A Tudor Assault in 1534 in Padworth, Berkshire

Today, Padworth is a small village near Tadley in Berkshire with nice countryside walks and pubs. But in 1534, with Henry VIII and Anne Boleyn on the throne of England, it was the scene of a violent and devastating attack involving two brothers and a local knight. The details are preserved in a complaint presented to the Star Chamber in Westminster in the same year.

The Peasant's Brawl, German. 1531-1550. Public Domain, Met Museum, NY.

On 10 June 1534, between five and six in the morning, Aldermaston-based knight Sir Humphrey Foster with ten of his servants armed with an array of weapons including javelins, swords, bows, arrows and daggers descended on the Padworth home of Francis Parkyns. Foster stormed into the house, ordering Francis' servants to leave. Barging into the hall of the house he found Francis sitting on a stool there, buckling on his shoes. 

Grabbing Francis, Humphrey shouted 'What, thou arrant knave! Art though there?' and 'took him by the head and gave him many great and strong blows with his fist and violently and maliciously him cast into the ground and knocked and brake his head against the hearth'. Blood poured from Francis' wounds in an assault that, according to the complaint, lasted around an hour. Anne, Francis' wife, ran to the scene and begged Humphrey to stop the attack, 'piteously and lamentably kneeling upon her knees in her smock by a long season'. Humphrey pulled the dazed Francis to his feet and dragged him out of the house 'as a prisoner', to his brother Richard's house, a short ride away. 

Richard was Francis' elder brother, living nearby at Ufton with his wife Elizabeth. The account continues. 'Sir Humphrey riotously entered into the house between the hours of six and seven of the clock in the morning of the same day', while Richard, Elizabeth, their children and guests were at breakfast. Humphrey entered the chamber with force along with his servants and all their weapons 'and spears in their hands assaulting and making affray upon Richard, saying these words: "Parkyns, I cannot be in rest for thee and thy blood"'. His ear and hair grabbed by the offender, Richard spoke as gently as he could, 'saying he never did unto him any displeasure whereby he should thus handle him'. A spectator at the house, a gentleman named William More spoke up in Richard's defence and received a punch from Humphrey to the chest so forceful 'that he was fain to recall back upon a table board'. 

By now, Humphrey was incensed. He drew his sword and went to strike either William or Richard, when Elizabeth took 'Sir Humphrey by both the arms and so held him with piteous and lamentable crying', until Humphrey told a servant to take his sword. Spitting bitter words directed at Richard and his family, Humphrey finally left the house, taking the bruised and battered Francis with him. The account does not mention any involvement by Francis during the scuffle at his brother's house, and so, as the initial assault on him was said to have lasted around an hour and involved a number of hard blows to the head, it is safe to say he was beaten badly enough that he was unable to intervene. He might even have been unconscious. Humphrey took Francis as a prisoner to his home in Aldermaston, where he was 'imprisoned in one chamber, locked by the space of all that day and the next night following'. 

After his release, Francis and his wife Anne complained about the attack to their Justices of the Peace and the investigation was handed to Sir Thomas Englefield to complete. The abbot of Reading Abbey, Hugh Cook, was also involved in finding justice in the case. Historian Mary Sharp comments that this was probably one of the last cases of this kind involving the abbot, as he was executed by the king in 1539 for refusing to surrender his abbey and recognise the king as head of the English church. 

When questioned, Humphrey didn't deny any of it. There seems to have been no point, as he had stormed into two private homes and left a trail of witnesses, injuries and at least two (three if you count the imprisonment) crime scenes. His actions were premeditated, and bringing ten servants in tow armed to the hilt shows that he intended to cause not only physical damage but also emotional shock and distress.

However, ten of the fifteen men on the jury refused to agree to find Humphrey guilty. The account states that the jurymen were moved by the 'sinister labours' of Humphrey, and this suggests they had been cowered by him and his heavy-handed servants into passing a not-guilty verdict. Humphrey was also a sheriff of the county of Berkshire and so might have acted on belief that, because of his high position in justice, he was untouchable. The case was passed to the king's Star Chamber to decide what to do next. There is no trace that I can find, of Henry's decision. 

You might also like 1499 May Day Celebrations in Reading, The Aldworth Giants, Berkshire and Sir Peter Vanlore of Tilehurst: Jeweller, Merchant, Moneylender.  Or search for a local town or person using the 'search' symbol at the top right of the page. 

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Notes: Proceedings of the Star Chamber, 1534. Quoted in Sharp, Mary. The History of Ufton Court: of the parish of Ufton in the County of Berks and of the Perkins family. London, 1892. p46-51.