Parishioners fight off a sanctuary breach

The realm returned to ordinary time, and ordinary people taking sanctuary, in 1472. Around then John Creymer of Canterbury was put into the town prison for several debt and trespass lawsuits.

Photo by Andrey

Creymer managed to escape from the prison and ran next door to the church of the Holy Cross at Westgate, “and there toke saintwarye and the grithe of the chirche” (grith being an older English term for sanctuary).

One William Saxton “withe other certeyn riotous and misgoverned people” invaded the church and tried to drag Creymer out, but the “whole parish of the said church…rescued the said John.”


This story came into the record because one of those trying to protect Creymer from the sanctuary-breachers, Thomas Wodell, tailor, was then sued by Saxton for £40 in damages. He petitioned the chancellor, hoping he would slap the suit down.


As Creymer’s case shows, though some (like Saxton) were frustrated by the escape from court proceedings that sanctuary afforded, other laypeople were invested enough in their church’s sanctuary privileges to fight off would-be breachers.

TNA, C 1/46/471. Top image: Holy Cross Westgate church, Canterbury.

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