Sanctuary in a “Templar messuage” in Gloucester

Another sanctuary claim in a Hospitaller property inherited from the Templars in the fourteenth century: in July 1510, Thomas Jones, yeoman of London, and William Morsate, salter of Wells, took sanctuary at Gloucester in “a messuage of the Templars” held by the Hospitaller prior.

The cases of Jones and Morsate differed from others who were seeking shelter at Hospitaller properties; rather than seeking time-unlimited asylum as in a chartered sanctuary, they called for the coroner and sought to abjure the realm.

Also different: it was the coroner himself rather than the felons who rehearsed the Hospitaller sanctuary claim: from time immemorial, he said, the Hospitaller prior and his predecessors had offered “tuition [protection] and immunity” to any felon who sought shelter in that property. This then treated this secular plot of land in Gloucester held by the Hospitallers as equivalent to a parish church, rather than as the equivalent of a religious house – an example of the fuzziness and confusion about procedures and privileges surrounding sanctuary circa 1510.

Jones confessed to the coroner that he’d robbed William Rogers at Exmoor; Morsate confessed that he’d robbed Thomas Rogers at Rye. Both victims had the same surname, coincidentally killed on the same day (1 June), but at places 360 km apart.


This all smells a bit fishy, to be honest – the coroner arguing hard for an iffy sanctuary claim; the oaths of abjuration sounding as if someone didn’t work hard enough to create two plausible-ish felonies to confess. But who knows.

Both were sent to exile by Southampton. The records went up to King’s Bench in 1512, which usually meant something further was to happen (pardon, outlawry, hanging because they didn’t go into exile as promised), but the documentary trail goes cold there.

TNA, KB 9/458, mm 80-81; KB 29/144, m 3

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