Home | In Drake's Wake

The Drake Exploration Society

The Widey Court Book

transcribed and interpreted by Susan Jackson

Susan Jackson with The Widey Court Book

Susan Jackson in the Plymouth Records Office

The Widey Court Book are a collection of documents found at Widey Court in Plymouth. They are housed at the Plymouth Record Office. The papers record the financial transactions of the Plymouth Corporation during the 16th and 17th centuries. Unfortunately, they are incomplete for any given year. Hence, they comprise random jottings; perhaps of the Receiver for that year.

Like The Plymouth Black Book, The Widey Court Book make fascinating reading; and to work with them is a richly rewarding experience. For The Drake Broadside I have only included those entries that directly or indirectly refer to Drake. For example, I have included: building projects because of Drake’s financial contributions; the references to the leat because Drake was instrumental in its construction and references to the council’s dealings with the Magistrates and Justices because Deputy Lord Lieutenant Sir Francis Drake, was the senior Magistrate and Justice for the County of Devon.

I have retained the Elizabethan form of spelling and grammar and the Devonian variations. The Widey Court Book entries are grouped into years that date from Lady Day in April, rather than from 1 January, under the name of the respective Council Receiver. The absence of full stops is not a modern omission.

1580-81 George Baron

Itm recorded for Sr Frauncs Drake keneighte, imployed in the house appoynted for ye howse appoynted for ya Bridewell. 52 [pounds?]

[Drake seems to have sold a rather large property to the corporation which was to be used as a Bridewell. This is a house where the poor of Plymouth would be lodged and found work. This is a "peppercorn sale" for that size and that price - whether it is pence, shillings or pounds; and shows Drake as a public benefactor in helping Plymouth to implement the Poor Law.]

Remaining walls of the Bridewell

Remaining walls of the Bridewell

1581-82 Henry Whyetacres

Hawkins paid 8 pounds for southside keys and 40 pounds for mills:

Sir F. Drake recieved 20 pounds for his stipend" [as mayor?]

Lintel from the Elizabethan Mayor's Parlour

Lintel from the Elizabethan Mayor's Parlour

4 pounds spent in entertaining Diego Bottellio, Portuguese ambassador

[This was Dom Antonio's representative.]

1582-83, Matthew Hoare [?] Itm paide for the entertaynment of Sr Frauncs Drake knighte, when his ladie came firste 13 [shillings, as pounds would seem rather excessive]

Drake's Island (formerly St Nicholas Island)

Drake's Island (formerly St Nicholas Island)

1583-84, John White. 40 pounds paid by Sr Frauncs Drake for town mills, and continues [This means it is to be continuous payment, probably yearly.]

New stairs mentioned by the cawse [causeway - probably at Coxside when the ships were launched]

Itm pd to John Humfries for carrienge of Lres[letters] to Sr Fraunces Drake 7 pence

Itm pd out this year in sondrie worke, as in fortefyeinge, buyldinge, entrenchinge and other munytyons boughte for the fortification of St Nicholas Island £174 13 shillings and 3 pence

1584-85 John Trelawnye [?]

Itm paide to a man to go to London wth lres to Sr Frauncis Drake and Mr Hele touchinge or [our] Burgesses [senior townsmen] for the Parliamente twenty-three shillings

Itm paide for a supper for the justices whwn they came to viewe the course for bringinge the water vnto the towne 31 shillings[Drake would have been one of these justices.]

Itm paide for victualls wine beare and other pvision carried from hence vppon the downe five shillings and five pence

Itm paide for the hire of three horses att that tyme 1 shilling and five pence

Itm paide to a poore man to shewe them the waye 6 pence

Itm paide to Sprie the painter for ridinge to mevie aboute the water 5 shillings

Itm paide for his horse hire then 6 pence

Twenty-six shillings and eight pence spent in a dinner on Capt Williams and Hunning and others for helping in the suit of the Island [This was St Nicholas Island.]

