An Apt Fifteenth Century Murder Mystery: A Cup.of Easter Ale (1531)

How did Henry Wombwell die?

                  &
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1531 in the reign of Henry VIII , Deposition of Sir Richard Tempest, aged 52, ( died 1537 in prison after supporting the Pilgrimage of Grace)

 

 A year before his death
 Henry Wombwell with
 William Grene, Christopher Husteler
 and Edward Lee came
 to Bolling Hall to see me
 and Henry said to me

 “I desire you to be
 a good master
 and friend unto me
 for I have my lands
 and goods so ordered
 I cannot help myself
 I am put in jeopardy
 of my life and fear
 to continue without
 your help” or suchlike.

 He told me “I was put
 in a chamber in my own
 house, and kept there
 and if Stansfield had not
 broken down the door
 I would have been destroyed.

 William Grene helped free me
 and he is feared to be slain
 and would have peace
 and remedy.”

 And again four months
 before he died at London
 he told me

 “I pray you be a good master
 to me, and help me
 for I am in such trouble
 and fear for my life,
 I dare not go home,
 for I have made state
 and reserved money
 and cannot bring all things
 to good purpose, that I
 am afraid to go home
 for fear of poisoning.
 No, I will not go there.”

 And I told him “Go home.
 Speak with your friends,
 see your lands and goods,
 and if afterwards you are
 in any fear I shall come
 to you and be with you
 and give him his board
 until he was further
 in his designs.”

 He replied ” I durst not,
 I will not go home”
 Henry left and stayed
 with Stansfield who told me
 Henry told him “I durst not
 go home.”

 I heard no more
 unto Easter week
 when John More
 came to me
 and told me:
 “Henry is sick
 and has been poisoned
 and you shall never see him”

 Thomas Upton arrived
 and told me: “My master
 desires you to pray
 for him. My master says
 Elizebeth Grene has
 poisoned him, and
 that you should be told
 that she might be punished”

                     *************
 
Testimony of Thomas Shepherd, aged 50 or there about, tenant of Henry Wombwell

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 Henry was gone
 to London in Hillary term
 before his death
 Katerin, Henry’s wife
 discharged me
 from ground
 I had taken
 from Henry by indenture.

 I desired her
 to be good to me
 all be it she would not
 be contented therewith.

 Upon Henry’s return
 from London
 my ground was returned.
 But Kateren drove
 my beasts
 away from my ground again.

 I went to Henry
 who was staying
 at Mexborough
 and said
 I should have my closes returned,
 and asked why
 come ye not home?

 Henry staying at Mexborough
 almost two years
 said to me
 ‘I durst not come
 as I fear poisoning’

 Afterwards Elezabeth came
 to Henry and said
 ‘My mistress will never lie
 with you. She will go
 to York and be divorced from you.’

 Afterwards Henry commanded
 me to go and gather his rent.
 Kateren came to my close
 and because I was still
 there killed one
 of my sheep.

 Easter Day,
 Mass over
 Henry and Katerin rode
 home passing
 my Close
 my wife
 Bade good morrow
 Henry bade same
 Katerin none.

 Easter day afternoon
 at one Bradley’s home
 I waited for Henry
 who was at evensong.
 I over heard Richard Lumby,
 servant to one John More

 Say ‘Kateren said
 Ay, Roger
 I love not
 I shall have my will
 both of thy master
 and Shepherd.’

 Henry dead
 Katerin sent word
 that I leave.

                   *************

The Sayings of Elisabeth Green

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 I, Elisabeth Green,
 servant
 to mistress Kateren,
 master Henry’s wife
 dwelled with master Henry
 quarter of a year
 before his death

 I was at Mexburgh
 with my mistress Kateren
 when one Husteler
 came to me and said
 Henry would have me
 come to him.

 I told mistress Kateren
 of it, who bade
 me go to him,
 and so I did.

 When I got there
 I told my master Henry
 that for his worship
 he needed to come
 home at Easter,
 and so he did.

 At that time
 I said no more to him,
 but told him how
 Shepherd had treated
 Kateren evilly,
 and therewith
 Henry was angry at him.

 Sir William Gascoignes servant
 has laid rotten
 bread in the house
 at Shrovetide before.
 Master Henry’s complained
 himself sick at Mass
 or at Easter day,
 I cannot remember which
 and I sat at table end
 with him
 and mistress at supper
 of Easter day last past
 and he desired me

 to fetch him
 a drink,
 and so I did;
 Ralph Metcalf
 was not there,
 at the time.

 My master had no more
 drink at supper
 and one of Henry’s
 children and Ralph Metcalf
 drank of the same cup
 and I knew not
 Master was sick
 before Monday,
 but neighbours said
 he was sick in the town
 at afternoon,
 I never asked him
 for forgiveness and
 he offered to kiss me
 diverse times
 when he lay sick,
 and I sat on his bed
 and I asked how he was
 and he said well
 and Thomas Upton
 said he will do well
 if I lay down,
 at his back,

 I was not content.
 
                      *************

Deposition of Thomas Kitson of Mexburgh,
 aged about 50

 Henry boarded at my house
 for about two year

 A neighbour said to me
 You’ll get hurt
 if you don’t get rid
 of master Henry.’

 I told my wife,
 who told Master Wombwell.
 Wombwell was with me
 six weeks after that,
 and went of his own
 freewill back home.
 I heard no more.

 Elisabeth Green came
 three or four times
 to our house to drink
 with us and made merry

 in an honest manner,
 never otherwise.

 to her master,
 I did see Elisabeth there
 one time, but we
 never spoke
 and never knew
 my master never
 loved her nor
 favoured her.

