Mediaeval hit and run accident near Caldecote


Example of a horse and cart – Archival photo ‘Soil Conservation in Huntingdonshire- Agriculture in England, UK, 1944’ from Wikinedia Commons

The following accident is recorded in the Barnwell Book and occurred about 1250 involving a monk called Alan:

A certain converses brother [monk], called Alan, purchased certain necessary items for himself in the wood of Bradele [Hardwick Wood] next to Caldecote and sent there one good carrying cart with two horses to the value of 60s for the conveying home those items which he had purchased. And, behold, as the cart driver was walking incautiously outside the wood with a laden cart, the cart suddenly tipped over and crushed a certain person, who immediately died. When he saw this, the cart driver speedily urged the horses on and fled home with the empty cart. The coroner, indeed in the manner of his office, made an inquisition and when he had truly understood what had happened he impounded the cart for the King and the horses as deodand. (If a thing caused a death it was forfeited to the crown and used for charitable purposes. This ancient law whose name comes from Mediaeval Latin for ‘to be given to God’ wasn’t abolished until 1862). But the brother Alan acted wisely and with the agreement of the coroner and the sheriff had the horses and cart valued by two legal men at two marks. Whence the same brother made a security from his own money to be released at the eyre of the justices and he kept the horses and cart in his own wise counsel.

There is a note in the Barnwell Book following this to say that the Prior of Barnwell acted with great prudence when the justices came to Cambridge to examine the case. It can be assumed that Alan was closely associated with the Priory and attached to Caldecote Church.

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