Boat ride on the Thames

In May 1507 Robert Forde, husbandman of Brightwell manor in Berkshire, attacked chaplain John Scolfyld, stabbing him with a dagger. Scolfyld immediately died, and Forde ran to the priory at Wallingford. Wallingford priory was a small Benedictine house; it’s not clear how many monks it had, but it was amongst the smaller religious houses Cardinal Wolsey dissolved in the mid-1520s – so not big. And maybe not equipped or willing to take sanctuary seekers.

That may be why a couple of days later, William Hemyngford, a monk at the priory, along with a number of “yeomen” of Wallingford and several husbandmen of Brightwell (including Richard Forde, presumably a relative) decided to move Rob Forde to another sanctuary.

The monk and half a dozen laymen stealthily took him from the priory to a boat waiting on the Thames, and conveyed him to a safer sanctuary upstream: the “privileged” and “holy place” (as the coroner’s inquest jurors put it) of Culham, a manor belonging to Abingdon Abbey.

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Culham featured in Humphrey Stafford’s famous 1486 sanctuary case; a rebel against the then-new king Henry VII, Stafford had taken sanctuary at Culham for treason. The courts ruled that though Culham wasn’t an asylum for treason, it was for felony.

Who knows how long Forde stayed at Culham. The next time we see him, he was in court presenting a pardon in the summer of 1510, three years later.

If only Forde had waited a bit – five hundred years or so – there would have been a sanctuary in Brightwell itself. He does seem to have been a bit of an ass.

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TNA, KB 9/449, m. 46; KB 9/452, mm1-2; KB 29/137, m1d

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