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Medieval Violence in Hatch

The following is taken from a transcription of Bedfordshire Coroners’ Rolls held by The National Archives made by R.F.Hunnisett as Volume 41 of the publications of the Bedfordshire Historic Records Society: “soon after nones on 22nd May 1272 William son of William Fraunceys of Budna went from his house in Budna with his son Hugh, age 10, and pursued his cattle in a messuage “atte” Hatch in Beeston to take seisin [possession] there. Afterwards Ranulf Bene of Beeston came, carrying a “spart” axe, and a quarrel immediately arose between them over the seisin, which Ranulph claimed to be unjust. William immediately assaulted Ranulph with “apik” axe, which he was carrying, and tried to strike him. He three times assaulted him thus, and Ranulph by misadventure struck William in self-defence above the left ear, giving him a wound a inch long and to the brain in the depth with the covering [?] of his axe so that he immediately fell. Hugh immediately raised the hue, which was followed. William was later taken home, and had the rites of the church and died on 24th May”.

At the inquest the coroner ruled that Ranulph had killed William by misadventure in self-defence. An inventory of Ranulph’s possessions found he had: half an acre of woodland; two houses; three acres three roods of wheat; two acres two and a half roods of barley; two acres of dredge; one and a half acres of peas; two geese; two hens; pasture; three oxen; three sheep; two bushels of wheat; a plough with yoke and irons; and a tub. The sum total of these possessions was a not inconsiderable £4/17/10. He was subsequently outlawed and all his possessions forfeited. Since no Englishry was presented a murdrum fine was imposed on the whole Hundred.

Ranulph returned to the house of Henry la Zuche and stayed there for some time after the act. Henry was arrested but pled that he was a member of the clergy and so not able to be tried by a civil court. He was nevertheless convicted and delivered to the Dean of Bedford for punishment. Gilbert Dru, overlord of the Manor of Beeston, Thorncote and Hatch was fined. It later appeared that Ranulph had had land in Beeston which was illegally taken over by Nicholas de Somerford, the Prior of Saint Neots, Stephen de Budna and Henry la Zuche – all of whom, except the prior, being fined for it.