Medieval Murder in Cople
Volume XLI of the Bedfordshire Historical Records Society series contains a set of translations by R.F.Hunnisett of medieval coroners’ rolls for the county; entries 56 and 57 describe two murders that took place in Cople in April 1270. The first was the attack on the 8th on Robert Gomelot of Cople; he was walking ‘from the grange of Old Warden called ‘le Park’ to the field called ‘le xx acres’ on the fee of the abbot of Old Warden in Cople fields on the south side of Wood End in Cople. Felons and thieves came there and immediately assaulted him, struck him, apparently with a sword, on the hattrel almost through the middle of the head, gave him 3 mortal wounds elsewhere on the head, of which he immediately died, cut off 2 fingers of his left hand and almost cut off his left arm by the elbow.’ William of Heydon, a shepherd, had the sorry honour of finding his body the following day.
The second was discovered on the 25th, when William Russel of Cople was passing through a grove called ‘le Englesgrave’ and happened upon the body of an unknown man who had obviously been murdered. The identity of the victim and the murderer were still unknown when the inquest took place.
In a record that offers a picture of just one of the many daily perils that children faced, the rolls for 18 December 1273 record an inquest held on the death of Alice, the 1½-year-old daughter of Richard le Bercher of Cople, who died after being scalded by a copper dish of boiling water which fell on her from its trivet on the fire by which she was sitting.