Nicholas Crundall, Snr & Jnr,

Rectors, father & son, of Winterbourne, St Michael,

from 1572 to 1589 and 1589 to 1600 respectively.


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We are indebted to Paul Gifford, of Michigan in the United States, for the following interesting material that he has researched. Paul is currently writing a genealogy for publication in the magazine "Rhode Island Roots" based on this information.

Nicholas Crundall Jnr was the father of James Crundall (c.1589-1662), of Kendleshire, WesterleighJames had a son John, baptized at Westerleigh, Gloucestershire, in 1618, who went to New England by 1643 and founded the settlement of Westerly, Rhode Island.  He was the ancestor of most of the Crandalls in the United StatesJohn was a Baptist, and before his death in 1676 had become a Seventh-Day Baptist. 

The Legal Proceedings contain names of many different Winterbourne residents around the end of the 16th Century. If any reader discovers any of his ancestors here, or has any further information to add, Paul Gifford would be very interested to hear from you. Please write to the Web Master in the first instance.

List of Legal Proceedings attached...

c1590 - Robert Bradston v James & Nicholas Crundall

1595-1598 - Robert Bradston v Wm Veale & Nicholas Crundall

1598-1600 - Robert Bradston v A Bradston, N Veale and others

1599-1600 - N Crundall v R Bradston, J Marshall and others

1600-1601 - R Bradstone v N Crondall, John Mayo & others

1602 - Robert Bradston's answer to Complaint of James Buck

We have also to thank the Crandall Family Association who paid for the photocopies of the Legal Proceedings lodged at the Public Records Office; transcriptions of which are attached.

Note that the spelling of Crundall varies and can be found as Crondall, Crandall, Crandell, Crandle, Crandol, Crindall.



NICHOLAS CRUNDALL and his legal disputes with ROBERT BRADSTON...


Between 1590 and 1601, Robert Bradston brought no fewer than four suits against Nicholas Crundall in the Court of Star Chamber and the Court of Chancery; Crundall sued Bradston once in the latter court.  The Star Chamber decrees do not survive and those for the Chancery are difficult to search, making it virtually impossible to learn the outcome of each case.  However, unlike the records of the church and common-law courts of the period, the proceedings of the cases in these courts were in English, rather than Latin, and written, rather than spoken (as with common law courts). In the case of the Star Chamber, the records of each case were, at least in part, filed together.  The surviving records make it possible for us to look at unusual details of the principals’ lives.


Clearly Robert Bradston sought to bring Crundall to ruin, and it appears that he ultimately succeeded.  Both courts were located in London, although commissions were issued to local gentry to take testimony or answers.  Clearly the costs of such cases were substantial, as both plaintiff and defendants needed to hire lawyers, who prepared lengthy papers.  The process began when the plaintiff or complainant presented a bill of complaint.  The defendant(s) received a subpoena and had to prepare an answer, usually denying any guilt.  This might be followed by the plaintiff’s replication and the defendant’s rejoinder.  Then the court received interrogatories, or questions to be asked of witnesses for the plaintiff and defendant, and took depositions from the witnesses, either in London or, more likely, by local commissions.  The judges could order witnesses to be re-examined, if necessary.  Finally, they would issue their decrees.  The Court of Chancery was an equity court, mostly dealing with property or inheritance disputes.  The Court of Star Chamber took responsibility for ostensibly criminal actions, such as riot and forcible entry.  These offenses, however, were in reality more related to disputes over property.  Contemporaries regarded this latter court as guilty of abuse (though this was mostly during the reign of Charles I) and in 1641 it was abolished.


Religion was, no doubt, at the heart of the disputes, but it comes up in only one of the cases.  We can assume that Nicholas Crundall, Sr., who was curate (incumbent) of the important town of Tewkesbury, in northern Gloucestershire, from 1564, probably left this position in 1572 due to the unpopularity of certain of his views.  He seems to have found, in the person of Margery Bradstone, widow of Robert Bradstone, lord of the manor of Winterbourne, someone who liked his preaching, which probably indicates that he was of the Puritan persuasion. On 29 November 1572, he was made incumbent of Winterbourne, with the patronage of Margery Bradstone.  Old Nicholas died in October, 1589.


