Vol. 74: Sussex Coroners Inquests, 1485-1558

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Author: R. F. Hunnisett
Date: 1985
Volume: Volume 74
ISBN: 085445 033 5
Status: No longer in print

This volume contains all the coroners’ inquests so far discovered which were held in Sussex between the accession of Henry VII in August 1485 and the death of Mary Tudor in November 1558. The jurors’ verdicts ranged from murder, manslaughter and suicide, through accidental homicide and homicide committed in self defence, to misadventure and natural death.
One of the deaths became a cause celebre. It occurred in 1541 during a poaching expedition led by Thomas Fiennes, Lord Dacre of the South, who was convicted of murder before the Lord High Steward and hanged at Tyburn. Although the case is well known, the inquest is printed here for the first time. The others are not of comparable note, but contain a wealth of detail about sixteenth-century life as well as death.

A number of homicides involved aliens-Frenchmen, Brabantines and Flemings – who were often found to have killed fellow countrymen. The vicar of West Tarring and his servant committed a murder aided and abetted by a chaplain. Incest resulted in another murder and a subsequent suicide; and a fatal accident led to the suicide of a close relative.

Other inquests show that child battering is not a purely modern phenomenon nor child labour exclusively Victorian; that Tudor roads were every bit as dangerous as those of today and city walls more so; and that treatment for syphilis could be particularly crude and ineffective. In short, there is much for those interested in law, administration, criminology, medicine, and social and economic history, as well as for Sussex genealogists and local historians.

In the introduction the editor discusses the archival history and survival of the written inquests; the many coroners and their complex areas of jurisdiction; the jurors; and selected aspects of the inquests themselves.

Dr. R. F. Hunnisett is Head of the Mediaeval Records Department of the Public Record Office. As well as being the author of the standard reference works on the editing and indexing of historical texts, he is the undisputed authority on the mediaeval, Tudor and Stuart coroner and has edited inquests for the counties of Bedfordshire, Nottinghamshire, and Wiltshire.

Front cover: Inquest no. 117: PRO, KB 9/550, m.59.