An overzealous gaoler

Not surprisingly, when an accused felon in custody escaped from gaol (or jail in North American spelling), the gaolers were angry – incensed because their authority was flouted, and worried because they themselves were liable to be charged with negligence for allowing the prisoner to scamper away. The gaolers’ frustrations, however, didn’t give them licenceContinue reading “An overzealous gaoler”

Sanctuary at Hospitaller properties

Around 1500, the Hospitaller Order (also known as the military order of the Knights of St. John of Jerusalem) compiled a record of cases that (they contended) showed the Hospitallers had always had permanent sanctuary privileges in their properties. This was, as I’ll explore another in another post, a bold but entirely fictitious claim, andContinue reading “Sanctuary at Hospitaller properties”

The king’s favour

In the early days of the reign of Henry V, several sanctuary seekers who were somehow connected to the king or at least to his military forces were given special signs of favour. Some were offered pardons so they could fight in the war; in this case the king gave the abjuring felons expensive gownsContinue reading “The king’s favour”

The Felonious MP

In 1414, a former Member of Parliament took sanctuary for homicide, one of a number of MPs who sought asylum for their felonies. If a criminal politician seems just a bit too relevant, consider also that he’d likely originally sought public office a decade before in order to avoid charges in an earlier crime. Let’sContinue reading “The Felonious MP”

A Glastonbury brewer burgles

In September 1416, Edmund Bisshop, brewer of Glastonbury, ended up in Essex for some reason (most probable backstory: normally his pub did really well at festival time, but 1416 was a bad year for pop music). He burglarized a house in Harlow, stealing very ordinary household goods: a pot, a belt, some knives. Moving onContinue reading “A Glastonbury brewer burgles”

An Irish scholar makes bad choices

On 1 December 1424, John Hore or Hurne of Ireland, identified as a “scholar,” took sanctuary in the parish church at Beaconsfield, Buckinghamshire. Two things about Hore’s identity – being Irish, being a scholar – make his case intriguing. Several days after Hore took church at Beaconsfield, the coroner came and Hore confessed that heContinue reading “An Irish scholar makes bad choices”

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 LondonContinue reading “Serial sanctuary seeker runs out of luck”

Inventing a felony to escape a creditor?

In 15th-century England, if you couldn’t pay your debts your creditors could throw you in prison until you were able to pay them off: no bankruptcy declarations, no restructuring, just a rather counter-productive carceral stint. Prisons were unpleasant, to say the least, so of course you’d do what you could to avoid that arrest, especiallyContinue reading “Inventing a felony to escape a creditor?”

Conspiracy to murder in Gloucester

On 4 November 1426, one Thomas Brugge was attacked and killed at Gloucester. The coroner’s inquest jury reported that Richard Arleston, also of Gloucester, servant, had committed the murder, and that Arleston’s master, John Rede of Gloucester, brewer and constable of the town, along with five of Rede’s other servants, were accessories to murder. TheContinue reading “Conspiracy to murder in Gloucester”

The long road to sanctuary

Some sanctuary seekers taking asylum in a parish church travelled remarkable distances across the kingdom of England committing crimes and then escaping from the consequences. In the late 1420s, one seeker left his home in Yorkshire seeking work in Northumberland; things went awry at his workplace in Newcastle, however, causing him to flee a murderContinue reading “The long road to sanctuary”