Death and the Knitster on Knightrider Street

In 1492 a coroner’s inquest was held in Knightrider Street, London, over the body of Robert Scoley, plumber. Every time I read the name Knightrider St, I see this ☝️ …but I doubt there were muscle cars involved. Instead: knitting.

More conventionally medievally, Scoley was peacefully minding his own business, the inquest ruled, when Richard Hampton, a London dyer, stabbed him with a knife. Scoley died and immediately after, Hampton fled to St Martin le Grand for sanctuary.

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The inquest jurors also reported that a certain Alice Goodwyn of London, identified as a “knytster,” aided and abetted him. She didn’t escape to sanctuary but was instead arrested and put into the sheriffs’ custody. (It’s very exciting, I must say, to find a “knitster,” a woman knitter. The word has now made its way into my Twitter bio.)

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Later in 1492, Alice Goodwyn was tried on accessory charges, but she was able to argue that the indictment against her had been improperly drafted and thus was invalid. Fascinatingly, she argued, and it was accepted, that “knitster” was not a clear enough occupational identifier.

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So Alice Goodwyn walked free. By the fall of the following year, Richard Hampton had also come out of sanctuary and surrendered himself for trial. He pleaded not guilty and a jury trial was scheduled. Meanwhile, he was allowed free on bail.

Almost invariably, accused felons who were bailed were then subsequently acquitted, so that was certainly a good sign. And indeed within a couple of weeks this bail was extended “de die in diem quousque etc” [from day to day until etc] – in other words, indefinitely.

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So who knows what was happening in this case overall: both of the accused wiggle out of the indictments in an oblique fashion, not acquitted, but on a technicality for one and the case just quietly dropped for the other. Hmmm.

Of course, I’m sure Alice the Knitster was innocent anyway.

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TNA, KB 9/395, mm. 20-21; KB 29/123, m 2d; KB 27/925, rex m 7d; KB 27/929, rex m 3d

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