All about abjuration

Coroners’ rolls through the thirteenth and fourteenth centuries recorded many sanctuary seekers taking refuge in churches and then abjuring the realm. The coroner’s roll for Leicestershire, 1393-1413, for instance, records that John Middleton of Yorkshire fled to the church of St. John the Baptist at Dalby on the Wolds on 1 June 1400, confessing theft.Continue reading “All about abjuration”

Sanctuary for cattle theft: 15th-c trends in abjuration

On 11 November 1405, Richard Spenser of Haunton, Staffordshire, fled to the parish church of Nailstone, Leicestershire. The Leicestershire coroner John Folvyll came and heard Spenser’s confession: a few days before he had stolen cattle from neighbours in Haunton. Spenser abjured the realm and Folvyll assigned him the port of Dover. We learn about thisContinue reading “Sanctuary for cattle theft: 15th-c trends in abjuration”

A stolen rosary

On 20 April 1401 William Clerk, a hosier, took sanctuary In St. Saviour’s church in Faversham, Kent. He confessed to the coroner that in December 1400 he had stolen beads (probably a rosary) worth two shillings from Agnes Thomson at Newcastle-upon-Tyne – a very long way away from Faversham! He abjured the realm through Dover.Continue reading “A stolen rosary”

Parish chaplain helps Irish horse thief escape

A Middlesex jury reported in October 1403 that Nicholas Cusak of Ireland had stolen a horse at Uxbridge from an unknown man, and then fled to the church of St. James in the Fields (now in Piccadilly – then literally in the fields between London and Westminster). Cusak confessed his crime to the coroner. TheContinue reading “Parish chaplain helps Irish horse thief escape”

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”

The king’s favour

In the early days of the reign of Henry V, several sanctuary seekers who were somehow connected to the king or at least to his military forces were given special signs of favour. Some were offered pardons so they could fight in the war; in this case the king gave the abjuring felons expensive gownsContinue reading “The king’s favour”

On surrendered stolen goods

In the 1410s, tensions between the City of London and the two metropolitan-area sanctuaries, Westminster Abbey and St Martin le Grand, began to heat up. In 1417, a London citizen, Edmund Chymbeham, sued two canons of St Martin’s, Simon Floure and William Gerveys, in the court of Common Pleas. He claimed that a thief namedContinue reading “On surrendered stolen goods”

Escape from the bishop’s prison

In March 1418, Peter Hughebard, labourer of Woodchurch, Kent, was arrested for theft and put into the prison of Christchurch cathedral priory in Canterbury (presumably because he had been arrested within the liberty of the priory). Though we don’t usually think about churches as needing prisons, English bishops and other ecclesiastical leaders often acted asContinue reading “Escape from the bishop’s prison”

Overstaying your welcome

On 14 May 1418, a husbandman of Aswardby, Lincolnshire, Thomas Laddesnam, was arrested for theft by the local constable, who then handed him over to Andrew Fetys of Pinchbeck, bailiff for the area. Fetys’s job was to convey Laddesnam the 30 miles from Aswardby to Lincoln castle to await trial. But Laddesnam escaped Fetys’s custodyContinue reading “Overstaying your welcome”

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”