Viewing Event Record: Star Chamber, Samwell vs Langley et al: Richard Samwell the Elder states his case


Richard Samwell's bill of complaint in his suit against Francis Langley and others provides details of his original lease and the subsequent dispute over the Boar's Head galleries. Samwell claims there was a campaign of legal harassment masterminded by Francis Langley, whom Samwell describes as 'a barrator and common disturber of our majesty's subjects.' Samwell declares that Oliver and Susan Woodliffe had demised certain parts of the property, including the great yard and back yard, to Samwell for the term of eighteen years, excepting only access to certain rooms which the Woodliffes reserved for their own use, and the right for Woodliffe to build on the west part of the great yard. In July 1599 he agreed with the Woodliffes to rebuild 'divers rooms, galleries, chambers and other necessary buildings,' which he then erected. Around Michaelmas 1599, the Woodliffes and Langley conspired to deprive Samwell of his use of the galleries. In consequence, Samwell began proceedings against Oliver Woodliffe in the Court of the King's Bench, as well as against the Woodliffes, Langley and others in Chancery. Heedless of the impending suits, the Woodliffes shortly thereafter claimed rights in the Boar's Head galleries, and sold these to Francis Langley. Samwell accuses Langley of having entered the playhouse with a band of men equipped with various tools, who proceeded to cut down the galleries. On 24 December, Francis returned with Foxley, Johnson, Boulton, and Strayles and invaded the playhouse. Along with Roberts, Langley, Susan Woodliffe and others, they interrupted a play performance and pocketed the gallery takings, amounting to around £4. Johnson and Foxley attempted to arrest Samwell and his son, Samwell's daughter-in-law Winifred and her infant, as well as a servant named Edward Willys. They succeeded in arresting Winifred (and her infant), and later arrested Willys. Alexander Foxley and John Jonson, servants to Sir Thomas Gerrard, claimed on 16 December to have been authorized by the Marshal's Court and at the suit of Francis Langley and Oliver Woodliffe to arrest Samwell and his son. Samwell notes that the only action against his household at the time was a suit brought by a child, Richard Bishop, against Samwell's servant Edward Willy, which was "tryable" by common law, and not in the Court of Marshalsea. Samwell counts a total of seven arrests of himself and his household in the Court of Marshalsea. Samwell's son, furthermore, had been bound to the peace in the King's Bench the previous Michaelmas. Langley, 'knowing the same, for vexation sake,' also had the younger Samwell bound to the peace in the Chancery Court. Langley and his compatriots, Samwell claims, gave out word that they would arrest Samwell if they needed money. The men affirmed, Samwell adds, that they made a practice of arresting people in the Court of Marshalsea, and made good money of it. Samwell complains that he himself has spent £40 over the arrests. Langley conspired to have the marshals arrest Samwell's son on 4 April 1600, without warrant, and without bail. When Samwell's servant, Rowland Rosse, demanded to see the warrant, the marshals assaulted him, and beat and threatened to arrest Samwell the younger's wife, Winifred.

Date Event Recorded

From: 11 April 1600 (Source of claim: original)

Date Event Happened

From: 13 April 1598 To: 11 April 1600 (Source of claim: original)


Boar's Head


Name Role
Johnson, John Marshalsea officer
Langley, Francis defendant
Roberts, Owen defendant
Foxley, Alexander defendant
Woodliffe, Susan defendant
Woodliffe, Oliver defendant
Gerrard, Thomas marshal
Samwell, Richard, the Elder plaintiff
Boulton, Peter servant
Strayles, Anthony servant
Willys, Edward servant
Rosse, Rowland servant
Bishop, Richard tenant
Samwell, Winifred wife

Event Type

  • company business
  • court case
  • playhouse business
  • playhouse context