Lists: execution survivors, books etc.

This is going to be my area for miscellaneous lists of things found in plea rolls etc., collected for possible future work (and for the passing interest of anyone who happens upon this page).

I. Books and other interesting stolen goods

Occasionally, I come across a legal record which gives some information about medieval books (generally in the context of somebody doing something naughty with a book). I am going to list these here, as they come up, in case they should be of use to those looking at book ownership etc.

Law books

There is quite a haul of law books in a case from the Hilary 1418 Common Pleas roll (CP 40/628 AALT image 0256) though they are ius commune rather than common law. This was a Somerset case, in which John Alampton, clerk, of Wells, was said by William Langebrok, clerk, to be unjustly detaining forty of William’s books, which William had delivered to him in 1413 for safe keeping.  William wanted them back, but, he said, John was refusing to return them, and this had caused him substantial damages (40 l). Not all of the volumes are listed, but we are told that these included:

  • two parts or volumes of Hostiensis, Lectura
  • Hostiensis, Summa
  • Huguccio or Laurentius Super decretis
  • ‘Abbas, Summa’
  • Tabula super decretis in decretalibus
  • The Book of St Bridget of Sweden
  • Pollecronica (presumably Polychronicon)

Some of these titles are ambiguous (e.g. Abbas, Summa – ambiguous to me, at least) but there is clearly an interest in the learned law, as well as the life of a saint and a chronicle.

John denied it all, and was allowed to wage his law. He did so successfully, and so William got nowhere (apart from landing in mercy for a false claim). So – an elaborate lie, or did John get away with a good haul of manuscripts?


Instructional books

A Surrey case record in the King’s Bench Plea Roll for Easter term 1433 (KB 27/688 m. 5; AALT image 0151) shows that John Broun, servant of Nicholas Martyn of St John Street, Middlesex, brewer, and Nicholas Martyn of the same place, brewer, were accused of having stolen ‘a book called a primer’ (price 6s 8d) along with other goods and chattels of John Gooderyche, as well as abducting one of his female servants, from Bermondsey. They were acquitted in the end, however.

Another stolen ‘Prymer’ – KB 9/248 m. 43 (IAALT image 86): a 1445 indictment roll shows that Thomas Leykyn admitted to the theft of a primer from an unknown person in Sussex, and said it was worth 14d.

A little less run of the mill was the late fourteenth century pastoral instruction book, Pupila  Oculi, by John de Burgh, which seems to have been the volume stolen by a chaplain called John, with several different surnames, according to an indictment roll of 1441: KB 9/235 m. 57 (IMG 101).

Also: a missal worth 5 marks: KB 9/232 m. 58 (AALT image 119).

There are numerous allegations of missal-stealing, with a variety of valuations given for the book – no doubt there was variation in quality:10s in 1371, 40s in 1402, 100s in 1385, 1433, 10M in 1426 and  1432, £10 in 1378 and 1380, £20 in 1406. Fewer prices of psalters – but I can see one of 20s in an entry of  1406.

Other types of ecclesiastical book stolen included psalters and antiphonals. There is also a reference to theft of a ‘book called legend[a] sanctorum’ and ‘a book called Porthors (= a breviary)’. Most intriguing to me is the alleged theft, from a church, of a named book: the Redeboke de Shirburn. What was this? I would love to know.  Having been a Welsh legend-obsessed child, my mind immediately went to the Llyfr Coch Hergest/ Red Book of Hergest (still hope to see it ‘in the flesh’ one day}, but could it be something more ecclesiastical and less evocative, as suggested by this entry?

Stealing Relics

Leading nicely from stealing religious books, there are also some interesting thefts of religious objects. Plenty of rosaries etc., stolen from houses, but, more interestingly, relics including some of the BVM’s milk: KB 9/245 m. 95 (AALT image 181) and the fancy shoes from a statue of the poor old BVM: KB 9/246 m. 8 (AALT image 16). See also the 1358 entry relating to alleged theft of unspecified relics, from a chest, belonging to the church of St Andrew of Stoke Courcy (Stogursey), Somerset, worth 100 l.


II. Execution survivors: a list in progress

(excluding those rescued from prison, on the way to the gallows, or at the gallows itself, or cases where there was deliberate botching of the execution)

Execution survivors: a list in progress (updated 21/2/2018)

(excluding those rescued from prison, on the way to the gallows, or at the gallows itself, or cases where there was deliberate botching of the execution)

(Not sure what is going on with the lines – not pretty but I think it’s legible).

Date Name Reference Offence How survived Remarks
1234 Walter de Pyonne Close Rolls 1234-7 p.6 Homicide ‘Found to be alive when about to be taken for burial.’ Allowed to stay in the realm in safety, because he was saved ‘per divinam clementiam’
1247 Maud, widow of Roger de Norhamton CPR 1232-47 p. 503. Trespasses and felonies: sentenced by eyre of Oxfordshire 1247. ‘hanged, and afterwards escaped alive.’ Pardoned.
1248 Miles de Longeham CPR 1247-58 p. 12.


Not stated ‘was lately hanged at Colechester, and afterwards escaped alive’ Grant ‘of the king’s peace and licence to stay in the realm, on condition of his good behaviour’.
1264 Juetta de Balsham CPR 1258-66 p. 342.


