Abjuring? Stick to your route

A déjà-vu-all-over-again case today. John Marten, a yeoman of London, ran into the church of St. Olave [Olaf] in Southwark at the end of January 1489. When the coroner came, he confessed murder. A few weeks before he’d been at Kilburn in Middlesex and hit William Alwen on the head with a longbill, penetrating toContinue reading “Abjuring? Stick to your route”

Sanctuary and impunity for crime

Many late medieval English people saw sanctuary as a bulwark against judicial corruption. Others saw it as corruption itself, allowing heinous criminals to escape consequences. This seeker was a great example of the latter. On 28 March 1490, a mariner of Brixham, Devon, John Preston alias Westlake, took sanctuary in the church in Bishop’s Sutton,Continue reading “Sanctuary and impunity for crime”

The savvy criminal

George Sawyer alias Wolmer, a Surrey man variously identified as husbandman, yeoman, and sawyer, was a walking example of the escape hatches, legal and illegal, available to the savvy late medieval criminal. In 1499, Sawyer took sanctuary at St. Mary Overey in Southwark after a string of burglaries in Kent, but three men dragged himContinue reading “The savvy criminal”

The Hospitaller’s cloak

In 1506, two accused felons claimed sanctuary by touching the cloak of a Hospitaller knight rather than more conventionally running into a parish church or monastery. Richard Pulham (harpist from St Mary Hoo, Kent, indicted for homicide) and Ralph Toker (Somerset yeoman who’d previously abjured twice for multiple felonies but been caught in the realm)Continue reading “The Hospitaller’s cloak”

An abjurer’s story

Abjurers making their way into exile often encountered problems and sometimes they came back into court to tell quite a story about their tribulations. Such was the case with Richard Bery, carpenter of Sittingbourne, Kent, who took sanctuary in 1512 at the parish church in Kidbrooke. He confessed to theft and swore to leave theContinue reading “An abjurer’s story”

Hitting for the cycle: sanctuary, benefit of clergy, pardon

Here, another felon cycling through the three major forms of mitigation available to accused criminals in England circa 1500. Though hardly unpunished, George Courtenay of Hampshire was able to avoid the noose and after twenty years walked free. Courtenay, called in different records gentleman or merchant of Romsey, Hampshire, took sanctuary in 1514 in Caistor,Continue reading “Hitting for the cycle: sanctuary, benefit of clergy, pardon”

“The white hare should drive the white greyhound into the root of an oak”: Prophecies and mitigations

Thomas Cheselet was an operator who knew his way around mitigations – and a dab hand at treasonous prophecies. The tale starts in 1519 when Cheselet, a tailor of Mere, Wiltshire, took sanctuary at the Dominican priory at Fisherton Anger. He asked for the coroner, confessing to him that earlier that year he had stolenContinue reading ““The white hare should drive the white greyhound into the root of an oak”: Prophecies and mitigations”

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”

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”