Itm paide for convaienge of the water over the Southeside Kaye thatt rannes from Mr Sparkes new streete 3 shillings

Itm paide for mr Carewes diett when he rode aboute the water 1 shilling and eight pence

Itm paide to Mr Hele for his helpe att London for furtherenge of or sute for bringinge in of the water as by his bill apperethe 4 pounds one shilling and six pence

Itm paide to Mr Christopher Harris for the helpe aboute the water as by his bill appearathe sixteen pounds five shillings

A new street paved leading toward the new key.[quay]

Mr [William] Hawkins had 4 pounds and Martin White eight pounds eleven shillings and foure pence for Sr Walter Rawleghes diett, while the Mayor had 5 pounds for the dyett of Drake and my ladye and othere justices. Sir John Gilbert also entertained.

Itm paide to George Barton for his paines and charge in sollictinge the cawse for the Bringinge home of the water to the Towne wch is enacted spending twenty-seven daies seven pounds

Itm paid to Sprie the painter for makinge of a plott of the Towne and parrishe wth a Bowrder [I assume that this means either a decorative border for display purposes or a black area around for notes and comments.] Carried to the Counsell [Privy Council in London] ten shillings

Itm for amendinge of the flagge and auncient [town coat of arms] 17 shillings

117 pounds and seventeen shillings spent on the Island.

More to hym [the Receiver] twenty five pounds for money disbursed by hym this yere to Sr Frauncs Drake knyght for the townes adventure wth hym in this viage [The corporation was obviously a shareholder in the 1585 West Indies voyage.]

1585-86 Humfrie Fownes

Itm rec for our stipende for or Island at ladie daie 1586 thirty-nine pounds ten shillings and ten pence[Plymouth receives its payment from the government for the defence of St Nicholas Island.]

A watch house built on the Hoe

Itm pd for a spille for the compasse 2 pence

1586-87 George Baron

Itm rec for Sr Fra Drake knight for the Townes adventr 17 pounds and 15 shillings [The corporation once again investing in Drake's latest voyage: that to Cádiz.]

Payments for fortifications

Itm to wm Salter & others for carrieng of one wch killed a man vppon Catte Downe & others arrested by Sr Frauncis Drake & sent to the gayle [jail] 33 shillings and 3 pence

Itm pd to nicholas Lane for carrienge of a letter mr Edgcombe vppon reporte of the Spannishe fleete to be on ye coste five pence 2 shillings paid to the boatmen that went to discover a fleet

Work done on the Custom house 7 shillings and 5 pence

Itm pd for 3 pounds of powder spente at the cominge in of Sr Fraunces Drake 3 shillings and 5 pence

Defensive works

Four demy culverins and three sakers bought of Richard Hawkins and work done on the dikes in April

Itm pd to Robte Scarlette for goinge oute to discover the Spanynish Fleet 5 shillings

Itm pd to John Gibbons and Henry Woode for watchinge at Rame hedde 3 daies when the Spaynyards were vppon the coaste 10 shillings

1588-89 John Geare

Drake and Norris bought of the town muskets, callivers and pikes from the Island [This rather proves the point that the 1589 Portugal expedition was short of arms and ordnance.]

Itm paied to Edward Hill for rowing up to Howe to aduertise the Lo: [Lord] Chamberlen of the Spaniard [I presume a galleon] that cam into Bigberie Baie 1 shilling

Item paied to George Sterling for riding to Mr Champnon of Modberie wth Sir Fraunces Drake hir lre for staieng of the monies wch hath bin gathered of Armenton hondred for fitting out of the shippe 18 pence [This was money that Champernowne had collected for the fitting out of a ship for the Portugal expedition.]

Item for sending of Sir Frauncs Drakes warrante to Plympton and to Millbrook & for wache & ward for staieng of mariners and souldiers five pence [I think this was a warrent for the apprehending of deserters from the Portugal expedition. Drake did complain to the Privy Council about desertion.]

4 pounds and 18 shillings paid Mr Harris for Drake and Norris and other gentlemen dining with the Mayor.

