘Alehouses, Order and Reformation in Rural England, 1590–1660’, in Yeo, E. and Yeo, S., eds, Popular Culture and Class Conflict, 1590–1914: Explorations in the History of Labour and Leisure (Brighton, 1981), pp. 127.Google Scholar

8 5 & 6 Ed. VI.c.25, printed in Statutes of the Realm, vol. 4, part 1, 1547–1585 (London, 1819), pp. 157–8.

9 The terms of the act are summarised in Hunter, J., ‘English Inns, Taverns, Alehouses and Brandy Shops: The Legislative Framework, 1495–1797’, in Kumin, B. and Tlusty, B. A., eds, The World of the Tavern: Public Houses in Early Modern Europe (Aldershot, 2002), pp. 6582 (p. 67).Google Scholar

10 Clark, English Alehouse, p. 169. The following parliament passed an act regulating the selling of wine, so that wine sellers and their taverns were regulated in much the same way as alehouse keepers. (7 Ed. VI, c.5, printed in Statutes of the Realm, vol. 4, part 1, pp. 168–70).

11 1 Jac. I, c.9; printed in Statutes of the Realm, vol. 4, part 2, 1586–1625 (London, 1819), pp. 1026–7.

12 As recorded in the diary of Thomas Cromwell on 2nd, 3rd and 8th March 1576 (Hartley, T. E., ed., Proceedings in the Parliaments of Elizabeth I, 3 vols (Leicester, 1981–95), vol. I: 1558–1581, pp. 486, 487, 489.Google Scholar

13 As recorded by Thomas Cromwell (Hartley, ed., Proceedings, vol. I: 1558–1581, p. 531).

14 Hartley, ed., Proceedings, vol. II: 1584–1589, p. 494. On 13th February the second reading is recorded; it is not mentioned again (p. 495). A further bill was also discussed, and finally rejected, in Elizabeth’s tenth and last parliament: 27th October to 19th December 1601 (Hartley, ed., Proceedings, vol. III: 1593–1601, pp. 308–09, 314, 317, 318–19, 322, 391, 427, 435, 456–9. See also Dean, D., The Parliament of England, 1584–1601 (Cambridge, 1996), pp. 177–81.CrossRefGoogle Scholar

15 Lambarde, W., Eirenarcha: Or, Of the Office of the Justice of the Peace, 1st edn (London, 1582), pp. 266–8.Google Scholar

16 ‘Tables’ were gaming boards, particularly of backgammon and related games, usually referred to as a pair of tables. (Yaxley, D., A Researcher’s Glossary of Words found in Historical Documents of East Anglia (Dereham, 2003), p. 212)Google Scholar. ‘Closhe’ was ‘an obsolete game with a ball or bowl, prohibited in many successive statutes in the 15th–16th centuries. It was obsolete before the time of Cowell (1554–1611), who supposed it to be equivalent to ninepins or skittles’ (Oxford English Dictionary, hereafter OED). ‘Coytes’: presumably the same as quoits (‘The sport or game of throwing rings of flattened iron, rope, rubber, etc.; (subsequently especially) the game of throwing or aiming such rings at a peg placed in the ground or at another target’), OED. ‘Loggets’: a 1773 definition in OED states ‘A stake is fixed into the ground; those who play, throw loggats at it, and he that is nearest the stake, wins.’

17 The seconde Tome of Homelyes of such matters as were promised and Intituled in the former part of Homelyes, set out by the aucthoritie of the Quenes Maiestie: And to be read in every paryshe Churche agreablye (1563), homily no. 5, ‘Against gluttony and dronkennes’, fol. 103v to fol. 111v.

18 ‘Against gluttony and dronkennes’, fol. 111v.

19 Frere, W. H., ed., Visitation Articles and Injunctions of the period of the Reformation, Vol. III: 1559–1575 (Alcuin Club Collections, 15 & 16, 1910), p. 343Google Scholar, Bishop Freke’s visitation articles for Rochester diocese, 1572, question no. 23.

