Sanctuary for cattle theft: 15th-c trends in abjuration

On 11 November 1405, Richard Spenser of Haunton, Staffordshire, fled to the parish church of Nailstone, Leicestershire. The Leicestershire coroner John Folvyll came and heard Spenser’s confession: a few days before he had stolen cattle from neighbours in Haunton. Spenser abjured the realm and Folvyll assigned him the port of Dover. We learn about thisContinue reading “Sanctuary for cattle theft: 15th-c trends in abjuration”

A stolen rosary

On 20 April 1401 William Clerk, a hosier, took sanctuary In St. Saviour’s church in Faversham, Kent. He confessed to the coroner that in December 1400 he had stolen beads (probably a rosary) worth two shillings from Agnes Thomson at Newcastle-upon-Tyne – a very long way away from Faversham! He abjured the realm through Dover.Continue reading “A stolen rosary”

Murder over a board game

In 1401 a board game – chess, chequers, backgammon? – in a London brewhouse turned into a deadly brawl, with the killer running to the safety of sanctuary at Westminster Abbey. A coroner’s inquest was held on 25 September 1401 in the parish of St. Michael Queenhithe, near the docks on the river Thames, overContinue reading “Murder over a board game”

When you gotta go, you gotta go

This is a case that Euan Roger has tweeted about, with a toilet humour twist, but also some interesting early uses of mitigation claims in court (i.e. defendants’ appeal to loopholes to escape capital punishment). On 4 February 1402 a coroner was summoned to the church of St. Mary Somerset in London to hear theContinue reading “When you gotta go, you gotta go”

Orwell, a lost port town

On 15 May 1403, the coroner was summoned to the church at Swaffham Prior, Cambridgeshire, to hear the confession of John Aleyn, labourer of Risby, Suffolk. Aleyn admitted that the week before he had killed Geoffrey Hore, another labourer. Aleyn abjured the realm and the coroner assigned him to leave through the port of Orwell,Continue reading “Orwell, a lost port town”

Parish chaplain helps Irish horse thief escape

A Middlesex jury reported in October 1403 that Nicholas Cusak of Ireland had stolen a horse at Uxbridge from an unknown man, and then fled to the church of St. James in the Fields (now in Piccadilly – then literally in the fields between London and Westminster). Cusak confessed his crime to the coroner. TheContinue reading “Parish chaplain helps Irish horse thief escape”

Seizing the ring: Claiming sanctuary at Arundel castle chapel

In 1405, the bishop of Chichester’s register tells the story of one John Moot. Moot had been arrested and taken into custody at Arundel Castle for theft and robbery, but then escaped. He ran to the chapel in Arundel Castle, where he “took hold of the ring” of the cloister gates “as a sign ofContinue reading “Seizing the ring: Claiming sanctuary at Arundel castle chapel”

Murder and robbery

In October 1407 Adam James alias Clifford fled to sanctuary in the church of St. Mary at Hill in London. He confessed to coroner John Dalton that in 1405 at Wroxham, Somerset, he had shot Nicholas Broun with an arrow, killing him. He also confessed a more recent crime, probably the one that drove hisContinue reading “Murder and robbery”

Burglary at the king’s palace

In 1406 a thief was bold enough to steal from the royal treasure itself – and as far as we know get away with it. In Easter term 1408, the Middlesex coroner John Lilleston submitted a membrane to the court of King’s Bench with seven cases from the previous year. One of these was aContinue reading “Burglary at the king’s palace”

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 theirContinue reading “Escape from Strand Church”