Philip Lord - 3/24/2016

During collaboration on the question of the Coat of Arms adopted by the descendants of Thomas Lord in America, I was directed to a document bearing his name in the British National Archives as follows:

Reference:           C3/365/24
Description:        Lord v Russell.
                             Plaintiffs: Thomas Lord. Defendants: Thomas Russell...
                             Subject: property in Towcester, Wood Burcote, Northamptonshire.
                             Document type: bill only.
Date:                    1622

While it was not felt this document would provide very much detail, as it was the bill of complaint only, it has turned out to reveal many and significant details about the village of Towcester.

A copy was ordered, and after several weeks, the image arrived. Work was immediately begun, as it was clear the document was much more detailed and held much more promise than at first believed.

The text below is based on a trascription of this document by Janet Wolfe with some attempts by me, then edited by me. In order to provide clarity for the reader, I amended the text to modern spelling and puctuation. Superscript numbers refer to explanatory notes at the end of the document. Ambiguous words are left in brackets with a question mark.

John Williams, Lord Bishop of Lincoln and Keeper of the Great Seal

To the right Reverend Father in god John Lord Bishop of Lincoln Lord keeper of the great Seal of England.

 D'ewe                       8th day July 1622

     In all humble manner complaining showeth unto your good Lordship your Lordships poor and dally orator Thomas Lord of Towcester in the county of Northampton, blacksmith.
     That whereas Thomas Russell of Towcester aforesaid gent did heretofore by his Indenture of Demise bearing date six and twentieth day of March in the eighteenth year of his majesty's reign1 over this his highness' realm of England, for the considerations therein expressed, demise grant sell and to Farm let unto your said Orator2 forty and seven acres of arable land and nine acres of leys3 and grass ground in the Fields of Towcester and Wood Burcott, and also the tithe corn and grain of the said demised premises, and common of pasture for five beasts in the Common Fields of Towcester.
     And also all the tithe corn and grain in Towcester and Wood Burcott unto a bridge called Spittle bridge together with the tithe hay in churchmeadows and meadmill Field and the tithe hay then on the west side of the Spittle bridge (excepting Rowells meadow and the enclosed grounds in the occupation of Richard Litcutt Esq), and also the Parsonage barn with the yard thereunto belonging, and the other two barns with the yard between them, for nine years from the Feast of the Annunciation of our blessed Lady St Mary the Virgin, which was in the year of our Lord god one thousand six hundred and nineteen; upon & under the yearly rent of one hundred and ten pounds and ten shillings of lawfull english money, payable yearly upon the tenth day of April, and the tenth day of June and the nine and twentieth day of September by even and equal portions.
     And your said orator did then become bound in a [great?] and [penall?] obligation and bond unto the said Thomas Russell for payment of the sa
id rent, at the days and times and payments aforesaid as by the said Indenture of lease and bond where unto reference being had more fully and at large it do and may appear.
     And your said orator further also showeth unto your good Lordship that your said orator, being disabled by the hardness of the said bargain any longer to hold his said lease and bond, to pay his said rent, and thereupon failing to make payment of his said rent upon the tenth day of April last past, the said Thomas Russell and your said orator, upon the eighth day of May last past, came to a composition and agreement for and as touchng the said lease and bond, that your said orator should then yield up unto the said Mr. Russell all his right and interest of the tithe which he held by the demise aforesaid, except of the land which he himself held.
     And that the said Mr. Russell should enter upon the fallow of the demised premises upon the five and twentieth day of March now next following, and that your said orator should become bound with Robert Bird4 and George Tight5 unto the said Mr Russell for the payment unto the said Mr. Russell of five and twenty pounds upon the five and twentieth day of July next coming, and for other five and twenty pounds upon the First day of Nouember next, and of fifty pounds upon the eighth and twentieth day of April next following, and also for the payment of four and thirty pounds per annum for two years, vizt. seventeen pounds upon the one and twenteth day of June, which shall be in the year of our Lord god one thousand and twenty third, and seventeen pounds upon the one and twentieth day of December in the same year, and seventeen pounds the one and twentieth of June 16246.
     And last, seventeen pounds upon the one and twentieth day of December the said year 1624, as by the said
composition and agreement subscribed with both their hands, where unto reference being had now fully and at large appears. According to which composition and agreement so had and made by the said Thomas Russell and subscribed with the proper hand of him the said Tho: Russell, your said orator [pay?] yielded up unto the said Mr. Russell all his right and interest in the said tithes.
     And your said orator together with the said Robert Bird & George Tight haue profered themselves and offered and still are willing to become bound to the said Mr Russell in several obligations and bonds wth double the penalties for the performance of the severall payments aforesaid, according to the said composition and agreement.
     And your said orator, together with his said sureties.7 have truly performed whatsoever in their parts were to performed, according to the said composition and agreement.
     But now so it is, may it please your good Lordship, the said Thomas Russell contrary to his agreement under his hand writing as aforesaid, refuses to accept of the said bonds of the said orator and the said Robert Bird and George Tight for the payment of the said sums of money and prosecutes suit at Law against your said orator upon his said bond for payment of his said rent upon his said lease, and threatens to take and carry away from your said orator all your orator's corn and grain and hay, as well the tithes as other which your said orator is to have by the said compositions and agreement.
     The premises [therefore?] tenderly considered, and for as much as your said orator has surrendred up his said right and interests according to the  said composition and agreement and thereby has made void his estate in law, whereby to hold his said corn and grain, and for that your said orator has no sufficient matter to plead in
 Law for his discharge against the said bond and yet ought to be relieved in equity in respect of the said composition and agreement for that he hath been and still is willing to perform whatsoever on his part is to be performed according to the said agreement.
     May it therefor please your good Lordship to grant unto your said orator his majesty's most gracious writ of subpeona to be directed to the said Thomas Russell commanding him thereby at a certain day and under a certain pain therein to be limited personally to be and appear before your good Lordship in his majesty's honorble Court of Chancery then and there to answer the premises upon his corporal oath.
     And also to grant unto your said orator his majesty's gratious writ of injunction commanding and enjoining him the said Thomas Russell, his counselors, Attorneys and Solicitors no further to prosecute suit against your said orator upon the said bond at the common Law, until your Lordship shall have taken such further order therein. as shall seem to agree with right equity and  good conscience.
     And your said orator as most bounden shall daily pray for your good Lordshipp.