20 Frere, ed., Visitation Articles, p. 343, question no. 26.

21 See, for example, the summary in Jennings, P., A History of Drink and the English, 1500–2000 (Oxford and New York, 2016), pp. 147–9CrossRefGoogle Scholar. The notable exception is Alexandra Walsham’s discussion of Stubbe’s Anatomy of Abuses: Walsham, A., ‘“A Glose of Godlines”: Philip Stubbes, Elizabethan Grub Street and the Invention of Puritanism’, in Litzenberger, C. J. and Wabuda, S., eds, Belief and practice in Reformation England: A Tribute to Patrick Collinson From His Students (Ashgate, 1998), pp. 177206.Google Scholar

22 The full title is: An earnest Complaint of divers vain, wicked and abused Exercises, practised on the Saboth day: which tende to the hinderance of the Gospel, and increase of many abhominable vices. With a shorte admonishment to all popish Priests and negligent Ministers by H. Roberts, Minister (London, 1572). The copy at the British Library (hereafter BL) is incomplete; a complete copy is held at the Cosin Library, Durham.

23 Discussed briefly in Collinson, P., The Religion of the Protestants: The Church in English Society, 1559–1625 (The Ford Lectures 1979) (Oxford, 1992), pp. 204, 205, 224–6Google Scholar; Parker, K., The English Sabbath: A Study of Doctrine and Discipline from the Reformation to the Civil War (Cambridge, 1988), pp. 58, 83–5.CrossRefGoogle Scholar

24 An earnest complaint, [sig. C7].

25 An earnest complaint, [sig. D3].

26 Essex Record Office, Essex Quarter Sessions, Q/SR 29/1, Midsummer 1569.

27 ‘The area of Rickmansworth Urban is 574 acres, that of Rickmansworth Rural 7,463 acres, and that of Chorleywood 1,986 acres.’ (W. Page, ed., Victoria County History: The History of Hertfordshire, Vol. II (hereafter VCH Herts, Vol. II) (London, 1908), p. 371).

28 Flood, S., ‘Introduction’, in Crawley, B., ed., Wills at Hertford, 1415–1858 (British Record Society, London, 2007), p. ix.Google Scholar

29 Discussed in detail in Aston, M., ‘Iconoclasm at Rickmansworth, 1522: troubles of churchwardens’, Journal of Ecclesiastical History, 40 (1989), 524–52.CrossRefGoogle Scholar

30 The National Archives (hereafter TNA) E179/120/114: seventy-two taxed in Rickmansworth; twenty in Batchworth; seventeen in Chorleywood; seventeen in Croxley; and in twenty-one West Hyde.

31 Goose, N. and Hinde, A., ‘Estimating local population sizes at fixed points in time: part I – general principles’, Local Population Studies, 77 (2006), 6674Google Scholar; Goose, N. and Hinde, A., ‘Estimating local population sizes at fixed points in time: part II – specific sources’, Local Population Studies, 78 (2007), 7488Google Scholar. To allow for women and for children under sixteen, Goose and Hinde suggest multiplier of 3.2. Also one needs to allow for those not taxed, but as those taxed on wages only earned £1 per annum, Goose argues that very few would slip through the net on this occasion. So multiplier of 3.2 used assuming that these were taxpayers were aged sixteen and older, giving a population of about 470 men, women and children. If the taxpayers were in fact heads of household: 4.75 multiplier, giving a total population of 698.

32 See L. Munby, Hertfordshire Population Statistics 1563–1801, updated by H. Falvey, 2nd edn (Hertford, 2019); Dyer, A. and Palliser, D. M., eds, The Diocesan Population Returns for 1563 and 1603 (London, 2005).Google Scholar

33 HALS ASA5/5/201, a letter ‘To my verie lovinge freind Mr William Huchenson Archdeacon of St Albons’, from bishop elect of London, Richard of Winchester, 2nd January 1595.

34 HALS DE/X976/17/126, list of vicars compiled by H. R. Wilton Hall. (Hall did not recognise the year changing on 25th March so some of the dates that Hall recorded are out by a year.)

