Shifting sands

Thomas Stathom, a London vintner, took sanctuary in 1525 in the London church of St Sepulchre, confessed to a theft, abjured, and (theoretically) went into exile. Four months later he was arrested in London, clearly not having actually left the kingdom. He thought he had other mitigations up his sleeve, but as it turned outContinue reading “Shifting sands”

Poaching in the king’s deer park

Though we often think of deer-poaching as a medieval thing, Henry VIII still kept deer parks where only he and his companions could hunt. In 1526, an altercation between the king’s gamekeeper and a poacher ended in the poacher’s death. One day in late May, yeoman Thomas Otefeld of Narborough, Leicestershire, entered the Chase ofContinue reading “Poaching in the king’s deer park”

Seizing William Gilbank

Sometimes men of power really wanted a felon who’d fled to sanctuary – but seizing them from a church was a serious sacrilege. A 1526 letter to Cardinal Wolsey gives rare insight into the calculations in such a situation. In August 1526, felon William Gilbank took sanctuary at the house of the Crouched or CrutchedContinue reading “Seizing William Gilbank”

Sir Banger

In 1527 yeoman John Mathew assaulted and killed “a certain priest vulgarly called Sir Banger.” Yes, the whole point of this post is to point out that a 16th-c priest was nicknamed Sir Banger. Mathew revealed this homicide when he took sanctuary later that year at a London church, All Saints Bread Street. He alsoContinue reading “Sir Banger”

The “degree of St Edith”: sanctuary at a nunnery

A curious aspect of sanctuary in 15th-16th century England is that though many different kinds of churches offered shelter, I’ve found only one case where a nunnery provided shelter to a fleeing felon. In 1529, Geoffrey Jenyns, a yeoman of Brentwood, Essex, was hauled into court in 1529 or 1530 to answer to a chargeContinue reading “The “degree of St Edith”: sanctuary at a nunnery”

Abjuration, new style: the 1531 sanctuary statute

In 1531, a new statute changed how abjuration of the realm worked: henceforth abjurers were to proceed from sanctuary in a parish church to a chartered sanctuary, rather than into exile. It was a bit confusing at first. The new statute came into effect on 31 March 1531 but some must have known about theContinue reading “Abjuration, new style: the 1531 sanctuary statute”

Westmorland coroner screws up

When early modern governments introduced new legal procedures, a challenge was to make sure those who had to implement the new policies knew about them. Sometimes apparently that didn’t happen, as in this tale of a Westmorland coroner in 1542. I feel certain that he was really apologetic. Way up in the north in theContinue reading “Westmorland coroner screws up”