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Cox notes that the town of Derby was a place of permanent SANCTUARY, The right of Sanctuary in a consecrated Church was established about 887 in Arthurian times. Round about 1070 this right was quantified as an entitlement by an offender to temporary protection only when in a consecrated Churchyard, a Priest’s house or Parsonage when built on Church or Glebe Land. A large fine was imposed on any violation of Sanctuary.

The system was that anyone accused of felony – or in danger of accusation – could run for cover in any Church or consecrated ground for 40 days, when the person had to confess or prove his innocence before a Coroner, who then either absolved or administered an Oath of abegnation if a confession was made. The offender had then to cross the sea to another Country, within a given time, and was then banished for the rest of his life.

Presumably the idea of Sanctuary was necessary to prevent summary justice and give time for hot heads to cool and the evidence to be examined. The idea was good – one wonders whether the results were always to the offenders liking! When proved guilty by the Coroner the offender had to but on sackcloth and carry a white cross. He was given a set route to the nearest Port and could not pass more than one night in any place, passing from Constable to Constable who were legally bound to feed him. If no ship could be found within the 40 days he had to find Sanctuary in another Church until a ship was arranged.

from Open Door by W Hodgkinson

(Extract from a Crich Parish magazine article of the 1980s)