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”

Abjurers who don’t leave the realm

According to a coroner’s memorandum written at Cowley, Middlesex on 8 November 1400, the villagers of Cowley had arrested one John Smyth of Colham, Middlesex, for felony and imprisoned him, but Smyth escaped and fled to the Cowley parish church. In the church Smyth confessed to the coroner that he had assaulted and killed aContinue reading “Abjurers who don’t leave the realm”

Double robbery and a hanging

Another abjurer found in the realm: in July 1406, John Sutton of Kingston-on-Thames took sanctuary in the church of St. Margaret in Merrow, Surrey. He confessed to the coroner that four days before he had robbed an unknown man on the highway between Kingston and Wandsworth, stealing five shillings; and that on the same dayContinue reading “Double robbery and a hanging”

Murder and robbery

In October 1407 Adam James alias Clifford fled to sanctuary in the church of St. Mary at Hill in London. He confessed to coroner John Dalton that in 1405 at Wroxham, Somerset, he had shot Nicholas Broun with an arrow, killing him. He also confessed a more recent crime, probably the one that drove hisContinue reading “Murder and robbery”

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”

William Wawe and Beaulieu Abbey

Circa 1426 William Wawe, a husbandman of Worcestershire, was indicted for many horse thefts (at least eight) and a litany of other crimes. It seems, in fact, that he became the poster-boy for uncontrolled crime in the kingdom. His name was notorious enough that it would be invoked in following years to smear political opponentsContinue reading “William Wawe and Beaulieu Abbey”

A robber’s miscalculation

On 18 May 1428, John Ledbury, a London joiner, took sanctuary in the church of St. Andrew Undershaft. He confessed to the coroner that together with William Scardeburgh he had robbed a man on the road to Edgware, telling the victim that he was the constable of Edgware and demanding that he hand over hisContinue reading “A robber’s miscalculation”


On 28 May 1429, two fleeing felons, who had committed unrelated crimes but had somehow joined up, took sanctuary together in the parish church of St. Dunstan in Cheam, Surrey. Although the record doesn’t say in their case, in other similar situations the felons had met in prison and escaped together. Jessica Freeman was theContinue reading “Two-for-one”

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 great cross of gold”: Theft of religious objects

On 24 January 1444, William Porter, yeoman of Yorkshire, took sanctuary at the London Charterhouse for a breaking and entering at Barking nunnery, stealing a “great cross of gold” and other church plate. He abjured the realm through the port of Winchelsea. It’s ironic that he committed a theft in one religious house and thenContinue reading ““A great cross of gold”: Theft of religious objects”