Missing the target

A Middlesex jury charged with giving information on local crimes reported to the court that on 29 June 1399 a hosteler (innkeeper) of Clerkenwell, Thomas Redyng, hired Robert Stanwardyn to kill Robert de Malteby of London, a bladesmith. Stanwardyn missed his target and instead killed Malteby’s servant Nicholas Roper. Afterwards Redyng and his wife ElizabethContinue reading “Missing the target”

Gentry violence in Lincolnshire, 1427

In 1427 a gentleman in his 50s assembled a small private army to ambush an enemy. The enemy was killed in the affray and the gentleman ran to sanctuary – but then later was acquitted of the charge. He went on (of course) to be an MP and sheriff. On 10 August 1427, a coroner’sContinue reading “Gentry violence in Lincolnshire, 1427”

A murderer escaping punishment, or a false accusation?

A 1478 a London coroner’s inquest jury, convened over the body of John Aventry of London, gentleman, reported that one Richard Edriche, a London hackneyman, had lain in wait to attack Aventry. Edriche (they said) assaulted Aventry with a staff, giving him a wound from which he died about a month later. Edriche then (onContinue reading “A murderer escaping punishment, or a false accusation?”

A London goldsmith in trouble

Robert Myndrym, a London goldsmith, had numerous problems from the mid-1480s into the early 1490s, and found two different recourses to sanctuary helpful. The first time around 1485 he went to Westminster for debt. As his wife Margery explained in a Chancery petition, she went to visit him “as a true wife ought to doContinue reading “A London goldsmith in trouble”

Highway robberies, escapes, and legal deals

Highway robbery episode: according to jurors in Berkshire, on two occasions in 1484 Thomas Pytfeld, an innholder of Reading, robbed men on the roads around Maidenhead. On the first occasion, in July, he allegedly attacked Walter Sambourne and stole his grey gelding. The second time in October he assaulted Geoffrey Gwyn, the vicar of HurleyContinue reading “Highway robberies, escapes, and legal deals”

A 1487 murder mystery

In late January 1487, John Cole the younger of Great Greenford, Middlesex, was found dead at nearby Norwood. A coroner’s inquest was convened. The inquest jurors declared that Cole had been killed by Richard Smyth, a “mealman” (seller of meal/flour). They also reported that immediately after Smyth ran to the parish church at Southall, takingContinue reading “A 1487 murder mystery”

A quarrel amongst tanners

On a wintry day in February 1489 at Barking, Essex – let’s imagine it was raining, just above freezing, miserable – brothers William and Stephen Burre, two tanners, quarreled with another tanner, John Cursum. The Burre brothers were accused of slashing Cursum with a small knife, giving him a wound from which he died fourContinue reading “A quarrel amongst tanners”

“The liberty of the town of Knowle”

In 1492 John and Robert Tayllour, sons of husbandman Richard Tayllour of Little Inkberrow, Worcs, killed their neighbour Thomas Mershe with a “battestaff.” Afterward, they fled to “the privilege or liberty of the town of Knowle.” This is the earliest evidence as far as I know for the sanctuary town of Knowle, Warwickshire. A manorContinue reading ““The liberty of the town of Knowle””

Incarceration as punishment

Theoretically incarceration wasn’t used as punishment for felony in medieval England; it was used instead for detention pre-trial and during proceedings. At times, though, lengthy delays in proceedings seem deliberate, imprisonment serving unofficially as a middle way between acquittal and the noose. This seems to have been the case for two sanctuary seekers in 1497.Continue reading “Incarceration as punishment”

Murderer in the stocks

A funny little case from Lincolnshire in 1498. A coroner’s inquest over Thomas Straker of Swineshead found that John Hall and Richard May, labourers also of Swineshead, had assaulted and killed Straker. Both Hall and May fled from the scene with the people of Swineshead in hot pursuit. They caught May and put him “inContinue reading “Murderer in the stocks”