This Day In ... 1403
A LUCKY ESCAPE FOR CATTLE-RUSTLING CLERICS
Modern day Waterfurlong sits on the long-abandoned site of the medieval hamlet of Bradcroft or Bredcroft. One of Bradcroft's functions was making bread for the townspeople of Stamford; another was housing the Rutland court. The 16th century antiquarian John Leland wrote 'The sessions for Rutland were kept at Bredcroft. Those malefactors who were condemned there were executed at Tinwell Gallows, for Bredcroft is in Rutland, and the Gallows stood between Tinwell and Empingham. The Hall, or Sessions House, stood about a quarter of a mile on this side of the wash, on the northern bank of the mill river; the foundations may still be traced.'(1) This probably explains the rumoured origins of nearby Melancholy Walk, which was said to be the route the condemned were forced to walk to their hanging.
However, December 5th in 1403 proved surprisingly lucky for two Ashwell clergymen, John Cole and Thomas atte Brigge, who were brought before the Bradcroft bench for stealing eleven bullocks at Whissendine - a capital crime in the 15th century. Cole and Brigge successfully argued that their cases could only be heard by a church court. They were sent back to Oakham gaol whilst the matter was deliberated and John Cole managed not only to escape but also to wrangle a pardon from the King. The records do not show whether Thomas atte Brigge was as fortunate.
Very little is known about Bradcroft and a group of our gardeners is working with Professor Alan Rogers, a renowned authority on medieval Stamford, to try and learn more about this forgotten and fascinating aspect of the town's history.
(1) Leland's Topographical Notes c.1538-43, Bodleian Library Collection
Copyright © Karen Meadows 2018