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Medieval Murder in Willington

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.

Entry 60 reads: "Towards vespers on 20th November 1270 Bertram Polet, servant of Sir Roger les Estrange, went out of his master's court-yard in Willington and guarded his bailiwick, namely Sheerhatch Wood but he did not return and the household were troubled and searched for him for a whole week. Then about tierce on 27th November Nicholas Yarwy same to "Swurzewes" in the said wood and found Bertram slain there, raised the hue, which was followed and found pledges John Avenant and William le Opperere. Bertram had five wounds apparently [made] with a knife, and his throat cut. Willington and Cople said that they believed that unknown evil-doers killed him".

R. F. Hunnisett notes that at the eyre it was not known who killed Betram, the first finder, Nicholas, coming and not being suspected. No Englishry was presented so murdrum was imposed on the hundred.

That was not the end of the story, however. Entry 63 reads: "Another inquisition concerning the death of Bertram Polet before the same coroner [Geoffrey Rodland] by Willington, Mogerhanger, Northill, Cople, Blunham, Beeston, Cardington and Sandy. Willington said that on 20th November 1270 Robert Kyneman and Richard son of Godfrey, both of Mogerhanger, men of Ralph Witbred of Caldecote, came to Willington barn for fodder for Ralph's use; they returned towards his house without having obtained it, entered Willington Wood and cut twigs. Bertram came and found them, and Robert and Ralph [sic Richard] slew him and then returned to Ralph's house. Cople said the same; the other townships said that they knew nothing about it. Ralph Wytbred found pledges, William Walerien, Simon Blundel, Richard Rixeband, William le Flanwile, Nicholas the Clerk of South Mills, Everard of Southill, Geoffrey Costentin, John le Norreys, Robert the Cook of Blunham, Robert son of Richard, Walter le Franckeleyn and Simon son of Simon of Wyboston. William Coterel of Mogerhanger, shepherd, suspected because he should have seen the felony, found pledges, Robert Coterel and William son of John of Mogerhanger. Robert the Shepherd of Mogerhanger found pledges for the same reason, John le Bercher and Walter le Despenser of Mogerhanger". Sadly the result of the case is not recorded.