Duke of Buckingham and trustees v William Gyles, 1673-77

National Archives, E134/29Chas2/Mich22

In 1677 a case came to the Exchequer between the lord of the manor (the Duke of Buckingham) and his trustees and the draper William Gyles. Evidence was taken at Winslow on 12 Oct 1677. There is a full transcription (over 11,000 words, PDF file) here: Buckingham v Gyles (we've retained the original spellings and lack of punctuation). There is a list of interrogatories on behalf of the Duke, i.e. leading questions, followed by the witnesses' answers, then Gyles' interrogatories and the answers. The main issues have been summarised below, with a list of all the deponents who gave evidence.

In fact the charges against Gyles were originally brought by the Duke and his trustees in 1673 (National Archives, E112/364/118). This contains the original claim by the Duke and Gyles' defence. There is a full transcription here: Duke v Gyles 1673 (2,250 words). The main points are:

The undisputed facts in the 1677 evidence are:

William Gyles' house after Georgian alterationsThe dispute was about William Gyles' right to set up two rows of stalls in front of his house (extending 28 feet into the Market Place), let them to other people and keep all the profits apart from paying 4d a year to the bailiff. There was also a question of whether Gyles had suborned a witness.

William Gyles lived on the north side of the Market Place, where the Bank now stands (the evidence from the trial enables the house's history to be traced back to the early 17th century). There is a photo of the house (right) from c.1890, just before it was demolished, but in Gyles' time it would have been a timber-framed building, probably with a jettied upper storey, and with a gap between it and the adjacent houses. It seems to have been subdivided. There was waste ground next to it which people rented in order to set up extra stalls.

The evidence is contradictory about whether Gyles and previous occupants of his "ancient messuage" had been setting up stalls and taking rents for them for 60 years or more, or whether the bailiffs had always insisted on controlling all stalls in the market and had not necessarily allowed the occupants of adjacent houses to set up their own stall in front of their house. John Rawbone, a butcher from Stony Stratford, said that for the last 16 years he had been paying 4d or 6d each time to use one of Gyles' stalls, but George Shaw said that Gyles' father and grandfather never set up more than one stall in front of the house, or prevented him (Shaw) from setting up other stalls there. According to Thomas Eddyn, between 1664 and 1668 Gyles used to set up between 2 and 11 stalls for butchers, and paid the bailiff £8.

Layout of the Market Square 1677The map on the left (based on the 1880 Ordnance Survey map, the earliest one with this much detail) shows the places mentioned.

The case had already been to court once. In c.1656, Gyles took the then lords of the manor (Robert Bowden and others; the Duke of Buckingham's property had been sequestrated) to the Bucks Assizes in order to recover some cloth which had been seized in lieu of payments which they claimed were due from him. Gyles won the case, with the support of the former bailiff Peter Fyge sr (then aged nearly 90). William Pease ("a very aged man") said the occupants of the house had set stalls in front of it for 60 years. George Shaw gave evidence against Gyles and Peter Fige sr and jr the bailiffs (his employers) which evidently wasn't believed, and it is unlikely that it was regarded as more credible in 1677.

There is no direct information about the outcome of the 1677 case, but in 1682 William Gyles handed over to his son "a messuage with the Stalls", which strongly suggests that he had won. It's hard to know why the Duke of Buckingham's agents brought the case about a tiny (for someone with an annual income of £5,000) amount of money. There's no sign that it was personal, even though Gyles was Winslow's leading Baptist, as the Duke's trustees were selling him land in 1680; in fact one witness implied that the vicar Samuel Dix had been helping Gyles. Perhaps it was a test case that had implications for the rights of everyone living around the Market Place to set up extra stalls. The income for the lord of the manor would be boosted if he could make all stallholders pay him directly. There was evidently a danger of people encroaching on the Market Place, as the inhabitants had been forbidden from enlarging their premises and had to take down their stalls at the end of every market.

The deponents

All gave their residence as Winslow unless stated. Some of them were born in the reign of Queen Elizabeth. Most of their evidence was about the stalls in the market. Some more information about them has been added in brackets.

Copyright 15 November, 2019