mb 2 (30 January)
To the kinges most excellent Maiestie
In all humble manner Complayninge sheweth and Informeth vnto your most excellent Maiestie your true and faythfull Subiect Robart Coleman late one of the Bayliffes of your Cittie or Towne of Winchester in your Maiesties County of Southamton That whereas your said Cittie or Towne of Winchester ys and soe by all the tyme whereof the memory of man ys not to the Contary hath beene a very auncient Cittie and Corporacion Incorporated by the name of the Maior Bayliffes and Cominaltie of your said Cittie Soe it is yf it may please your most excellent Maiestie That one Launcelott Thorpe gent being now and soe havinge beene longe before the Towne Clark of your said Cittie ... And further wheras vppon a Saboth day in the tyme of diuine service & sermon in the afternoone of the same day diuers persones to the nomber of Tenn or there aboutes were taken by Thomas Brace then Constable of your said <...>ne for yat they had vppon the same day in sermon tyme vnlawfully acted a Stage playe within a Church in your said Cittie Called St. Peeters Church Soe yt is further that ye said persons soe by the said Constable apprehended <....>ninge that the said Maior did give them leaue to act the said stage play in the said Church as aforesaid & beinge brought by the said Constable before the said Maior hee neuer the lesse though hee were fully informed thereof and <.....> abuses by the said Constable did discharge all the said Actors or Players without any punishment or rebuke for the same vnto them...
There were two churches dedicated to St Peter in Winchester at this time (once there had been five): St Peter's Colebrook and St Peter's Chesil (Keene and Rumble, Medieval Winchester, vol 1, pt 1, p 135). It seems likely that the church involved was St Peter's Colebrook. The two parishes were contiguous, on the eastern side of the city, separated only by the River Itchen and the town wall, for St Peter's Chesil lay in the suburbs outside the East Gate in the area known as the Soke, a separate jurisdiction from the city since 1231. The bishop of Winchester was the principal landlord in the Soke and the bishop appointed a steward or bailiff to administer this area, an official at times called the 'mayor of the Soke' in the records. The mayor of the city of Winchester had no authority in the Soke, and thus would not have been concerned with players performing at St Peter's Chesil (Keene and Rumble, Medieval Winchester, vol 1, p 72). St Peter's Colebrook was originally in the precinct of St Mary's Abbey and the abbey may have been responsible for the survival of this rather poor parish, as the abbey was patron of church and provided annual support for the rector, support replaced in 1542 by an annual pension from the Crown. By 1652 the parish had declined so badly that the corporation ordered it united with that of St Maurice (Keene and Rumble, Medieval Winchester, vol 2, pts 2–3, pp 847–8).
Record title: Deposition of Robert Coleman v. Lancelot
Shelfmark: STAC 8/94/7
Repository location: Kew
Lancelot Thorpe was town clerk of Winchester and in 1615 and 1623 mayor as well (Tom Atkinson, Elizabethan Winchester (London, 1963), 91). The fact that Thorpe was re-elected mayor in 1623 suggests that his fellows on the council did not think him the demon that Coleman did. Coleman's complaint accuses Thorpe of a number of abuses while mayor, among them refusing Coleman entry into the twenty-four for no reason and showing a malicious hatred of Coleman. The charge given the most space is that several men were brought before Thorpe as justice of the town court, accused of running tippling houses without licences, and that Thorpe not only did not punish them but gave them licences to continue. Coleman adds that these men were suspected of keeping unruly houses and being receivers of stolen goods. The crucial point, though, is that all the accused brewed their ale from grain milled at mills owned by Thorpe, whereas none of the previously licensed alehouse keepers used either of Thorpe's two mills. Coleman argues that the result has been considerable economic loss to other mill owners. Coleman also accuses Thorpe of failing to collect fines from other offenders, fines that should have gone to Coleman and others, letting the offenders go unpunished, as in the case of the players. For another attempt to suppress games, dancing, and the like in the Soke, see the quarter sessions order of 24 June 1621 (see Quarter Sessions Order Book, 1621).
Membrane 1 is Thorpe's reply to the charges, dated 4
February 1616/17; he merely denies all the charges.
30 January 1616/17; English; parchment; 2 membranes, attached at upper left corner, lined, with last nine lines written small and between lines to get the whole deposition of Coleman onto one side of the membrane, date on the dorse of mb 2: 'Iouis tricesimo die Ianuarij Anno xiiij Iacobi Regis' and below that in a different hand: 'Harker,' mb 2 signed at the bottom: 'Tho. Hughes'; 222–620 x 318–695mm; good condition, but bottom left corner of mb 2 missing, with up to 100mm of writing missing from bottom lines.