The Conundrum of the Missing Women Sanctuary Seekers

As I discuss in several of these posts, very few women sought sanctuary in English churches and religious houses in the late Middle Ages: my research has uncovered that women constituted about 1% of felons and about 1.6% of all sanctuary seekers. Seekers of all kinds Felons Female Seekers 30 (1.63%) 15 (1.01%) Male SeekersContinue reading “The Conundrum of the Missing Women Sanctuary Seekers”

Durham as a royally-chartered sanctuary

On 22 July 1464 William Hogeson of Fulford, Yorkshire sought sanctuary at Durham Cathedral. Before the constable of Durham, cathedral clergy, and others, he confessed that “in defence of his body” he had killed John Staynton also of Fulford. He sought and was granted “the immunity and liberty of St. Cuthbert,” the patron saint ofContinue reading “Durham as a royally-chartered sanctuary”

Murder with a turf spade

On 12 June 1467, William Laydman of Bowes sought sanctuary at Durham Cathedral. He confessed that nine days before at Moss Sike Head he had mortally wounded John Williamson, also of Bowes, with a turf spade. He said that he did this “against his will and in defence of his body,” a frequent refrain inContinue reading “Murder with a turf spade”

A typical Durham sanctuary seeker

In the later 1470s, records for sanctuary seekers at Durham Cathedral become more frequent, coinciding with an uptick in sanctuary-seeking throughout the kingdom. Christopher Holme was relatively typical of Durham’s seekers. Christopher Holme confessed to the cathedral official on 4 June 1477 that six weeks before, he’d been in company with Henry Stobbes and HumphreyContinue reading “A typical Durham sanctuary seeker”

Child killed in accidental death

One October day in 1459, Thomas Carter was riding his horse in the town of Leyburn, in Coverdale, Yorkshire, carrying his three year old son in front of him, when Christopher Brown attacked him. Carter quickly dismounted from his horse to defend himself, but in so doing he accidentally knocked his son off the horseContinue reading “Child killed in accidental death”

Beverly, a sanctuary town

In July 2019, I visited Beverley for the first time: I was impressed to see the sanctuary town, including the purported “frith stool” in Beverley Minster. Alas, sanctuary seekers probably didn’t use this seat; but though our guide told me that tales of sanctuary at Beverley were invented by fanciful Victorian antiquarians, we do indeedContinue reading “Beverly, a sanctuary town”

To Murder a Monk

Another early entry in the Beverley sanctuary register is for John Boys, who interestingly was from Durham – he travelled about 150 km from the perfectly good sanctuary in his own home town to enter Beverley sanctuary on 24 May 1478. Maybe he decided to go to Beverley because he committed what we might imagineContinue reading “To Murder a Monk”

Another ‘self-defence’ homicide seeker at Durham

In October 1479, Gilbert Heg of Lambeth, Surrey, assaulted a constable, presumably in Lambeth. He struck him with a dagger known as a wynyard, wounding him in the chest. Gilbert claimed that he did this in self-defence. Five days after their encounter the constable died – and so Gilbert was on the hook for homicide.Continue reading “Another ‘self-defence’ homicide seeker at Durham”

A coincidence of Smerthwayts?

The records for sanctuary seekers are always missing key info, but sometimes more than others. Two men named Smerthwayt were invoked by seekers at Durham in December 1479 and February 1480: Connected? Coincidence? On 27 December 1479 Robert Burton of Dent, Cumbria, sought sanctuary at Durham on an indictment for cattle theft. He had beenContinue reading “A coincidence of Smerthwayts?”