Struck by a Scottish axe

Betrayal from within the household in 15th century Newcastle: in August 1493, Robert Grene of South Shields was in Newcastle, “in a lane called the Close” (down by the Tyne), when Robert Nicholson attacked him.


Nicholson, from Winlaton on the other side of Newcastle, had been part of Grene’s own household in South Shields until shortly before the attack; obviously they’d had a falling-out. The record doesn’t identify their occupations, but another record for Grene (participating in an enclosure riot in 1489) suggests he was some kind of agriculturalist.

Grene defended himself; he was apparently at the time carrying a “Scotteȝaxe” (Scottish axe), and he struck Nicholson twice in the chest, killing him. Then he ran to Durham cathedral and asked for sanctuary. My internet searches suggest a Scottish axe might have looked something like the implement drawn by Dürer in his famous 1521 depiction of the Irish, at the top of this post. [The young warriors look like they’re ready to be the newest boy-band sensation, though the mustache has to go.]

Sanctuarium Dunelmense, 23. Image: Dürer (source).

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