“In defence of his own body”: a killing in Lincolnshire

In May 1518, John Watson of Swineshead, Lincolnshire, was minding his own business near the town of Stamford when two unknown men attacked him. He struck back “in defence of his own body” with a sword (which he conveniently enough happened to have on him), and wounded his assailants in many parts of their bodies. He fled from the scene, leaving them languishing in danger of death, and raced north to Durham for sanctuary.

This emotive “it wasn’t my fault” story was then followed by another admission: he had also stolen a horse and 60 shillings in money from the goods of one Blaise Holande, a gentleman of his home parish of Swineshead.

It’s possible that he committed this theft in flight from Stamford to Durham: Swineshead is on the road between them, and as it’s almost 200 miles, a horse certainly would’ve been handy. It does ruin that air of innocence in his tale, though.


Sanctuarium Dunelmense, 78, source. Top image Getty Museum.

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