Davy Jones, sanctuary seeker

Here is another Bristol Temple Fee sanctuary seeker and another difficult 1510s sanctuary case. In November 1517, David Jonys, yeoman of Bristol (who no doubt looked something like the man above…) sought sanctuary for burglary and horse theft.

At gaol delivery at Bristol a month later, Jonys pleaded sanctuary, claiming that he had been forcibly extracted from his asylum in the Hospitaller property in Bristol at Temple Fee. The king’s attorney responded that (a) there was no sanctuary at Temple Fee; and (b) that Jonys had not been admitted to his sanctuary just weeks before his seizure (as he claimed) but as long ago as 1511, and that subsequently he’d been using the sanctuary as a base for felony.


But, as with all these other cases, Jonys’s case wasn’t adjudicated, dragging until 1520, when a coroner’s inquest indicates he died of natural causes in the Marshalsea prison. Again: sanctuary effectively disallowed for Davy Jonys but without any judicial pronouncement.

After this spate of cases 1516-1518, we don’t see many sanctuary pleas in the courts. Though this has been interpreted to mean that sanctuary had been killed off, that’s not what happened (lots of evidence for continued successful resorts to sanctuary up to the mid-1530s). Instead, it seems sanctuary breaches (arresting felons in sanctuary) had largely ceased. There’d been a moment in the 1510s when civic governments (especially Bristol and London) tried to push test cases thru the courts to get a judicial quashing of sanctuary, but it didn’t work.

So they seem to have stopped this tactic in the early 1520s; their main target had always been jurisdiction rather than sanctuary for felony per se – and so strategies mostly shifted to economic issues.

TNA, KB9/476, m11; KB 9/480, m6; KB 29/150, m34; KB 29/151, m35.

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