Seizure from sanctuary at Ely cathedral

In 1459, Cambridgeshire officials were pursuing felon Henry Mullyng when he darted into Ely cathedral and took sanctuary. The officers, led by gentleman and Justice of the Peace John Ansty, seized Mullyng from the church and took him into custody.


The bishop of Ely, William Grey, wasn’t going to stand still for a breach of his church’s immunity, and called Ansty in to ask him on what authority he had seized the sanctuary seeker. Ansty replied that Mullyng had not followed “certain statutes” governing sanctuary, in particular by not declaring his felony.

Reader, there were no such statutes in 1458 (sanctuary was common law). Although maybe a JP should have known that, he nonetheless was right that confessing to a felony was part of the (common law) drill. The bishop turned to Mullyng and asked if he would confess to a coroner; Mullyng agreed, admitting to a homicide and other felonies. He was then granted sanctuary, though it’s unclear whether he then abjured.

This comes from Cox, Sanctuaries, 258-60, citing Grey’s Register, now Cambridge UL, MS G/I/5, f.117; this register isn’t edited and I can’t find it online… if anyone has images of this MS and wants to shoot me a copy of this page, eternal gratitude!

Top image: Ely cathedral. Source

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