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”

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”

Sanctuary at Hospitaller properties

Around 1500, the Hospitaller Order (also known as the military order of the Knights of St. John of Jerusalem) compiled a record of cases that (they contended) showed the Hospitallers had always had permanent sanctuary privileges in their properties. This was, as I’ll explore another in another post, a bold but entirely fictitious claim, andContinue reading “Sanctuary at Hospitaller properties”

Henry VI: Defender of sanctuaries

In 1448, a prisoner named Thomas Brodeley escaped from pre-trial custody in Wakefield, Yorkshire and made his way to the (impressively large) parish church of Wakefield to take sanctuary. The sheriff of Yorkshire seized him from the churchyard and took him to the presumably more secure prison in York castle. The archbishop of York promptlyContinue reading “Henry VI: Defender of sanctuaries”

Sanctuary at Pembroke College, Oxford?

After stabbing someone with a “little knife” one day in August 1463, John Harry, a tailor of Oxford, fled to Broadgates Hall, now part of Pembroke College, then a residence hall for law students at the university. Harry claimed sanctuary there, as the hall belonged to the Hospitallers, which according to the Acts of theContinue reading “Sanctuary at Pembroke College, Oxford?”

Brutal breach of sanctuary?

An escaped robber and disputed accounts of his arrest: was he violently seized in a church in great disrespect of the sacral space and sanctuary—or simply taken into custody on the city street? In February 1490, Richard Reynold, yeoman of Hendon Middlesex, ran into the London church of St Olave in Old Jewry, escaping arrestContinue reading “Brutal breach of sanctuary?”

Crime and Credibility

This case features a serial horse-thief and serial sanctuary-taker with a wee bit of a credibility problem. In May 1489 John Whatman, a roper of Ticehurst, Sussex, stole a horse at Wadhurst, a few miles away. Then in September 1489 Whatman stole another horse, at Heathfield in Sussex. He was arrested for this second theftContinue reading “Crime and Credibility”

Cop killer, 1491

In mid-February 1491, John Wells, glover of Oxford, ran into the church of All Hallows. He confessed to the coroner that a month before he had killed a serjeant, whose job it was to arrest suspected felons. A draft of a petition to the king from the serjeant’s widow, Margery Ludlow, gives some backstory toContinue reading “Cop killer, 1491”

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 lamb rustler

Another day, another Surrey gaol delivery. In 1507 Thomas Whytworth, yeoman of Southwark, was indicted for having stolen sixteen lambs from Thomas Webbe at Mitcham. Like many this decade, he pleaded sanctuary. He claimed that two weeks after this lamb-rustling, he’d taken sanctuary at St Mary Overey in Southwark, and sought a coroner so thatContinue reading “The lamb rustler”