                  nil                                           S. Maunsell


1. 1621(?)
2. "Your orator" is Thomas Lord's manner of referring to himself.
3. Written "leies", it refers to "annual grasslands, not regular pasture" (Brian Giggins, pc.)
4. Robert Bird of Towcester was the father of Dorothy Bird, Thomas Lord's wife. He is listed as a "joyner" (cabinet maker).
5. George Tight of Towcester married Perris Bird, another of Robert Bird's daughters and is also listed as "joyner".
6. The date written in the document in numerals is "1614" but clearly the year intended is 1624.
7. Written "suertyes" and taken to mean "surety - a person who takes responsibility for another's performance of an undertaking or payment of a debt." Robert Bird and Richard Tight were to act as guarantors for Thomas Lord's obligation to Russell.
8. The note "nil" may mean the case was never progressed (see more on this below).

This is a very complex case, and not easily simplified and understood in modern terms.

Apparently, Thomas Lord. who had inherited his parent's estate, both of whom had died a decade earlier, was working as a blacksmith in Towcester. Perhaps out of a need to enhance his economic situation, he leased several agricultural fields, barns and yards, and pasturage for livestock, from Thomas Russell in 1620 or 21. It seems that some problem prevented him making the lease payments, and he had negotiated a new lease, co-signed, in essense, by his father-in-law, Robert Bird, and his wife's sister's husband, Richard Tight (sometimes listed as "Tite" in geanealogical records). Both Bird and Tight were "joyners" in Towcester.

Russell, in retaliation (?) for Lord's default, confiscated the crops harvested by Lord. (This needs to be elaborated.)

A possible reason why this case did not go forward is found in the family history website for "Towcester Families." (below)

So Thomas Lord's father-in-law, Robert Bird, was buried on July 22nd, less than two weeks after Thomas presented his complaint. On July 18th, just two days after his son-in-law George Tight was buried, Robert Bird wrote his will in which he states that Thomas' other guarantor, George Tight, was already dead. He mentions the "late... George Tighte", his daughter Perris as "widow" and her children as "fatherless".

Without the back-up of Bird and Tight, as guarantors for his lease, Thomas' appeal had no hope.

To compound the losses, Thomas Lord's mother-in-law, Amy Bird, was buried two years later, in April of 1624, described as "an olde widdowe".