35 HALS ASA5/5/202, from William Huchenson ‘To the Right Reverend Father in God Richard the L Bisshop of London’, undated, but early 1595 (answers regarding all parishes in archdeaconry). St Albans had about 1,460 communicants (combined total of the parishes of St Alban approx. 800, St Peter approx. 400 and St Michael approx. 260; St Stephen not given); Watford had about 900; after Rickmansworth came Redbourn with about 420.

36 Not included were those under sixteen (or fourteen), who comprised about 35 per cent of the population (Goose and Hinde, ‘Estimating local population sizes: part II’, 82).

37 In 1542 Henry VIII granted the town a market charter, licensing the bailiffs and inhabitants to hold a market on Saturdays and a fair on the feast of the Assumption (15th August). Page, ed., VCH Herts, Vol. II, p. 372, quoting Letters and Papers of Henry VIII, vol. XVII, 283 (47); Pat. 34 Hen. VIII, pt. 8, m. 6.

38 Regarding informal marketing, see, for example, Dyer, C., ‘The Hidden Trade of the Middle Ages: Evidence from the West Midlands’, in Dyer, C., Everyday Life in Medieval England (London, 1994), pp. 283304, esp. pp. 297–8.Google Scholar

39 Clark, English Alehouse, p. 96.

40 Hailwood, Alehouses and Good Fellowship, p. 53.

41 HALS 1AW53, will of Robert Heathe, beer brewer, 13th December 1558; HALS A25/309, inventory 13th January 1559; probate granted 14th January 1559.

42 Probably an ‘oatmeal mill’: ground oats were used in beer brewing.

43 Details of Corbett family probate material: Simon Corbett, will, HALS 49AW4, 3rd April 1608, probate inventory A25/2048, 17th May 1608; Robert Corbett, will, HALS 52AW9, 23rd April 1611, inventory A25/2213, 13th May 1611; Edward Corbett, inventory and probate account, HALS A25/2676, inventory, 4th January 1621; Henry Corbett, will, HALS 68AW7, 6th May 1626; inventory, A25/2891, 7th June 1626.

44 Page, ed., VCH Herts, Vol. II, pp. 373–84. The manors were: Rickmansworth; the More; Croxley; Snellshall; Pinchfield; Bigging; Ashleys; Batchworth; Britwell; Micklefield; Langleys or Linster; Woodwicks (or, Woodoaks); post-dissolution manor of the Rectory of Rickmansworth.

45 Difficult to untangle; partly explained in Page, ed., VCH Herts, Vol. II, p. 373.

46 These court records, together with similar ones from Watford, are held at the Huntington Library (hereafter HL), California (HL EL 748 and 748A). Dates of courts in HL EL 748: 29th April 1573; 30th October 1573; 27th April 1574; 7th May 1579; 26th May 1579; 30th September 1579; 23rd April 1580. Dates of courts in HL EL 748A: unspecified but 17 Elizabeth; 7th May 1576.

47 See P. D. A. Harvey, Manorial Records (British Records Association: Archives and the User, no. 5, rev. edn, 1999), p. 46, for definitions and functions of the various roles.

48 HALS ASA20/12/5F, Gisbye churchwarden; HALS ASA20/12/5G, Gonner, Wyngfeyld and Beresford churchwardens.

49 HL EL748 and EL748A passim.

50 His marriage and the baptisms of two children were recorded in the register of St Lawrence Jewry and St Mary Magdalen, Milk Street. A. W. Hughes Clarke, ed., The Register of St. Lawrence Jewry and St. Mary Magdalen, Milk Street, London, Part I (1538 to 1676) & Part II (1677 to 1812) (Harleian Society, vols 70–71, 1940–1), pp. 16, 83.

51 HALS ASA20/12/5G, churchwarden.

52 TNA PROB 11/106/284, will of Rowland Beresford, 1603; TNA PROB 11/79/337, will of George Gonner, 1592; TNA PROB 11/99/159, will of Anthony Gibb, 1602.

