Reasonable and unreasonable force

Two Yorkshire brothers—one a law-enforcement officer—fled to the sanctuary at Durham Cathedral when an arrest went wrong. Then, as now, the line between allowable and unreasonable force in arrests was controversial. In May 1495, Christopher Easby of Ripon took along his brother William when he went to arrest John Dixson for an unspecified offence. DixsonContinue reading “Reasonable and unreasonable force”

Three sanctuary breaches

The last years of Henry VII’s reign (he died in 1509) are often seen as rife with judicial corruption. That might not be completely fair, but there were lots of cases with odd outcomes in these years. Three sanctuary breach cases ended up in King’s Bench on the same day in 1508. The first involvedContinue reading “Three sanctuary breaches”

The Hospitaller’s cloak

In 1506, two accused felons claimed sanctuary by touching the cloak of a Hospitaller knight rather than more conventionally running into a parish church or monastery. Richard Pulham (harpist from St Mary Hoo, Kent, indicted for homicide) and Ralph Toker (Somerset yeoman who’d previously abjured twice for multiple felonies but been caught in the realm)Continue reading “The Hospitaller’s cloak”

Violent seizures and righteous indignation

In 1506, Hugh Wenwryght, yeoman of Merton, Surrey, broke into the Augustinian priory at Merton and stole chalices and other plate. Later arraigned for burglary at Surrey gaol delivery, he pleaded sanctuary. Wenwryght claimed in court that he had taken sanctuary in the church of St Michael Cornhill in London, not only for that burglaryContinue reading “Violent seizures and righteous indignation”

Boat ride on the Thames

In May 1507 Robert Forde, husbandman of Brightwell manor in Berkshire, attacked chaplain John Scolfyld, stabbing him with a dagger. Scolfyld immediately died, and Forde ran to the priory at Wallingford. Wallingford priory was a small Benedictine house; it’s not clear how many monks it had, but it was amongst the smaller religious houses CardinalContinue reading “Boat ride on the Thames”

Robbery in Knightsbridge

The canny felon in early 16th-century England could, if smart and lucky, avail himself of an array of different mitigations to escape the noose – sometimes cycling through them until he found one that worked, as this seeker did. At gaol delivery for Middlesex in May 1508, a Westminster yeoman named Thomas David ap HowellContinue reading “Robbery in Knightsbridge”

Robert the hermit

In 1537 London butcher George Isotson told a story in court about a long-ago sanctuary seeker at St Martin le Grand named Robert. Robert’s story stuck in Isotson’s mind because he later became a hermit. One day around 1508, Isotson said, Robert escaped from the Marshalsea prison and ran to the sanctuary of St MartinContinue reading “Robert the hermit”

The “Blessed” Adrian Fortescue, violent thug and sanctuary seeker

Sir Adrian Fortescue was amongst a number of aristocrats in Henry VIII’s reign who took advantage of sanctuary to get out of sticky situations. This is one episode in a lifetime of falling in and out of trouble, balanced several centuries later, perhaps, by a (rather questionable) beatification as a Catholic martyr. At 17 Fortescue’sContinue reading “The “Blessed” Adrian Fortescue, violent thug and sanctuary seeker”

Killing by “chance medley” in Hereford, 1511

An inquest was convened over the body of gentleman Henry Baskirville of Hereford on 1 September 1511. Jurors held he’d been killed two days before in a knife fight with Roger Lloide, also gentleman of Hereford. The jurors used a term for the killing that was quite new then (earlier than the OED‘s first usage):Continue reading “Killing by “chance medley” in Hereford, 1511″

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”