Overstaying your welcome

On 14 May 1418, a husbandman of Aswardby, Lincolnshire, Thomas Laddesnam, was arrested for theft by the local constable, who then handed him over to Andrew Fetys of Pinchbeck, bailiff for the area. Fetys’s job was to convey Laddesnam the 30 miles from Aswardby to Lincoln castle to await trial. But Laddesnam escaped Fetys’s custody just outside Lincoln, at Bracebridge, and took sanctuary in the church of St. Katherine (I’m not sure where this church is… presumably not the cathedral?).

Eleven months later, as a Lincolnshire jury reported, he was still in St. Katherine’s, having long outlasted the normal 40-day stay in a parish church. In theory there were ways to force a sanctuary seeker out once they had gone beyond their allotted time – e.g. that no one was permitted to give them food or water – but in practice sometimes no one wanted to use force in sacred space to remove a seeker, and perhaps also local clergy were reluctant to allow them to be starved out.

I’m not sure what happened to Laddesnam; Fetys was prosecuted for allowing the escape, and he must have fled because he was outlawed.

TNA, KB 9/213, m. 51; KB 29/63, m.21d. Image: http://www.getty.edu/art/collection/objects/3977/simon-bening-the-arrest-of-christ-flemish-about-1525-1530/

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