 Henry staying at Mexborough
 almost two years
 said to me
 ‘I durst not come
 as I fear poisoning’

 Afterwards Elezabeth came
 to Henry and said
 ‘My mistress will never lie
 with you. She will go
 to York and be divorced from you.’

 Afterwards Henry commanded
 me to go and gather his rent.
 Kateren came to my close
 and because I was still
 there killed one
 of my sheep.

 Easter Day,
 Mass over
 Henry and Katerin rode
 home passing
 my Close
 my wife
 Bade good morrow
 Henry bade same
 Katerin none.

 Easter day afternoon
 at one Bradley’s home
 I waited for Henry
 who was at evensong.
 I over heard Richard Lumby,
 servant to one John More

 Say ‘Kateren said
 Ay, Roger
 I love not
 I shall have my will
 both of thy master
 and Shepherd.’

 Henry dead
 Katerin sent word
 that I leave.
 

                  **************

Henry’s thoughts of Calf’s Head during Easter Evensong

Lent fasted and only fish to eat.

image

 all Henry’s head during evensong
 is filled with imagining
 the making of the meal
 and feast at Nicholas Gorrels
 after the Latin service.

 Take a calves head,
 cleave it
 take out brains, skins, blood
 steep them and head
 in fair warm water 4 or 5 hours,
 shift them three or four times

 The angels asked of the three priests dressed as women. ‘Whom do you seek in the tomb?’

 cleanse head; boil brains,
 make a pudding with grated bread,
 brains, some beef-suet minced small,
 some minced veal & sage;
 season pudding with cloves,
 mace, salt, ginger, sugar,
 five yolks of eggs, & saffron;
 fill head with pudding, 
 close it up
 bind it fast with packthread,
 spit it,
 bind on caul round head with some of pudding round it,
 rost it

 The priests dressed as “women” answered; they hear from the “angel”  “He is Risen” and were told to go forth and announce it.

 save  gravy,
 blow off fat, put to gravy; for the sauce a little white-wine, a slic’t nutmeg & a piece of sweet butter, the juyce of an orange, salt, and sugar.

 bread up the head with some grated bread; beaten cinnamon, minced lemon peel, and a little salt.

 Then the women intoned the antiphon: “Surrexit enim, sicut dixit dominus. Alleluia”
 

                   ****************

The Deposition of Christopher Husteler

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 Christofer Husteler, aged 60,
 household servant
 to Henry Wombwell said:

 At London
 When my master Henry
 dispatched his designs,
 Sir Richard Tempest
 advised him to go home

 I durst not
 said my master
 Why?
 I am feared
 to be poisoned
 By whom?
 Amongst them.

 Sir Richard said
 Go to your friends
 come not among them
 or else come me,
 and I shall give
 you board.

 That’s all I know
 as when my master died
 I was with my wife
 at Bylburgh of the hill,
 beside Tadcaster.

 I never sent no message
 to Elisabeth
 to come
 to her master,
 I did see Elisabeth there
 one time,
 but we
 never spoke
 and never knew
 my master
 never
 loved her
 nor
 favoured her.
 
                  *************

The Deposition of Thomas Upton

image

 Thomas Upton, aged about 32 servant to Henry Wombwell

 Master was in good health
 on Easter Day.
 Afternoon
 he went
 to Darfeld to evensong,
 many folk went
 with him,

 according to custom
 used.
 When evensong
 were done,
 Master
 and others went
 on to Gorrells house

 for a pennyworth of ale,
 and mistress Wombwell,
 Ralph Metcalf, Elisabeth
 Green
 rode home soon
 as evensong were done.

 Afterwards Master,
 myself
 and Edward Lee
 rode
 to Wombwell.
 I set up me horse,

 came into parlour,
 master
 and mistress
 were sat at table.
 one at one side, one other
 They had two cups of ale

 they were accustomed to have.
 I ate meat with other servants
 sat at another table
 in the parlour

 And when Master took
 the cup and drank
 Mistress went out
 the parlour door.

 And then my master rose
 leaned in a window
 afterwards went
 into the hall

 I followed him asked him
‘How are you?’
 ‘Elisabeth gave me
 a cup of ale

 I am poisoned.

 My master began to be sick
 (Thomas Upton holds his head)
 Ralph Metcalf came out
 parlour to speak to master

 

 My master said to him
 Ralph, I pray thee
 give me drink,
 for Elisabeth Green

 has given me drink
 and I will no more
 At her hands.

 Ralph said Mercy, Sir,
 I gave you no drink.

 Mistress Kateren came in
 again to the hall and said
 I have been sick too.
 It’s calf’s head

 we had at Nicholas Gorrells.
 My master went to bed,
 and I went with him,
 and master said to me

 I am poisoned
 and I said to him
 Sir, if ought come to you,
 I shall tell it.

 Master said to me
 Pray tell it to Sir Richard
 Tempest for he
 has helped me.

 On Monday my master
 got up from his bed,
 but as soon as
 he was sick again,

 went to bed again
 and never rested
 until he was dead.

 Women who wound
 My master asked me
 to fetch a green sod,
 cut it into three

 one laid at his heart,
 and others under
 either arm and they
 wound him in two sheets

 and buried him by
 Ten of the clock
 on Twysday
 he died

         
                ****************

The prime suspect Kateren, Henry’s wife never testified due to knowing influential barons.

 Also, we have no record of the courts conclusion.

 After reading the testimonies how do you think Henry died?

 Was he poisoned?

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