(1590 - 1667)


  At the time of the trial Erasmus Earle, then in his 72nd year, was one of East Anglia's foremost lawyers.  His role in the trial is uncertain, but as a senior Serjeant of  Law he was probably one of the "co-adjudicators" who were often appointed to help conduct the business of the Assize.  Earle was born at Salle, Norfolk on September 20th, 1590, the only son of Thomas Earle  and his first wife Anne, the daughter of John Founteyn of Salle.

The Earle's were an ancient Norfolk family, being descended from William le Erle who owned estates in Salle back in 14th century.

Erasmus' father, Thomas, died in 1605 when Erasmus was 15 years old and he was left in the guardianship of his two grand-fathers.  He was educated at Norwich Grammar School, after which he was admitted Student of Law  at Furnivals Inn, London.  Later, on April 7th 1612, at the age of 21 he transferred to Lincoln's Inn.

On 25 February 1616 he married Francis, the daughter of James Fountaine of Salle (a distant relation on his mother's side of the family) and their eldest son John, the first of six children, was baptised at Salle in April 1622.

From 1635 to 1641 he was a Bencher at Lincoln's Inn and in 1639 he was appointed Autumnal  Lecturer.  During this period he was sometime Treasurer.  After which he "became concerned with and transacted the affairs of the chief families of Norfolk" and such was his reputation he was appointed one of the Legal Secretaries for the English at the Treaty of Uxbridge, also serving as Recorder and Steward of the City of Norwich.

Earle was elected Member fo Parliament for the City of Norwich in 1640 and during the Commonwealth her served as Oliver Cromwell's own Serjeant-at-Law and continued in the same post under Richard Cromwell, being also a Serjeant to the Commonwealth.  He was reputed to have been "esteemed one of the most able Lawyers of his time".  At the Restoration he took the Benefit of the King's Pardon, and on June 21 1660 he was once again called to the degree of Serjean-at-Law "continuing in great reputation and Business to the end of his days . . . "

During his lifetime Earle purchased the Manors of Salle, Cawston and Heydon in Norfolk, he eventually moved from Salle to take up residence at Heydon Hall.  He died there, 5 years after the witch trial, on September 7, 1667.  Below is the monument that today marks his exceedingly large altar tomb in Heydon church . . . . .


On the altar tomb is the inscription . . . . 

Here under lieth the body of ERAS-

MUS EARLE Esq; Sejeant at Law.

who by his Knowledge in that Profes-

sion, was eminently serviceable to his

Country and Beneficial to his Posterity,

he married FRANCES Daughter of JOHN

FOUNTAINE, Esq;; who with RALPH

his Grandchild, lieth here interr'd, in

hopes of a joyfull Resurrection, he died

the 7th Day of September MDCLXVII

in the LXXVIII  Year of his Age. This

Monument was Erected to his Memory

by his Grandchild ERASMUS EARLE,


Select Bibliography:
Dictionary of National Biography.
Bloomfield, Francis: An Essay Towards a Topographical History of the County of Norfolk [London, 1808] Vol VI - pp 246 et seq.