Quarrel over a “frowe”

On 30 November 1394, after sundown, three men were amongst a large group drinking in the King’s Head tavern in St Magnus’s parish near London bridge. Two, Herman Stokfyssh and Nicholas Clarebount, were ‘Doche’, a word late medieval English people applied to anyone coming from the lower Rhineland area that now includes the Netherlands, Belgium,Continue reading “Quarrel over a “frowe””

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”

Pardon for a “travelynggeman”

A coroner’s memorandum records that on 30 April 1397 at the church of St. Martin Outwich in London, John Stokes, “Travelynggeman*, ” took sanctuary. When the coroner appeared, he confessing that he had killed Nicholas Wodyngton, esquire, with a poleaxe, in the midst of an argument. There’s also a second record of the same homicide,Continue reading “Pardon for a “travelynggeman””

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”

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”

Murder over a board game

In 1401 a board game – chess, chequers, backgammon? – in a London brewhouse turned into a deadly brawl, with the killer running to the safety of sanctuary at Westminster Abbey. A coroner’s inquest was held on 25 September 1401 in the parish of St. Michael Queenhithe, near the docks on the river Thames, overContinue reading “Murder over a board game”

Orwell, a lost port town

On 15 May 1403, the coroner was summoned to the church at Swaffham Prior, Cambridgeshire, to hear the confession of John Aleyn, labourer of Risby, Suffolk. Aleyn admitted that the week before he had killed Geoffrey Hore, another labourer. Aleyn abjured the realm and the coroner assigned him to leave through the port of Orwell,Continue reading “Orwell, a lost port town”

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”

The king’s favour

In the early days of the reign of Henry V, several sanctuary seekers who were somehow connected to the king or at least to his military forces were given special signs of favour. Some were offered pardons so they could fight in the war; in this case the king gave the abjuring felons expensive gownsContinue reading “The king’s favour”

The Felonious MP

In 1414, a former Member of Parliament took sanctuary for homicide, one of a number of MPs who sought asylum for their felonies. If a criminal politician seems just a bit too relevant, consider also that he’d likely originally sought public office a decade before in order to avoid charges in an earlier crime. Let’sContinue reading “The Felonious MP”