Sanctuary men and Oldcastle’s Revolt

On 9-10 January 1414, Sir John Oldcastle led an ill-fated and probably poorly conceived uprising against Henry V, which may (or may not) have been inspired by Oldcastle’s adherence to ideas of an unorthodox religious group, the Lollards. Although the insurrection was suppressed, Oldcastle himself escaped and remained on the loose for the next severalContinue reading “Sanctuary men and Oldcastle’s Revolt”

Buying wine on credit

In 1423 a merchant from Lombardy named Nicholas Martin (Niccolo Martini?) wanted to buy fourteen casks of red wine, at the very considerable cost of £46, from a London vintner named William Fromond. Fromond was reluctant to contract with a stranger who had no property in London to act as collateral for payment, but aContinue reading “Buying wine on credit”

Seeking sanctuary for debt

In 1429 three Londoners – John and Joyce Shenyfeld, and Rose Barnet, widow – were jointly sued in the court of Common Pleas for a debt of £310 (a very substantial amount of money), which seems to have been attached to the probate of the estate of Barnet’s late husband. When they failed to appearContinue reading “Seeking sanctuary for debt”

Apprentices left to fend for themselves

Twice in 1425, apprentices came forward to the London authorities to ask to be released from their apprenticeship contracts with masters who had gone into sanctuary for debt at St. Martin le Grand without leaving any provision for their trainees. Laurence Smith asked to be freed from his obligations to the grocer Thomas Mason, andContinue reading “Apprentices left to fend for themselves”

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?”

MP John Colles joins the Wawe gang?

John Colles, a wool merchant from Huntingdon who served four times as MP in the early 1420s, was named in a 1427 parliamentary petition that alleged he had defrauded creditors and since then had “retreated” to various sanctuaries, at Westminster Abbey, Culham (a manor of Abingdon abbey), and Beaulieu Abbey, staying out of reach ofContinue reading “MP John Colles joins the Wawe gang?”

Another fake confession

Another felony-inventer, this time to escape creditors. On 6 February 1438, Thomas Homnale, yeoman of Bury, fled to St Margaret, Southwark and confessed a two-year-old horse theft. He abjured, but nine months later he was found in the realm and taken into custody. At King’s Bench the justices asked him whether there was any reasonContinue reading “Another fake confession”

London Sheriffs Get Aggressive, Ep.1

In 1440, a conflict between the City of London and ecclesiastical institutions in and near the City heated up to boiling point, over the issue of those churches’ independent jurisdictions. On 22 August 1440, William Foyle went into sanctuary in the priory church of St Bartholomew in London to avoid debtors’ prison. Sanctuary for debtContinue reading “London Sheriffs Get Aggressive, Ep.1”

London Sheriffs Get Aggressive, Ep.2

Following William Foyle’s arrest in St Bartholomew’s priory on 22 August 1440, the London sheriffs kept up their campaign to bust the privileges of independent jurisdictions in and near London. They had a second chance on 1 September 1440, when a prisoner, John Knight, escaped. Knight was being led from Newgate prison to debt courtContinue reading “London Sheriffs Get Aggressive, Ep.2”

Seizing property from debtors in sanctuary

The second half of the 15th century saw many high-status participants in the civil wars running to sanctuary at each regime change, but more ordinary people continued also to use sanctuary for their ordinary problems, including debt. Although debtors could avoid an uncomfortable stay in prison by taking refuge in an ecclesiastical liberty – aContinue reading “Seizing property from debtors in sanctuary”