The butcher, the bridge and the blame

This was an interesting one, I thought: a trespass case with a pretty distinctive defence.

KB 27/669 m. 91 puts us in Trinity term 1428, in the King’s Bench. Richard Perot of Alcestrer, Warwickshire, butcher, is being sued for assault at Stratford upon Avon, by Edward Toky.

The allegation was that, on Thursday 9th November, 1424, Richard had assaulted Edward, with force and arms, and the usual range of weapons, against the king’s peace (so a run-of-the-mill trespass allegation). Edward claimed that his damages amounted to £20.

Richard, via his attorney, hit back. He pleaded not guilty, and gave a rather different version of events on the day in question. It wasn’t the usual boring and blank self-defence allegation. Both he and Edward had, he said, been riding their horses on the bridge over the Avon, and Edward’s horse fiercely jumped on Richard’s horse. Richard and his horse almost fell into the water, and, to save his life, and not fall into the water, Richard took hold of Edward by the neck and arms, and held on tightly, and that was what Edward was calling trespass.

So – if true, that does sound like a pretty good explanation, and suggests that a trespass claim for £20 was a bit of a stretch for Edward. But was Edward just trying it on, or was Richard’s story a pack of lies? Who can say. We can note, though, a feeling that it was a decent defence to a trespass action to say (a) I did what I did to save my life, and/or (b) your horse started it.



Image – Clopton Bridge, Stratford. Ferocious horse not pictured.