This Gruesome Map Of London Charts All The City’s Medieval Murders

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Medieval

Evil deeds and dastardly doings are the stars of this medieval murder map.

If you delve back into London’s murky past, you’ll find all manner of dark deeds. Even so, the Medieval Murder Map that’s been released by the University of Cambridge’s Violence Research Centre is pretty grim reading. Charting the grisly killings that happened within the City of London in medieval times, the map is a fascinating, albeit gruesome, peek into the capital’s past.

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[Violence Research Centre]
By far the most interesting parts of the map are the brief descriptions given to each individual death. You’ve got unexpected murderers, as seen in the tag marked ‘Hampshire clergyman murders retired soldier on their way to visit bishop‘. There’s conflict between different professions, as with ‘A deadly fight between members of the fishmonger and the skinner guilds‘. Even more perplexing are the murders of those who deserved, at best, a slap on the wrist – witness ‘Vicious attack for dropping eel skins outside a shop‘.

Easily my favourites, however, are those murders where the researchers have decided to sharpen their comedic chops with a good pun. ‘Cripplegate cobbler boots city messenger into eternity‘ is a surprisingly literary description, but it pales in comparison next to the witty ‘Welsh tailor kills Irish Will and goes Scot free‘. Ah, the whimsy! It’s almost enough to make you forget that these are brutal murders, isn’t it?

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The murder weapons of choice in medieval London – seriously, if anyone came at me with one of these, I’d probably just die of fright. [Violence Research Centre]
In consulting the map, you’ll learn that between 1300 and 1340, there were 142 murders in the City of London. If you think this seems pretty high, you’d be right. Indeed, the map’s creators calculate that, adjusting for population size, this would equal a murder rate of roughly 20 homicides per 100,000 – a rate roughly equal to that of modern-day Philadelphia.

As for how the people were committing these dark deeds, the researchers have helpfully outlined the weapons used, including axes, knives, a bow, and even something called an ‘Irish knife’. A look through the historical background section of the map is highly encouraged for those of a macabre disposition – it’ll tell you on which day the murders were committed, and which body part received the fatal blow. It’s pretty fascinating stuff, and you can see the full map here.

For more macabre map musings, check out this cartographic look at London’s dark past.

Alex Landon

Alex Landon

Although Alex spent most of his life in Somerset and Durham, London is (almost) in his name, so he relocated to the capital and fell in love with it. Now going by the moniker 'Secret Landon', you'll find him eating all of London's street food, lost in a bookshop, or shouting at his beloved ice hockey team, the Minnesota Wild.