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Some legal actions involving John Taverner, Rose Taverner and Christopher Tye

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  17 October 2022


Searches through the plea rolls of the Court of Common Pleas have revealed a number of actions involving, separately, the Tudor composers Christopher Tye and John Taverner, and Taverner’s widow, Rose. These yield the earliest sighting of Taverner so far, the date of his marriage, and two transactions in which he is involved in the transfer of property. Rose is shown defending a claim of debt incurred by John Copley, her previous husband, and attempting to recover debts owed, in one case, to her late son and, in others, to John Taverner. For Tye, no fewer than twenty-seven cases have been discovered, in almost all of which he is the defendant in a claim of debt. They shed light upon his contacts outside music and suggest that his principal places of residence were in Ely from 1547 to at least 1556, and at Doddington after 1561. They also reveal that he was claiming to be a Gentleman of the Chapel Royal much earlier than previously realised. Rose Taverner and Tye also feature in cases brought in the Court of Chancery, one of which reveals the name of Tye’s mother and the town in which she had lived.

© The Author(s), 2022. Published by Cambridge University Press on behalf of The Royal Musical Association

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1 Fellowes, Edmund H., William Byrd, 2nd edn (London: Oxford University Press, 1948)Google Scholar; Harley, John, William Byrd: Gentleman of the Chapel Royal (Aldershot and Brookfield, VT: Scolar Press, 1997)Google Scholar. Details of Byrd’s property leases are in John Harley, The World of William Byrd: Musicians, Merchants and Magnates (Farnham and Burlington, VT: Ashgate, 2010), 216–21.

2 For the development of the English courts and law, see Sir Baker, John, An Introduction to English Legal History, 5th edn (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2019)Google Scholar. Also indispensable is Margaret Hastings, The Court of Common Pleas in Fifteenth Century England (Cornell University Press, 1947). See also Blatcher, Marjorie, The Court of King’s Bench 1450–1550: a Study in Self-Help (London: Athlone Press, 1978)Google Scholar.

3 The plea rolls of the Court of Common Pleas, the King’s Bench and the Exchequer, are among the court documents of this era photographed for the digital image archive ‘The Anglo-American Legal Tradition’ assembled by Robert C. Palmer, Elspeth K. Palmer and Susan Jenks at <>.

4 John Harley, William Byrd, xi.

5 Rosemary Simons and Vance Mead have indexed selected rolls for The Anglo-American Legal Tradition.

6 The National Archives (henceforth TNA) CP 40/1118, rot. 277 dorse; CP 40/1123, rot. 806; CP 40/1124, rot. 667 dorse; CP 40/1125, rot, 68 dorse; CP 40/1130, rot. 787.

7 We are grateful to Roger Bowers for confirming the composer’s tenure of Pewsey.

8 TNA CP 40/1116, rot. 297 dorse; CP 40/1120, rot. 548 dorse.

9 TNA CP 40/1146, rot. 438, front and dorse. Harryson has an entry in Hugh Baillie, ‘Some Biographical Notes on English church musicians, chiefly working in London (1485–1560)’, RMA Research Chronicle 2 (1962), 18–57 (p. 38).

10 TNA CP 40/1101, rot. 545 dorse.

11 TNA CP 40/1177, rot. 216.

12 Anon., The Practick Part of the Law (London, 1652), 5. If used with care, relatively late sources can often illuminate earlier practices. The law evolved but slowly and many of its procedures remained stable for centuries.

13 Marjorie K. McIntosh, ‘Money Lending on the Periphery of London, 1300–1600’, Albion, 20/4 (1988), 557–71.

14 The following explanation is indebted to Baker, English Legal History, 71–3; Sir Blackstone, William, Commentaries on the Laws of England, 4 vols. (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1765–9), iii, 282–4Google Scholar; iv, 313–16 and Taylor, Thomas, A Law Glossary (London: W. Clarke & Sons, 1819)Google Scholar.

15 In practice this phrase was invariably abbreviated in the plea rolls to ‘quod nichil habet &c’.

16 A bailiwick was the sheriff’s area of jurisdiction. A sheriff was typically responsible for an entire county, but some towns and cities, such as Coventry, Bristol, Kingston-upon-Hull and Exeter had their own sheriff. Several bailiwicks had two sheriffs. These included London, whose sheriffs also were also responsible for Middlesex: in London they were counted as two sheriffs, but in Middlesex they were known collectively as the sheriff: John Impey, rev. H. Jeremy, The Practice of the Office of Sheriff and Under- Sheriff, 6th edn (London: J. & W. T. Clarke, 1835), 21, 32, 42.

17 Sir William David Evans (ed.), revised Anthony Hammond, A Collection of Statutes Connected with the General Administration of the Law, 3rd edn (London: Saunders and Benning, 1829), iii, 196–7. For the phrase ‘in pleno comitatu’, see Palmer, Robert C., The County Courts of Medieval England, 1150–1350 (Princetown: Princetown University Press, 1982), 16–17Google Scholar.