The following, as best can be determined from this document and other reliable sources, a chronology of the key events connected to this case. Where necessary the old dates, with year ending March 24th, have been corrected to modern dates.

Month unknown                           Thomas Lord born (based on age given at passage to New England in 1635).

September 22nd                           Thomas Lord's mother, Joan, buried in Towcester.
October 16th                                Thomas Lord's father, Richard, buried in Towcester. Thomas inherits house, etc.

February 23rd                               Thomas Lord marries Dorothy Bird in Towcester. Age c. 26 years.

March 24th                                  Original lease takes effect, and in effect for nine years. (There is a question why the effective date                                                    is a year ahead of the date later given in the petition, below.)

March 20th                                  Date given for the lease terms in effect, expressed in regnal years.
                                                   Rent to be 110 10s annually, payable in three equal amounts.
April 10th                                    1st rent payment due.
June 10th                                     2nd rent payment due.
September 29th                            3rd rent payment due.

No data - payments apparently made.

April 10th                                    Failed to make rent payment due this date.
May 8th                                      New lease terms negotiated. Lord to yield tithe crops to Russell.
July 8th                                       Petition filed outlining the conditions following, supported by George Tight and Robert Bird.
July 16th                                     George Tight buried, Towcester.
July 22nd.                                   Robert Bird buried, Towcester.
July 25th                                     Payment of 25 due.
November 1st                              Payment of 25 due.

April 20th                                    Payment of 25 due.
                                                  And also by the new agreement of 5/8/1622, 34 per year for two years, as follows:
June 21st                                     Payment of 17 due.
December 21st                             Payment of 17 due.

June 21st                                     Payment of 17 due.
December 21st                             Payment of 17 due.

April 19th                                    Amy Bird "an olde widdowe" buried, Towcester.

Month unknown.                          Thomas Russell dies (extrapolated for testimony of George Russell).

Summer                                       Richard, eldest son of Thomas Lord, sails to New England.

April 29th                                    Thomas Lord and family, less eldest son Richard, sail from London for New England.

Spring                                          Thomas Lord and family migrate overland to future site of Hartford, Colony of Connecticut.

1. "Thomas Lord of Towcester ... blacksmith". The occupation of Thomas Lord has remained a question. The only other identification of his occupation is his entry on the passenger list of the ship Elizabeth and Ann, bound for New England in 1635. There it is stated "Thomas Lord....smith". However, historians have believed this was a subterfuge to hide his escape from England as a religious dissident. Now we know he was, in fact, a "blacksmith" (see below from the 1622 manuscript).

"...Thomas Lord of Towcester in the county of Northton blacksmith..."

2. Places mentioned include "Towcester" "Wood Burcott" "Common Fields of Towcester" "churchmeadows" "meadmill field" "Spittle bridge" "Rowell's meadow" "enclosed grounds...of Richard Litcutt, Esq." "Parsonage barn with yard" "two othr barns with yard between".

3. The appeal by Thomas Lord to John Williams, Lord Bishop of Lincoln in this case, may have been prompted by the fact that John Williams was known to be sympathetic to the Puritan cause, and Thomas was known to also be linked to the nonconformist religious movement. 

Richard Lord, Yeoman Farmer

Richard Lord lived in Towcester until his death late in 1610. In his will of earlier that year he identifies himself as a "husbandman", or farmer. However, in the burial record he is identified as a "yeoman", which is a slightly higher status. Around that time a husbandman earned about 15 per year, while yeoman earned about 40 per year.

He divided his estate between his wife and his four children, one of whome was Thomas, who would have been about 25 then, and who inherited the bulk of the estate as the only male heir.

The estate included a house with orchard, which provided in part for support of his wife, who only lived a few months, money in excess of 100 and apparently other property in Towcester, which went immediately to Thomas. The purchasing power of the money involved, in todays terms, would be about $24,000 or 17,000. The value of the entire estate is hard to estiate, but it was considerable and places the family of Richard Lord in what might be termed today the upper middle class.

As it is likely that his son Thomas, who was a blacksmith in 1622, had already apprentised in the trade by his father's death, but it is also possible that he acquired that trade during the 12 years after that.

Thomas Lord, Blacksmith

In the legal bill of July 1622, Thomas Lord identifies himself as "blacksmith". One might assume his occupation as a skilled artisan placed him near the bottom of the 17th century eocnomic and social scale, just below merchants, farmers and shopkeepers, in what economic historians sometimes call "the middling sort".

