Episode 2, Puttenham 1559 – Richard Puttenham’s Story
I’m waiting for the Judge to deliver his verdict on my ongoing dispute with John Duncombe. This dispute has been going on for far too long and it’s Duncombe’s fault; he just won’t accept the reality that he has no evidence to refute my claim that his father failed to make his annual payment for the Manor of Puttenham in 1555.
Duncombe seems to have fallen under the spell of the old fashioned lawyers from London Courts who still live in the past and base everything on common law and previous judgments. In the old days, when many agreements were verbal, judges had to rely on the balance of evidence and whom they thought was telling the truth.
I was told by a friend – who had a similar legal dispute – that these days it is best to employ one of the new breed of Oxford and Cambridge University trained lawyers, who rely more on written documents as evidence and require firm proof rather than one person’s word against another. And poor old Duncombe is at a disadvantage because it was his father that did the deal with me and he has passed on. And I have his father’s signature that confirms the original agreement; a failure to make payment for a year involves cancellation of the contract and the return of Puttenham Manor to me.
It all started off with a written pleading by Duncombe which was presented to the Hertfordshire Circuit Courts nearly six months ago. This was rejected by the Justice of the Peace, as my lawyer said it would be, because there was no evidence to disprove my assertion that Duncombe’s father failed to pay up in 1555. Duncombe couldn’t produce written receipts because I never gave his father copies; the old fool believed that a handshake was enough.
Duncombe was nothing if not persistent and it seemed he was being egged on by his lawyers who persuaded him to find another court to challenge the first verdict. This is what they call a Conciliar Court which sits in Berkhampsted and settles claims between disputing parties. What these London lawyers don’t seem to realise is that, outside their city, judges tend to rule in favour of the well-off families who dominate society, and Puttenham is a much bigger name than Duncombe in the South of England. So I am pretty confident that the verdict will be in my favour once again, particularly as the judge is an old friend of my late father.
This confidence is despite the underhand tactics of Duncombe’s lawyers who, in desperation, started to make scandalous comments about my personal life and that of my brother George. Most of it was true of course but the fact that we’ve had a good time travelling around Europe in the past has no bearing on this case. Only one fact matters; Duncombe has no written evidence that his father paid up.
The clerk of the court calls the hearing to order. The Judge gives me a reassuring smile and reads out the verdict:
‘I rule in favour of the defendant; the Plaintiff has no proof that payment was made in 1555, the ownership of Puttenham Manor has correctly been re-assumed by Richard Puttenham’
I breathe a sigh of relief. My lawyers assured me that I would win but you can never be sure.
Of course the question that many who know me will be asking is ‘did old man Duncombe really pay up in 1555?’
Now that would be telling!
There is more invention of content in this second episode. There seems to be no doubt about the nature of the dispute and information in British History Online is that ‘much litigation arose between John Duncombe and Richard Puttenham as to the title of the Manor. Judgment was given for Richard and in 1559 John Duncombe formally surrendered his claim to the estate’
The assumptions about the court proceedings and the different approaches of the lawyers, are based on Britannica.com, and their content on the changes taking place to British Law in the 16th Century.
Richard Puttenham sold Puttenham Manor To John Saunders of Marston in 1960.
Richard and/or his brother George must have later calmed down from the ‘constant matrimonial and financial difficulties with the authorities’ which were described in Margaret Vincent’s book. They were later accredited with the anonymous publication of a treatise entitled ‘The Arte of English Poesie’ published in 1589. It is regarded as the first attempt at philosophical criticism of literature.