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An Attack on Souldrop Church

The church from the south-east April 2015
The church from the south-east April 2015

In 1961 R F Hunnisett transcribed and translated Bedfordshire coroner’s rolls at The National Archives as Bedfordshire Historical Record Society Volume XLI. The rolls detail an attack on Souldrop church by the Knights Hospitaller of Saint John of Jerusalem from their preceptory at Melchbourne: “On 5th October 1270 Hugh Bossard of Knotting [Lord of the Manor of Knotting] took seisin of Souldrop church with its lordship and advowson by buying from John de Souldrop, its patron, certain land belonging to it. During that night brother Hubert of Chelsham, master of Melchbourne [hospital] came and asked Hugh and those who were with him what they were doing there on the fee of the hospital. Hugh replied that he was there and he was staying there of his right. Hubert asked him and his companions to come outside, but they refused, and so he and his followers assaulted the church with bows and arrows and crossbows and brought fire to burn the church door. Hugh and his companions defended themselves inside the church and shot arrows at those who were outside, so that Roger le May was struck in his left eye with a barbed arrow and died of this wound at his house at Melchbourne about tierce on 8th October”.

“Inquest before the same coroner [Ralph of Goldington] by Riseley, Yelden, Keysoe and Dean, the 4 neighbouring townships of Melchbourne and Radwell, Odell, Bletsoe and Wymington, the 4 neighbouring townships of Souldrop, who said jointly and severally that they did not know who killed Roger, nor whether it was those who were inside the church or those outside. Asked the names of those present at the assault, they said that they knew none but the said Hubert, who was with his followers outside the church, and Hugh, who was inside with his, but they thought that John of Radwell and Adam le Venur were with Hugh. When Roger died, his wife Beatrice le Tippere raised the hue, which was followed, and found pledges, Walter le Est and Ralph the Cook of Melchbourne. Hubert [found] Henry the Cook and Walter de la Stile; Hugh found William Lorence and Walter of Arlesey of Riseley; John of Radwell found Robert of Woodham and Walter Bole of Knotting; Adam le Venur found Richard son of Avis and Abraham son of Walter”.

“Beatrice le Tippere of Melchbourne came to the Bedfordshire county court on 3rd November 1270 and appealed Nicholas of Bakewell of Derbyshire of the death of her husband Roger le May in that on 5th October he came to Souldrop and in the high street outside the east gate of the church assaulted Roger, striking him in the left eye with a barbed arrow and giving him a wound an inch long and to the depth of the brain, of which he died at Melchbourne about prime on 8th October; and she offered to prove this or deraign as a woman can or ought, and found pledges to prosecute, Walter Est and Ralph the Cook of Melchbourne. Beatrice came to the county courts of 1st December and 5th and 6th January 1271 and sued. Nicholas was exacted three times and did not come. She came to the county court on 23rd February and sued. Nicholas was exacted a fourth time and did not come, nor did anyone go surety for him. He was therefore outlawed by judgement of the county”.

“At the eyre it was said that brother Hubert, Hugh Bossard, John of Radwell and Adam le Venur had come to the county court in the shrievalty of Thomas Bray; judgement was passed against the sheriff and coroners for giving them bail without the king’s command contrary to the law and custom. All their pledges (Adam’s first being called Richard son of Amice) were amerced for not producing them on the first day of the eyre. It was later found that Adam had died. John and Hugh were arrested and imprisoned. Hubert had withdrawn, but was not suspected; it was therefore ordered that he might return if he wished. He had no chattels of his own because he was an hospitaller, but he was in the mainpast of the prior of Saint John of Jerusalem in England, who was therefore amerced. Nicholas of Bakewell had no chattels and was not at the tithing because he was from Derbyshire. Later Walter Brian of Dean, Robert son of Ralph, Richard at the Castle, Simon son of Alexander and Hugh Davy, all four of Melchbourne, Hugh the Smith, Robert Lucas and Lawrence the Cobbler, all of Riseley, Lawrence Cole, Geoffrey Atwood, John Heyron, Thomas at Townsend, Ralph Knyth, Thomas Rawy, John of Linslade, John Amy, Ellis Honnewyne, John Aspeley, Hugh Faukes, Reginald le Eyr, Walter Becok, Nicholas of Willington, William Brand and Bonde Edwarde, all but Lawrence Cole of Riseley, John son of Matheu, John son of Amice and John Bauzan, all three of Hargrave [Northamptonshire], Robert Modersone, Thomas Fraunceys and William and Emery Seward, all of Melchbourne, Thomas le Duc, Michael of the Lane, Robert Bacun, Richard son of Hugh, Geoffrey Atteponde, Ralph son of Stephen the Shepherd, John the Tailor, Geoffrey of Southoe, William of London, William the Smith, William le Messer, Reynold the Clerk, Michael of Shirdon, Richard Hardy, Michael le Duc and John Bacun, all of Souldrop, Nicholas Pencurt, Thomas de Nowers, Ralph de Barentyn, Richard Moraunt of Knotting, Walter Bakehare, William son of Ellis, Henry son of Lucy and the said John of Radwell, who were inside the church, were arrested on suspicion of the death, came, denied everything and were acquitted of the death, but they were amerced because they were present. Later it was found that brothers Nicholas of Denton and Walter of Chelsham, Roger de la Despense, John de Bokehorn, Andrew le Comstabel of Kimbolton, Michael Dally, John le Venur, Adam le Forester, Bruing of Melchbourne, Lawrence son of the Cook, Adamof Campton, Walter Byssop and William son of Neil, all three of Melchbourne, Ralph Doget, Hugh Derby, William Blake, Clement le Marisall and Ralph le Mariscall, all of the Temple, William the Carpenter, Walter Est, Warren de Wrenche, Warren le Bruton and Simon of Stanwick, all of Dean, Robert Caperun of Knotting, Henry of Harrold, William son of Michael, Robert son of William and John and Simon sons of Alice, all of Knotting, William the Carter and Robert Fynegod of Odell were present at the killing and were therefore amerced, but they were not suspected and had not withdrawn”.