Our Church during the Middle Ages


No 18: Murder in the Vicarage

On 7th June 1368 (19th June in our modern calendar), in the 42nd year of Edward III, William Clifton the Vicar of Penn who was a Canon of Chalcombe Priory, was murdered in the Vicarage.

The machinery of justice was swift and two days later the County Coroner was holding an Inqisition at Penn; taking evidence from twelve local jurors. They swore on oath that,

“On the Wednesday before the Feast of Corpus Christi, during the night, John, the servant of the Vicar of La Penne, assaulted and wounded William de Clifton with an axe in three places in his head and scattered his brains by which he came to his death. On the same night he feloniously stole from the said William one horse of the value of 30 shillings, and 18 silver spoons valued at 18 shillings, and the murderer has money, linen and woolen garments, and other chattels to the value of £10.”

The finder of the body was Oliva atte Dene and as required by law, he immediately ‘raised the hue’.  He also had to find pledges for his own innocence, who were Richard and John Reynbold. The Vicar’s four neighbours who were also required to pledge each others innocence; were named as John Ran senior, Richard Taillour Richard Put and John Paviere.

The jury was provided by Penn and the neighbouring townships of Agmundesham, Woburne and Wicumbe, which were also required by law to follow the hue and cry after the suspected murderer and bring him to justice. Seven of the jurors’ names are still legible – Thomas de Hampden, John le Ran junior, Thomas le norice, Robert atte leye, John le Potter; John paine and john Ran senior .

Whether or not the murderer was caught is not known.

I can take no credit for researching this sorry tale. it is a reworking of J.G.Jenkins, History of Penn (1935), p64.

© Miles Green, February 1999.

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