An Irish scholar makes bad choices

On 1 December 1424, John Hore or Hurne of Ireland, identified as a “scholar,” took sanctuary in the parish church at Beaconsfield, Buckinghamshire. Two things about Hore’s identity – being Irish, being a scholar – make his case intriguing. Several days after Hore took church at Beaconsfield, the coroner came and Hore confessed that heContinue reading “An Irish scholar makes bad choices”

William Wawe and Beaulieu Abbey

Circa 1426 William Wawe, a husbandman of Worcestershire, was indicted for many horse thefts (at least eight) and a litany of other crimes. It seems, in fact, that he became the poster-boy for uncontrolled crime in the kingdom. His name was notorious enough that it would be invoked in following years to smear political opponentsContinue reading “William Wawe and Beaulieu Abbey”

Mercy and the young Henry VI

Henry VI (r. 1422-60; 1470-71) came to the throne as a baby; in the 1430s and into the early 1440s as he moved through his teens he gradually began to assume personal control of the royal government. A hallmark of the early years of his rule was his determination to govern in a Christian fashionContinue reading “Mercy and the young Henry VI”

No felony, no sanctuary

A curious aspect of medieval English sanctuary is that if you (blameless) were being chased by your foes (bad guys) and spotted the safe haven of a parish church, you could only take sanctuary there if you invented a felony. To receive the “protection of holy church” from pursuers sanctuary seekers had to be felonsContinue reading “No felony, no sanctuary”

Another fake confession

Another felony-inventer, this time to escape creditors. On 6 February 1438, Thomas Homnale, yeoman of Bury, fled to St Margaret, Southwark and confessed a two-year-old horse theft. He abjured, but nine months later he was found in the realm and taken into custody. At King’s Bench the justices asked him whether there was any reasonContinue reading “Another fake confession”

“A great cross of gold”: Theft of religious objects

On 24 January 1444, William Porter, yeoman of Yorkshire, took sanctuary at the London Charterhouse for a breaking and entering at Barking nunnery, stealing a “great cross of gold” and other church plate. He abjured the realm through the port of Winchelsea. It’s ironic that he committed a theft in one religious house and thenContinue reading ““A great cross of gold”: Theft of religious objects”

Felonious monk

William Lane, a monk at Abingdon Abbey, fled to a church after having been indicted of horse theft. He abjured the realm, but did not actually leave; when he was caught and brought before the king’s justices, he then claimed benefit of clergy. He was delivered into the custody of the bishop of London, whoContinue reading “Felonious monk”

Bagpipes and cheese: an unsuccessful burglary

Who amongst us has not had the urge to steal a set of bagpipes and eight large cheeses? Basic party kit, as presumably John Esteneys, a weaver from Southwark, thought when he broke into two houses in Walton on Thames in 1451 to steal those items. The party apparently went wrong, however, and on 28Continue reading “Bagpipes and cheese: an unsuccessful burglary”

What was he thinking?

Here’s an odd case. Richard Wode, mercer of Worcester, took sanctuary at St. Mary’s in Newington, Surrey, in 1460. He confessed to the coroner that he had stolen a horse from Angelo Spynell, merchant of Genoa, at Southampton. The coroner asked if he wanted to abjure the realm, but Wode said he would instead stayContinue reading “What was he thinking?”

A coincidence of Smerthwayts?

The records for sanctuary seekers are always missing key info, but sometimes more than others. Two men named Smerthwayt were invoked by seekers at Durham in December 1479 and February 1480: Connected? Coincidence? On 27 December 1479 Robert Burton of Dent, Cumbria, sought sanctuary at Durham on an indictment for cattle theft. He had beenContinue reading “A coincidence of Smerthwayts?”