18 Hastings, The Court of Common Pleas, 37–8.

19 Baker, English Legal History, 74; Blackstone, Commentaries, iii, 414–15.

20 Baker, English Legal History, 72, n.72.

21 Ibid., 345–6.

22 Ibid., 82.

23 Ibid., 49–50; Liron Shmilovits, Legal Fictions in Private Law (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2022), 21–3.

24 The Attourney of the Court of Common Pleas (London 1648), 37.

25 Baker, English Legal History, 241–9.

26 Ibid., 299–303; [George] Wilson, A Practical Treatise on Fines and Recoveries, 3rd edn (London: W. Strahan & M. Woodfall, 1780), 261–6. For a detailed investigation of the entire subject, see Biancalana, Joseph, The Fee Tail and the Common Recovery in Medieval England, 1176–1502, (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2001)CrossRefGoogle Scholar.

27 Sir Baker, John, The Oxford History of the Laws of England: Volume 6, 1483–1558 (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2003), 698–9Google Scholar.

28 C[harles]. W. Foster, Final Concords of the County of Lincoln, A.D. 1242–1272, with Additions A.D. 1176–1250, vol. 2, Lincoln Record Society 17 (Horncastle: W. K. Moreton & Sons Limited, 1920), xviii–xxx.

29 The information here presented in brief outline is more fully presented in Benham, John Taverner: His Life and Music (Aldershot: Ashgate, 2003), 5–18 and 271–84, and in Bowers, Roger, ‘Taverner, John’, The New Grove Dictionary of Music and Musicians, ed. Sadie, Stanley and Tyrell, , 29 vols, 2nd edn., (London: Macmillan Publishers, 2001), xxv, 130–5Google Scholar.

30 Hugh Benham, John Taverner, 5.

31 The Foys family were sometimes referred to as ‘Voice’ or ‘Voyce’, in line with the Southern English tendency to replace initial F with V. It is therefore almost certain that Taverner’s creditor was the Henry Voyce (1503–1550) whose will is transcribed (from PROB 11/34/104) at <> (accessed 4 July 2022).

32 British History Online, <> (accessed 4 July 2022).

33 As the crow flies. We cannot know his exact route. Oxford was, as the crow flies, about 100 miles from Tattershall and from Boston.

34 Benham, John Taverner, 9.

35 Baker, Introduction to Legal History, 286–7.

36 E 150/580/18. For further details and translation, see Benham, John Taverner, pp. 16–17, 275–7 (Appendix B).

37 CP 40/1041, rot. 300, <> (accessed 4 July 2022).

39 This John Sutton may have been the man of that name who was buried at St Botolph’s, Boston on 20 February 1559/60 (Lincoln, Lincolnshire Archives, Boston St Botolph Par 1/1, p. 1 of the burials section).

40 Benham, John Taverner, 283–4 (Appendix E: ‘John Taverner and the Loan of £20’).

41 There is a note about the Robertson family in Pishey Thompson, The History and Antiquities of Boston (London: John Noble, 1856), 253. William Kydd was one of the first aldermen of Boston in 1545, and mayor in 1549 and 1556; see Thompson, The History and Antiquities, 454.

42 Mayor of Boston in 1547. Further on his known connection (and a further possible connection with Taverner), see Benham, John Taverner, pp. 16 (including note 69) and 304, note 9.

43 ‘Rose Copley [Taverner after her marriage] had apparently…attempted to conceal her late husband John Copley’s will, according to the incomplete record of a legal action taken against her (C1/1172/54)’: Benham, John Taverner, 283.

44 Her will was dated 1 May and proved 18 May 1553: Benham, John Taverner, 279–80.

45 Stephen Gardiner, who was also Bishop of Winchester, having been re-appointed to that see on Queen Mary’s accession in July 1553.

46 Anon., The Practick Part of the Law, 361–2.

47 In the 1530s an Arthur Hewer (perhaps the same man again) owned property about 18 miles from Boston in Partney (see C 1/828/22), but it does not follow that he and Rose were in contact on that account.

48 SP 1/136, ff.133–4. See the facsimile in Bowers, ‘Taverner, John’, The New Grove, 132. See also Benham, John Taverner, pp. 14, 271 (Appendix A, where the page numbers are given in error as 113–14).

49 Elizabeth Cust, Records of the Cust Family of Pinchbeck, Stamford and Belton in Lincolnshire (London: Mitchell and Hughes, 1898), 160. Garratt was presumably the Nycolas Garrett who was buried at Bicker on 2 June 1564 (Lincoln, Lincolnshire Archives, Bicker Par 1/1, p. 5). There is no reason to suppose that the John Taverner, husbandman of Uffington, Lincolnshire, mentioned in the marriage settlement, was connected with any of the cases discussed in this narrative.

50 Bowers, Roger, ‘Chapel and Choir, Liturgy and Music, 1444–1644’, in Massing, Jean Michel and Zeeman, Nicolette (eds.), King’s College Chapel 1515–2015 (London and Turnhout: Harvey Miller Publishers, 2014), 259–83 (p.266)Google Scholar.

