Finding a ship to go into exile

When a sanctuary seeker abjured the realm, they were sent to a port to go overseas. A weak link in the system was finding a ship captain willing to take the abjurer on board, as this seeker found.

In July 1507, Simon Wigmore, a labourer of Winchester, took sanctuary at the parish church of Holy Trinity in Guildford, Surrey. He confessed that a year before he’d killed and robbed an unknown man in Kent. The coroner sent him on his way to the port of Southampton.

Once he arrived there, however (he later claimed), he couldn’t find a ship willing to take him, though he waited for “a great time.” It’s not really clear why a captain would take an abjurer on board, as there’s no indication they were compensated.


So Wigmore gave up trying to get a ship overseas and set off to find another sanctuary – or so he claimed. This is where Wigmore’s story loses credibility: the next place he washes up in September 1507 is Colchester, to claim sanctuary at St John’s Abbey.

St John’s Abbey, Colchester. Source

Colchester is nowhere near Southampton. At a guess Wigmore was on the lam, someone spotted him in Colchester, and he tried to dart into the abbey. But, as often in these cases ending up in court in this decade, he was seized from the sanctuary (again – or so he claimed).

Back in court at Guildford, he pleaded sanctuary and asked to be restored. The king’s attorney replied (as usual) that he hadn’t been in the sanctuary at all when arrested. The case was referred to King’s Bench, but I have located no outcome.

TNA, KB 9/960, m 153; KB 29/138, m 7d. Top image source

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