The failed sanctuary at Paris Garden

Here, a more or less failed sanctuary — some caught on, some didn’t. On 1 May 1468, Thomas Huntley paid 6d to be admitted to sanctuary in the manor of Paris Garden located on the south bank of the Thames, now at the foot of Blackfriars Bridge

The manor of Paris Garden belonged to the Hospitaller Order, and as I explored in some other posts, the Hospitallers had begun to push sanctuary as a jurisdictional right. Paris Garden’s sanctuary history goes back somewhat farther than the 1460s, though.

Ordinances dated 1420 for sanctuary at Paris Garden survive, the earliest known regulations for any English sanctuary. Curiously, and maybe significantly, they were instituted not by the Hospitallers but by the duke of Bedford, brother of king Henry V.

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Bedford had leased Paris Garden from the Hospitallers and he (or his agents) saw asylum-seekers as a revenue opportunity — a franchisal economy based on fees for jurisdictional exemptions (including sanctuary), as Westminster Abbey and St Martin le Grand were doing successfully.

The Paris Garden regulations mostly concern fees that sanctuary seekers would pay for the privileges, fines they would pay for disorderly conduct (including for sexual misbehaviour – evidently the intention was not to create a prostitution zone as in nearby Stewside).

Back in Hospitaller hands after Bedford’s death in 1435, it’s unclear whether Paris Garden ever successfully got this franchisal economy off the ground. Huntley’s 1468 fee is the first surviving record for a sanctuary-seeker at Paris Garden and only a few others appear in later decades.

Paris Garden manor was marshy and flood-prone in 15th century (the image below is from the 16th c) – perhaps this explains why it served only occasionally as a refuge (unliveable?) despite proximity to London; or maybe its manorial operators were not especially keen on promoting its privileges as a sanctuary. There’s a subsequent case of a debtor seeking refuge there in 1484.

Graham Dawson graciously gave me references to the Paris Garden manorial records.

Paris Garden Manorial Court Roll, Lambeth Archives, Class VI/1, fol. 6d (GD); BL cotton Nero E VI, Hospitaller Cartulary, fols 59rv; BHO on Paris Garden. Map: Map of Early Modern London

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