The Bradstone (generally spelled “Bradston” during the period of these suits) family had held the manor of Winterbourne since the 14th century.  Robert Bradstone died about 1568, leaving, besides his widow Margery, a daughter Elizabeth as his sole heir.  He also had a brother John, who had a son named Anthony Bradston, and another brother, who had children Robert, Elizabeth, Johan, and Isabel.  It was this younger Robert who led the fight against Nicholas Crundall, Jr.


The first indication of this feud began about the time of Nicholas Crundall, Sr.’s death.  While he was still alive, Robert Bradston approached James Crundall, Nicholas’s eldest son, about purchasing the advowson of Winterbourne, which was the right to present to the parish, following the decease or dismissal of the incumbent, the new priest.  Nicholas had to have acquired it in some manner from Margery Bradstone.  Robert Bradston tried to persuade James that the advowson was not legally valid and offered to pay him ₤200 for it.  James at first consented to the offer, provided that Bradston would agree to the presentation of Nicholas, Jr., to the admission of the church, as James had already provisionally agreed to do, in the presence of William Llen, of Westerleigh, gentleman.  In the end, Nicholas, writing his will on his deathbed on 12 October 1589, bequeathed the advowson to James, and James then appointed his brother Nicholas to be incumbent of WinterbourneRobert Bradston then sued James and Nicholas Crundall in the Court of Chancery for failing to negotiate for the sale of the advowson, as he claimed James had agreed to do.[1]


Nicholas Crundall, Jr. seems to have arrived in Winterbourne after having served as incumbent elsewhere, most likely in Penterry, MonmouthshireWilliam Crandall, the son of Nicholas, in his 1616 will, gave money to the poor of that parish, where he may have been born.  In a deposition dated 27 January 1599/1600, John Middleton said that he had known Nicholas for about twelve years, which meant that he had known him since about 1587 or 1588.[2]



The spire of St Michael's Winterbourne church was struck by lightning and severely damaged.

New masonry was used to repair the spire and the old stones were re-erected in a private garden at Hambrook House, Hambrook, as an adornment for the underground ice-house.

Nicholas faced a crisis in 1593 which led to major discord among the Winterbourne parishioners.  In that year, a storm damaged the church’s steeple, already weakened by similar damage ten years earlier, according to notes made in the Almondsbury parish register.[3]  Crundall was obligated to raise tithes in order to pay for the repairs.  A local husbandman, William Belsher, refused to pay, so Crundall brought suit against him in the Consistory Court of Bristol, the church court with jurisdiction over WinterbourneBelsher based his objection to payment of the tithe over the legitimacy of  Crundall’s appointment.  After Crundall proved his legitimacy with the depositions of several important people, Belsher reached a tentative agreement for him to surcease the suit.  Bradston, however, took the opportunity to persuade Belsher not to come to any such agreement and offered to pay for his defense.


With at least some of the parish opposing Crundall or his right to be the incumbent of Winterbourne, the parson took a series of legal actions intended to strengthen his position.  At the same time, it became clear that the dispute was also between surviving members of the Bradstone family and their relatives.  On one side was Robert Bradston.  Opposing him were his first cousins Elizabeth Bradston and Anthony Bradston.  Crundall was clearly allied with Elizabeth and Anthony.  On 3 June 1594, Elizabeth Bradstone sold the manor and advowson of Winterbourne, with appurtenances and twenty messuages, to William Veele (or “Veale”), of Iron Acton, gentleman, and Nicholas Crundall, in the Feet of Fines.  Veele and Crundall had already taken livery and seisin of the lands on 22 January 1593/4.   Although the reason for this sale is not clear, it may have been a roundabout way of transferring the manor and advowson to Anthony Bradston, or at least a way to allow him to gain some benefit from it.  In Nicholas Crundall’s answer to one of Robert Bradston’s suits in the Court of Star Chamber, he stated that one of the messuages in dispute was conveyed to Veele and Crundall “at the instance & request of Anthony Broadstone [sic]” and “uppon speciall trust & confidence to dispose thereof to such uses intents & p[ur]poses as the said Anthony Broadstone should appoint.”[4]  Anthony Bradston’s wife Margaret was the daughter of Edward Veele, elder brother of William Veele.[5] 


Robert Bradston brought his first suit against Crundall and Veele in the Court of Star Chamber  in January 1594/5, alleging that they had sold a tenement to John Grove alias Collyer and a watermill to Sylvester Sprygge and his wife and that Veele and Crundall did not hold those parcels by any right.[6]   Depositions of witnesses made in 1597 established that Elizabeth Bradstone did sell the land by a deed of feoffment to Veele and Crundall, but that the particular properties in question were reputed to be held by Robert Bradston.  


