“Once belonging to the knights of the Temple”

In 1510, husbandman Andrew Hardewyn of Orton Longueville, Huntingdnshire, killed two men by hitting them on the head with a staff. When he appeared before Huntingdonshire gaol delivery Hardweyn pleaded sanctuary and his case went up to King’s Bench: he claimed that he had taken asylum in a messuage (property) once belonging to the Templar order at Botolphbridge.

In a long statement, which must have been provided to him by someone in the Hospitaller order, he rehearsed in detail the history of the property. It had been held in the reign of Edward II by Richard Hastynges, master of the Templars in England.


Upon the dissolution of that order it then passed, he said, into the hands of the Hospitallers and still remained in the hands of the Knights of St John and their current prior Sir Thomas Docwra.

The Hospitallers had some kind of property in the manor of Botolphbridge and held the advowson (the right to name the parish priest) in the church. But Hardewyn didn’t take shelter in the church. He clearly indicated he was taking sanctuary in a “messuage and house.” The property was presumably one of these in this archaeological report on Botolph Bridge (maybe the rectory pertaining to the church? or it could be any of the tofts indicated on the map):


Hardewyn said he’d taken sanctuary there on the day of the killing and remained there for more than a week, but then was violently seized by several armed men and brought to court. The king’s attorney challenged Hardewyn’s story, but in the usual way sidestepped the issue of whether that property was sanctuary: he submitted that Hardewyn was not on that property when he was arrested and thus there was no breach of sanctuary.

In Easter term 1511 the question of whether or not Hardewyn had been in sanctuary was put to a local jury, and they found for Hardewyn: he had been on the property when arrested, and it was sanctuary. Thus the justices at King’s Bench ordered him to be restored to his sanctuary. The tactic the crown pursued in these years, avoiding the question of whether a property was sanctuary and focusing instead on alleging the arrested felon had not actually been in sanctuary, left a lot of room for judicial rulings confirming sanctuary privilege in secular holdings of religious orders when local juries (for whatever their reasons) affirmed that the properties were, in fact, sanctuaries.

Such cases later in the 1510s were more directly challenged when the heads of those orders were asked to provide charters showing the privileges, which in some cases (especially Westminster Abbey’s manors) they could.

TNA, KB 27/997, rex m 9. Top image source.

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