An overzealous gaoler

Not surprisingly, when an accused felon in custody escaped from gaol (or jail in North American spelling), the gaolers were angry – incensed because their authority was flouted, and worried because they themselves were liable to be charged with negligence for allowing the prisoner to scamper away. The gaolers’ frustrations, however, didn’t give them licenceContinue reading “An overzealous gaoler”

Sanctuary men and Oldcastle’s Revolt

On 9-10 January 1414, Sir John Oldcastle led an ill-fated and probably poorly conceived uprising against Henry V, which may (or may not) have been inspired by Oldcastle’s adherence to ideas of an unorthodox religious group, the Lollards. Although the insurrection was suppressed, Oldcastle himself escaped and remained on the loose for the next severalContinue reading “Sanctuary men and Oldcastle’s Revolt”

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”

A robber’s miscalculation

On 18 May 1428, John Ledbury, a London joiner, took sanctuary in the church of St. Andrew Undershaft. He confessed to the coroner that together with William Scardeburgh he had robbed a man on the road to Edgware, telling the victim that he was the constable of Edgware and demanding that he hand over hisContinue reading “A robber’s miscalculation”

Treason on the eve of civil war

In 1448, on the eve of civil war, a sanctuary seeker at Westminster made strange allegations of a treasonous plot being hatched in the sanctuary precinct. Richard Spencer, “clerk, merchant, and gentleman” of London, took sanctuary in 1448 at Westminster Abbey. From within the sanctuary, he submitted a written accusation of treason against gentleman andContinue reading “Treason on the eve of civil war”

A dead Welshman and aristocratic impunity

This case has a few complications, but has a number of features common to homicide indictments in the early Tudor period: a group of men set upon someone in what looks like an assassination; though the homicide took place in the London area those involved were from the Welsh marches and the victim had aContinue reading “A dead Welshman and aristocratic impunity”

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”