Nicholas Merwin v Robert Gibbs, 1700

National Archives, E112/622/195

This case from the Court of Exchequer concerns the building which is now 18 High Street which was bought Nicholas Merwin, a lawyer who had been in Winslow since about 1690 and lived at no.16. Robert Gibbs owned 20-22. These buildings all have separate tiled roofs now but at the time would have been thatched. There is still a passageway between 20 and 22 which must have replaced the cart entrance mentioned in the document. The buildings are shown below on the 1880 map, by which time there had been some changes but much of the layout appears the same. The complaint is very long but contains precise details of what this part of the High Street was like in 1700.

Michaelmas Term 12 William III (Oct/Nov 1700)

To the Right Honourable John Smith Esqr Chancellor & under treasurer of his Majies Cort Exchequer Chamber att Westm(inster) Sr Edward Ward Knight Lord Chiefe Baron of the same Cort And to the rest of the Barons there in most humble manner complaining sheweth \yor honrs/ Yor Orator Nicholas Merwin of Winslowe in the County of Bucks gent Debtor and Accountant unto his Majies as by the records of this Honourable Cort \& otherwise/ it doth & may appear That One Aaron Westly late of Winslowe aforesaid yeom(an) decd was in his Life \time/ Seized in Fee or otherwise legally Entitled unto a certaine Copyhold of Inheritance held of the Mannor of Winslowe cum Membris in the said County of Bucks being a large Tenemt with a large Yard or Backside conteyning in lenth from East to West about tenn Poles and severall Outhouses Buildeings and app(ur)tenances to the s(ai)d Pr(e)misses belonging which said P(re)misses were then in the tenure or occupac(i)on of him the said Aaron Westly and One Joan Linney and are scituate in or near a certain Com(m)on Street called the Cowe Street in the Town of Winslowe aforesaid and Front upon the said Cowe Street Westward the Tenemt now of one William Hunt lying on the North parte thereof and the Tenemt nowe of yor Orator lyeing on the South part thereof & a lane \or/ Cart way there lyeing on the East parte thereof Which said Tenemt then of the said Aaron Westly consisted of Five Bayes of Buildeings and conteyned in length about Sixty Foot In which said Tenemt there then was and still is an Entry or Passage for Horses Cowes or other Cattle to goe into & out of the said Yarde to and from the said street the same being about Thirty Foot from the South End of the said building And in the said Yard then of the said Aaron Westly belonging unto his said Tenemtthere then was and Still is a very good Well scituate on the North Side of the said Yard about Fifteen Foot from the Tenemt of the said Aaron Westly Eastward

Plan of 18 High Street and adjacent houses

And yor Orator alsoe Sheweth that one Bay parte of the said large Tenemt att the South end thereof being about Fourteen or Fifteen Foot wide from North to South was for many Yeares whilst the said P(re)misses were the said Aaron Westlyes & long before converted into and used as a separate and distinct Tenemt and was in the occupac(i)on of the said Joane Linney and Severall other persons To which said Tenemtor South end Bay of Buildeing on the East Side thereof then did adjoyn one other little \bay of/ Buildeing called a Buttery in length about Fifteen Foot and in Breadth about tenn Foot and to the said Buttery did then allsoe adjoyne to the East and thereof an other little Bay called a Cellar or drink house in length about Seaven Foot and in breadth about tenn Foot about the middle of which s(ai)d Buttery to the Northward was an antient Windowe And alsoe about the middle of the said Drink house to the Northward was an other antient Windowe And to the s(ai)d Cellar or drink house did alsoe adjoyne to the East end thereof a buildeing or Out house in length about Eighteen Foot and in breadth about tenn Foot soe that the said Buildeings Eastward from the said South end Bay conteyns about Forty Foot

And Yor Orator alsoe Sheweth that in the s(ai)d Buttery adjoyneing unto the s(ai)d Tenemt . . . within a Foot thereof there was a door way through which door way the said Joan Linney and all other the Tenants & Occupyers of the said Tenemt . . . from time to time as often they had Occasion did goe and passe Freely Crosse the open Yard of the said Aaron Westly onto the Well then Standing in the said Yard the next Strait way without any manner of Lett or Hindrance whatsoever and had and enjoyed the Free use and benefitt of Water from the s(ai)d Well

