One Gye, or two?

There were two separate claims of sanctuary at Durham by men named Thomas Gye of Wistow, Yorkshire, in 1510 and 1511, one for homicide, the other for cattle theft. The same man?

In October 1510 Thomas Gye came to Durham and confessed that earlier that month at Womersley, Yorks, he’d struck William Pynchebek in the chest with a dagger. Though Pynchebek lingered for a while, he succumbed to his wound the day before Gye sought sanctuary, making it murder.

Then in mid-January 1511, less than 3 months later, a Thomas Gye of Wistow – either the same man or another of the same name – sought asylum because of a pattern of stealing cattle.


He confessed that in November 1509 he stole four heifers from “Gawtryce” forest near Easington (some 100 km from Wistow), and then sold them on to Gilbert Gye, presumably some kind of relative. In May 1510, he was back at the same forest stealing 20 head of cattle.

This time he drove the cattle more than 60 km north to Bridlington priory, selling two of them along the road and then delivering 18 of the cattle to the prior. (The prior by implication seems to have been in on this cattle rustling business…)

So if it’s the same Thomas Gye:

  • first two cattle thefts from near Easington in November 1509 and May 1510;
  • second in October 1510 a murder in Womersley and the first sanctuary-taking at Durham shortly thereafter
  • then for some reason sanctuary-taking a second time, for the earlier cattle thefts, in January 1511.

Or maybe it’s just two different men of same name, same place – perfectly plausible as names obviously recur in families. Maybe the flight of the murderer Thomas Gye in some way inspired the cattle-rustler to take advantage of Durham’s sanctuary.

SDSB 58-59. Top image: link.

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