Review of Volumes 148-150

11th January 2018

The following review recent appeared in the newsletter of Lancaster University's Regional Heritage Centre:


One night, at a date somewhere between 1272 and 1292, Richard the lorimer (i.e. maker of metalwork for horse bridles) of Lancaster discovered his wife and her lover ‘sitting and dallying’ in a malt-kiln near the town – a warm and secluded place for a lovers’ tryst. A fight ensued and each man wounded the other fatally. The case came before the justices at the Lancashire eyre in 1292. Even though both men were dead, the Crown expected to exact a financial penalty for homicide from their assets, and Richard the lorimer had been a comparatively wealthy man, possessing chattels and a burgage property in Lancaster, from which the sheriff was answerable for sums totalling over 60 shillings.

Such detailed cameos of the lives of ordinary folk in thirteenth-century Lancashire are provided by a rich new publication, a full scholarly edition of the Crown pleas before justices at the Lancashire eyre of 1292, prepared by Margaret Lynch with members of the Ranulf Higden Society and published by the Record Society of Lancashire & Cheshire. The eyre swept up cases of crime (killings, theft, rape), sudden death (suicide and death by misadventure), misconduct of local peace-keepers, and threats to the Crown interest which had occurred in the twenty years since the previous eyre in 1272. The text is at one level a sombre account of death and malpractice but it is the incidental details of everyday life that make it such a vivid window into medieval times. This is a high quality edition, with the Latin of the original on left-hand side of each page, opposite an English translation on the right. It is fully indexed by Carrie Smith and comes with a pithy, scholarly introduction by Henry Summerson. All are to be congratulated on making this rich source accessible to all who are interested in Lancashire’s past.