Edward Hewitson of Over Poppleton, near York, appeared in the court of the Dean and Chapter of York Minster in the last months of 1516. This was an office case (that is, the accused was prosecuted by the court, rather than by an individual).
The surviving records give details of the accusations made against him with notes of his responses to these statements. Although he began by denying all the charges, he did confess that he had in the past admitted committing this ‘sin’ and had performed public penance for it. This meant that he had to walk in procession around the church at Over Poppleton and the church of St Mary Bishophill in York, dressed in a sheet. This would have taken place during the weekly church service so many people would have seen him and known he was performing penance.
The accusations were backed by the accounts of witnesses, which would have been read after the accusations were made. They were encouraged to give an account of any relevant information, which was copied down. In the 14th and 15th centuries, these accounts would have been translated into Latin for presentation in court. By the 16th century when this case was heard more written accounts were being produced in English. In this case the accounts waver between the two languages, with a few words in Latin followed by some in English. These witness accounts are badly damaged, breaking up the narrative, but it is still possible to get a sense of these men’s stories.
The were five witnesses: Ralph Falowfeld, Francis Mane, Robert Hay, George Browne and Robert Carrok. There is a note that the first three witnesses appeared on 15 January and the final two on 16 January – the year is missing but must have been 1517 from other evidence.