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?”

Incarceration as punishment

Theoretically incarceration wasn’t used as punishment for felony in medieval England; it was used instead for detention pre-trial and during proceedings. At times, though, lengthy delays in proceedings seem deliberate, imprisonment serving unofficially as a middle way between acquittal and the noose. This seems to have been the case for two sanctuary seekers in 1497.Continue reading “Incarceration as punishment”

Get-out-of-jail-free card?

There were quite a few sanctuary breach cases 1500-10, suggesting that either local authorities were pushing the envelope on sanctuary, or felons were trying to use allegations of breach as a get-out-of-jail-sort-of-free card. Though some have seen these cases as part of a “judicial assault” on sanctuary, that’s not quite accurate. In cases coming toContinue reading “Get-out-of-jail-free card?”

Finding a ship to go into exile

When a sanctuary seeker abjured the realm, they were sent to a port to go overseas. A weak link in the system was finding a ship captain willing to take the abjurer on board, as this seeker found. In July 1507, Simon Wigmore, a labourer of Winchester, took sanctuary at the parish church of HolyContinue reading “Finding a ship to go into exile”

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”

Sanctuary in a “Templar messuage” in Gloucester

Another sanctuary claim in a Hospitaller property inherited from the Templars in the fourteenth century: in July 1510, Thomas Jones, yeoman of London, and William Morsate, salter of Wells, took sanctuary at Gloucester in “a messuage of the Templars” held by the Hospitaller prior. The cases of Jones and Morsate differed from others who wereContinue reading “Sanctuary in a “Templar messuage” in Gloucester”

Hitting for the cycle: sanctuary, benefit of clergy, pardon

Here, another felon cycling through the three major forms of mitigation available to accused criminals in England circa 1500. Though hardly unpunished, George Courtenay of Hampshire was able to avoid the noose and after twenty years walked free. Courtenay, called in different records gentleman or merchant of Romsey, Hampshire, took sanctuary in 1514 in Caistor,Continue reading “Hitting for the cycle: sanctuary, benefit of clergy, pardon”

Highway robbers in the Strand church

In January 1516, three highway robbers, Robert Dodde, Richard Couper, and Thomas Horneclyff (all described as yeomen of London), attacked two men at Bagshot, Surrey. Following the robbery, the felons fled to the church of St Mary le Strand with the stolen goods, including a horse (presumably left in the churchyard). Their case excited aContinue reading “Highway robbers in the Strand church”

Sanctuary and the career criminal

Some criminals wandered around the country committing felony after felony without getting caught, until finally one day it all caught up with them. One such criminal was Robert Blake, shoemaker of Bishop’s Waltham, Hants, who after fifteen years of crime finally had to take sanctuary in 1520 at his own parish church. He confessed toContinue reading “Sanctuary and the career criminal”

Sir Banger

In 1527 yeoman John Mathew assaulted and killed “a certain priest vulgarly called Sir Banger.” Yes, the whole point of this post is to point out that a 16th-c priest was nicknamed Sir Banger. Mathew revealed this homicide when he took sanctuary later that year at a London church, All Saints Bread Street. He alsoContinue reading “Sir Banger”