Murder in the Savoy liberty

In 1501 the Middlesex coroner was summoned to the parish of St Mary le Strand to call an inquest over the body of Laurence Starke, who’d worked in the Savoy liberty prison, where the Savoy hotel is today.

The Savoy liberty was an independent jurisdiction belonging to the duchy of Lancaster, which had been folded into the crown’s property when the Lancastrian Henry IV seized the crown in 1399. Such liberties normally had their own courts and thus prisons to hold wrongdoers. The Savoy chapel – as in this 1890 photo – was under construction when this all happened in 1501; it’s the only remaining medieval building from the liberty complex.

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Starke was unfortunately in the way when a prisoner, yeoman Robert Porter of London, detained on suspicion of felony, made a move to escape. Near midnight, Porter struck Starke on the head with a large rock and then stabbed him with a knife, killing him instantly. Porter then fled to sanctuary at St Martin le Grand. He seems to have evaded capture, as the only further record I’ve found is his outlawry in 1503.

TNA, KB 9/426, m. 63; KB 29/132, m 32d. Top map: MoEML

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