And Yor Orator Further Sheweth unto Yor Honrs that in the Year of or Lord 1678 the s(ai)d Aaron Westly being soe Seized as afores(ai)d Did for good and valuable Considerac(i)ons in open Crt According to the Custome of the said Mannor Surrender into the Hands of the Lord of the said Mannor To the Use of the said Joan Linney and her Heires not only the said Tenemt . . . in her occupac(i)on but alsoe a Piece of Ground Part of the said Yard or Backside to Conteyn in breadth att the East end thereof Eighteen Foot and soe downward with a Straight line to the outside of the Principle post of the s(ai)d Tenemt . . . soe Surrendered and alsoe Free passage for the said Joan and her Heires to the Well of the said Aaron Westly scituate in his said Yard to drawe take and carry away water and alsoe Free Passage att all reasonable times in and through the said Entry for herselfe her Heires and Assignes and for her and their Servants Horses and Cowes together with all Houses and Outhouses Edifices wayes waters watercourses Fronts lights Easemts Com(m)odityes and app(ur)tenanc(e)s whatsoever thereto belonging or app(er)teyning and the said Joan Linney was admitted thereto

And Yor Orator Farther sheweth unto Yor Honrs that [new handwriting] soon after the said Tenemt. . . and p(re)misses were soe surrendered to her as aforesaid she devided the said peece of ground soe surrendered to her from the Yard of the said Aaron Westley by a Pale and dead hedge and haveing little or noe occasion for horses or Cowes made noe gate for that purpose but only a gate or door near the said Principle Post to open when she had occasion to Fetch water att the said Well

And Yor Orator Farther Sheweth unto Yor Honrs that the said Joan Linney in a year or two after the said Tenemt . . .and free passages and p(re)misses were soe Surrendered to her she surrendered the same with th’app(ur)tenanc(e)s to one William Prentice now of Great Horwood in the said County of Bucks Innholder and to his Heires who was accordingly admitted thereto which said William Prentice haveing alsoe little occasion to bring \horses & lesse occasion to bring/ Cowes upon the said P(re)misses at the end of the said drink house made a dup and shutt gate in the said Pale to bring in a horse the next way into the said Outhouse which when he had occasion he used for a stable which Dup and Shutt gate is about two and twenty foot eastward from the said Tenemt and is the nearest and first convenient place a Horse could be brought out or in to or from the said Stable in by and through the said Entry and to passe that way least useth the said yard late of the said Aaron Westley

And Yor Orator. Farther Sheweth unto Yor Honrs that the said William Prentice and his wife in considerac(i)on of the sum(m)e of Four score pounds and half a broad peece then of the value of Sixteen shillings really and bona fide paid to them by Yor Orator for the Purchase of the said p(re)misses att a Publick Crt holden for the said Mannor on or about the Seaventeenth day of Aprill in the year of or Lord One thousand Six hundred nynety & five did make a surrendr into the hands of the Lord of the said Mannor by the hands of James Hayes Esqr then Deputy Steward of the Mannor aforesaid of all & singular the said p(re)misses with th’app(ur)tenanc(e)s to the Use of yor Orator and his Heires and yor\ Orator/ was accordingly att the same Crt duely admitted thereto as \in and/ by the Copy of the Crt Roll of the said Mannor on [space] it may & doth more fully and att large appear and to which and all other the said Copyes when discovered for more certainty therein yor Orator doth referr himselfe