53 HALS ASA20/12/5B, sideman; ASA20/12/5G, churchwarden.

54 HALS ASA20/12/5C, sideman; ASA20/12/8C churchwarden.

55 HALS 35AW26 and 35AW27, will of William Weedon of Stockers and separate list of debts in 1594.

56 HALS HAT SR 10/48, Buntingford alehouse petition, 1597.

57 By the bishop of London (Grindal). (HALS, DE/X976/17/126, manuscript list of Rickmansworth vicars compiled by H. R. Wilton Hall).

58 HALS ASA5/5/95.

59 HALS ASA5/5/89, 3rd November 1584; ASA5/5/96, 14th November 1584; ASA5/5/114, 10th March 1585.

60 Peter, R., Oculus Epsicopi: Administration in the Archdeaconry of St Albans, 1580–1625 (Manchester, 1963), p. 98.Google Scholar

61 For William Edmonds’s life and ministry, and that of his son, also William, see G. Martin, ‘The elusive Edmonds of Rickmansworth’ (Rickmansworth, 2010, privately published).

62 Clark, English Alehouse, p. 41.

63 Ibid., p. 5.

64 Discussed in Clark, English Alehouse, pp. 41–4. TNA SP12/116, alehouse numbers in Hertfordshire, as reported by the JPs to the Privy Council, 8th October 1577, fol. 12; the separate figures for St Albans were twenty-seven inns, two taverns and sixteen alehouses.

65 Clark, English Alehouse, pp. 75–6.

66 Cogdell’s surname is spelled in various ways in the documents.

67 Hardy, W. J., ed., Hertford County Records, Vol. I: Notes and Extracts from the Sessions Rolls 1581 to 1698 (Hertford, 1905), p. 18Google Scholar. The original presentment cannot now be located in the surviving records. Hardy did not give the exact dates, simply ‘at the session for (for example) 1593–4’.

68 HALS HAT/SR6/57, Ellis Cogdell of Kings Langley, summoned to appear, 20th November 1593; HAT/SR6/120, Ellis Cogdell of Kings Langley, summoned to appear, 20th February 1594; HAT/SR6/165, Ellis Cogdell of Kings Langley, summoned to appear, 1st June 1594; HAT/SR6/230, Ellis Cogdill of Kings Langley, summoned to appear, 1st August 1594.

69 HALS HAT/SR/37/1/40. The conditions were similar to those set out by Lambarde in Eirenarcha, discussed above. This recognisance, of course, was in the form required by the 1604 Act.

70 HALS H22/238, inventory of Ellis Cogdell.

71 HL EL 748A, p. 1. The date of the court is not given, but it has been noted that it was held in 17 Elizabeth, that is, 17th November 1574 to 16th November 1575. Since the encroachment had to be removed before Pentecost next, it was probably held in early 1575, Pentecost being 22nd May 1575. Hall is sometimes called ‘Hull’ in the records.

72 Rate from Woodward, D., ‘The determination of wage rates in the early modern north of England’, Economic History Review, XLVII (1994), 2243 (30).CrossRefGoogle Scholar

73 OED: see the various definitions of ‘goodman’.

74 OED definition from Sir T. Smith, De Republica Anglorum (1583), i. xxiii. 30. See also Postles, D., Social Proprieties: Social Relations in Early Modern England (1500–1680) (Washington, DC, 2006), pp. 34–6.Google Scholar

75 HL EL748, pp. 5, 45, 47, 69, 79; EL784A, p. 20.

76 HALS A25/1201, inventory of Thomas Lane of Rickmansworth, 6th June 1587.

77 Page, ed., VCH Herts, Vol. II, p. 373; HALS 25AW9 and A25/1098, will and inventory of Margaret Palmer.

78 HALS 8430.

79 For the Grove: HALS 10051, 27th November 1573, Francis Heydon ‘de le Grove’ in the parish of Watford held the manor of the Grove alias ‘Grovehide’ from Charles Morison.

