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Medieval Violence 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. Two entries for Great Barford show that the 13th century was a time of violence greater, in terms of the relative size of populations, than today.

Entry 6 reads: "About bed-time on 22nd August 1266 Henry Colburn of Great Barford went out of his house there to drink a pot of ale and did not return that night. At dawn the next day his mother Agnes Colburn searched for him and found him dead, his body having seven wounds about the heart and in the stomach apparently made with a knife, four in the head apparently made with "a pik" axe and [others] in the throat, on the chin and in the head to the brain. She immediately raised the hue, which was followed, and found pledges, Humphrey and Thomas Quarel of Great Barford".

"Inquest before the same coroner [Simon the Red] by Great Barford, Roxton, Wilden and Renhold, who said that Gilbert son of Margaret killed Henry as above; they also suspected Hugh and Agnes Cointerel, Hugh son of Agnes Cointerel, and Alice Wreng, who came to the full county court and were delivered to Geoffrey the Red, sheriff to [be put in] gaol. The neighbours were attached: Humphrey Quarel by Thomas Quarel and William Culbel; Ralph son of Hugh by William Kus and Henry the Merchant; John the Clerk by John of Blunham and Geoffrey Malirbe; all the pledges were of Great Barford. Gilbert had no chattels. Englishry was presented by Richard [Henry's] brother, on his father's and mother's side, and by Maurice Plane [his] uncle, on his father's side".

R. F. Hunnisett notes that at the eyre it was ordered that Margery Coterel and her son Gilbert, who had withdrawn on account of the death, be exacted and outlawed and waived. They had no chattels, but Gilbert was in Maurice Carlel's tithing in Great Barford, which was therefore amerced.

Entry 42 reads: "On 2nd November 1271 Emma wife of John de Brytvilles of Great Barford [the same man who lost his son in 1265?] came to the Bedfordshire County Court and appealed Simon son of Roger of Cainhoe, who was a servant of John of Burdelys in Great Barford, in that when she and her husband were walking together in the king's highway in Great Barford between Jordan Cappe's house and that formerly of John of Blunham at vespers on 10th October, Simon came there and pursued and assaulted her husband, and struck him through the top of the head on the left side between the crown and the ear with a sword of iron and steel, giving him a great wound five inches long, three inches wide and as deep as the brain, whence thirteen pieces of bone issued. Simon struck him again, with the sword on the little finger, called the auricular finger, of the left hand on the inside of the hand, cutting the sinews of the finger and thus maiming him; and [he struck him on] the next finger called the leech finger, breaking its bones, and so he was maimed in both fingers. His malice did not stop there, but he again struck John many bloodless blows with the "plat" [sic flat] of the sword on the right side of his head. So that the whole of this head was excoriated and swollen and he lost his hearing on the left side. Simon also robbed John of "a cordewayne" (a Spanish leather) purse worth sixpence, with eight shillings of new money inside it".

"When Emma saw her husband thus wounded and ill-treated. She promptly raised the hue, which was followed by the whole township, and so from township to township and to Ralph of Goldington, coroner, who came to John the next day, viewed his wounds and saw him thus ill-treated. Emma avowed before the coroner in full county court that if John should recover from his wounds, he would sue in person at the next county court against Simon as against a felon. And that Simon committed the said felonies against him Emma offered to prove or deraign in all ways according to the award of the king's court, and similarly her husband as a maimed man. She found pledges to prosecute, Gilbert of Ponton [Potton?] and Ralph the Clerk of Tempsford".

"Emma did not come to the county court of 30th November, but her husband came in person. Because the said pledges were not present, he found other pledges to prosecute, William Balbe of Riseley and Robert Pippard of Goldington, and so by judgement of the county Simon was not called that day. At the county courts of 21st December, 25th January and 22nd February 1272 [December 1271 and January and February 1272] John came and sued in so far as a maimed man can or ought. Simon was exacted three times and did not come. Therefore judgement of the county a day was given to John at the next county court. At the county court of 21st March John came and sued. Simon was exacted a fourth time and did not come, but Robert of Essex went surety for his appearance at the next county court. Therefore judgement was given as before. At the county court of 18th April John came and sued. Simon was exacted a fifth time and found pledges, Philip son of Ralph of Little Cainhoe and Thomas Doune and Ralph and Michael Golstan, all of Stagsden".

R. F. Hunnisett noted that at the eyre judgement was passed against the county for delaying Simon's first exaction until the third county court. Simon did not appear at the fifth court and so should have been outlawed and, again, the eyre judged against the county for not doing so and Simon's pledges were amerced. John appealed at the eyre and Simon was convicted by a jury. He had no chattels and so John was told to prosecute him in the county court to bring about his outlawry. It is interesting that John de Brytvilles was probably the Lord of the Manor of Brytvilles wheras his assailant was servant to John of Burdelys, probably Lord of the Manor of Burdelys and one wonders if this was coincidence or not.