CRIME AND JUSTICE Florilegium Urbanum

Keywords: medieval Norwich eyre indictments crime detection felony housebreaking theft hue-and-cry coroner abduction intimidation arson
Subject: Cases presented before the Norfolk eyre
Original source: Norfolk Record Office, Coroners' Roll, mm.2-3
Transcription in: William Hudson and John Cottingham Tingey, eds. The Records of the City of Norwich, vol.1 (Norwich: Jarrold, 1906), 204-07.
Original language: Latin
Location: Norwich
Date: 1260s


Katherine the wife of Stephen Justice brings an accusation against Ralph fitz Robert, Andrew le Gaoler, William Virly glover, William Gredi, Walter de Derham, John the servant of Nicholas de Ingham, Nicholas formerly the servant of Nicholas de Lopham, and Nicholas le Gayver. She says that when she was in the peace of God and the king, in the house of her husband Stephen Justice in Fybriggate, in St. Clements parish, in the town of Norwich, on the night of 22 November 1263, there came Ralph, Andrew, William, William, Walter, John, Nicholas, and Nicholas feloniously, with premeditated intent [to make] a felonious assault in infringement of the king's peace. They smashed her oak gates and broke the metal hooks and hinges with poleaxes, wedge-shaped axes, swords, knives, and maces and threw them into the courtyard. Entering feloniously, like felons, they broke down the pine doors into the hall, broke the hinges and iron-work of the doors, broke the chains and bars and the oak shutters of the windows, again just like felons, and after that feloniously entered the chamber of the hall by its southern doorway and robbed that chamber. That is, [they stole] two swords worth 3s.6d, a dagger with an ivory handle worth 12d., an iron breastplate worth 10d., an iron club worth 4d., a cuirass of iron-plated cowhide worth 6s.8d, and a gambeson. Afterwards they left that chamber and feloniously went into the hall, where the corpse of her husband Stephen lay on a bier; they burned it, together with a Rheims blanket worth four shillings that covered the bier and likewise a linen sheet worth 18d. This felony, robbery and burglary Ralph [etc.] and Nicholas carried out on that night of that year, carrying off by robbery, as felons, what was mentioned above. Katherine immediately raised hue and cry from street to street, from parish to parish, and from house to house, until she came into the presence of the bailiffs and coroners, and from that time she pursued the matter against the accused so that it would be tried in the king's court. They also stole a woven linen cloth worth 5s. and a perse hood [lined] with squirrel fur worth 10d. The bailiffs are ordered to arrest the accused. The bailiffs are to answer for it. Pledges for the prosecution: John de Heylesdone and William de Catton.

[ .... ]

Memorandum that Henry Turnecurt and Stephen de Balsham were killed in Norwich, in the parish of St. George in front of the gate of Holy Trinity on 1 May 1264. The coroners and bailiffs came to the location and held an inquisition. The inquisition having been concluded and a written record having been made, there later came master Marcus de Brunhale clerk and Ralph Knict with many others threatening to cut the coroners into little pieces unless they handed over the written record. Thereafter they seized Roger the coroner and led him by force ([armed] with swords and axes) back to his own house, until Roger took the document from his chest, then they immediately took him and that document to the church of St. Peter Mancroft where Ralph removed the document from Roger's hands by force, bore it off, and before his companions – all acting crazily – cut it into little pieces. Roger, filled with fear and trepidation was barely able to escape from their clutches. And they say that they could not hold an inquiry into the matter because of the imminent war.

[ .... ]

The parishes of St. Peter Parmentergate, St. Vedast, St. Martin Bailly, and St. Michael Conesford are sworn and say under oath that William le Alblaster from the castle threatened John le Lindraper with burning, and John de Rendlesham and Thomas le Despenser of the castle [did] likewise along with Henry Punel, Simon le Longe, and William Bonehay. And that on the night of 10 June 1264 William le Alblaster set fire to a gate between [the properties of] John le Lindraper and John de Belaya, so that the house of John de Belaya burned down. And that the same William went out from the house of Robert Faber locksmith and returned there after committing the felony. They say that those indicted removed the clappers from the bells of the church of St. Peter Parmentergate and cut the ropes of the bells of the churches of St. Vedast and St. Cuthbert, so that no-one would come to put out the fire. They say that William le Neve, who frequents the house of Matilda la Wymplere in the parish of St. Julian, was present at the event. An order was issued to arrest the wrongdoers.


These cases were recorded on a roll presumably compiled by the city coroners, from 1263-67, for purposes of presenting crimes at the eyre held in Norfolk in 1268.

The influence of the national disruption – de Montfort's return from exile in 1263 having led to a renewal of armed hostilities with the king's party the following year – may perhaps be perceived in these cases. It complicated and exacerbated local hostilities resulting from competitive jurisdictions within the city controlled by the cathedral-priory and the castle – hostilities that would, a few years later, come to an even more violent climax.

The group who broke into the Justice house did so to plunder it of weapons and armour as well, it appears, as to revenge themselves on an enemy. Even from the complainant's perspective, the incidental theft of other items was only an afterthought. That Stephen Justice was evidently a wealthy burgess is suggested both by the style of his house, which had its own courtyard and multi-room dwelling, and sturdy doors and windows (although not sturdy enough), as well as by the amount of military equipment he owned. The abduction of the coroner was a matter of intimidation to discourage him from attempting to exercise jurisdiction in areas claimed by the priory, while the case involving a fire set (with precautions to prevent the neighbourhood being aroused to fight the blaze) was likewise a matter of intimidation on the part of the castle garrison and residents of the castle fee. In 1266 the target of the latter, John le Lindraper became involved in an argument with Thomas the constable of the castle – probably the same as Thomas le Despenser; Thomas' brother, who happened to be the sheriff of Norfolk, tried to assist his brother by tripping John, but instead fell over and broke his leg, later dying of the injury.



"oak gates"
As Hudson points out, first they had to break through the gates into the courtyard of the property, then into the house itself.

Translated by Hudson as "doublet", a gambeson was a quilted jacket padded so as to offer protection in itself or in conjunction with other armour worn on top.

A dark-blue cloth.

"St. George in front of the gate of Holy Trinity"
St. George Tombland, situated outside the cathedral dedicated to Holy Trinity.

A crossbowman.

The steward of the castle.

This surname reflects a female occupation: a maker of wimples, a garment to cover the upper torso, from chin to breast.

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Created: August 18, 2001. Last update: November 23, 2002 © Stephen Alsford, 2001-2003