Following petitions by Bradston and Crundall before the Council of Wales and the Marches, the Council determined that Bradston had no right to the parcels and issued Crundall an order to take possession, but it dissolved the hearing.  Crundall now had to establish his and Veele’s right and title to the contested property and Anthony Bradston’s claim to recover its profits  through the means of the common law.  This meant that they needed to evict the tenants peaceably in front of two or three witnesses.  Bradston now took pains to occupy one of the properties that Crundall and Veele believed they had acquired, known as Wager’s tenement, by living in the house himself, along with his sisters Elizabeth, Johan, and Mary.  The showdown was fast approaching.


On 15 May 1596, Crundall and Veele set about establishing their claim to the property by forcibly evicting Bradston’s sisters (Robert was in London on business at the time) from the house. Although the modern reader must look with skepticism on the records of the case, it seems that the following events took place on that and in subsequent days.  Several days earlier, Crundall contacted Anthony Swift, yeoman of Iron Acton and a friend of the Veele family, and asked him to hire some men to carry out the eviction.  Swift found Lawrence Oulden, Francis Stokes, and William Fry, of Bristol, and agreed to pay them twenty shillings for their trouble.  Early in the morning the three men knocked on the door of the house.  Elizabeth Bradston looked out of the window and asked what they wanted.  The men answered that they had been sent by Lawrence Tanfield, Robert Bradston’s lawyer. Elizabeth countered by saying that they were sent by the parson and that she would not open the doors.  Two of the men would have forced the doors open, but one of them was reluctant to do so, and they left.


Two days later, at the dawn of Ascension Day (17 May), the three men returned to the house, this time armed with swords, bucklers, daggers, and bills.  They demanded that the women open the doors and come out or they would kill them.  They then rammed the door open with a large piece of wood and broke two inner doors, drawing their swords.  The women, unlaced and partially dressed, went voluntarily from their bedchamber to the parlor, but the men dragged them from the parlor out of the house with their petticoats and aprons in their hands.  John Daunter, Crundall’s servant and kinsman, went inside the house, armed with a sword, and asked the people present to bear witness that he was in peaceable possession of the house, but one of them, John Philpott, said he could do no such thing.   About fifteen minutes later, Anthony Bradston, and Nicholas Crundall, with John Middleton and John Moore acting as witnesses, came into the house and declared that they had taken possession of the house peacefully. 


Robert Bradston’s lawyer then advised him to re-enter the house.  In fear of his own life, Robert, on 28 May 1596, asked his sisters Elizabeth and Johan to do so, and they went into a close adjoining the house.  A large group of Crundall’s allies, consisting of John Daunter, George Allen, of Somerset, husbandman, Lewis ap Price, of Herefordshire, laborer, Edward Plomer, of Winterbourne, laborer, his son John, and others, then forced the women out of the house.  Nicholas Crundall took a crabtree cudgel and struck Johan Bradston, causing blood to gush from her nose and mouth.  Taunted by Robert Bradston, Crundall, in rage, threatened to kill her “and twenty more of your...friends.”  Daunter restrained him, however, from further assault. 


The allies of Anthony Bradston and Nicholas Crundall continued to attack Robert Bradston.  The following month, John Large, of Winterbourne, gentleman (the brother-in-law of Anthony Bradston’s wife), Hugh Parsons, of Winterbourne, laborer, and Large’s servant, Roger, struck Bradston in the churchyard, following services, but others restrained them from further damage.  About 20 August 1596, Robert Bradston was confronted on the highway by Anthony Bradston, Nicholas Crundall, Anthony’s son Edward, Nicholas’s son John, and Thomas Pyme (probably Anthony Bradston’s wife’s nephew), and others, armed with swords, daggers, and long staves and bills, some on foot and others on horseback.  Fearing for his life, Robert Bradston leapt over a wall and ran to safety.