Receiving of thieves Hanged from 9th hour Monday until sunrise Tuesday. Escaped alive. Pardon for the receiving.
1276 Adam le Messer CPR 1272-81 p. 175. Theft Chaotic lack of co-operation between secular and ecclesiastical authorities; thieves hanged, found ‘strewn on the ground’, thought dead and steps taken to bury them. Adam revives in grave, gets to church and abjures. Help for the ecclesiastical servants involved in the debacle.


1279 Philip son of Adam le Lechur, of Botteworth CPR 1272-81 p. 327. Larceny of three pigs ‘by the breaking of the rope escaped alive, fled for refuge to a church and afterwards abjured the realm’ Pardoned his abjuration.
1280 John Ellenstreng CPR 1272-81 p. 396. Larcenies Found to be alive after he was carried to church of St James, York, for burial. Information from Yorkshire eyre JJ. This is a pardon.
1284 Richard son of Elye de Hunten’ TNA JUST 1/486 m. 13d;


Theft, confessed and sentenced to death. Hanging rope broke. He escaped to a church and abjured the realm
1284 Margaret, widow of Alan Everard of Burgh by Weynflet,  Lincolnshire CPR 1281-92 p. 113; Summerson, 130.



Harbouring a thief: Robert her son. Condemned at last eyre. ‘hanged … but being cut down and removed for burial … was seen to draw a breath and revive’. Pardoned ‘because her recovery is ascribed to a miracle, and she has lived two years and more in [a leper] hospital’
1285 Walter Eyghe CPR 1281-92 p. 155; Summerson, p. 130; JUST 1/579 mm. 71, 71d. Larceny, condemned by king’s court revived on being taken down from the gallows Pardon.
1293 Hamo Prat of Wyngham CPR 1292-1301 p. 147. Larceny ‘when he was taken down from the gallows for dead’, carried to church,  ‘afterwards found there alive’ Pardoned the larceny
1298 William le Fovre of Haydenbrigg CPR 1292-1301 p. 374. Robberies &c. Hanged. Then ‘was taken down for dead, and removed for burial to the church of St. James by Newcastle-on-Tyne, where he was found to be alive’. Pardon ‘for the honour of God and out of reverence for St. James’
1310 Thomas Elcot of Hexham, of Yorkshire, SC 1/30/43 Not specified ’found to be alive after hanging’ Petition to Piers Gaveston, requesting pardon.
1332 John de la Lynde CPR 1330-34 p. 308. Not specified Hanged for long period, removed by friends. Revived. Now in sanctuary. This is a pardon for one of the friends who took him down (for burial, so he says).
1334 Felicia de Whichull CPR 1334-8 p. 5. Receiving named male felon. Sentenced by Staffs gaol delivery. ‘hanged for a long time but was not yet dead, the rope broke, without the help of man or fraud, as the sheriff of Stafford has certified at the king’s command.’ Pardoned, the king being ‘moved by pity’.
1348 William Prest of Somercotes CPR 1348-50 p. 96. Convicted before bishop of Lincoln’s bailiffs: house breaking and carrying off goods. Hanged, ‘ afterwards as a dead body was cut down from the gallows and carried the church of St. Erefrida, Louth, to be there handed over for burial … and whereas after lying for a long time in the churchyard.. before burial … miraculously came to life again.’ Pardon: because it has been testified before [the King] that … William was not guilty …, ‘willing to shew special favour to him in respect of the incomplete execution of judgement’.
1349 Geoffrey Cokerel CPR 1348-50 p. 271.


Approver. Had accused men of larcenies, but they were acquitted, at gaol delivery at Ockham. Hanged. Body ‘flung down’ and carried to church for burial. ‘he miraculously, as is said, revived and has stayed until now in the said church’. Pardoned.
1363 Adam Trop CPR 1361-4 p. 430.


Felony Hanged, cut down by friends but left for burial. Revived. Broke church doors. Ran off. Recaptured. Hanged. Dublin
1365 Walter Poynant of Hamelden CPR 1364-7 p. 60.


Robbery Hanged. ‘when it was thought that he would be dead, for certain, the rope round his neck had been cut and his body put into a cart to be brought to the cemetery for burial, the body regained its former virtue and revived and so Walter is alive’ ‘Wishing to shew special grace to him who in such a wonderful way by divine grace has come to life again, the king has pardoned him the execution of the said judgement.’

Also pardoned of various other livestock thefts.


Summerson = H. Summerson, ‘Attitudes to capital punishment in England 1200-1350’, in M. Prestwich, R. Britnell and R. Frame (eds), Thirteenth Century England VIII (Woodbridge, 2001), 123-34.

An example of a female survivor is included, without name or date, in a late thirteenth century register of writs, Selden Society vol. 87 De Haas and Hall,  Early Registers of Writs (1970) p 101 no 220 is a pardon for a woman who had been convicted for receiving thieves. The woman was said to have been ‘ hanged from the ninth hour of Monday until after sunrise of the following Tuesday’, but, somewhat improbably in view of that length of time, ‘escaped alive’. This seems to tie in with the 1264 case of Juetta of Balsham, above.

(See also cases of hanging taking a long time – the victim was still alive after a whole night in SC 8/50/2496 of c. 1305).