the Snokeshill and Horsemarsh Feud
Between 1567 and 1570, there was considerable feuding in the Foxearth area. In fact, the Northern parishes of Essex seem to have been engaged in some rather high-spirited behaviour at the time: Strangely, nobody seems to have been killed or injured. (someone got struck with a "forestebyll"). We know about it because of the subsequent law-enforcement. It is remarkable how effective the rule of law was in those times. Even Pentlow, a small parish then and now, had two constables, and many of the crimes for which court judgements were gained would not stir the police from their comfy chairs nowadays.
This feuding involved several families, especially the Lowe family, the Kent family of Belchamp Walter, and a John Mayer of Long Melford. The same names appear over and over again. However, others were also involved and it is sad that we’ll never know the ins and outs of the quarrelling. However, it is fairly obvious that John Mayer of Long Melford, who owned land in Foxearth and Belchamp, was the chief trouble-maker.
The first we hear about it was in 1567, when we read that six men of Long Melford and three of Foxearth, armed with pitchforks and pikestaves, broke the bars, locks and chains of a field-gate in Foxearth and received a fine of 12d.
The following year, six men of Belchamp Walter and Otten assaulted the wife and sons of Henry Wayte, upsetting his cart laden with corn-sheaves and damaging them to the value of 20s
John Wykes alias Mathewe of Belchamp-Otten, husband-man, William Wyckes, tailor, Thomas Harward and John Harrys the younger, labourers, all of the same, Thomas Stele of Belchamp Walter, carpenter, and Robert Tyffyne of the same, husbandman, for assaulting and beating Joan, wife of Henry Wayte of the same, husbandman, Henry Wayte and Thomas Wayte, sons of the said Henry, and for upsetting a cart belonging to the said Henry, loaded with his corn in sheaves, and for spoiling the said corn, to the value of 20s.
In 1570, there was trouble which led to a charge of riotous assembly
John Mayer of Long Melford, Suffolk, yeoman, George Mowers and William Beckham of the same, labourers, John Cornewell of Sudbury, Suffolk, joiner, John Lowe of Belchamp Otton, Yeoman, Thomas London of Foxherd, labourer, and Thomas Lowe of the same, weaver, for unlawfully and riotously assembling themselves together at the same, for breaking into a parcel of land called Snokeshill and Horsemarsh containing by estimation 300 acres, parcel of the lands and possession of Edward, Earl of Oxford, and for taking away certain trees growing there worth 40s. belonging to the said Earl; and of the said John Lowe, Michael Sydaye, John Waterynge, and John Walker, labourers, and Margaret Lowe, spinster, all of Belchamp Otton aforesaid, the said Thomas Lowe, Clement Lowe, weaver, Anthony Lowe, labourer, Robert Lowe, Giles Lowe weavers, Elena Lowe, and Ann Lowe, spinsters, and the said Thomas London, all of Foxherd afoxesaid, for the like; and for assaulting Henry Kent and Ann Kent engaged in necessary work there.
Several members of the Lowe family were involved, and the subject of their attentions were Henry and Anne Kent. Trouble was definitely brewing.
On 27 April one of the Foxearth labourers assaulted Barbara Kent at Belchamp Walter, wounding her with his dagger. (Fined 12d.)
After this, it seems that the Kents, including Henry, counter-attacked Their target was John Mayor and Margaret Lowe. Both of them had been involved in the attack against Henry Kent, along with several other members of the Lowe family
On 23 June John Reyner [Rayner] of Belchamp-Walter, husbandman, Roger Ganer of Borley, husbandman, William Berde of Liston, husbandman, Thomas Ganer of Borley, husbandman, Richard Rande of Bulmer, husbandman, Henry Kente of Foxearth, yeoman, John Kente of the same, yeoman, John Potter of Sudbury, husbandman, and others to the number of twelve persons, for unlawfully assembling themselves together at Belochamp-Walter, entering the close or meadow of John Mayor [Maior] of Melford, Suffolk, containing two acres of meadow, at Belchamp-Walter aforesaid, and for cutting the grass growing there and taking it away in two cartloads to the value of 26s.8d; and of Robert Tyffen of the same, husbandman, the said John and Henry Kente, and Trustam Fytche of Castle Hedingham, yeoman, for assaulting the said John Maior at Belchamp-Otton, striking him with a "forestebyll"; and of Thomas Plome of Belchamp-Walter aforesaid, husbandman, the said Henry and John Kente, John Harwood of the same, labourer, the said John Reyner, Nicholas Bragge and William Bragge of Bulmer, husbandmen, and the said John Petter, for entering the lands of the said John Mayor called Snokeshill at Belchamp-Walter aforesaid, for trampling the grass growing there, breaking down thiry perches of hedge, carrying away certain timber trees to the value of 63, and for assulting Margaret, wife of John Lowe, being in the said lands.
They were each fined 6d.
It seems that John Mayer had taken eight horses and two mares from the Breggs, who, we have just seen,had had entered the lands of John Mayor and attacked John Lowe’s wife. John Mayer also seems to have taken forty sheep from John Kent, who forcibly, and understandably, took them back
On 16 July the same two Bulmer yeomen Nicholas Bregg and William Bragg of Bulmer, yeomen, who had for breaking into the close of John Lowe [Low] of Belchamp Otton, husbandman, at Belchamp-Walter called Bevingtone, and despoiling his wheat to the value of £20; and of the said Nicholas and William for taking and rescuing at Paul's Belchamp eight horses and two mares, belonging to the said Nicholas and William, from the said close of the said John, where he wished to impark them, as a distraint; and of Henry Kent of Foxearth, yeoman, for taking and rescuing forty sheep belonging to the said Henry, from the close of the said John called "Eison Felde" at the same, where the said John and his servant wished to impark them, as a distraint..
John Lowe, John Mayer, together with a gang recruited from friends and family, then assaulted Charles Kent in his field at Foxearth, trampling down the grass
To take Thomas Crowe of Woodham Ferris, labourer, William Strayte Thomas London of Foxearth, labourer, John Mayer of Long Melford, Suffolk, yeoman, George Mower and William Beckam, labourers, both of the same, John Cornewell of Sudbury, Suffolk, John Lowe of Belchamp Otton, yeoman, Thomas Lowe of Foxearth, weaver, Richard Syday of Belchamp Otton, labourer, John Wakering and John Walker, labourers, Margaret Low and Ann Low, spinsters ,all of the same, and have them at the Sessions to be held at Chelmsford on the Thursday after the Feast of St Michael next coming [A.D. 1570].
Endorsed by Sir Thomas Goldyng, knight, Sheriff:
For appearance at the Sessions two of the Lows had been bound, with John Worroll of Belchamp Walter gentleman as surety for John, as also for keeping the peace towards John Kent and his servants.
It seems that tempers than began to cool, though there were other feuds going on in the surrounding parishes.