Episode 1, Puttenham 1559 – John Duncombe’s Story
I’ve just about had it up to here with the Puttenham family, particularly that scoundrel Richard Puttenham. They treat everyone else as inferior while everyone knows that Richard and his brother George are always up to no good, travelling around Europe, getting themselves into financial scrapes and cheating on their wives. And frequently falling out between themselves.
It was different when their parents Robert and Anne owned the Puttenham Manor; they were good people and you could trust them in their dealings with everyone in Puttenham and outside. But nine years ago, in 1550, they made the mistake of conveying ownership of the Manor to their second son Richard and this led to an unfortunate series of events involving my family.
About two years after that, my father – also called Richard – heard that Richard Puttenham was short of money as usual and wanted to sell the Manor. The rumour was that he would be open to a quick deal and that he wanted payment on a yearly basis, via quantities of malt, sheep and lambs, no questions asked. This suited Dad very much as he had lots of these supplies on his farm but not much ready money available.
My father was a trusting soul and appears to have signed some sort of written agreement. This was not a problem for the first few years as the deal seemed to be working well; Dad loved owning and running the Puttenham Manor and was well liked by the people there.
But then he died in 1556 and ownership passed to me. Just after I visited Puttenham for the first time as owner, I received a message by courier from Richard Puttenham saying that he was planning to resume ownership of the Manor because of my father’s failure to pay according to the sale agreement. I doubted this very much because Dad was scrupulous about paying his debts, though much less scrupulous about keeping records. For him a handshake was enough.
I went to see Puttenham at his place in Surrey and he was most unpleasant and unyielding. He produced copy receipts to show when my father had paid but there was nothing for 1555. Though I was convinced he was lying, I could not prove otherwise. I searched through all the papers which Father had kept but there was nothing to show otherwise. I did find a copy of the original agreement and all this showed was that Puttenham was within his rights if the 1555 payment had been missed; the sale was void if there were arrears of more than one year.
But I am not going to give up. I may not have written evidence but I will try to find people who knew of the arrangement and saw the transfers of produce taking place. I will engage a lawyer to advise me and take the case to one of these Justices of the Peace that Cardinal Wolsey has appointed. I hear that they take legal dispute cases in Hertford once a month.
I will not allow the Puttenham family to get away with this. Surely the courts will rule in favour of our family – which is known for its straight dealings – rather than in favour of a man who is well known for his disputes with the authorities and matrimonial offences.
The sources for this episode are Margaret Vincent’s History of The Church and Manor of Puttenham and the History of Puttenham as contained on British History online. This content has been enhanced by some assumptions about the likely feelings of an aggrieved party in these circumstances.