|CRIME AND JUSTICE|
|Subject:||Presentments in the Norwich leet court|
|Original source:||Norfolk Record Office, Norwich leet roll, 16 Edward I|
|Transcription in:||William Hudson, ed. Leet Jurisdiction in the City of Norwich, Selden Society, V (1892), 4-6.|
Geoffrey de Howe harboured William de Stirston, who was not in tithing. William Calf in mercy for showing great contempt to the bailiffs by refusing to to take oath [as a capital pledge]; afterwards he swore [his oath]. William de Denne has harboured Robert de Howe, son of Alexander de Brakendenne, for two years. He is consequently in mercy because he [Robert?] was out of tithing. Robert de Mendham (sworn), William Godynow (sworn), Henry Pope (sworn), Geoffrey de Howe (discharged), Edmund de Stafford (sworn), Geoffrey fitz Baldwin (sworn), John de Ashill (sworn), Henry de Hoyland (sworn), Simon le Prude (sworn), Simon fitz Ranulph (sworn), Eudo de Tybenham (sworn), William Calf (sworn), Thomas le Neve (sworn), who present on their oath that John the servant of Robert Cann drew blood from Ralph de Aslakton baker. They say that Beatrice la Qwyte and her associate Acilia habitually steal fleece from sheep and removed the fleece from the sheep of John Molle chaplain, and they stole a surcoat priced at 40d. from the house of Henry Gylur; they carried off the fleeces and surcoat to the house of Geoffrey Munne, who knew about the felony and harboured them. They say also that Richard Cokard is a thief and habitually steals geese and hens, and has been a thief for seven years. Also they present Robert Scot and the husband of Emma le Hauteyn for the same. They also present that Beatrice daughter of Robert Beumund raised the hue and it was pursued as far as the Tolbooth. They present also that Henry de Caumbys is a thief, and they consider him suspicious, and that he acts contrary to the peace, and that he is well-dressed and no-one knows by what means [he can afford good clothes], and he is always wandering around at night. They also present that the Prioress of Carrow and Robert Gerveys of Bracondale use the greenery in the city ditches as pasturage and have pigs and sheep there in the keeping of swineherds and shepherds. They also present that Thomas le Schowthere, residing by Trowse bridge, buys grain before it reaches the market, with the result that etc. [i.e. the bailiffs lose the toll payable from the importer of the grain]. Roger de Clakeston for the same. Robert Gerveys of Bracondale for the same. Geoffrey Ringolf for the same. They present that all brewers sell contrary to the assize. They also say that Adam de Barsham drew blood from Matilda le Ledbettere. Adam also drew blood from William son of Richard de Gontorth. John Gylur drew blood from Geoffrey Munne. They say that all fishermen and poulterers have bought before the hour etc. [i.e. when the market opened for trading]. They also present that Vincent and Adam de Saham dug up the highway at the Old Swinemarket. Nicholas de Reymerston made an encroachment eighteen feet long and three inches wide. They also say that John de Ely linendraper sells beer for a penny. They also say that Thomas Gerveys skinner and Walter Hee have fuller's blocks for conducting fraudulent work on old clothes. They also present that Walter Hee has an unsealed measure so that those measures make a gallon [sic]. They also say that Roger Burgeys broke down the door of Simon le Prude. They also say that John Qwyt, John Hert senior of Trowse, Walter Hunne, Stephen le Carecter, John Croke, Walter Bely, and John Strike sell unwholesome meat. John Pekok baker drew blood from Ralph the servant of Richard de Aylesham at the bakery of Peter de Wyleby. They also say that the anchorite of All Saints has blocked up the Cockey so that no-one can cross over it there. They also say that Roger de Lakenham has sold Jewish meat known as trephah. They also say that Humphrey de Alderford drew blood from Alexander Cully with a cudgel and Alexander raised the hue. They also say that Ralph de Mangrene blocked the highway for 6 feet of its width opposite his stall, so that carts cannot get past there. Roger Beumund has an extremely unpleasant dunghill. William de Kesewyk for the same. Martin le Rede, lodging with Richard de Aylesham, is out of tithing. John Keye [is] out of tithing. Roger son of Richard de Aylesham [is] out of tithing. Henry de Bekles chaplain raised the hue on William de Lakenham in the parish of St. Martin. Marion, wife of Roger de Corston, raised the hue on Reginald de Lakenham in the same parish. Gundredale Puddingwyf raised the hue on William le Linnite. Richard de Hemenhale raped Hawisia Balle. Hamon the smith of Trowse bought grain, with the result that the bailiffs etc. The wife of Thomas le Cordewaner raised the hue on Reginald de Lakenham. They say that the poulterers and fishermen (as above). They present also that the wife of Andrew Skeppere, who lodges in the house of William de Buretoft, is a thief and stole from the house of William de Lakenham butcher a surcoat priced at 12d. And she is habitually doing this kind of thing. They present also that Robert Scot habitually climbs over walls at night and breaks through walls [of houses?] and carries out other felonies.
