A petty thief hanged

On 4 April 1481, Richard Aleyn, yeoman of Wimborne Minster, Dorset, took sanctuary in Winchester Cathedral: his is an all-too-typical story of what seems outsized consequences for small-scale theft. Aleyn confessed to the coroner that a week before he’d broken into John North’s house at Gulford in Wiltshire and stolen 12 yards of woolen cloth,Continue reading “A petty thief hanged”

Murder and horse theft, 1483

William Savage, a skinner of Sandwich, Kent, took refuge at St Botolph without Aldgate in London on 23 September 1484. Savage confessed to the coroner that on 12 April 1483 at Winchester, he killed chapman John Brande and stole his horse. This is maybe irrelevant, but he committed this crime only three days after EdwardContinue reading “Murder and horse theft, 1483”

A London goldsmith in trouble

Robert Myndrym, a London goldsmith, had numerous problems from the mid-1480s into the early 1490s, and found two different recourses to sanctuary helpful. The first time around 1485 he went to Westminster for debt. As his wife Margery explained in a Chancery petition, she went to visit him “as a true wife ought to doContinue reading “A London goldsmith in trouble”

A Suffolk mercer goes wild

On 20 August 1487, John Boole, mercer of Westhorpe, Suffolk, took sanctuary in his own parish church. He confessed robberies, thefts, and a murder. About eight months before, Boole and his partner in crime, John Herward, a tailor of Beltham, Essex, had robbed a man at Holkham Market in Norfolk, stealing cloth and various otherContinue reading “A Suffolk mercer goes wild”

Cattle theft and homicide

One April day in 1490, John Abrey of Wendlebury, Oxfordshire, was crossing the king’s road when he saw a husbandman named John Carteworth leading away three of his (Abrey’s) cows from the common field. Abrey tried to stop him and the quarrel became violent. Carteworth pierced Abrey’s head with a pitchfork, giving Abrey a headContinue reading “Cattle theft and homicide”

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”

Sanctuary at St Augustine’s monastery, Bristol

This case reveals some legal shenanigans on the part of the City of Bristol, which in the 1490s had a bee in its bonnet about St Augustine’s monastery just outside the City boundaries. Two indictments in the Bristol peace sessions in spring 1496 accused William Robynson, a yeoman of “Alyngton,” Dorset, of theft—he allegedly stoleContinue reading “Sanctuary at St Augustine’s monastery, Bristol”

Sanctuary in the Rye cemetery

Though most of my cases of sanctuary seekers come from the records of the royal courts or sanctuary registers, a few examples turn up in town records, including one from Rye, Sussex, in 1500. On 24 October of that year John Purchase, noted to be thirty years old, took refuge in the cemetery of theContinue reading “Sanctuary in the Rye cemetery”

The lamb rustler

Another day, another Surrey gaol delivery. In 1507 Thomas Whytworth, yeoman of Southwark, was indicted for having stolen sixteen lambs from Thomas Webbe at Mitcham. Like many this decade, he pleaded sanctuary. He claimed that two weeks after this lamb-rustling, he’d taken sanctuary at St Mary Overey in Southwark, and sought a coroner so thatContinue reading “The lamb rustler”

One Gye, or two?

There were two separate claims of sanctuary at Durham by men named Thomas Gye of Wistow, Yorkshire, in 1510 and 1511, one for homicide, the other for cattle theft. The same man? In October 1510 Thomas Gye came to Durham and confessed that earlier that month at Womersley, Yorks, he’d struck William Pynchebek in theContinue reading “One Gye, or two?”