Feud in Cumbria?

Something was going on in the Cumbrian town of Sedbergh in the late 1470s.

It seems to have started in July 1477, when Thomas Wadeson, a labourer of Sedbergh, beat John Wilson with a clubstaff, giving him a wound on his head from which Wilson died two days later. Nearly two years later, in April 1479, Wadeson sought sanctuary at Durham cathedral.


In the meantime, in January 1478, Oliver Branthwayt of Ireshopburn in Weardale, county Durham, was in Sedbergh and assaulted Thomas Lupton, stabbing him in the stomach with a dagger.


20 months later in September 1479, when he sought sanctuary at Durham, Branthwayt reported that “it is said” this wound killed Lupton (guess he hadn’t stuck around to find out for sure).

In November and December 1479, three more men, John Riddyng, Richard Riddyng, and Christopher Bowre, all of Sedbergh, also sought sanctuary as accessories to Lupton’s killing.

And by this time a third Sedbergh homicide had occurred: in March 1478, tailor Robert Richardson and labourer Edmund Moyser, also both of Sedbergh, killed Thomas Forster in nearby Kirkby Lonesdale, “in defence of their bodies.”


Although this was the latest of the three homicides, Richardson and Moyser were the first to seek sanctuary, in October 1478.

So: three homicides involving Sedbergh men, in or near Sedbergh, in July 1477, January 1478, and March 1478; a total of seven men, six from Sedbergh, sought asylum at Durham cathedral for these homicides between October 1478 and December 1479. Also in late 1479 and early 1480 was another sanctuary seeker from nearby Dent: perhaps that was connected, too.

This has the classic hallmark of feud – but the entries don’t clarify if the seekers were on rival sides of a feud or represented one side. If they were opponents, things must have been tense in the sanctuary precinct!

Sanctuary may have prevented the feud from spiralling even further out of control; but in the absence of further evidence in other records, we don’t know what precisely was happening in this remote Cumbrian town in the 1470s.

Sanctuarium Dunelmense 4-7. Top image of Sedbergh: Source.

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