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Medieval Murder in Roxton

Volume XLI of the Bedfordshire Historical Records Society publications is a translation, by R.F.Hunnisett, of medieval coroner’s rolls for the county; entry 34 reads: “On the night of 17th November 1269 felons and thieves came to a house in Roxton, in which there were two girls, Margaret and Alice daughters of Ralph Bovetoun, broke a wall, entered and robbed and carried away all the goods of the house. They then went to the next house, in which Maud del Forde and Alice Pressande, both of Roxton, were staying, broke its west wall, entered, found Maud in her bed and immediately struck her above the left ear so that her brain issued forth and she immediately died; struck Alice on the top of the head, apparently with a “Denech” axe [a Danish axe, or a battle-axe with a very long blade] so that she lay without speaking and died the same night; and then carried away all the goods of the house. Next they went to the house of John the Cobbler of Roxton, broke its east door and west windows, entered, immediately assaulted John, striking him on the head to the brain, which issued forth, apparently with a “Denech” axe and in the stomach apparently with a “fauchoun”, so that his bowels issued forth; they then took him from the house into the street and immediately killed him there. They also wounded John’s wife Alma and his daughter Agnes in their heads, apparently with an axe, in their bodies near their hearts with a knife, and in their hattrels [the hattrel could mean the crown of the head or nape of the neck] and arms so that their lives were despaired of.  Another daughter Alice, who was in the house, ran and hid between a basket and a chest. They also struck John’s servant, Walter of Saint Neots, above the left ear so that he fell as if dead. They then robbed and carried away all the goods of the house. Alice, who had hidden in the house, first found John dead……Before she died Azeline [sic] wife of John the Cobbler said before the coroner that she recognised certain of those who were present at the felony, namely Richard de Nevile, who formerly served the prior of Newnham, certain men who that autumn collected the tithes of the prior of Cauldwell in Roxton field, and glovers of Bedford. Afterwards their names were sought by the coroner, and Reynold of Polebrook and Adam, Alan and Simon Corbin were arrested in the liberty of Bedford. Richard was arrested on the indictment of Azeline, who was taken to gaol to view him - and elsewhere said that he was present at the felony, Afterwards he was delivered before Nicholas Peyvere and others, justices of gaol delivery assigned by the king’s writ…” The outcome, sadly, is not recorded.

Entry 46 reads: "At dawn on 19th July 1271 Ralph son of William le Bercher of Roxton was going by the western side of Sir Humphrey of Barford's wood in Roxton, watching cows and heifers, when one heifer wished to go into the wood. Ralph went into a ditch of the wood to turn it back and found a stranger lying dead in the ditch with a wound in his head above the left ear four inches long, from which the brain had issued. He raised the hue, which was followed and found pledges, Roger le Beer of Roxton and William of Barford".

"Inquest before the same coroner [Ralph of Goldington] by Roxton, Great Barford, Wilden and Colesden and Chawston as one township, who said that they knew nothing about the dead man, when or where he was killed or whence he came, but they well knew he was not killed there and they could find and knew of no tracks by which he could have come there. The neighbours were attached: Sir Humphrey of Barford by William of Barford and William Blanfrumt of Roxton; Roger le Beer by William of Barford by John le Bruttewill and Henry Cunterel; William Blanfrumt by Henry the Deacon and John Kobbe; Robert Ateputtes by Roger le Beer and Henry le Dekene".

R. F. Hunnisett notes that at the eyre no Englishry was presented and so murdrum was imposed upon the hundred. The first finder, Ralph, attended and was not suspected. Great Barford was amerced for not coming fully before the coroner. It was later presented that William Fresharing of Great Barford and his son John and Hugh le Caretter of Sandy consented to the death. They were arrested but William and John said they had been acquitted before Robert of Creakers and Hugh denied his guilt and was acquitted by a jury.