And Yor Orator Farther sheweth unto Yor Honrs that the said Aaron Westley soon after he had sold the said Tenemt. . . free passages and p(re)misses and Surrendered the same as aforesaid he Surrendered the other part of his said Tenemt with the other Outhouses and other part of the Yard or backside thereto belonging Except the lib(er)ty of the said Passage and use of the Well as aforesaid \together with an Orchard or Close thereto belonging /To the use of one Robert Gibbs of Winslow aforesaid Victualler and his Heires which said Robert Gibbs was a Neighbor & well acquainted with the said p(re)misses and knew in what names the lib(er)ty of the said Well and Passage was granted by the said former coppyes or heard or was informed thereof \therefore/ Yor Orator prayes he may sett forth his Copy of the said Estate in hac verba by which the trueth that yor Orator well hopeth will fully appear \and may alsoe sett forth how much he paid for the purchase of the same and whether he hath since sold the said Orchard or Close & to whom & his name & for how much/

And Yor Orator Farther Sheweth unto Yor Honrs that he the said Robert Gibbs att the time the said p(re)misses were soe surrendered to yor Orator as aforesaid by the said William Prentice & Avis his Wife and long before did and still doth rent the p(ro)ffitts of the Royalty and Mannor of Winslow aforesaid and thereby was greatly in Favor with the said Steward and would not suffer the said William Prentice and Avis his wife to surrendr the said Tenem. . . passage lib(er)ty and p(re)misses unto yor Orator until Such time that the title of the said Joan Linney from the said Aaron Westly unto the said p(re)misses was made appear by the Copy of the Crt Roll (which yor [Orator]hath not nor cann by any means p(ro)duce) and until the said Deputy Steward had exa(m)i(n)ed the Surrendr of the said p(re)misses then about to be and afterwards passed from the said William Prentice and Avis his wife \unto  yor Orator/ which was done and  yor Orator thereupon hoped \not onely/ to have quietly and peacably enjoyed the said Tenemt bayes of building outhouse & ground thereto belonging soe by him purchased as aforesaid but also the said Free passage through the said Entry as the same was first granted and the said Free passage to the said Well for water as beneficially and convenient as she the said Joan Linney did enjoy the same without which the said p(re)misses are not worth above forty pounds att the most

And Yor Orator Farther Sheweth unto Yor Honrs that the said Buttery being much out of repair yor Oratothe last Sum(m)er pulled down the same and erected a new bay of building thereupon and Joyned the South Side thereof unto yor Orators dwelling house and set the North Side nearer to \the Outside of/ yor Orators ground and hath put the Window in the mid(d)le thereof as was the Window in the Old building And to p(re)vent all dispute and trouble with the said Robert Gibbs when the Workmen were goeing about to erect the said new build(e)ing yor Orator caused the said Robert Gibbs to be sent for to see the ground fairly sett out between yor Orator and him the said Robert Gibbs who came accordingly and when he came being shewed & informed where the new build(e)ing was to stand and having viewed the ground declared the same was very fairly done and that he liked it very well and had no objection to it or to \that or/ the like effect whereupon yor Orator proceeded to erect the said building and did erect the same accordingly which cost yor Orator att the least thirty pounds and yor Orator well hoped he should have quietly enjoyed it and the said Passage and the lib(er)ty and Use of the said Well as aforesaid

