Refusal to surrender: An abjurer in Cambridgeshire

A twist on what looks like an ordinary enough sanctuary-taking at a parish church in Norfolk. In 1522, Giles Bryggeman, a brewer of Chippenham, Cambridgeshire, took the parish church of Catton. A week later, the coroner came – and here’s where things diverge from the normal pattern: the coroner’s memorandum says that the coroner stood outside the church, in the presence of many people, and ordered Bryggeman to come out and surrender to authorities.

Mind you, maybe this a normal part of the process for those who took sanctuary at parish churches, but didn’t make it into the records: perhaps first the coroner tried to get the seeker to surrender, and then only when they refused did the coroner take their confession and administer the oath of abjuration.

In some cases, perhaps by the time the coroner arrived the sanctuary-seeker had thought better of their plan to go into exile and either was resigned to the possibility of execution for the felony or had hopes of an acquittal. But presumably most often the sanctuary seeker really did want to abjure the realm – and that was the case with Giles Bryggeman. He “wholly refused” to surrender (as the record put it) and instead sought to confess his felony and abjure.

He then confessed the homicide of a barber of London, John Thomas, whom he had killed three months before at Stewside in Surrey – the prostitution district near London on the south bank of the Thames. Bryggeman then abjured, swearing to leave the realm on a mass-book (another unusual detail in this record) before “many trustworthy men.” As far as the record indicates, he took a ship from Great Yarmouth into exile.

TNA, KB 9/488, m. 31. Image source

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