Richard Arnold, sanctuary-seeker

London haberdasher Richard Arnold is most famous for his commonplace book, where he recorded a bunch of random and fascinating things, including (as this 19th century edition headlined) the ballad “The Nutbrown Maid.” He also took sanctuary at one point for debt.

Amongst the entries in his book, Arnold includes (pp 123-4) a draft of a petition he wrote to the Chancellor, describing a tale of woe that landed him as a debtor in the sanctuary at Westminster. (The petition doesn’t survive in the Chancery records, so it’s unclear if he actually submitted it.)


Justin Colson is working on a new edition of Arnold’s book and alerted me to Arnold’s sanctuary-seeking. He thinks this dates to about 1495 based on other evidence about his debts.

A fair number of London citizens took shelter at Westminster or St Martin le Grand while they tried to deal with some kind of credit crisis; for some, like Arnold, it was temporary, while others stayed long term because they couldn’t find their way out of their debt problem.

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