The Exeter Assize

The Exeter Assize, 13 & 14 September 1685

When the Assize Judges arrived in Exeter, the court was sworn in and readied itself for more bloody business. In the prison they had expected to find nearly 500 people, so it was with some relief that the Lord Chief Justice only found 39 in the jail. The efficient Judge said that those poor wretches would have verdicts passed and be sentenced within two day.

The following day, 28 men stood accused of waging war on the King and 13 others of unrelated offences. The first three men called to the bar pleaded ‘Not Guilty’ and after the now normal rants of Lord Chief Justice Jeffrey, and unsurprisingly the jury returned verdicts of ‘Guilty’. Judge Jeffrey then sentenced them to be executed the same day in towns across Devon. These three men were:

John Foweracres, cordwainer of Honiton who was executed at Exeter

Thomas Broughton, who was executed at Axminster

Thomas Hobbes, who pleaded not Guilty to proclaiming the Duke of Monmouth King but was executed at Crediton

One other, Robert Drower, was returned to jail for want of evidence after he offered to pay for more time. After this all men in the jail pleaded ‘Guilty’ to waging war and received the following sentences:

4 would be executed in Honiton

2 would be executed in Ottery St Mary

2 would be executed in Colyton

1 more would be executed in Axminster

7 would be transported by the Mr Nipho for the Queen

2 would be whipped and fined

6 are offered up for the King’s pardon

For those guilty of uttering seditious words against the King, all 11 men would be whipped over the coming day through the streets of Exeter. Finally, the two men accused of assisting the escape of Mr Bryant were fined and whipped. From Exeter the court travelled north into Somerset to Taunton.