The savvy criminal

George Sawyer alias Wolmer, a Surrey man variously identified as husbandman, yeoman, and sawyer, was a walking example of the escape hatches, legal and illegal, available to the savvy late medieval criminal. In 1499, Sawyer took sanctuary at St. Mary Overey in Southwark after a string of burglaries in Kent, but three men dragged himContinue reading “The savvy criminal”

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”

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?”

Don’t mess with the Earl of Oxford

William Knok, yeoman of Faversham, was outlawed in Kent in 1503 after he failed to appear to answer an indictment for felony. He escaped detection for about three years, but then in May 1506 he was evidently rumbled. He ran into the Blackfriars church in London, but before he could abjure before a coroner heContinue reading “Don’t mess with the Earl of Oxford”

Sanctuary in dependent manors

In 1506, a husbandman from Tottenham, Middlesex named Hugh Bradbury, along with an accomplice, broke into the house of widow Joan Iwardeby at Quainton, Bucks, and stole a number of goods. Afterwards Bradbury made his way to the manor of Hoddesdon, Herts, and there claimed the “sanctuary of St Martin.” Bradbury was one of aContinue reading “Sanctuary in dependent manors”

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”

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”

“Once belonging to the knights of the Temple”

In 1510, husbandman Andrew Hardewyn of Orton Longueville, Huntingdnshire, killed two men by hitting them on the head with a staff. When he appeared before Huntingdonshire gaol delivery Hardweyn pleaded sanctuary and his case went up to King’s Bench: he claimed that he had taken asylum in a messuage (property) once belonging to the TemplarContinue reading ““Once belonging to the knights of the Temple””

“Peine forte et dure” in London, 1512

At Newgate gaol delivery in late January 1512, Robert Williamson, a London tailor, was charged with stealing 20s 5d worth of goods from yeoman Thomas Newman a few weeks before. Williamson pleaded sanctuary, though not in the usual way. His plea was, in fact, so unconventional that the justices ordered him to be tortured inContinue reading ““Peine forte et dure” in London, 1512″

Prison fight

In 1515 a coroner’s inquest at the Marshalsea prison for prisoner Robert Croke found another prisoner, Thomas Tyler, had killed Croke in a knife fight. Tyler came before the justices at King’s Bench on Croke’s homicide two years later (which seems a long delay). At trial, Tyler – rather oddly – pleaded sanctuary, not becauseContinue reading “Prison fight”