The Happy Hour murders

London vintner John Parkyns had a tavern in St Michael Queenhithe parish, near the river. One day in March 1530, Parkyns had a run-in with two of the sheriff’s sergeants and both sergeants ended up dead.

Though sometimes in the case of a double homicide the coroner held one inquest and wrote one report, in this case there are two separate reports telling the same story with the names changed, though submitted to King’s Bench on the same piece of parchment.

Clearly they were linked, though oddly neither report refers to the other death, treating each for the sake of the legal process as an isolated incident. For each, the jurors (the same for both inquests) reported that between 6 and 7 in the evening, Richard Browne and Ralph Daryngton, both servants of the sheriff Michael Dormer, were in Parkyns’s tavern “in God’s peace and the king’s.” As each stood there, minding his own business, “along came John Parkyns, as a felon, with force and arms,” and attacked each of them with a dagger.

This is standard indictment narrative form – the victim was in a bubble of lawful innocence when suddenly the perpetrator spatially invades and breaches his state of peace. The legal formula, though, doesn’t suit all circumstances, and here it sits a bit incongruously: Parkyns was in his own tavern, presumably serving happy hour drinks between 6 and 7; and though two of the sheriffs’ servants might just have gone into the tavern for after-work drinks, it seems likely that they were there on some official business.


The indictments don’t indicate, though, what sparked this altercation (sadly for me, that’s standard – I want backstory, and generally indictments don’t give it).

Parkyns fled from the scene to sanctuary at Westminster abbey. He was listed in two censuses of the sanctuary precinct taken in 1532 and 1533. The last we see of him in the King’s Bench records is his outlawry in 1533.

John Parkyne vintner for murdre of ii sergeantis of London. SP 1/70, fol. 133.

TNA, KB 9/517, mm 1-2; KB 29/164, m 38d; SP 1/70, fol 133; SP 1/238, fols 72-73. Top image Getty Museum.

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