A murder in Allendale

Another Durham case where something must have come up to prompt two brothers to run to sanctuary for a homicide they’d committed more than eighteen years before.

In August 1488, Richard Hawden, a husbandman of Whickham, county Durham, sought sanctuary. He told the cathedral registrar that around 1470, he and his three brothers quarrelled with John Betson near the stream called Dryburn in Allendale, within the jurisdiction of Hexham. They struck John on the head and the leg and other places, so badly that Betson immediately died.

Richard’s dash to sanctuary 18 years after the deed was followed by the even more curious 1491 sanctuary-seeking of one of his brothers, Edward, who confessed to the same homicide, adding the detail that they had used swords for the killing.


How could perpetrators of homicide apparently just go about their lives for 18+ years and then suddenly need sanctuary? A clue may lie in the locations of the crime and the Hawdens’ own home town: Allendale is some thirty miles from Whickham. Maybe the Hawdens had just been passing through Allendale back in 1470 and then ran away after the killing and weren’t caught.


That still leaves unexplained why Richard would need sanctuary in 1488 and Edward not until 1491: for that we’ll just need some pure speculation. Maybe Edward had been on a long sea voyage! Maybe he’d been living under an assumed name!


SDSB 14, 17

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