Robbery at Charing Cross

A coroner’s memorandum records that on 5 November 1395 Richard Bone of London took sanctuary at St. Stephen’s church within the palace at Westminster. He confessed to the coroner that in September 1392 he had robbed a man on horseback of 20d [pence, i.e. 1 shilling] in money at Charing Cross. When someone took sanctuaryContinue reading “Robbery at Charing Cross”

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”

The multiple mitigation man

Some medieval felons used every escape hatch — also known as mitigations — available to them. Often they started with sanctuary. In a 1423 case, the sanctuary seeker moved on to grassing up his mates before claiming the benefit of clergy. Third time was the charm. In April 1423, John Digelot, a yeoman of HolmburyContinue reading “The multiple mitigation man”

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”

Domestic homicide, espionage, and women’s vigilante justice

On 27 May 1429 at Whitechapel, Ivo Caret of Brittany murdered his employer, the widow Joan Wynkfeld, and ran off with all her portable goods. Later chroniclers said that Wynkfeld, a wealthy woman, had taken Caret into her home and given him work as an act of charity. This magnanimity was well-intentioned but ill-placed, forContinue reading “Domestic homicide, espionage, and women’s vigilante justice”

Ordinary life in political chaos

In the midst of political chaos, ordinary and unconnected crises in people’s lives continued. On 12 June 1483, a sawyer from London named John Stokes took sanctuary at the parish church of St. Mary in Reading. Mid-June 1483 was a time of high drama in England: Stokes sought sanctuary just as Richard, duke of Gloucester,Continue reading “Ordinary life in political chaos”

Highway robberies, escapes, and legal deals

Highway robbery episode: according to jurors in Berkshire, on two occasions in 1484 Thomas Pytfeld, an innholder of Reading, robbed men on the roads around Maidenhead. On the first occasion, in July, he allegedly attacked Walter Sambourne and stole his grey gelding. The second time in October he assaulted Geoffrey Gwyn, the vicar of HurleyContinue reading “Highway robberies, escapes, and legal deals”