The feud between Anthony Bradston and Nicholas Crundall and Robert Bradston continued to deteriorate.  Sometime after the last incident, Robert entered Anthony’s house with a pistol with the intention of murdering him, but was unsuccessful.  On 30 March 1597, Anthony Bradston brought charges against his cousin before the Lord Chief Justice, and the court proved that Bradston’s intentions were those of murder.  Robert was ordered committed to prison at Marshalsea, Southwark, Surrey, but was released when he found two men to act as sureties for his recognizance.  These two men, Nicholas Crundall later charged, were not the “subsidy” men worth ₤5 in lands or property that they claimed to be, but impostors.


Robert Bradston now continued his attack.  In March 1597/8, he spread the word around southern Gloucestershire that Crundall had spoken treason against Queen Elizabeth, specifically that he had said that he “cared not a turd” for the Queen.   As the legal proceedings unfolded, what actually happened was that in the riot on 28 May 1596, Crundall, after being confronted by the local constable, Richard Weare, who announced he was charged with keeping the Queen’s peace, responded, “I care not a turd for the one, nor for her, neither.”  Clearly he was in rage and did not have a sedicious intent, but it was useful enough for Bradston’s purposes.


In 1598, Robert Bradston entered a bill of complaint in the Court of Star Chamber against Anthony Bradston, Nicholas Veele, Anthony Swift, Nicholas Crundall, and all the other individuals involved in these assaults.  Crundall and Veele answered the charges in May 1598 in London and the rest of the defendants on 15 June 1598 at WinterbourneCrundall’s answer was the most vigorous, claiming that he had already established his right to the property.  The others all denied any guilt in any of the “riotts, routs, unlawfull assemblies, combynations, false practizes and misdemeanors” with which they were charged.  Ordered by one of the judges to be re-examined, Anthony Swift, on 13 May 1599, broke rank with the other defendants and admitted that Nicholas Crundall asked him to find some men to forcibly evict the Bradstons and that he had paid them to do so.


Crundall now mounted a new legal attack, getting the depositions of his brother James, of John Middleton and his wife Fortune, to establish that he in fact had right and title to the premises.  However, Swift’s deposition and the gathering of depositions from Bradston’s witnesses probably meant that Crundall lost the case.


Bradston’s attacks on Crundall were finally succeeding.  On 7 May 1599, a commission appointed by the Archbishop of Canterbury suspended Crundall from his office for an indefinite period.[7]  The commission gave no reasons for the suspension.  Crundall still was able to mount a new attack.  In November, 1599, he followed with a new suit in the Court of Star Chamber against Bradston and his confederates. Crundall made the following charges:  that Bradston had slandered him by claiming that Crundall had made a seditious statement about the Queen; that Bradston, whom he called a “contemptuous popish recusant,” procured false witnesses against Crundall in a trial against him before a grand jury impaneled by the justices of assize in Gloucestershire; that Bradston and William Belsher, who had originally denied Crundall tithes in 1593 and questioned his legitimacy, procured witnesses who falsely testified in the Consistory Court of Bristol and later, on 10 February 1597/8, before the Court of Common Pleas, about a local tithing custom; and that Bradston had falsely obtained two impostors to act as sureties for his release from prison.  Depositions in the suit (made as late as 24 January 1599/1600) seem not to have supported Crundall, and he probably lost it. 


Crundall lost all rights to his incumbency one year after his suspension.  Francis James, chancellor of the diocese of Bristol, ordered Robert Bradston and Richard Haynes, churchwardens of Winterbourne, to sequester all fruits and tithes of corn, grain, and hay until such time as the parish would have a new incumbent.  The chancellor requested from the Court of Chancery a writ of replevin, dated 30 August 1600, directed to George Huntley, sheriff of Gloucester, to replevin all of Crundall’s goods and cattle.  Bradston claimed that Peter Bird, undersheriff of Gloucestershire, had falsely returned the writ of replevin to the Court of Common Pleas at Westminster. He claimed that the writ stated that Crundall’s property had been eloined to places unknown, and that Crundall had paid Bird to return the writ.  In any case, Crundall procured from the Court of Chancery a writ of withernam, dated 8 October 1600, directed to the sheriff to detain the goods of Nathaniel Pownell, Robert Bradston, and Richard Haynes, until Crundall’s goods and cattle had been returned. 


