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Murder of the Chaplain

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 the late R. F. Hunnisett. Entry number 84 tells of the murder of the chaplain and his clerk. Peter Vitella, Rector of Steppingley, spent most of his time in Rome and the unfortunate Luke of Swaffham was acting as his curate.

"Soon after lunch on 7th November 1271 Luke of Swaffham, chaplain of Steppingley, and Andrew Oringtseye, his clerk, aged 18, went to a tavern in Steppingley at the house of Simon de Kaus of Steppingley and at twilight they left the tavern with William le Blund, Kynne le Poter and Walter of Steppingley. Walter went to his house. The others went to Luke's house and sat at supper there with Ede le Poter. At dawn the next day Richard the Clerk of steppingley and his son Geoffrey got up and came to Luke's house, opened the windows, entered and saw Luke and Andrew lying dead in their beds with their necks broken; they had no wounds and none of the goods of the house had been taken away except money. The hue was raised and followed".

"Inquest before the same coroner [Geoffrey Rodland] by Flitwick, Steppingley, Tingrith, segenhoe and Ridgmont and Eversholt as one township, who agreed in suspecting Richard and Geoffrey because on 1st November Richard had threatened Luke's life; Kyn, Ede and William le Poter who were at lunch with Luke and William le Blund, Walter Tupping, Simon le Poter and Henry Bubbel because they were their companions. All these suspects were arrested and taken to Bedford gaol. They also suspected Gilbert vicar of Millbrook [Gilbert de Cotes Vicar of Millbrook 1265 to 1289] because he was at Luke's house late on the night when he has killed and at dawn the next day; it was therefore ordered that he be arrested: stephen Mile by Walter Mile and Robert Aye; Richard Eleyne; Robert Aye by Stephen Mile and Adam de la Barre; Walter of Steppingley by Henry and John of Steppingley; all the pledges were of Steppingley. Richard the Clerk had chattels worth 46s 10d and Simon le Poter chattels worth 8s 11d, which were delivered to Steppingley. Henry Bubbel, Walter Tupping and Geoffrey, Richard's son, had none".

At the eyre in Bedford the chattels of Richard and Simon, both of whom were hanged for the murder, were forfeited. Simon's chattels were given as 8s 6d.