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”

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”

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”

The multiple mitigation man

Some medieval felons used every escape hatch — also known as mitigations — available to them. Often they started with sanctuary. In a 1423 case, the sanctuary seeker moved on to grassing up his mates before claiming the benefit of clergy. Third time was the charm. In April 1423, John Digelot, a yeoman of HolmburyContinue reading “The multiple mitigation man”

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”

Official incompetence and compensatory bluster

On 11 August 1429, Thomas Pykeryng, a chapman of Gloucester, was in prison in Gloucester castle awaiting trial when he managed to escape, running to sanctuary in the nearby parish church of Holy Trinity. There he confessed to the Gloucester coroners that he had burglarized one Thomas Osteller’s house in 1427. What’s interesting about thisContinue reading “Official incompetence and compensatory bluster”

Immigrants and judicial exile

On 17 March 1432, a Dutch scrivener, Bartholomew Bertram – alias John Clerk, alias John Bartram – took sanctuary in St. Magnus’s church (one of medieval London’s largest churches, near London bridge). Bertram confessed to the coroner that he had broken into a London pointmaker’s shop in 1428 and then he abjured the realm; theContinue reading “Immigrants and judicial exile”

An abjurer caught in the realm

Another soldier turned to crime in aftermath of demobilization: on 14 April 1440 John Parker of Elmstone, Kent, soldier, took sanctuary in the church of St. Botulph without Bishopsgate in London (here pictured in mid-16th century Agas map, just outside the city walls) He confessed to the coroner the burglary of Richard Hert’s house atContinue reading “An abjurer caught in the realm”

A Suffolk mercer goes wild

On 20 August 1487, John Boole, mercer of Westhorpe, Suffolk, took sanctuary in his own parish church. He confessed robberies, thefts, and a murder. About eight months before, Boole and his partner in crime, John Herward, a tailor of Beltham, Essex, had robbed a man at Holkham Market in Norfolk, stealing cloth and various otherContinue reading “A Suffolk mercer goes wild”

Burglary in London, 1491

On 5 October 1491, John Archer, a London baker, broke into the house of Margery Marsshe in the parish of St Clement in London, taking a mazer (a wooden drinking bowl) decorated with silver gilt. From London Archer apparently fled to the West Country, and eventually took sanctuary in the parish church at Nunney, Somerset.Continue reading “Burglary in London, 1491”