51 Payne, Ian, The Provision and Practice of Sacred Music at Cambridge Colleges and Selected Cathedrals c.1547–c.1646: a Comparative Study of the Archival Evidence (New York and London: Garland Publishing, 1993), 268 Google Scholar.

52 Shaw, Watkins, The Succession of Organists of the Chapel Royal and the Cathedrals of England and Wales from c.1538 (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1991), 96–7Google Scholar.

53 Cambridge, Corpus Christi College, MS 120, p. 298, quoted in Payne, The Provision and Practice of Sacred Music, pp. 191–3, 253.

54 Paul Doe, ‘Tye, Christopher’, The New Grove Dictionary of Music and Musicians, ed. Stanley Sadie, 20 Vols (London, Washington and Hong Kong: Macmillan Publishers, 1980), xix, 297–300 (pp. 297–8). The document is printed in full in G[odfrey]. E. P. Arkwright (ed.), ‘Mass to Six Voices “Euge bone” by Dr. Christopher Tye’, The Old English Edition x, (London and Oxford: Joseph Williams and James Parker & Co., respectively, 1893), 17–18.

55 Arkwright (ed.), ‘Mass to Six Voices’, 22–3.

56 Higgs, Laquita M., Godliness and Governance in Tudor Colchester (Ann Arbor, MI: University of Michigan Press, 1998), 375, 388 CrossRefGoogle Scholar.

57 The whole scene is quoted in Morrison Comegys Boyd, Elizabethan Music and Musical Criticism, 2nd edn (Philadephia, PA: University of Pennsylvania Press, 1962), 301–3.

58 Quoted in Sir Hawkins, John, A General History of the Science and Practice of Music, 5 vols. (London: T. Payne & Son, 1776), iii, 258 Google Scholar.

59 The Actes of the Apostles, translated into Englyshe metre … by Cristofer Tye, Doctor in musyke (William Seres, 1553).

60 Andrew Ashbee and David Lasocki, assisted by Holman, Peter and Kisby, Fiona, A Biographical Dictionary of English Court Musicians 1485–1714, 2 vols. (Aldershot and Brookfield, VT: Ashgate Publishing, 1998)Google Scholar, ii, 1108.

61 Baillie, ‘Some Biographical Notes’, 50; Edmund H. Fellowes, Organists and Masters of the Choristers of St. George’s Chapel in Windsor Castle (London: Society for the Promotion of Christian Knowledge, 1939), plate 3 (between pages 14 and 15), 103.

62 Baillie, ‘Some Biographical Notes’, 37; Fellowes, Organists and Masters of the Choristers, 23–4.

63 E 115 /173/111; PROB 11/48/339.

64 Doe, Paul and Mateer, David, ‘Tye, Christopher’, The New Grove Dictionary of Music and Musicians, ed. Sadie, Stanley and Tyrell, John, 29 vols, 2nd edn. (London: Macmillan Publishers, 2001), xxvi, 13–16Google Scholar (p. 14).

65 Thomas Waite is recorded as a Gentleman of the Chapel Royal between 1543–4 and 15 January 1559: Ashbee et al., A Biographical Dictionary, ii, 1120–1.

66 The Latin ‘Magistro Roberto Stuard’ could be dative or ablative and so is ambiguous, but the dative is the more likely interpretation.

67 Tom Lockwood, ‘North, Sir Thomas (1535–1603?)’, Oxford Dictionary of National Biography, online edition, <> (accessed 4 July 2022).

68 Given the similarity of their names, one wonders whether Richard Lynborowe might be the same man as the Richard Wynborowe, clerk, who was involved in the sequestration of Doddington in 1570: Arkwright (ed.), ‘Mass to Six Voices’, 23. A Richard Lynborowe was a curate at Milton-next-Gravesend, Kent, in September 1565 and vicar of Eynsford, Kent, from October 1575 to July 1579; see <> and <> (accessed 4 July 2022).

69 John Strype, Annals of the Reformation and Establishment of Religion, 3 vols. (1725–8), ii, appendix, 90.

70 G[odfrey]. E. P. Arkwright, ‘Christopher Tye’ [letter to the editor], The Musical Times, 66 (1925), 930.

71 Britsh History Online, <> (accessed 4 July 2022).

72 Arkwright (ed.), ‘Mass to Six Voices’, 17–18.

73 Doe, ‘Christopher Tye’, 299.

74 Roger Bowers, ‘Taverner, John (c.1490–1545)’, Oxford Dictionary of National Biography, online edition, <> (accessed 4 July 2022).

75 Joan Saye was buried at St Leonard’s, New Hythe, Colchester on 24 September 1568: Essex Record Office (ERO) D/P 245/1/2, burials, p. 4. Her will (Essex Record Office D/ACR 6/87) reveals that Tye had two siblings: a brother called George and a sister, Joan.

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