Gentry feuds, highway robbery, mistaken identity

In 1537, yeoman Thomas Foteman was among thirty-one men accused in the death of William Jackson in Gloucestershire. Foteman was a retainer of Sir John Brydges, later 1st Baron Chandos, career soldier and man of “intense personality,” as his ODNB biographer put it. Brydges was evidently feuding with another aristocrat, Sir John Huddleston, who’d had the dead man Jackson in his patronage.

According to accusations made against him later by Jackson’s widow, Foteman and 30 other men lay in wait to kill Jackson, attacking him in Cheltenham. Foteman struck the fatal blow, stabbing him in the left side with a sword, giving him a mortal wound from which he died. After Jackson fell dead, the widow’s appeal went on to say, Foteman jumped on a horse and fled to Westminster Abbey where he went into sanctuary. Foteman was still in sanctuary as late as October 1539, though there had been attempts to get him out.

Two years on Huddleston was still very angry about the death of his servant and wrote twice to Cromwell to ask him to extract Foteman from the sanctuary to stand trial for the murder in Gloucestershire. The widow had settled her suit, it seems, with most of the thirty-one men accused, but not with Foteman.


Cromwell did seize some sanctuary seekers from Westminster in 1539 (see for instance this post and this post), but he either didn’t want to or couldn’t grab Foteman, perhaps because Foteman’s protector Brydges was not someone he wanted to annoy without good reason. In March 1540 Foteman was outlawed for not answering the appeal. He could still have been in sanctuary – the Westminster sanctuary was still ticking along. More likely, though, he’d gone to ground somewhere, probably with Brydges’s help.

The next record on the case is ambiguous: in 1542, a Thomas Hendley of Westminster, alias Thomas Foteman, was arrested and brought to King’s Bench. It was alleged that he was the same man as the man named in widow Jackson’s appeal. The widow’s attorney argued that the man in court was indeed one and the same, but he denied it, saying he’d always been known as Thomas Hendley, from birth, and never by the name Foteman or any of the indicted man’s other aliases.


His identity was to be put to a jury in Gloucs, but I’ve found no further records. Would the Thomas Foteman with an appeal of murder hanging over his head actually settle in Westminster under a new name? Or was this just a guy named Thomas who kind of looked like the killer?

TNA, KB 9/541, m. 76; KB 27/1106, plea m. 21; KB 29/172, m. 3d; KB 27/1123, plea m. 111; SP 1/152, fol. 46 (L&P, 14/1:496); SP 1/154, fol. 53 (L&P, 14/2:145); Baker, Spelman’s Reports, 1:62-63. Top image

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