10 shillings to Sprie for a plott of the towne Spaniards carried to Plymstock by Ballemaie Letters written up to the Justices[one of whom would be Drake] for monei wch we should receave for fetting out of a ship against the Spaniards. one penny [It is evident that the government owed Plymouth money and they were asking the Justices,  of whom Drake would have been the leader, to take up the case on their behalf.]

Item to John Jope bestowed vpon the shipp and the Pynnace that srued vnder the Admirall 3 pounds [served under Drake?]

1589-90 Thomas Payne

A letter sent to the Earl of Bath [to whom Drake was deputy] for a garrison

The Citadel, Plymouth

Drake's fortifications near sea level and just below the 17th century citadel

Itm paid for 2 boates to carie Sr Frauncs Drake and mr harrys & others to howe start [the Barbican and of(f) Plymouth Ho] for vewinge the Grounde for a forte one shilling

5 pounds for a supper for Drake and his lady and other justices

Mr Edmonds and Mr Page had 12 pence each for a horse to ride to Buckland [12 pence each would signify an important message.]

Itm paid for Charges of spanyardes brought in by the Rawe Bucke & Gallion dudeley for theire dyett & sending theym to exeter & for theire guyde twenty-three shillings [This order was given by the justices.]

Itm pd for a staff to [take] the levell of the water & for mendinge the hedde, being broken and for ledde 5 shillings.

Itm pd for hire of a horse to buckeland for Rattenburye about ye  water 11 pence

Itm pd to Thomas Burden for 2 horses hire to Mevye for vewe of the water 20 pence

Item pd att the church howsse of Mevye for beare & milke one shilling and v pence

Ten freedom stones with the castle 'graven in 5 of theym for the Milpoole [the castle being part of the town's coat of arms]

Dinner at Wm hobbes and Mr Spearckes' for Sr Frauncs Drake & 2 justices att the eatinge of a bucke and a doe.

Itm pd Peter Vosper to goe to Buckeland to knowe when the Judges did come [they would probably be guests at Buckland] 11 pence

Itm pd for a horse for henry Wllys to ride to meat the judges 11 pence

Itm pd Robart lampen for Plnnynge and vewinge the grounde for the Water Course from mevie for five dayes to shillings.

115 pounds, thirteen shillings and eleven pence spent on St Nicholas Island.

1590-91 Willyam Browne

Lady Drake; and Sir John Hawkins and others had a 3 pound supper

Itm paied for provision when the mystresses Rade [rode] first to vewe the water Course 2 pounds ten shillings and seven pence[This would have been when the ladies of the chief men of Plymouth went to view the leat.]

Various messengers sent to Sir, F. Drake Messenger sent to Sir F. Drake about the pilchards' which brought several justices to the town [As Deputy Lord Leiutenant, Drake had to mediate on behalf of the crown, in the "pilchard war" between Plymouth and Cawsand.]

Itm for the hyer of a horse for a Trumpeter to Ryde in compayng to the Riur 11 pence

Itm pd. to 4 trumpetore thatt were att the leate by mr maiors comaundemt 5 shillings

Itm pd' for horses for theym 2 shillings

Itm to a messeng that was sent to Sr Frauncs Drake 6 pence

Itm to a messenger sent to mr harrys 6 pence

Itm for hyer of two horses to Carry provision to the leate one shilling

Itm for bredd carryed to the leate 6 shillings

Itm p to Mr whitakers for wyne to carry to the leate 40 shillings and 5 pence

Itm for other pvison sente the same tyme 6 shillings and four pence

Itm to Henry Elly for 8 dozen of bredd spente at the srvaye of the water six shillings

Itm given to Robert lampyn in reward at the bringing in of the leate one shilling and 5 pence

Itm pd for 10 pounds wayghte of powder thatt was spent at the bringing in of the Riur 15 shillings and 7 pence

Itm to John Rewbye for a dynner att the bringinge in of the Ryur 15 shillings

Itm to the gunn's thatt daye 15 pence

Itm more spent vppon theym then 2 shillings and 3 pence

Itm paid over and above the Charges in this accompte before mentyoned wch amountethe to fifteen pounds, sixteen shillings and one pence for and in bringinge in of the leate and beside the monye given to Sr Frauncs Drake the some of, as by a bill of pticulers appeared, the some of 46 pounds, 7 shillings and 6 pence.

