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?”

Sanctuary breaches and hard resets in Coventry, 1490

There was a real mess of a sanctuary situation in Coventry in 1490 enmeshed in a triangular dispute, featuring the bishop, the city’s government, and the crown. The bishop and the city both played fast and loose with the rules. Seizure #1: In February 1490 William Johnson, tailor of Lincoln, was about to be hangedContinue reading “Sanctuary breaches and hard resets in Coventry, 1490”

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”

Pleading sanctuary at King’s Bench

Another sanctuary breach case: in 1493, Richard Crokker and John Parker appeared at the bar at King’s Bench and were asked why they should be acquitted on felony charges. Crokker responded that on 9 February 1493 he entered the church of St Anne Aldersgate, London, and sought sanctuary there for several felonies. But while heContinue reading “Pleading sanctuary at King’s Bench”

Treason and sanctuary: the case of Thomas Bagnall

The 1495 claim of sanctuary made by Thomas Bagnall, traitor, supporter of Perkin Warbeck, thorn in the side of Henry VII, is one of the most famous sanctuary cases of the Tudor period. I also think it’s been misinterpreted. In 1495 five men—Thomas Bagnall, John Heth, John Skotte, John Kenyngton, and Alexander Synger—were accused ofContinue reading “Treason and sanctuary: the case of Thomas Bagnall”

The Widow’s appeal of homicide

In 1496 a woman launched a “widow’s appeal”: that is, a private prosecution of homicide undertaken by the dead man’s wife against the accused murderer. This one has a sanctuary angle because the alleged murderer took shelter in a Hospitaller property. Margery Rollesley, widow of Humphrey Rollesley, accused William Toft, a tailor of Denby, Derbyshire,Continue reading “The Widow’s appeal of homicide”

Police brutality, 1490s style

Cases from the 1490s show clearly that one thing that really bothered London sheriffs and their underlings was the escape of felons from their custody into nearby churches. Frustrated the H-E-double-hockey-sticks out of them. In 1495 John Calcott was in Newgate prison awaiting trial on felony when he managed to break out and run toContinue reading “Police brutality, 1490s style”

Dominic Arthur and St Augustine’s, Bristol

In 1496, seven men submitted a petition to the chancellor complaining that City of Bristol officials had arrested them within the sanctuary precinct of St Augustine’s monastery, just outside the civic bounds. When I first dug into this case, a striking thing emerged: though this and one other case are the only I’ve found inContinue reading “Dominic Arthur and St Augustine’s, Bristol”

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”