CRIME AND JUSTICE Florilegium Urbanum

Keywords: medieval York crime detection theft confession servants
Subject: Domestic induced to become accomplice to theft
Original source: York City Archives, House Book, volume 1, f.25
Transcription in: Lorraine Attreed, ed. The York House Books (1461-1490), Stroud: Alan Sutton, 1991, 238-39.
Original language: Middle English
Location: York
Date: 1481


On which day [3 May 1481] Margaret Lassels, lately servant to John Calbek, came in person and, after being questioned concering the theft of John Calbek's goods, confessed that John Richerdson labourer, recently of Welburn, came to her on several occasions at her master's house and spoke to her of the love they once had for each other, and promised to marry her, and so won her confidence. There being a coffer standing in the parlour, he asked her what it contained and she said there were certain jewels; he answering, said that if she would agree to him having possession of the coffer, he would take it out of there and soon after would obtain a horse and within a short time take her somewhere where no-one knew him or her. Having so suborned her, the said Richerdson came to the city on Sunday, April 1 and on that Sunday night around midnight the said Richerdson received, by her hand, the coffer, and he broke through the wall and took it away, carrying it beyond Layerthorpe, where he broke it open and then departed. He returned three days after and spoke with Margaret at a currier's house in Hungate, promising her that on 15 April he would bring a horse to take her away. But he did not come until the evening of 21 April, when he spoke with her at the currier's house, and on 21 April went to the Minster and took his writings, and then departed, telling her he intended to go to Ripon to visit his father and mother. And she has not seen him since then.


The examination of Margaret Lassels was conducted by the mayor and city council. It seems that Margaret, deciding she had been deceived by the promises of Richardson – who perhaps been employed in work on the cathedral – had been overcome by guilt or despair of her seducer's return and confessed her part in the crime. Whether she won any sympathy from the city authorities is not recorded. Her turning informant does not appear to have resulted in Richardson's capture, if he is the same as the John Richardson labourer of Thorp-on-Tees (Yorkshire) whose arrest was ordered in York in 1483 at the complaint of a cleric.



About 12 miles north-east of York.

A suburb on the east side of York.

A tanner.

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