Escape from sanctuary

On 23 March 1405, William Holt, esquire, of Sussex took sanctuary in the church of St. Martin in the Fields (now on Trafalgar Square). He confessed to the coroner that he was an accessory to a decade-old homicide. The coroner, however, was suspicious about the long time lag: he thought Holt had already abjured forContinue reading “Escape from sanctuary”

Parish chaplain helps Irish horse thief escape

A Middlesex jury reported in October 1403 that Nicholas Cusak of Ireland had stolen a horse at Uxbridge from an unknown man, and then fled to the church of St. James in the Fields (now in Piccadilly – then literally in the fields between London and Westminster). Cusak confessed his crime to the coroner. TheContinue reading “Parish chaplain helps Irish horse thief escape”

Seizing the ring: Claiming sanctuary at Arundel castle chapel

In 1405, the bishop of Chichester’s register tells the story of one John Moot. Moot had been arrested and taken into custody at Arundel Castle for theft and robbery, but then escaped. He ran to the chapel in Arundel Castle, where he “took hold of the ring” of the cloister gates “as a sign ofContinue reading “Seizing the ring: Claiming sanctuary at Arundel castle chapel”

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”

Escape from Strand Church

On 5 November 1410, William Orwell took sanctuary at the church of St. Mary le Strand for “divers felonies”; after he confessed to the coroner, the townspeople of Westminster were set to watch over him. They guarded him for two days (perhaps wondering when he was actually going to abjure and get out of theirContinue reading “Escape from Strand Church”

An overzealous gaoler

Not surprisingly, when an accused felon in custody escaped from gaol (or jail in North American spelling), the gaolers were angry – incensed because their authority was flouted, and worried because they themselves were liable to be charged with negligence for allowing the prisoner to scamper away. The gaolers’ frustrations, however, didn’t give them licenceContinue reading “An overzealous gaoler”

Undead kings and treasonous conspiracies

In 1399, Henry of Derby overthrew his cousin, King Richard II, to seize the English throne, having himself crowned as Henry IV. Though Richard was probably murdered soon after the coup at the orders of his cousin, his death was concealed and rumours circulated through Henry IV’s reign (1399-1413) and into that of his son,Continue reading “Undead kings and treasonous conspiracies”

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”

Escape from the bishop’s prison

In March 1418, Peter Hughebard, labourer of Woodchurch, Kent, was arrested for theft and put into the prison of Christchurch cathedral priory in Canterbury (presumably because he had been arrested within the liberty of the priory). Though we don’t usually think about churches as needing prisons, English bishops and other ecclesiastical leaders often acted asContinue reading “Escape from the bishop’s prison”

Overstaying your welcome

On 14 May 1418, a husbandman of Aswardby, Lincolnshire, Thomas Laddesnam, was arrested for theft by the local constable, who then handed him over to Andrew Fetys of Pinchbeck, bailiff for the area. Fetys’s job was to convey Laddesnam the 30 miles from Aswardby to Lincoln castle to await trial. But Laddesnam escaped Fetys’s custodyContinue reading “Overstaying your welcome”