But Now soe it is may it please Yor Honrs that the said Robert Gibbs in confederacy & and in combinac(i)on with divers persons as yet unknown to yor Orator whose names when discovered yor Orator prays may be herein incerted and they made partyes hereunto with apt words to charge them to defeat & defraude yor Orator in the p(re)misses and to give yor Orator great trouble & vexation therein he the said Robert Gibbs well knowing that many of the Crt Rolls of the said Mannor are imp(er)fect and others lost and mislaid and cannot be found and p(ar)ticularly those which doe concern yor Orators title to the p(re)misses aforesaid contrary to all right and good conscience and against his own knowledge p(re)tends  that yor Orator hath noe way or passage for Horses or Cowes through the said entry soe as aforesaid bought from the said Aaron Westly or from the said peece of ground or backside soe purchased from the said Aaron Westly as aforesaid or by reason that it is not sufficiently expressed in the said Joan Linneys Copy as is p(re)tended  by or through what part of the said yard the said Horses and Cowes are to goe when they have passed through the said Entry And that the said Robert Gibbs may and will from time to time change obstruct or straighten the same as he pleaseth soe that it shall not be known where to goe in time to come and that he will make the same impossible or useless to  yor Orator and make yor Orator weary of useing it And att other times he gives out that yor Orator hath noe right to come to the said Well or to have any use or benefitt thereof att least not without leave and that must be which way when & how he the said Robert Gibbs pleaseth And that therefore he will nor suffer yor Orator to use the Straight and accustomed way to the said well to Fetch the water but will compell yor Orator to goe about through a Narrow darke entry \which he/ as is p(re)tended has or will make for that purpose though the same is very inconvenient if possible and to his own damage with designe only to p(re)judice yor Orator although yor Orator hath in neighbour(u)rly & freindly manner offered him to surrendr yor Orator Free passage to the said Well for water and the said Free way & passage for horses & cowes whereby the said Robert Gibbs might be at lib(er)ty to improve or erect a building in his said yard more convenient for him Soe as yor Orator might have an other convenient way and passage to the said Well and for horses & cowes Sett out and Surrendered to him by the said Robert Gibbs and att other times the said Robert Gibbs p(re)tends & declares that yor Orator hath noe right at all to have water at the said Well or any Free lib(er)ty to use or take water therefrom or to Sett up or erect the said light towards the said yarde and that he intends in a short time to Stop up such lights and to make yor Orators said New building uselesse and in pursuance of Such his rigid Intentions hath given orders and hath begun to erect a Building close to yor Orators said build(e)ing soe lately erected and thereby intends not only to stopp up & darken the Window in the new erection where the said Buttery was (although they now stand as antiently and at the same distance between East & west) but alsoe to stopp up and darken the Window of the said Cellar or Drink house and by degrees by changeing the ways and passages to the said well to shut yor Orator quite out of the Enjoymt. thereof by making his said New entry or passage a part of the house by which doeings of the said Robert Gibbs and his confederates yor Orator is likely to be deprived of more than halfe the value of his said Purchase And the said New building which hath cost yor Orator thirty pounds to sett up is likely to become of very little value and in a manner uselesse

In Tender consideration whereof and for as much as  yor Orators Witnesses who cann prove the trueth of yor Orators Case to be as herein before sett forth are either dead or gon into parts beyond the Seas remote & unknown unto yor Orator And for that the Crt Rolls of the Mannor of Winslow aforesaid (which could yor Orator p(ro)cure would manifest the surrender from the said Aaron Westly to the said Joan Linney and Robert Gibbs whereas afores(ai)d are lost or mislayd &not to be found Yor Orator is therefore remedylesse by the strict rules of the Com(m)on Law or otherwise save only by the Answere of  the said Robert Gibbs and his sev(er)all confederates when discovered on their respective corporall Oaths before yor Honrs in the Honorble Crt where matters of this nature are properly heard and determined And for that yor Orator cannot be relieved in the p(re)misses but by the the Ayd and Assistance of this Honorble Crt

To The intent therefore that the said Robert Gibbs may true & p(er)fect answere make to all & singular the matters and things herein and hereby sett forth and charged as if the same were here again distinctly repeated and interrogated and in particular may sett forth whether the said Aaron Westly was not in his lifetime seized in the said large Tenemt. with the Yard buildings and p(re)misses thereto belonging scituate abutted and bounded as is before sett forth or how the same was & now is abutted & bounded And whether the same was not of the same content & bought as yor Orator hath before sett forth ...


Merwin and Gibbs came to an agreement at the manor court in February 1701 by which Gibbs continued with his new building but had to leave a "chewar" to give Merwin access to the cart entry and the well.

Robert Gibbs is described as a victualler in the document. He was actually a large-scale farmer but was probably also running the inn later known as the Three Pigeons at 22 High Street. Joan Linney and William Prentice probably kept an inn or alehouse at no.18 too, as Prentice "broke the assize of ale" in 1681. Prentice was ordered to repair the fence between him and Robert Gibbs in 1684.

Copyright 13 February, 2020