Subjects: Witnesses

Witnesses were not only summoned to make statements, or depositions, but might be required for other matters such a attestation of virginity in matrimonial causes or as hands where compurgation was ordered.

Age of witnesses

EDC 5/1580/10 – Anne Jackson contra Anne Jones, wife of Thomas Jones. The defendant sought to discredit one of the witnesses on the grounds of age as he was not yet 20 and should not have been admitted as a witness as he was under 25.


A claim for a marriage to be annulled might succeed if it could be proved that the marriage had not be consummated as the wife was still a virgin. This would be established by a physical examination, usually carried out by a number of  ‘honest and willing matrons’ as witnesses.

EDC 5/1/1 – Ellen Knottisford contra Ralph Bury

Women as witnesses

Attempts might be made to discredit the evidence of women witnesses because they were said to be unreliable on account of their sex.

EDC 5/1575/2 – Ellen Bamvile contra Rose Smith