Itm paied for leade for to Convaye the water wch is in waight 99 tons 2/3 16 att 7 pounds the tonne 39 pounds 15 shillings and one pence.

Itm paied towards the Plumer labor 15 pounds

Itm pd to the two lampyns in reward touchinge theire paines taken about the leate 25 shillings and 7 pence

Itm given to Robert lampyn and his brother in reward for their pains aboute the water 25 shillings and 7 pence [I think that two payments were made rather than it being error, such as the wording being different.]

Itm paide to Mr heles man for wrytinge oute of the articles of agreement betwene the towne and Sr Frauncs Drake 5 shillings and 7 pence [probably relating to the leat and Drake's rental of the town mills]

Itm paied to Peter Sylvester for a tonne of wyne wch was given to the Judges for theire paines and helpe touchinge the Water Course 20 pounds

1591-92 James Bagge

Itm rec of Diurs pursons toward the charges of bringinge in of the water ouer and abou thatt wch hathe byn paired owte to diurs psons vppon soundrie reckninge wc ought to be paied whereof mentyon is maide in a bill of the pticulars thereof 3 pounds and 17 shillings

Itm pd for a man that did attende Mr Addams one shilling and 7 pence [Adams was a government engineer.]

Itm pd Lampen to take the levelle of the grounde wth Mr Adams one shilling

Itm pd to Sprye the paynter for a plotte of the kayes [quays] 3 shillings

a like plott 10 shillings [a more elaborate addition possibly for the privy council] a ruler 6 pence [Elizabethan drawing intruments were expensive.]

Itm paide for the makinge of the brydge by the mylles & other work 7 shillings

Itm pd Sprye the paynter for a pattrn for measuringe the towne 15 shillings

Itm pd for a dinner to Sr Fraunce Drake at his comynge from London and his ladye and other gentlemen and others of the towne 3 pounds.

Itm paide for a dynner expectinge Sr Robert Cessell comynge wch came nat, [not] but my ladye Drake. Mr Harries Mr Stroude and some of the Mrs [masters and gentlemen] of the towne 3 pounds 20 shillings was paid at the eating of the venison; and three pound supper was given to Sr Walter and his company and others [most likely Raleigh]

Itm paide to Mr Spearcke maior [mayor] for the charge of Carriadge of the water a cocke syde [Coxside] 12 pounds 5 shillings and 7 pence

Itm paied to Sr Frauncs Drake kneight, towarde the bringinge in of the water wch the Receavor allowed him in his rente dewe for the milles for one yere at Michaelmas 1592 30 pounds

1592-93 John Martyn

Itm pd for buyldinge of three Cundytts and the bringinge of the water from the leate to the Guyldhalle in ledd 144 pounds and 5 pence

4 shillings to Hill the fisherman for going out in his boat when speaches was that the Spanynyards were come

Itm pd for the pattayne [plan] of the forte [to be] sent to London.

4 shillings and 4 pence spent in wyne when Drake and the masters went to view the tin work

Itm paied to Sr Frauncs Drake kneyght in full paiment of the 300 pounds thatt the maior and Coaltye [council or corporation]were to paye hym for bringinge in of the Riur and prchas of the land our [of] wch the same is broughte, which is allowed owte of the mille rent wch was payable this yere 21 pounds 15 shillings and 7 pence[The town owed Sir Francis 300 pounds which they gave back by deducting the amount from the rent which they charged for the mills. They had to refund £21 15/-7d. Hence, we are now aware of the amount that Drake paid the corporation. This gives an indication his wealth.]

1593-94 William Downeman

Itm recorded of Sr Frauncs Drake kneight for rent of the Towne Milles and towe Eloses of land this yere 33 pounds, 3 shillings and 3 pence.

