Star Chamber write up from STAC_8_71_9
In February 1611 James Brett and his son Henry brought a complaint in the Court of Star Chamber against a group of local men who, the Bretts claimed, had been harassing the family and their servants. The men, thirteen of whom were named in the complaint, were from Hoby and the nearby village of Grimston. They were local men, described as labourers, husbandmen, a tailor, a blacksmith and an alehouse keeper. The ringleader was John Mossman of Hoby, who seemed to hold some kind of grudge against the Bretts and was accused of carrying out a number of offences against the family and their servants over a period of a year or so prior to the complaint being brought.
The offences included driving off Brett’s sheep with a pack of dogs and beating up the shepherd, John Holland, assaulting Brett’s servant, Thomas Reyner, causing him to miss work for twenty days, taking back a house on the Bretts’ property which James Brett had rightfully distrained for ‘damage feasant’ and taking some cows belonging to the Bretts and driving them off when James Brett got an order to recover them.
The most serious offence, however, seems to have been the most recent one, on 27 December 1610, when a group of the men had been ‘drinking inordinately’ at the alehouse of one Alexander Bell, which was unlicensed, and, ‘armed with swords daggers staves pitchforks and other weapons and armour’, assaulted Henry Brett and broke one of his front teeth and also assaulted James Brett’s youngest son, Arthur. James Brett requested that ‘condign and exemplary punishment be inflicted upon the said offenders’ and that they should be subpoenaed to appear at the Star Chamber at Westminster.
Names of the men accused were given as:
John Mossman of Hoby, husbandman
William Glover of Hoby, husbandman
Richard Villers of Hoby, serving man
Alexander Bell of Hoby, alehouse keeper
Richard Sharp of Hoby, labourer
Thomas Hubbard of Hoby, labourer
William Hubbard of Hoby, labourer
William Wood of Hoby, labourer
John Townsend of Hoby, labourer
Robert Browne of Hoby, labourer
John Chamberlin of Hoby, labourer
William Burbage of Grimston, blacksmith
William Twitchell of Grimston, tailor
In addition to the details of the case, the bill provides some new information on the early life of Henry Brett and his brother Arthur. The bill indicates that Henry was a student at Trinity College Cambridge when the assault on him took place in December 1610. In that case he is probably the Henry Brett who, according to Alumni Cantabrigenses, matriculated at Trinity as a pensioner, Easter 1607.
James Brett also stated in the bill that when the assaults on his sons took place in December 1610 Henry was under the age of 21 (and he still was in February 1611) and Arthur was ‘a child of fifteen years of age and not above’. If that is correct, Henry’s generally accepted birth year of 1587 must be incorrect and he could not have been born before February 1590. Arthur Brett, who was fifteen years old in December 1611, could not have been born before December 1596.