Examinations of Nicholas Tomkins (February 15, 1589; November 29, 1589)

Nicholas Tomkins was a servant in the house of Elizabeth Crane (d. in or before 1606), in whose hose in East Molesey, Surrey the first Marprelate tract was printed. Crane herself was later examined, and the case against her summarized in a section of document 16. She was eventually brought before the Court of Star Chamber for her involvement (see document 13). The evidence Tomkins supplied in one or other of these two examinations would appear in all four manuscript compilations of evidence (documents 14, 15, 16, 17).

Tomkins mentions several figures rumored at the time to be Martin, including John Field, John Penry, Giles Wigginton, and Francis Marbury. Wigginton (fl. 1564–1597), vicar of Sedburgh, Yorkshire until his deprivation in 1586 (ODNB), had a record of confrontations with John Whitgift that extended back to the 1560s; Tomkins reveals that Wiggington was at the house in East Molesey while the first tract was being printed. Wigginton was questioned about his involvement with the project by the Court of High Commission in December 1588, and, proving a defiant witness, was imprisoned for refusing to take the oath ex officio—a fate Martin Marprelate duly noted in his second tract, the Epitome (Black, ed., Marprelate Tracts, 54). Marbury (c.1556–1611), a prominent figure in reform-minded circles, is now best known as the father of Anne Hutchinson, the dissident prophet banished from the Massachusetts colony (ODNB). Tomkins was also asked about the involvement of John Udall and Robert Waldegrave.

The interrogatories in the second examination are not preserved, but they are implied by the answers Tomkins supplies. The first examination is signed by Richard Cosin (1548?–1597), a prominent ecclesiastical lawyer (ODNB); the second by Dr William Aubrey, master of Requests and Dr William Lewin, judge of the Prerogative Court of Canterbury.

Source: British Library Harley 6848, fols. 81, 89. Printed in Arber (1879), 84-87 from British Library Harley MS 7042, fols. 12, 21 - 22 an early 18th-century transcription by the antiquary Thomas Baker.


Feb. xvto 1588 [i.e., 1589] apud Lambehith in Com. Surr. [in Lambeth in the county of Surrey]: Th’ Examination of Nicolas Thomkyns sworne and examined sayth, viz.

1. He sayth, he never sawe above 3 Martyn Marprelates, whereof one was of the first [the Epistle], and ii other of the latter sort [the Epitome].

2. He sayth he saw the first one in Pinders hand as he was reading it to Evans his [Tomkin’s] Brother in Lawe in the Examinates owne Chamber, which book was this Examinates owne, and he hadd it of Mr [Giles] Wigginton, but payed nothing to him for it. And furder sayth that his wyfe tooke it from him this Examinate, and carried it home with her to her Brother Evans. The other two he sawe in Mr Wiggingtons handes, whyles he lay at Mistress Cranes house, but he never read any of them, nor was willing to reade or see any more of them.

3. He knoweth neither author publisher or printer of the bookes certenly, but hath heard some name Mr [John] Field some Mr Wiggington others Mr [John] Penry and others Mr [Francis] Marbury a Preacher to be the author of them: but who hath so reported it to him, he doeth not remember.

4. [Marginal note: Walgrave] He sayth, that when Waldegraves presse was marred [May 13, 1588], Waldegrave brought a case of Lettres to his [Tomkin’s] Mistresses house in London and lefte them there a moneth together but whether they were defaced or no, he knoweth not.

5. Being asked how long Penry or Waldegrave hath lyen at his Mistresses house within this yere, he sayth he doth not directly knowe how long whether a monthe, two monthes or more: but being examined, howe long he beleeveth they have been there, he beleeveth they were about three weekes in her house in the countrye after Midsommer, and being demaunded, when they or either of them were at his Mistresses house last, he sayth they were there about Michaellmas last [September 29], and whether synce to his knoledge or beleefe, he answereth, he knoweth not, but beleeveth vereely they were not there since Allhallowtyde [November 1, 1588].

6. Being examined what speeches he used, when he found Pinder and his [Tomkin’s] brother [in law] Evans reading the book [the Epistle], he sayth he asked what the price thereof was, and they answered, It cost ixd [9d] and hee this Examinate then sayd hee might buy them for vid. [6d] a peece, though he would have never so many.

7. [Marginal note: Walgrave for marten marprelate] Being examined furder, whether he then sayed not, that hee might have had all the Martyn Marprelates [i.e., all copies of the Epistle], and so have gayned xxty [20] marks [£13 6s 8d] by them. He confesseth he sayd so. And being asked of whom he could have had them, sayth he might have had them of Waldegrave, who meting him in the streete did talk with him about them: but he refused to meddle with them. This offer was made by Waldegrave of the first bookes [the Epistle], not of the second [the Epitome]. And furder denieth, that Waldegrave ever told him who was the author thereof, neither did this Examinate ever whyles aske him.

