A petty thief hanged

On 4 April 1481, Richard Aleyn, yeoman of Wimborne Minster, Dorset, took sanctuary in Winchester Cathedral: his is an all-too-typical story of what seems outsized consequences for small-scale theft.

Wimborne Minster. Source

Aleyn confessed to the coroner that a week before he’d broken into John North’s house at Gulford in Wiltshire and stolen 12 yards of woolen cloth, worth 6s 8d. He abjured the realm, and was to proceed to exile from Southampton.


But soon after, as the record notes, he returned to England and so was hanged for his felony. No doubt contemporaries said he shouldn’t have stolen in the first place, and then blew his second chance by failing to remain in exile. But it seems harsh.

TNA, KB 9/357, mm. 2-3; KB 27/884, rex m. 7. Top image: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hanging#/media/File:Pisanello_010.jpg

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