Meet Constable John Napper, of Tintinhull in Somerset. You’ll find him a man of strong views, expressed with some energy.
‘I do not care a fart for this warrant’, he declared when the high sheriff’s man pressed him with his authority to collect King Charles’s latest revenue-raiser, Ship Money. With his boot, Napper pointed to a straw lying in the filth-strewn market place. ‘I care no more for the high sheriff [Henry Hodge] and his warrant than for that straw!’ 1
Sometimes, despite modern air-conditioning, the ripe whiff of an Ilchester market day may waft into The National Archives on a 380-year-old breeze; a raucous snatch of Somerset voices may drift down the stairs to the Staff Reading Room. But I did nearly miss out on an acquaintance with the charming Constable Napper.
I’m glad the Early Modern Team asked me to join their PC 2 project – cataloguing the Privy Council registers for the decade before the Civil War – but initially, I wasn’t sure.
The curly handwriting in those massive, leather-bound tomes was intriguing and elegant, but it looked mighty hard to untangle. Besides, I knew next to nothing about the 1630s… apart from, perhaps, Constable Napper’s bug-bear, Ship Money. Continue reading »
- 1. SP 16/291, f.57; Calendar of State Papers Domestic, Charles I, 1635, pp.145-6 ^