With the writ in hand, Crundall, Peter Bird, Cicely Llen (widow of William Llen and Bradston’s mother-in-law, who, Bradston said, “for dyvers years hath borne extreame hatred towards [Bradston] and hath most unnaturalye sought by all wayes and meanes to overthrowe [Bradston’s] estate and lyving and to impoverishe him”), John Mayo, Cicely’s son-in-law, James Crundall, Anthony Bowman and George Camborne (who, Bradston claimed, were “men of lewde life and bad behaviour beinge at the devotion of the said Nicholas Crondall”), William Crondall and Edward Crondall, Nicholas’s sons, Lewys ap Price, Nicholas’s servant, John Jones, brother-in-law of Nicholas Crundall, and Thomas Carter and Robert Brymble, servants of Cicely Llen, went to Bradston’s barns, armed with swords, daggers, bucklers, long pike staves, pitchforks, and forest bills, broke into his barns and carried away forty loads of his grain and thirty loads of the sequestered grain.  The group assaulted Bradston’s wife, who was protesting their appearance.


Nicholas’s brother James still possessed the advowson of Winterbourne, and the person he presented, Richard Bridges, M.A., was admitted as rector of Winterbourne on 20 October 1600.  Bridges was the first cousin of the wife of Nicholas Veele, so Bradston did not gain a complete victory. 


However, of all the defendants that Bradston named in his last suit against Crundall, only John Mayo answered, doing so on 26 January 1601/2.  He largely claimed his innocence.  This probably meant that the court had little choice but to find Crundall guilty.   The court could sentence guilty parties in different ways, from fines to imprisonment to torture and death.  What Crundall received will remain a mystery.  The parish register of Winterbourne shows that his wife Elizabeth was buried there in 1605, but there is no such entry for Nicholas.  He was dead by 1608 and 1609, when the administration of his son John Crundall, who died overseas, was granted to the deceased’s uncle, James.  It is thus not unlikely that Nicholas may have died while in prison somewhere and was buried there.


James Buck purchased or acquired the manor of Winterbourne by 1603, although it is not clear whether Nicholas Veele, Nicholas Crundall, or Anthony Bradston received any payment.  He sued, in the Court of Chancery, Robert Bradston, Anthony Bradston, Edward Bradston, and Elizabeth Bradston, Nicholas Crundall, Elizabeth, his wife, John Crundall, William Crundall, and Edward Crundall, sons of Nicholas, claiming that they had combined to make secret estates, conveyances, and encumbrances, in order to dispossess Buck of the manor.  The only paper from this case that seems to survive is Robert Bradston’s answer, given in on 12 February 1602/3, in which he denies any allegations.  It is impossible to say whether the Crundalls or Anthony Bradston, Edward Bradston, and Elizabeth Bradston gave answers or whether they, like the bill of complaint, have simply not survived.  Buck was possessed of the manor of Winterbourne at his death in 1613, so evidently the sentence was favorable to him.


Nicholas’s eldest son, John “Crandall”, as the name was beginning to be spelled in the 1590s, died overseas.  In all likelihood he was a mariner, very likely involved in piracy, at that time against that Portuguese and other nations.  On 23 May 1608, Edward Bradston (son of Anthony), of Winterbourne, Gloucestershire, was pardoned for piracy committed on the French.[8]  John may well have been present with Edward but did not survive this voyage.  In any case, Nicholas’s son, William Crandall, definitely went to sea.  He died as a naval officer in a fleet commanded by Nicholas Downton on a return voyage from the East Indies.  Nicholas Downton was born in 1565 in Bushey, Worcestershire, which is next to Tewkesbury.  This is pure speculation, but he may have been related to the Crundalls, and he may have offered them new opportunities, their livelihood in Winterbourne having failed. 

 Paul M. Gifford

July 13, 2004

[1] C2/ELIZ/B16/7, Public Record Office (PRO).

[2] STAC 5/B109/18, PRO.

[3] Angela Green, “An Almondsbury Parish Register,” Transactions of the Bristol and Gloucestershire Archaeological Society for 1959, vol. 78 (Gloucester:  for the Society by John Bellows, Ltd., 1960), p. 178.

[4] Answer of Nicholas Crundall, May 1598, in STAC 5/B109/18, PRO.

[5] The Visitation of the County of Gloucestershire Taken in the Year 1623, Publications of the Harleian Society, v. 21 (London:  the Society, 1885), p. 173.

[6] STAC 5/B29/31, PRO.

[7] Register of Archbishop Whitgift, vol. 3, f. 106r, Lambeth Palace Library.

[8] Calendar of State Papers, Domestic Series, vol. 7, James I, 1603-1610,   p.