But the lease terms of 1622 reveal otherwise, at least on the face of it. While most middle class person wishing to lease agricultural lands might pay for the lease in kind; i.e. with a portion of the produce of the lands leased, the terms of the lease Thomas agreed to included a considerable commitment of cash. His annual rent was set at 110. In modern buying potential that amount would equal around $25,000 or 17,700. To have that amount of surplus or disposable income to make such a commitment suggests his wealth was more than that expected for a simple blackmsith, which might average only a fraction of that amount.

It may be assumed, since his sisters had gone their way and no longer depended on the estate, and since his mother had died in 1610, that Thomas had inherited suffients wealth to underwrite this venture.

Robert Bird, Joiner

Robert Bird was Thomas Lord's father-in-law, his daughter Dorothy marrying him in 1611. In the record of Robert's burial in Towcester in 1622 he is identified as a "joyner, one of the Foeffies buryed 22 Jul". This is only a couple weeks after he is identified as one of the "sureties" for Thomas' lease.

A joiner was a skilled worker who mace the wooden structures inside buildings, such as stairs, doors, and door and window frames. As such he was part of the artisan class, making less than 12 pence a day on average.

In Robert's will, written July 18th, 1622, he leaves all his household goods, and just 40 shillings to Dorothy, Thomas's wife, with the rest left to his other daughter "Perris Tight, widow, was married to her late husband, George Tight... to bring up her fatherless children." Legacies measured in shillings rather than Pounds suggests Robert was of a significanlty lower status than his sone in law, Thomas Lord.

George Tight, Joiner

George Tight (or "Tite" as recorded in later genealogical summaries) married Robert Bird's other daughter, Perris and so was closely linked to Thomas Lord through his wife's sister, who was Thomas's wife, Dorothy. His occupation is recorded in the burial listing for Towcester in 1622 as "George Tighte A Joyner buryed the 16 July". His age is presently unknown. He would be expected to be about 20 years junior to his father-in-law, as he married Robert Bird's daughter, and one might suspect he was apprenticed to Bird to learn his craft. And yet he and his father-in-law died within days of each other. So contagious disease may be suspected.

One might ask if Bird's two daughters married to men of similar socio-economic status. Yet a yeoman farmer (Thomas Lord) and a artisan joiner (George Tight) would normally be seen as of slightly differing status.

Thomas Russell, Gentleman

Thomas Russell was identified in the manuscript as "Thomas Russell of Towcester aforesaid gent."
which places him a level above Thomas Lord, Robert Bird and George Tight. The status strata run down from esquire to gentleman, yeoman, husbandman, artisan, laborer and vagrant.  

It is assumed from the document that he had a considerable measure of wealth and property as he owned the lands which thomas Lord had leased. The lease mentions cropping fields as well as pasture, and includes buidlings, such as barns and associated yards.

Of interest is that Russell was married in Towcester on the 27th of November, 1617. If we estimate the male age at marriage at about age 25, and we see Thomas Lord married over five years earlier, we might conslude that Russell was younger than the persons he leased to, which might suggest he inherited his property, rather than earned it.

But his wealth may be a more complicated equation than assumed. In October of 1612, a decade before his lease to Lord, and four years before he married, "Thomas Russell of Towcester" leased "pasture with appurtenances" from a "knight" in Misterton, some distance north of Towcester along the Watling Street.

The birth and parentage of Thomas Russell is, as yet, undocumented. However, evidence suggests that he was the son of Firmine Russell of Towcester, as gentlemen in Misterton had, in 1597, leased lands to "Firmyne Russell of Towcester". The connection between lands in Misterton and two men of the same surname in Towcester...Firmine Russel in 1587 and Thomas Russell in 1612... seems more than coincidence.

Thomas Russell was buried January 24th, 1644 in Towcester.

George Russell, grandson of Firmine Russell, and presumed son of Thomas Russell, was later involved in an economic disaster, for the family. The date given in the record for the death of George's father is 1631, the petition by George is 1641, all before the burial date given for Thomas above. The confusion remains.

This page is in process....check back

Appreciation is due to Janet Wolfe, who first told us of this document, provided the initial full transcripion of the manuscript, and offered insights and advice throughout.

Comments to Phil Lord at