Escape from Strand Church

On 5 November 1410, William Orwell took sanctuary at the church of St. Mary le Strand for “divers felonies”; after he confessed to the coroner, the townspeople of Westminster were set to watch over him. They guarded him for two days (perhaps wondering when he was actually going to abjure and get out of their hair), and then a certain William Moyle and a whole company of armed men, “arrayed in manner of war,” attacked the church and wrested Orwell from the townspeople’s custody.

From there Orwell fled to Westminster Abbey where his stay in sanctuary would be unlimited in time – more convenient for him, no doubt. The townspeople were fined one hundred shillings for Orwell’s escape.

St. Mary le Strand still stands in its 18th century form, in the middle of the Strand. Here it is in the 16th-century Wyngaerde panorama. The Strand church would see several controversial sanctuary cases in the 15th and 16th centuries.

detail from

TNA, KB 9/201/4, m. 12

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