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Medieval Violence in Little 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. The rolls show that England was a much more violent place in the 13th century than today, given the disparity of population numbers.

Entry 134 reveals that at the county court of 9th July 1274 the following was recorded: "About prime on 16th June the Prior of Saint Neots, a monk and the prior's esquire Lawrence were coming with three servants across the middle of Little Barford Field and the corn of the Lady of Little Barford, when John le Messer came and sought surety (or wages) of the prior's men. Lawrence then said that he was unwilling to deliver surety [presumably a guarantee, in the form of money, to not damage the crops] and finally John raised the hue. Meanwhile the prior took his route towards Croydon [Cambridgeshire]. The township of Little Barford came [to the hue] and one of the servants struck Lawrence of Little Barford on the left arm with a bow. Afterwards the prior sent for the men of Saint Neots, who came and assaulted and wounded the men of Little Barford and struck Aytrop Stalun on the head so that his brain issued through the middle of his skull and he died immediately after nones. So said the township of Little Barford, who did not know which of the prior's men killed Aytrop but said that he was killed by the prior's force. Everton said that the men of Little Barford took surety from the prior's men by force, while a servant went to Saint Neots and said that the township of Little Barford had wounded the prior and his men, and afterwards Eustace le Seler and Philip Chog came and struck Aytrop Stalun on the head and he died as above; they also said that Nicholas le Masun and John Marscall wounded others of Little Barford but that these two were not guilty of Aytrop's death. Blunham and Sandy said the same as Everton. The hue was raised and followed. The townships also said that Eustace le Sadelere and Philip Chog were guilty of Aytrop's death. The sheriff was therefore told to arrest them and to attach the prior, Lawrence, Nicholas and John".

"Maud wife of Reynold Mariot came to this county court and appealed John of Swansley of the death of her brother Aytrop Stalun in that about tierce of 16th June he came into the middle of the road called "Hulleweye" in Little Barford which runs east to west, a perch from the arable land on the west and a perch from that on the east, which extended from the highway from Saint Neots to Tempsford and which was forty perches long to the east, and assaulted Aytrop, striking him along the length of the crown of the head from the forehead to the crown with a hazel staff six feet long and seven inches thick, so that blood and brain issued forth, of which blow he died; she offered to prove and deraign against him as against a felon so far as the kings court should award that a woman can or ought; and she found pledges to prosecute, Godfrey ate Tounesende and Ralph le Paumer. She also appealed the Prior of Saint Neots of ordering, sending and aiding, in that he was present at the said time and place, ordering this felony to be committed and was present with force and aid when Aytrop was slain; and she offered to prove this as above. She also appealed brother William of Bulbeck, Lawrence the Esquire, Robert the Cook, Roger the Priest, William the Brewer, Ellis son of Gunhild, Eustace Wytpintel, Gilbert the prior's servant, Roger le Someter, Hugh Torold, Ralph Parmenter, John de Achedene, Ellis Ernebur, Michael le Machun, Richard Belebouch, Luke Francis, John Verdele, John Turnet, John at Mill, Roger of Offord, John of Flamwells, Richard Godwyne, Deliver Us [libera nos], Geoffrey the Carter, Simon le Messager, John Plumat, John Michel, Walter Portjoie and his servant Henry, John the Tailor, Eustace le Seler, Beucors, William Saunsun, Richard Hokkele, John Page, Robert le Noreys, William Heynon, Roger, servant of John of Doddington, Bartholomew the Smith, John Beneit, Nicholas the Parmenter, Thomas Jacob, Richard and Robert sons of the parson of Tempsford [who was probably Hugh Oilly in 1274], Richard of Hockliffe, Thomas of Hardwick, John the Fisher and Walter the Smith son of Simon of Roxton of force and aid in that they consented to the felony; and she offered to prove this and deraign as above. [If] she should default her daughter Maud offered to prosecute by the same pledges".

"Maud came to the county courts of 13th August and 3rd September and sued; the appellees were exacted twice and did not come. She did not come and sue at the county court of 1st October, and the appeal therefore ceased"

R. F. Hunnisett notes that because she did not attend the third court Maud was arrested and her pledges amerced. John of Swansley, Lawrence the Esquire, Ellis son of Gunhild, Hugh Torold, Ralph le Parmenter, John le Achedene, Ellis Erneboru, John Verdele, Roger of Offord, John of Flamwells, Richard Godwyne, John Michel, Walter Portejoye and his servant Henry, John the Tailor, Beucors, William Sampson, Richard of Hockliffe, Roger Wade, Ralph Russel, Alexander the Clerk, Roger the servant of John of Doddington, John Beneyt, Nicholas le Parmenter, Thomas Jacob and Thomas of Hardwick came, submitted to a jury and were all acquitted. The prior had died, but the other appellees did not come and were not attached because the appeal had only been prosecuted at three county courts. None of them was suspected, except Eustace le Seler, who had abjured the realm before the coroner [he had, in other words, gone into voluntary exile], and Luke le Fraunceys and John Peverel were guilty; it was therefore ordered that they be exacted and outlawed. John of Swansley, Walter Portejoye, Richard Godwyne and William Sampson were arrested for not arresting Eustace, Luke and John although they were present at the homicide and they were fined two marks (£1/6/8). Roger the Smith, William Waleman and Simon le Messager, who were suspected of Aytrop's death came, denied their guilt and were acquitted by the jury.