8. [Marginal note: Walgrave for marten marprelate] Being examined what booke it was, which David Hoël [i.e., Howell] mentioneth to bee printed in Mistress Cranes house in the Countrye, he thinketh it to be the Demonstration of Disciplyne. And afterward upon better remembraunce, he addeth, that he cannot well tell whether he had the first book of Martyn Marprelate, from Mr Wiggington or from Waldegrave: but he rather thinketh he had it of Waldegrave.

By me Nicholas Tomkins

A Recognizance for xxli [£20] for his apparance before the Commissioners within iii dayes after warning leste at his owne house in Grayes Inne Lane, yf he bee in towne, or else within iii dayes after hee returne out of the Contrey.

9. Memorandum That among other speeches which he uttered, he sayd that he thought Davyson was not the author of Diotrephes, but rather thinketh Mr Udall was. And furder being demanded among other questions, where the book of Martyn [the Epistle] was printed, he answered, you knowe well enough, even where this last book [the Epitome] was printed, insinuating Northamptonshyre.

Memorandum that this examination was taken & subscribed as afore before me Richarde Cosin one of the Masters of the courte of channcery.

Ric: Cosin.

[Second examination]

29. die Novembris 1589

Nycholas Tomkins of London in the parishe of Aldermanberye sworn and examinede.

1. Beinge askede when Walgrave brought the case of lettres to Mistress Cranes house in London he answerethe that it was shortlie after Walgraves lettres were defacede [i.e., after May 13, 1588].

2. To the seconde he sayethe that Walgrave and his Wyffe brought these lettres to the house and layde the same upon the boorde [table] in the house, and from the boorde this examinate did take them and layde them uppe the [illegible word] in the buttrie.

3. To the thirdd he answereth that to his remembraunce the case of lettres remaynede there about three monethes.

4. To the 4 this deponent sayethe that Walgraves wyffe dyd fetche away the case, and that an other woman called Mistress Newlande delyverde the same to heire.

5. To the 5 he belevethe in his conscience that Walgrave and Penry were printinge somme bookes, in that he [illegible word] at [two illegible words] and that he is so to beleve bicause Penry did desyre Mistress Crane that he myght unlade a lode of stuffe at her sayde house in Mowlsey in whiche lode of stuffe he belevethe the presse and lettres were.

6. To the 6 he knoweth not any thinge of the printer of the [illegible word: interogation?] but that he thinkethe the sayd Walgrave and Penry were then occupeid about the printinge of a Booke about Mychallmasse [September 29, 1588].

7. To the 7 he sayethe that he beinge in London dyd heare of Walgrave and Howell alias Hopkins Penryes man that Udall resortede to the house of Mowlsey at sundrie tymes while the sayd Walgrave and Penry were there.

8. To the viii he answereth that Walgrave in London in the streete towarde the mooregate dyd offre hym the sale of [fol. 89v] a nombre of the first books of Martyns bookes [i.e., copies of the Epistle] but he tooke but one and refused any more and that Walgrave tolde hym then the books were in his owne house.

9. [Marginal note ū for Udall] To the ixth he hath herde Penry named to be the author of the first Martyn. But he knoweth that Udall was the author of the Demonstration of Disciplyne, for that Udall hym selfe tolde hym so and that he saw in Kingeston upon Thames eyther in Udalles own house or in Chelsames house a cataloge of suche bookes as Udall hadd made and prynted and in that cataloge he sawe that booke of Demonstration of Discipline for one.

10. [Marginal note ū for Udall] To the x [tenth] he sayeth that he beleveth that the booke of Demonstration of Disciplyne was printede in Mistress Cranes Howse at Mowlsey because the printing presse was there and that Udall and Walgrave were lykwise together at that tyme in that house.

11. [Marginal note ū for Udall] To the 11 he sayethe that he beleveth that Udall was Author of Diotrophes because he sawe that booke allso in the sayde cataloge and because he is a northerne man.

12. To the 12 he sayeth, that therfore he thinketh that the first Martyn was printed in Northampton sheyre because the presse was carryde thider from Mowlsey and beyng asked howe he knowethe the removynge of the presse from Mowlsey he saytehe that he harde Penry promise Mistress Crane fearing somme trouble by receavynge of the lode of stuffe wherein the presse was that he wolde fynde the meanes to carry the same away agayne to Northampton shere. And further sayeth that at his Mistress comynge thider at Hallowmas [November 1, 1588] all was removede thence.

[13, 14] To the 13 and 14 he beleeveth that Penry hym selfe Walg. [Waldegrave] and Davie Howell alias Hopkins were the laders of the presses with the healpe of the carier that commeth for it from Northamptonshere.

By me Nicholas Tomkins

Examined before us
Wm Aubrey
W. Lewyn

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