Serial sanctuary seeker runs out of luck

Some people took sanctuary more than once — but in this case, the double sanctuary-seeker still ended up on the gallows. In 1425, John Holand, a shoemaker from Stone, Staffordshire, took sanctuary at the parish church in Hackney. He told the coroner that he, together with two soldiers and a horse-dealer, had murdered a London draper named Richard Lawnde at Finsbury about a year before. That murder was not the immediate cause of his “taking church,” though, as he fled instead following a burglary at Stepney the day before.

TNA, KB 9/1070 m. 50r

He had been caught red-handed following this burglary and was being held by the local constable when he escaped and ran into the Stepney parish church. The people of Stepney, though, weren’t willing to allow him to escape punishment and so they seized him from the church and once again took him into custody, but then he escaped for the second time, which is when he ended up in the Hackney parish church. On this occasion he abjured the realm and was supposed to go into exile.

Jessica Freeman, who has worked on 15th-century abjurers, found (in KB 29), however, that he was caught in the realm soon after and so he was hanged: his luck had run out.

KB 29/58, m. 17r — “Abjuracio Johannis Holand, ^suspensus isto eodem termino^”: Abjuration of John Holand, hanged this same term.

TNA, KB 9/1070, mm. 51-52; KB 29/58, m. 17; Freeman, “And He Abjured,” in Freedom of movement in the Middle Ages, 292-93. Top image: Prisoner, detail from

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