Ex-soldiers and violence in the 1430s

Around 1431, an argument broke out on an agricultural estate just outside Rochester in Kent. Two farm servants, thresher William Wynter and ostler William Pope, quarrelled over a belt decorated with silver.

Wynter was an ex-soldier, a veteran presumably of the French wars (there are various William Wynters, archer, in http://medievalsoldier.org) and perhaps Pope, too, learned his horse skills in the military (there are various William Pope entries, too). We of course have no details, but we might speculate that the trauma of war might have had something to do with the violence that broke out over the trivial issue of the belt. In the quarrel, Wynter killed Pope, and then ran into Rochester to the cathedral and took sanctuary.

Despite his taking asylum, the constables of Rochester and the bailiffs for the bishop of Rochester’s liberty simply went into the cathedral and seized Wynter to stand trial for the homicide. The original record documenting this (the inquest report on Pope’s body) gives no hint that this breach of sanctuary was in any way problematic – and the involvement of the bailiffs for the bishop’s liberty suggests that both civic and ecclesiastical officials were cooperating in the breach.

Perhaps also with a hand here was the two servants’ employer, Thomas Chartesey, who was one of the coroner’s inquest jurors. Locals might have been largely united in denying Wynter his sanctuary, but someone went over their heads to Westminster, and Wynter’s case was taken up to King’s Bench.

I haven’t found the full process but a note in the King’s Bench administrative records (KB29) indicates that Wynter was later pardoned, thus a backfire for the local Rochester folk who wanted him punished.

TNA, KB 9/226, m. 148; KB 29/65, m. 14d.

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