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Sir John Gostwicks Instructions

Bedfordshire Historical record Society Volume XXXVI of 1956 contained a substantial account of the Gostwick family by H. P. R. Finberg. It also contained the text of a set of instructions left by Sir John Gostwick to his son William on how to manage their huge estates. Sir John's work was wasted. His son died in the same year that he did, aged just 21.

The document was transcribed and introduced by A. G. Dickens and the original now lies in the Folger Library in Washington D. C. The text, with modernised spellings and punctuation, is as follows.

  • Item that your wife [Margaret, née Saint John, of Bletsoe and later wife of Francis, 2nd Earl of Bedford] never come to London to tarry there past one week, for I perceive that she is much disposed to play at cards and all other games; for in case she should tarry much in London, she and you should come in acquaintance with some unthrifty company, by means whereof you should both repent it. Also provide that you never be surety for no man above twenty marks [£13/6/8], nor to make no shift with no merchants for money, nor be not bound at the request of any man for any shift, for if you be but utterly undone [sic - probably means if you be you will be utterly undone] and it shall be the next way to make you to sell your land and to break up your household. Therefore in any wise look surely to these two articles. Also let your wife never have but one woman to wait upon her, but in any wise let the woman be both sad and discreet, or else she may do you and your wife much harm and displeasure. And let her have both honest wages and livery to live upon, but take heed that she be no light woman neither in countenance nor of her demeanour.
  • Item you must have one man to keep your water and your warren, and in any wise let him have no wife and let his wages be not above four nobles [£2] at the most, with livery such as you give to your carters, and let him be a knitter of nets and a maker of leaps [baskets to keep fish in water] in any wise.
  • Item you must have a miller, but let him have no wife and so that he may be an honest man and a true, which will be hard to find, and let him have to wages four nobles by the year and not above, with such livery as you give your carters.
  • Item I charge you to keep in your own hands your parsonage, the mill, the water and the warren, for these shall be very necessary for your household.
  • Item I think you must keep two ploughs for corn for your household, but keep not in your hands past a good ploughland [a hundred and sixty acres] and a half, for your plough cattle must carry home your wood, they must carry out your dung, they must carry home your hay, your corn in harvest and your tithe corn, with much more carriage that I cannot rehearse. And as for wheat and peason [green peas] you shall not need to sow any, for there is a bargain made already with John West of Bedford the tanner during you life and mine, both for wheat and peason, which bargain I charge you never to release at the request and suit of any man, for you shall find it at length a special good bargain. And he may bear it very well, for he has a goodly farm of you.
  • Item you must have some honest man to have the charge of your husbandry, with the wages of four or five nobles by the year and his livery as you give to your carters. This man is he be an honest man shell be the key to your husbandry and shall bring you and your wife much quietness. He may oversee your woods, your cattle in your pastures and buy your cattle to store your pastures, for expense of your household, and young colts for to maintain your stable. And if the young colts will not serve for your hackneys, then let them serve your plough or cart, but in any wise let your colts be chose large and great, and let them be well spread behind of the buttocks and small headed, and then shall you never have to evil [a] horse.
  • Item you must have four men to go to your ploughs and carts and let them be hired before the constable of the hundred. And let the Bailey of your husbandry hire them there and so you shall a [sic] good servants and cheap. Let them be men, no boys by your will, for a boy shall never do but boy's service.
  • Item you must have two women for your dairy and to wash your nappery, and also you must have an older woman to keep your napery, bedding and hangings. Let your napery, such as shall go abroad daily, let it be delivered her by an inventory and these women may help your baker to mould, when you shall bake, because I have allowed him no help. Also you had need to keep sixteen or twenty kine [cows] to your dairy, and let these women have such wages and liveries as you can best agree with them for.
  • Item you must have a shepherd and let him keep you three or four hundred ewes in Willington fields, and in your pastures for to kill for your house three score wethers [castrated rams]. And if he be a good herdman let [him] have good wages, for he may soon save his wages and let him have livery such as you give your carters. Let Sottil never go from you, if you will follow my advice, for you shall never have a better herdman.
  • Item keep in your hands Mosbury [a manor in Ravensden] with all such pastures as shall be about it, like as I shall leave them to you by God's grace. And in them you may feed your beasts and muttons for your household, and bring up young cattle, and there may go your geldings in summer and winter, such as you do not occupy. And let Henry Wild have the keeping of the pastures with certain milk kine, which will help him, his wife and his children, for God knoweth he can make but little shift for himself.
  • Item in any wise take good heed to whom and how you let your farms. I charge you never to let your farmer your woods, nor underwoods, but to have certain loads of woods assigned by [to] him, by you, or by your deputy for his fuel. But let him never have ploughbote [wood which the tenant was permitted to cut, originally to make ploughs] nor cartbote [an allowance of wood for making carts], for then you shall destroy your timber. And let your farmer be bound to keep your pastures without bushes and not to ayre [plough] up your pastures. And also to bind him that he shall neither set nor let no parcel of yours without your consent and agreement. And also let your farmers keep and bear all manner of reparations as well timber and timber work and all other, and to keep and maintain your quick hedges with plashings and scourings of the ditches about your pastures. And let all your farmers be bound as well by covenant in their indentures to observe and keep all and singular these covenants beforesaid upon pain of forfeiture of their leases and grants, as also to be bound to you with sureties with them by obligation to observe and keep all and singular covenants compacted and specified in the same indentures. Also let your farmers never have above twenty year [as a lease]. And take not above one year's rent for a fine. And also I charge you never heighten no rent unless your farmers hath heightened to your hands, as the good Squire Hamelden hath done at Mores farm at Ravensden.
  • Item I charge you of my blessing to get the good will and favour of all your neighbours, as well in Willington as in all the whole shire, and to do for them and help them in all other cases according to your power. And in your so doing you shall please God and also have the love of them. But in any wise bear with no false matters, for if you do you shall take shame by them, and I charge you promise no more neither by word nor by deed but as much as you may perform and fulfil. And be true to God, the king and your friend. And if your friend do open his mind and secret council to you, I charge you if it be to keep council, I charge you open it not, for if you do, you are not to be trusted with no man, unless your friend should open to you felony or treason then I charge you not to keep his council, but open it to two or three of the next Justices of the Peace which dwelleth next unto you, or else to one or two of the King's most honourable Council, if you may get unto them But in any wise, utter it as soon as is possible, for the longer you keep it the worse it is for you, and the more danger toward God and the King's Majesty.