80 For Oxhey: Page, ed., VCH Herts, Vol. II, p. 458. For the 1595 subsidy, HALS DE/Z120/46236. The highest valuation for land in Rickmansworth and its surrounding communities was £13. Francis Heydon died in 1606.

81 The latest, and most detailed, biography of Sir Richard is Sowerby, T., Renaissance and Reform in Tudor England: The Careers of Sir Richard Morison, c. 1513–1556 (Oxford, 2010)CrossRefGoogle Scholar. See also his ODNB entry by Woolfson, Jonathan: ‘Morison, Sir Richard (c. 1510–1556)’, Oxford Dictionary of National Biography, online edn (Oxford, 2004).Google Scholar

82 Woolfson, ‘Morison, Sir Richard’.

83 Very little can be learned about Roberts: histories of the parish and church of Kings Langley do not mention him at all. The Clergy Database has next to nothing on him: <> CCEd Person ID: 150877.

84 The relevant part of the inventory – which is mentioned in MacCaffrey’s ODNB entry for Russell – cannot be located. The inventory of Chenies was made on 20th September 1584; parts of it have been published but not the inventory of his library. See Thomson, G. Scott, Two Centuries of Family History, A Study in Social Development (London, 1930)Google Scholar; Thomson, G. Scott, Family Background (London, 1949).Google Scholar

85 Cassidy, I., ‘Morison, Charles (1549–99), of Cassiobury, Herts’, in Hasler, P. W., ed., The History of Parliament: The House of Commons, 1558–1603 (Woodbridge, 1981).Google Scholar

86 BL Add MS 40629 (Cassiobury papers), Francis Heydon to Charles Morison, fol. 85.

87 Clark, English Alehouse, p. 67, for a discussion of ale poles in the sixteenth century.

88 The provenance of the surviving petition (HALS 8430) is impossible to ascertain. It came to the (old) Record Office in Hertford from St Albans Museum. ‘It does not have an accession number unlike the majority of our holdings so we believe its arrival pre-dates our accessioning system, which began in 1939.’ (Correspondence with HALS, 22nd August 2015).

89 TNA PROB 11/79/337.

90 TNA PROB 11/106/284.

91 HALS 33AW1, will of Thomas Aldwyn of Croxley Hall, 1st September 1592; 34AW17, will of Charles Spencer, 30th July 1593.

92 There were two men called Thomas Aldwyn both living in Croxley; one of whom was churchwarden in 1580.

93 The land is mentioned in his will.

94 HALS A25/1372, inventory of Thomas Aldwyn, 6th October 1592, total value £216 15s 8d

95 HALS A25/1446, inventory of Charles Spencer, 6th November 1593, total value £239 16s 4d. The Bible was valued together with other items in the parlour at £2 5s in total.

96 HALS A25/1297, inventory of Jerome Boston, 22nd June 1590.

97 ‘Plan of St Mary’s parish church’, in J. Cussans, History of Hertfordshire, Vol. III: The Hundred of Cashio (London, 1881), p. 150.

98 Hailwood, Alehouses and Good Fellowship, pp. 29–54.

99 Clark, English Alehouse, note 5 to text on p. 167.

100 HALS A25/1323, inventory of Christopher Rowe, 14th August 1590.

101 HALS 49AW4, will of Simon Corbett, 3rd April 1608.

102 HALS A25/2106, inventory of Richard Hayward, dated 1610; probate granted [illeg] day of March 1609 according to computation of England, that is, 1610, by Thomas Hayward, son of the deceased.

103 Buller, P. and Buller, B., eds, Pots, Platters & Ploughs: Sarratt Wills & Inventories, 1435–1832 (Sarratt, 1982)Google Scholar, document 72, will of Bray Rolfe, gent., dated 30th December 1606 (HALS 48 AW 19); document 73, inventory of Bray Rolfe, gent., appraised 8th January 1607 (HALS, A25/2031).

104 A. J. King, Muster Books for North and East Hertfordshire, 1580–1605 (Hertfordshire Record Society, vol. XII, 1996), p. x.