A typical Durham sanctuary seeker

In the later 1470s, records for sanctuary seekers at Durham Cathedral become more frequent, coinciding with an uptick in sanctuary-seeking throughout the kingdom. Christopher Holme was relatively typical of Durham’s seekers.

Christopher Holme confessed to the cathedral official on 4 June 1477 that six weeks before, he’d been in company with Henry Stobbes and Humphrey Ussher when he met up with one William Marlee in the town of “Novi Castri super Tynam,” Newcastle upon Tyne.


Holme (for reasons he doesn’t explain) attacked Marlee with a “walsshbill,” or Welsh bill, an agricultural implement that doubled as a very nasty weapon; it’s not hard to see why “death followed for the said William,” as Holme’s confession put it.


Holme was typical of Durham seekers in being involved in what seems a spontaneous street fight; he’s a bit unusual in that he doesn’t give any excuses (many other Durham seekers emphasized that the fight had been started by the victim).


Sanctuarium Dunelmense, 2.

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