champion of the battel

The story of the “identical” Erdington murders can be read here. Basically it’s about two murders with striking similarities that happened 157 years apart. On 27 May 1817, 20 year old Mary Ashford was found dead in Erdington, and on the same day in 1974, 20 year old Barbara Forrest’s body was found in the same place.  There are many identical details about these two cases including the surname  of the men who were arrested for the crimes. They were both called Thornton.


(Not Thornton, I just want an excuse to post Stalin’s mugshot)

The Thornton accused of Mary’s murder made legal history by being the last man in Britain to call forth an old law……

“Lord Ellenborough allowed Thornton to take advantage of an archaic law called ‘Trial by Battel’. This ancient right necessitated Thornton renewing his plea of ‘not guilty’ before throwing down a gauntlet from the dock. This signified a challenge to William Ashford for a fight to the death, unless one of them surrendered or was incapacitated during the fight.


Abraham Thornton held what resembled a heavy leather mitten with a trailing feather attached, and invoked the ancient English law. He declared he was innocent and lifted the gauntlet above his head, then hurled it down from the dock as the pressmen scribbled furiously.


Because William Ashford had not responded to Abraham Thornton’s challenge by 21 April in the following year, the latter was thoroughly discharged. 

The Wager of Battel was founded on the belief that God would give victory to the party in the right. The kings maintained control over the practice, and it came to be reserved for cases affecting royal interests, such as serious criminal cases or disputes over land.

A party could, therefore, hire someone, a champion, to swear that the champion’s father had told him on his deathbed that the party was the true owner of the land. The other party also produced a champion who swore just the opposite. The winner was held to have good title to the land. It was said that many monasteries, which owned vast tracts of land, had virtual stables of champions in waiting to settle disputes that might arise.

katie-sandwina josephine-blatt-minerva-1

female champions found here

Published in: on April 1, 2009 at 7:06 am  Comments (29)  

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29 CommentsLeave a comment

  1. Katie Sandwina, she looks… erh formidable to say the least.

  2. doesn’t she just!

  3. I bet they were the transvestites of their day!

  4. Is the last picture of Ram’s mother? (RIP Ram)

  5. Today, they are called corporate lawyers.

  6. Imagine that happening today? Good for fighting parking tickets. Har!

  7. On that logic, they could just shoot anyone accused of a crime in the head, and if the poor dude is innocent, the sky ghost could save him from an otherwise certain death.

    Oh, come to think of it, they used to do something pretty much like that to witches, huh.

    Christians. *Pfft*

  8. we have something similar here in the US. it’s called “The Jerry Springer Show”. except they don’t let it go ‘to the death’. i’d be all for that… Darwin rulz… except you gotta get ’em before they breed.

  9. We’re much more sophisticated these days. As UB says, the party with the biggest lawyer wins.

  10. William Ashford. Wasn’t he one half of Ashford and Simpson?

  11. Those female champions sure look ………. sturdy ….

  12. Sad to say that not much has changed and “English Law” is still stuffed with anachronistic twaddle masquerading as “tradition” – or is that the Monarchy? Ooh – I’m conflicted – pass me that wine rack bra from your earlier post – I want feeding!

  13. Sandwina! Pudgy Stockton! Yesss! My heroines!

    Don’t no one dast diss those babes. (If you’ve ever looked at porn of the time, you knkow quite well that the aesthetic of female beauty was a bit zaftig.) They had the goods, and not a ‘roid in sight…

  14. Ya gotta love powerful women! I wonder if they’re on Facebook. 🙂

  15. Wow!

  16. Womaninblack — hahaha!

    …This is incredible stuff. I come to this blog and everytime I have to hoist my jaw back up. I’m entertained and I’m learning. You’re like the super cool edgy A&E of blogs!

    (Whenever I see a picture of Stalin I always think the same thing… “Soulless Eyes.”)

    gosh thanks Alantru – I’m a big admirer of your blog too which I recently discovered via the wonderful Gorilla Bananas

  17. Whenever I see a picture of Stalin I always think the same thing ..”Arsehole!!”

  18. Do you really need an excuse to post Stalin’s mugshot? That mustache says it all.

    Hi Nessa, welcome to the Gimcrack. Guess you found me via VE’s blog 🙂

  19. A long the same thoughts they had when trying women accused of being witches.

  20. gawd blimey I have always said I would rather fight a bloke than a woman … they are some fearsome ladies who have must have had low estrogen and shaved twice a day !!!

  21. hey – don’t knock the twice-a-day shaving 70s 🙂

  22. I’d like to apply to be in Nursemyra’s Stable of Champions.

  23. You’re already head stallion renalfailure

  24. This reminds me of high school when we were taught about the similarities of John F. Kennedy & Abraham Lincoln. It was strange how many similarities there were, some were complete opposites, however. Strange how history tends to repeat itself.

  25. Why do all females champions look like ugly men??

  26. I’m getting a tad concerned about all the shaving going on around here now ……

  27. it’s ok daddyp – we’re not going to touch your legs.

  28. You did it, Nurse Myra. We can no longer go to the female champions site because the traffic from here got them suspended. Sad.

  29. Sad indeed. It was a great site. (You’re kidding about me being responsible right?)

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