John Neuton was Constable of North Hill around 1480. He petitioned the Council of the then Prince of Wales because of harrassment by some local residents..

John Neuton would probably spell his name as Newton today but we shall persist with the spelling used in his complaint. The five main characters in this tale are John Neuton, Richard Botternell, Thomas Leonard, Thomas Cullbadde and Edward Prince of Wales, Duke of Cornwall. Edward was to become Edward V, King of England and one of the two princes murdered in the Tower of London. Traditional narratives tell us that this was at the instigation of Richard III who usurped Edward's throne but modern interpretation of this story now question the long held version. Whereas the story of Edward V, his father, Edward IV, and Richard III has been recorded through the centuries, this petition contains everything we know about the ordinary folk - John, Richard and the two Thomases.

The document is but 16 lines long and written in secretary script, probably on parchment. The original is held by The National Archive in Kew under reference SC 8/344/E1269. The right hand side of the document is damaged and faded but enough survives for us to understand what the petition was about. The original document is shown below and a transcription can be seen by clicking on the pdf icon.

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The exact date of the petition has not been recorded but would appear to be in the time frame of 1471 to 1483 and probably towards the end of that period.

The Circumstances Leading to the Petition

John Neuton appears to have come to the end of his patience with two local residents, namely Richard Botternell and Thomas Leonard. They, along with others incited by Richard and Thomas, have repeatedly detained John and taken him before courts for an alleged misdemeanour, the specific nature of which has not been recorded but appears to contravene Stannary Law. This allegation, despite being denied by John Neuton, was endorsed in the form of a warrant by Thomas Cullbadde who was the understeward of the local Stannary Court. John was constable in North Hill and asserted that, whatever it was that he was accused of, it was done in the name of his service to his "liege lord", the Duke of Cornwall. Each time the arrest warant was exercised John had to attend a court to explain himself and he had to pay his own fees for the hearing. His petition states the actions had cost him 100 shillings, and each hearing incurred a charge of 5 shillings. This means that there were probably about twenty hearings, along with other probable harrassments. It is understandable that John's patience was wearing thin.

On the most recent occasion, in mid April just before St George's Day, when John was about his business as constable, Richard and Thomas, probably with others, went to Berrio to find him, going from house to house as they sought him out. Not finding him there, enquiries took them to "Trewody Down" which is probably somewhere on the moor above North Hill. They found him there, arrested him again under the authority of the existing warrant, refused his offer of surety and carried him off to Blisland, probably for another hearing before a court that John did not recognize. In his petition he refers to this as a "pretend franchise".

At the presentation of the petition John asks the court to question Thomas Culbadde who was present at the time. John asked the council to support him. This probably meant withdrawing the warrant so that John could "peaceably live in rest and peace" without further harrassment.

It would be interesting to know the outcome of John's complaint but no record of the result of the petition has survived.

The banner image shows John Neuton's name in his petition.