[ .... ]
[Other types of offences presented in this roll, ibid, 1-19, include:]
These extracts from the record of the leet session held at Lent give a sense of the range of offences and misdemeanours committed by townspeople or outsiders or strangers. The injured party might be an individual or the community in general. Sometimes the report was not of a specific crime, but simply of suspicious behaviour (e.g. Henry de Campesse). Some offences were be serious enough to require referring to a higher court, such as the eyre the accused were ordered arrested. Most were punishable by moderate fines, ranging to judge from a roll of amercements from 1288/89 from 12d. to 6s.8d.
The lightest fines were for being out of tithing a very common offence raising hue and cry, or for jurors who failed to present offences; while the heaviest were for serious market offences such as being engaged in trade without being a freeman or forestalling. But there were not fixed fines for different offences; circumstances surrounding the particular offence, the number of offences, and the capability of the offender to pay were taken into consideration; thus for example one man not in tithing was fined 2s. because he had married while in that condition, while the bailiffs cancelled some fines because of the poverty of the offenders. The repeated blanket accusations against brewers, cooks, fishermen, etc., show however that the fines were not sufficient deterrent and were perhaps perceived simply as the price of doing (illicit) business.
The record of the presentment of offences in each sub-leet, by a 12-man jury selected from the principal tithingmen (or "capital pledges") of each sub-leet, usually began with a list of those selected to take the juror's oath, followed by a list of the offences they reported. The offences identified prior to the listing of jurors seems in part associated with the process of selection: one juror was disqualified because himself an offender (which put him in a conflict of interest), while another initially refused to serve on the jury informing on friends or neighbours doubtless not being popular, while jurors were themselves subject to fines if an offence came to notice that they did not report but changed his mind when threatened with amercement. On the other hand, part of these initial presentments may have had to do with administration of the tithing system itself, since two of the three are concerned with men not affiliated with tithings. The few other examples of this that occur in the roll support this hypothesis up to a point.
It appears that the presentments of the juries were accepted at face value, unless clear evidence to the contrary appeared. Jurymen were generally, if not from those leading families whose members bore the burden of the most responsible civic offices, then established traders and artisans who were property-holders and might be considered to have a stake in maintaining law and order within their community and to be relatively honest and credible members of that community; These capital pledges had presumably consulted with members of their tithing before bringing forward accusations at the view of frankpledge, and there is slight evidence that the jury as a whole needed to support accusations by any of its members. There is no evidence of witnesses being sought. While accused parties may have had the opportunity to defend themselves, it was not a given that they would be present at the session at all; the word of an individual against that of a group of twelve townsmen would not have counted for much. On the other hand, there are several cases where fines were cancelled because the bailiffs concluded that the accusation was without substance, and in one case a capital pledge was fined for false accusation against a woman concerning a crime committed within his sub-leet, after the bailiffs (apparently) cross-checked with the accused's tithing denied her involvement.
"Robert Scot and the husband of Emma le Hauteyn"
"fishermen and poulterers"
"tanners have a gild"
|Created: August 18, 2001. Last update: August 28, 2017||© Stephen Alsford, 2001-2017|