9 shillings paid to Spry for two platts [plans] one for my L of Bath & the other for Mr Sparke

Itm pd Christopher Taylor for buyldinge the watch howsse at the becone vppon the West hawe 5 pounds

1594-95 John Golson

26 pounds recieved as Town Custom of the prize goods brought from Brazil by Fenner and Goddard's ships

44 pounds 6 shillings and 8 pence subscribed to defend the causes in lawe and secure the guard of the fort to the town

St Andrew's Church

St Andrew's Church

159 pounds 4 shillings and 10 pence collected towards the bells [for St Andrew's Church] by Peter Anthony and Wm Neyle. [These bells were cast in a furnace built in the town and cost £293 12/- 4d. Drake and Hawkins also gave a broken piece of brass ordnance.]

Itm pd for hue and crie made after Sr Fraunces drakes musitions* one shilling and five pence [*Other writers have translated this word as musicians and visulized Drake's private orchestra being pursued across Devon. I have always regarded this as a rather strange scenario. Musicians in Elizabethan England were professionals and would have been free to leave Drake's service at any time, so long as they worked the appropriate notice. I would transcibe the word "musitions" as "munitions". This makes more sense because at this time, Drake would have been preparing for his 1595 voyage and the purloining of his guns, powders and shot would have infuriated him; enough to cause him to call out "the watch to implement the hue and cry." It would be hardly worth doing it to pursue a few musicians.]

1595-96 John Batten

8 pounds paid to John Burden for bringing the water to the old Conduit  .

6 shillings and 8 pence for a plotte of the forte and of the hawe [Hoe]

  The Widey Court Book

Post Drake

This section contains references to Sir Francis Drake. I have  included the references to Thomas Drake, who is referred to as Mr Drake because they relate to dealings over the leat.

1598-99 Walter Mathhewe

Itm pd for carryenge a lre to Mr Maynarde of Tavistock and for his paines in cominge hether aboute Sr Frce Drakes last will and Testamt [Thomas Maynard was Drake's godson and sailed on Drake's last voyage. He witnessed Drake's will. It seems that Plymouth had enlisted his help to obtain their legacy.]

1599-1600 Walter Mathew

Itm pd for carryinge a lre to Mr Thomas Drake aboute Sr Frce Drake's last will and testamt [The corporation and Thomas Drake seem to be sorting out Drake's various legacies to the town.]

1600-03 William Neele

Itm paid for mr Drake's Comission as by the pticulers appeareth five shillings and seven pence

Itm paid for a dynnr for Mr Drakes Comissioners when they were here about the water course, 11 shillings

Itm paide mr Towne Clarke for writinge out a copie of Mr Drake's lease of the milles and for his mans horsehire for two daies, 13 shillings [This indicates that the corporation was reviewing Thomas Drake's lease of the mills and commissioners were working out the terms of a new agreement.]

1603-04 James Mayne

Itm paide to John Woulcombe towardes the amendinge of new bridge which the leate brake down 3 pounds, six shillings and eight pence. This Mr Drake must paye [This marginal note indicates that there was some agreement that the maintenance of this bridge would be a Drake responsibility. Perhaps the bridge was on Drake property and may have been included on Sir Francis Drake's original or subsequent transactions.]

Itm paide for a dynner for Sr John Hele mr Crymes and mr Drake when they were here about the water Course 5 pounds [Wiliam Crymes owned the manor of Crapstone Barton. His land bordered Buckland. Crymes and Sir Francis seemed to have coexisted in harmony. However, Crymes and Thomas seemed to have been in subsequent continuous dispute over land tenure and the leat.]

1616-1617 Thomas Ceelie

Itm pd for drawinge of Sr Frances Drakes picture and other charges towarde that that 3 shillings

1668-69 John Dell

Item paid to Bobb Fetherstone for mending Sr Francis Drakes' picture 1 shilling

1670-71 Thomas Knotefford

6 pounds paid for cutting the arms of the King, town, and Drake for the conduit without Old Town Gate, this year rebuilt

- Back to top ^^