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”

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”

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?”

Gentry violence in Lincolnshire, 1427

In 1427 a gentleman in his 50s assembled a small private army to ambush an enemy. The enemy was killed in the affray and the gentleman ran to sanctuary – but then later was acquitted of the charge. He went on (of course) to be an MP and sheriff. On 10 August 1427, a coroner’sContinue reading “Gentry violence in Lincolnshire, 1427”

The Raynsfords and their local sanctuary: aristocratic criminality, Tudor-style

The Raynsfords, an important Essex gentry family, patronized St John’s abbey in Colchester; this was in itself unremarkable, as pious gentlefolk often donated to their favourite local monastery. The monks of St John’s offered the Raynsfords more than prayers for departed ancestors, however: they also provided asylum when the Raynsfords themselves and their retainers committedContinue reading “The Raynsfords and their local sanctuary: aristocratic criminality, Tudor-style”

The Southwell-Pennington feud

On 20 April 1532, near the king’s palace at Westminster, two gentlemen, Richard Southwell, esquire, and Sir William Pennington, faced one another in a sword fight, a quarrel that ended in Pennington’s death. The slaying came at a sensitive time in Henry VIII’s reign: much attention was focused that spring on ‘the King’s Great Matter’,Continue reading “The Southwell-Pennington feud”

A serjeant of the mace slain

On 4 March 1533, John Ode alias Wode, serjeant of the mace (one of the London sheriffs’ officers) had an altercation with George Cornwall, a young Hereford gentleman known for his unruly life. Though the records don’t say so, it seems quite likely that their quarrel had something to do with Ode’s job, which includedContinue reading “A serjeant of the mace slain”