An abjurer’s story

Abjurers making their way into exile often encountered problems and sometimes they came back into court to tell quite a story about their tribulations. Such was the case with Richard Bery, carpenter of Sittingbourne, Kent, who took sanctuary in 1512 at the parish church in Kidbrooke. He confessed to theft and swore to leave theContinue reading “An abjurer’s story”

Hitting for the cycle: sanctuary, benefit of clergy, pardon

Here, another felon cycling through the three major forms of mitigation available to accused criminals in England circa 1500. Though hardly unpunished, George Courtenay of Hampshire was able to avoid the noose and after twenty years walked free. Courtenay, called in different records gentleman or merchant of Romsey, Hampshire, took sanctuary in 1514 in Caistor,Continue reading “Hitting for the cycle: sanctuary, benefit of clergy, pardon”

Davy Jones, sanctuary seeker

Here is another Bristol Temple Fee sanctuary seeker and another difficult 1510s sanctuary case. In November 1517, David Jonys, yeoman of Bristol (who no doubt looked something like the man above…) sought sanctuary for burglary and horse theft. At gaol delivery at Bristol a month later, Jonys pleaded sanctuary, claiming that he had been forciblyContinue reading “Davy Jones, sanctuary seeker”

“In defence of his own body”: a killing in Lincolnshire

In May 1518, John Watson of Swineshead, Lincolnshire, was minding his own business near the town of Stamford when two unknown men attacked him. He struck back “in defence of his own body” with a sword (which he conveniently enough happened to have on him), and wounded his assailants in many parts of their bodies.Continue reading ““In defence of his own body”: a killing in Lincolnshire”

Sanctuary and the career criminal

Some criminals wandered around the country committing felony after felony without getting caught, until finally one day it all caught up with them. One such criminal was Robert Blake, shoemaker of Bishop’s Waltham, Hants, who after fifteen years of crime finally had to take sanctuary in 1520 at his own parish church. He confessed toContinue reading “Sanctuary and the career criminal”

A “certificate of persons within St Martin’s sanctuary,” 1525

In 1525 – probably as a result of a fact-finding mission directed by the king’s right-hand man Cardinal Wolsey – a “certificate” of the “persons within St Martin’s sanctuary” was drawn up. This is a fascinating snapshot of 1520s sanctuary seekers. There were 12 people listed, 11 men, 1 woman. In another post I lookedContinue reading “A “certificate of persons within St Martin’s sanctuary,” 1525″

Drinking at the Sanctuary Parlour

If you took sanctuary at St Martin le Grand in London, you had to be careful about the boundaries: in many places they were invisible lines running down the middle of a street or between buildings. One step over, and you could be arrested. In the 1520s Londoners disagreed about the sanctuary status of aContinue reading “Drinking at the Sanctuary Parlour”

The “degree of St Edith”: sanctuary at a nunnery

A curious aspect of sanctuary in 15th-16th century England is that though many different kinds of churches offered shelter, I’ve found only one case where a nunnery provided shelter to a fleeing felon. In 1529, Geoffrey Jenyns, a yeoman of Brentwood, Essex, was hauled into court in 1529 or 1530 to answer to a chargeContinue reading “The “degree of St Edith”: sanctuary at a nunnery”

A horse thief uses the new sanctuary system, 1541

The first example I’ve found of a sanctuary seeker explicitly using the new system mandated by the 1540 statute was William Cripps, a fisher from Rye, Sussex. He took sanctuary after stealing a horse at Stratton Audeley, Oxon, in June 1541. Cripps had made his way to Bledlow, Buckinghamshire, presumably on the stolen horse, whenContinue reading “A horse thief uses the new sanctuary system, 1541”

Seeking sanctuary after 1540

Only about six* records survive of men seeking sanctuary under the new post-1540 system; of those, Westminster remained the most popular choice – three of six went there. One was a labourer from Cambridge, Robert Mere. He’d stolen a grey horse in the university town, but something evidently went wrong with his getaway plan asContinue reading “Seeking sanctuary after 1540”