Burglary in London, 1491

On 5 October 1491, John Archer, a London baker, broke into the house of Margery Marsshe in the parish of St Clement in London, taking a mazer (a wooden drinking bowl) decorated with silver gilt.

From London Archer apparently fled to the West Country, and eventually took sanctuary in the parish church at Nunney, Somerset. That didn’t go well – for disputed reasons, as below – and he ended up at King’s Bench facing a private prosecution from Marsshe.


Archer claimed his due rights to take sanctuary and abjure had been frustrated by the coroner, who refused to assign him a port from which to go into exile. The coroner responded that Archer refused to divulge exactly what he had done and where, so he could not abjure.

The justices decided that he couldn’t be restored to his sanctuary as his acknowledgement of felony had been incomplete. He’d already been convicted of another felony and on that basis was hanged. Margery Marsshe got back her mazer.


Archer’s case made it into the law reports: Baker, Caryll’s Reports, 111; KB 27/924, plea m. 36; KB 27/926, plea m. 21. Top image: Metropolitan Museum of Art.

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