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ca 1625-6: Thomas Hobson junior sues for damages after imprisonment for debt, but which debt and how much?


Thomas Hobson junior versus John Sherman MA in the Vice-Chancellor's Court 

Surviving records do not allow precise dating of the start of the case, but some time in or before 1625 Thomas Hobson junior1 of Chesterton sued John Sherman MA2 for a debt of £9 10s plus £100 damages. He alleged that Sherman’s failure over a five-year period, 1612-17, to deliver £9 10s to Thomas Maples of Stow, Huntingdonshire, gentleman, on his behalf, had resulted in his imprisonment for 10 weeks in the Castle in Cambridge in 1623.

Noone disagreed that Hobson had been successfully sued for a debt to Maples and imprisoned, but opinions differed as to which debt and its size. Sherman countered that imprisonment was Hobson’s punishment for negligence as bailiff under Thomas Maples when under-sheriff of Cambridgeshire. He had entered into a bond with Maples for the good execution of his duties, in the penal sum of £100, and been found lacking. He hadn’t performed, he hadn’t paid, he’d gone to jail. It was nothing to do with him.

Maples deposed that Hobson was imprisoned because he stood surety in the penal sum of £500 for the good execution of duties of one John Norfolk, fellow bailiff, who had absconded. Ultimately, he had had 40 marks from Hobson via his brother-in-law, Master Folkes3, and released him.

But going back to Sherman, Hobson’s witnesses testified to having accompanied him to hand over the £9 10s for delivery to Maples. John Saunders said Sherman was an honest man but questioned his memory. In disputing Sherman’s counter claim, Hobson asserted that John Norfolk’s debt, for which he accepted he was bound to Maples, was for £12 and that Maples wrote a letter to Sherman on 27 October 1621 saying so.

Judgement was made in Hobson’s favour in March 1626 and Sherman ordered to pay the £9 10s plus £5 expenses.

In the absence of clear dating evidence to put them in sequence, the documents digitised here are presented in the order Act Book entries, exhibita, depositions. They are:

• Act book entries recording the progress of the case, already underway on first appearance, November 1625-June 1626 (classmark: UA VCCt.I.11)

• Allegations of Thomas Hobson, [?1625] (classmark: UA VCCt.III.27/168)

• Allegations of John Sherman, [?1625] (classmark: UA VCCt.III. 28/5)

• Exceptions of Thomas Hobson, [?1625] (classmark: UA VCCt.III.28/6)

• Interrogatories of Thomas Hobson for witnesses of John Sherman (specifically Maples), [?1625] (classmark: UA VCCt.III.28/7)

• Personal response of Thomas Hobson, [?1625] (classmark: UA VCCt.II.22 f.201v)

• Deposition of Thomas Maples, [?1625] (classmark: UA VCCt.II.22 ff.209v-210v)

• Depositions of John Loder and John Saunders, butcher, witnesses of Thomas Hobson; personal response of John Sherman, May 1625 (classmark: UA VCCt.II.22 ff.213r-216v).

Except for entries in the Act Book, all records are transcribed. Latin abbreviations have been extended; spelling and punctuation transcribed as seen. 

For an outline of the jurisdiction and procedure of the University courts, and the methodology employed in presenting records online, see the introduction to this CUDL collection.

1 Thomas Hobson (1582-1627) was the eldest son and first child of the Thomas Hobson, carrier. He lived for many years with his family in Chesterton, probably in Chesterton Hall which had been built by the Hobsons as a mid-ranking gentry house around 1608. Its current location is at the junction of Elizabeth Way and High Street, Chesterton (source: Nigel Grimshaw).
2 Possibly John Sherman of Clare Hall (MA 1583), lessee of The Eagle and Child inn on Bene’t Street (source: Nigel Grimshaw).
3 One of Thomas’s sisters, Elizabeth, married Richard Folkes, a barrister. They lived at Anglesey Abbey (source: Nigel Grimshaw).