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Medieval Death in Great Barford

Volume 41 produced by Bedfordshire Historical Records Society in 1961 is devoted to 13th and 14th century coroner's rolls for Bedfordshire from the National Archives, edited and translated by R. F. Hunnisett. There are a number of entries for unfortunate deaths in Great Barford.

Entry 1 reads: "At vespers on 26th July 1265 Henry, son of John de Brytvilles of Great Barford, aged [blank], went into his father's courtyard at Great Barford to play, fell into a ditch and drowned by misadventure. His father promptly searched for him, found him, lifted him from the water and thought to save him, but could not, and he immediately died. John found pledges, John of Blunham and Robert of Bolnhurst, both of Great Barford". A John de Bryteville was Lord of Brytvilles Manor, the mansion for which was at the moated site at Birchfield Farm. Did Henry actually fall in the moat?

Entry 14 reads: "On 12th August 1267 William Blaunche's daughters, Muriel aged almost six and Beatrice, aged almost three, were in his house in Great Barford, William and his wife Muriel being in the field, when a fire broke out in the house and burned it together with Beatrice".

Entry 18 reads: "On 8th September 1267 William son of William Fraunceys of Great Barford, aged 3½ , fell into Robert Wreng's ditch in Great Barford, while his mother Maud went into Robert's house for ale, and drowned by misadventure. Maud first found him, lifted him from the water and thought to save him, but could not. She found pledges, Robert Page and William son of Peter of Great Barford".

Entry 29 reads: "On 30th January 1269 Simon Daffe of Great Barford entered the River Ouse at Great Barford, intending to take a piece of wood to "Mulnemade" on the east side of the town, and drowned by misadventure. On 24th September his wife Margery found him in "Waleforlig" on the south side of the town and found pledges, William le Bercher and Henry Cointerel of Great Barford".

Given the disparity of dates one wonders if one of them is a mistake by the clerk. This suspicion is reinforced by the next entry which suggests that the date of Simon's death may be inaccurate: "On 24th September Margery wife of Simon Daffe [of] Great Barford  went between Great Barford and Roxton by the River Ouse looking for her husband, who had earlier been drowned there and, coming by a ditch near "Lytlemade" meadow, found a poor woman, a stranger, lying there, raised the hue and ran to Great Barford, which followed the hue. Inquest before the same coroner [Simon the Red] by Great Barford, Roxton, Wilden and Renhold, who knew nothing of this death, the woman having no wound or injury, but they believed that she died of cold and because she was weak. Margery found pledges, Robert the Carpenter and Jordan of Seaton, both of Great Barford".

Entry 253 reads: "Before prime on 26th August [1276] Hugh the Carpenter of Great Barford was at Great Barford church, and as he stood on the belfry to do his carpentry he fell from it by misadventure, thus receiving his death. He had the rites of the church and died by misadventure about vespers on the same day. His wife Beatrice found him fallen and found pledges, John de Brytvilles [the same man whose son died in 1265 and who was attacked in 1271?] and Henry Coyntterel of Great Barford".

R. F. Hunnisett notes that at the eyre it was presented that Hugh fell from a stone worth twopence. Judgement was passed against the coroner [R. of Creakers] for not appraising the stone at his inquest. Beatrice appeared before the eyre but was not suspected of any foul play.