In 1506, a husbandman from Tottenham, Middlesex named Hugh Bradbury, along with an accomplice, broke into the house of widow Joan Iwardeby at Quainton, Bucks, and stole a number of goods. Afterwards Bradbury made his way to the manor of Hoddesdon, Herts, and there claimed the “sanctuary of St Martin.”
Bradbury was one of a number of seekers who made claims at dependent properties of chartered sanctuaries in the late 15th and early 16th centuries. Bradbury’s claim was based on Hoddesdon’s being a former manor of the collegiate church (and sanctuary) of St Martin le Grand in London; as of 1503, SMLG and its properties had been transferred by royal fiat to Westminster Abbey, which of course was also a sanctuary.
Hoddesdon and some other manors belonging to chartered sanctuaries claimed to share the mother houses’ status as shelters from arrest for felony, even though there might not even be a church on the property (and if there was, the church was not especially involved in the claim).
When Bradbury appeared in court, he gave a fairly elaborated history of Hoddesdon manor, its association with St Martin le Grand and Westminster Abbey, and its status as a sanctuary.
The reasoning of his argument, intermingling ideas of sanctuary as jurisdictional privilege and as ecclesiastical/sacral immunity, suggest the details must have been provided for him by the brain trust at Westminster Abbey itself.
But the king’s attorney disputed the claim and the abbot of Westminster was required to respond with written evidence of sanctuary privilege at Hoddesdon. If at first the abbey had supported Bradbury’s claim, though, the abbot appears to have changed his mind. In response to the court, the abbot disavowed any sanctuary privilege for Hoddesdon, leaving Bradbury’s sanctuary plea dead in the water. Bradbury then pleaded not guilty to the felony charge, but I haven’t found any verdict.
This case didn’t end the practice of manors held by monastic houses successfully offering sanctuary, though: for instance, other properties of Westminster continued to function as sanctuaries into the 1530s, though only some of the abbey’s manors (it’s unclear why only some and not others). Bradbury might simply have chosen either the wrong property or the wrong moment for his claim.
TNA, KB 9/444, m. 22; KB 27/984 rex m. 8; KB 29/136, mm. 26, 41d; Baker, Caryll’s Reports, 553-55; McSheffrey, Seeking Sanctuary, 105; A History of the County of London: Vol.1, 555-566. Top image – source.