Court Depositions of South West England, 1500-1700

Case type: Fornication

Summary: Office v Wilmota Rogers: a master attempts to bribe his servant to commit adultery with him as they work together in the hay harvest.

Source: Devon Heritage Centre, Chanter 855

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Gloss: definitions of key terminology.

Interpretation: matters of interest and importance relating to how evidence recorded in the depositions is analysed.

Technicalities of the court: procedural information about the operation of the courts and the recording of depositional evidence.


Original Spelling Transcription

xxiii octo[bris] 1556

Officiu[m] div[inus] co[n] Wilmota Rogers de Alfington

Ex[am]i[n]ata dicit that the weke before S. peters day at mydsomer last past this r[esp]ondent then bieing the s[er]vaunt of one Richard Stone of the same p[ar]ishe was pitchyng hay up unto the said Richard being upon his hay tollett Induced by all the meanes possibill this r[esp]ondent to adult[er]ie and desired this r[esp]ondent come to cum[m]e uppe unto hym And he wold give her money and p[ur]ches a lyving for her w[i]t[h] many fair p[ro]mises And after that he gave this r[esp]ondent xls upon the co[n]dit[i]on that she shuld have mett w[i]t[h] hym in his stabill the wensday before S. petters day aforesaid And then to have other xls and therfor he to have had his pleasur of her And this r[esp]ondent had & receaved the said xls but she keapt not appoyntment w[i]t[h] hym but went the same wensday to Reap w[i]t[h] Mr Morley and neaver offended w[i]t[h] hym.

Modernized Spelling Transcription

23 October 1556

Office v Wilmota Rogers of Alphington

She says that the week before St. Peter's Day at Midsummer last past, this respondent then being the servant of one Richard Stone of the same parish, was pitching hay up unto the said Richard, being upon his hay tollett [who] induced by all the means possible this respondent to adultery and desired this respondent come to come up unto him. And he would give her money and purchase a living for her, with many fair promises. And after that, he gave this respondent 40s upon the condition that she should have met with him in his stable the Wednesday before St Peter's Day aforesaid. And then to have [an]other 40s and therefore he to have had his pleasure of her. And this respondent had and received the said 40s but she kept not appointment with him but went the same Wednesday to reap with Mr Morley and never offended with him.

Technicalities of the Court

This is an 'ex officio' (office) case. Office cases were initiated by church authorities against individuals and typically focused on moral transgressions such as adultery.


In describing when a particular event had taken place, witnesses often reported the time in relation to the liturgical calendar (e.g.referring to church seasons and feast days).


A hay tollett is a colloquial term for a hay loft, a space above a barn or stable used to store hay.


's' used after a number refers to shillings (e.g. 40 shillings).


Pitching hay involved lifting, hoisting or throwing hay, in this case into the hay loft. It is interesting to find female servants involved in fairly physical forms of agricultural labour.


Reaping was an agricultural activity in which crops were harvested (cut and gathered) from a piece of land. It is interesting to find female servants involved in fairly physical forms of agricultural labour.