This is from Highways & Byways in Yorkshire,
The kindness of St. John towards all criminals was not exercised only in his church, but extended for a full mile into the open country on every side;and evil men, however stained with blood, even if it were the blood of priests, could not be seized by their pursuers save under heavy penalties, if they once gained the shelter of the holy bounds. All criminals loved St John of Beverley; debtors, murderers and thieves new well the road across the wolds, and if in some parts of Yorkshire transgressors liked better to flee to the peace of St. Cuthbert of Durham, who was astonishingly potent in saving the lives of men who deserved tools them, and who accommodated murderers at the rate of about 4 a year, yet over the Westwood men came constantly slinking through the dusk, or speeding breathless from their pursuers, clung panting to the threshold of the sanctuary. How, one wonders, did the monks receive these blood-stained fugitives who came knocking at their gate in the dead of night? Was there no repulsion from admitting to sit with them in the refectory some wretch who had but that day slain a fellow creature out of lust or passion? “William Hall, late of York, Tailour, on the feast of St. Andrew the Apostle, in the 19th year of the reign of King Henry 7th came and sought the peace of St John of Beverley, for that he had slain his wife Margaret Hall, and that peace was granted him.”Did this scoundrel show any grace of penitence when he presented himself before the holy brethren of St. John? Penitent or not, it was their duty to protect him, to feed and entertain him well, for 30 days. But then came the penalty, for the fugitives in sanctuary, though they escaped the ordinary law, were not relieved from punishment. Wishing 40 days they were brought before the Coroner, and to him they confessed their crimes and abjured the realm. His officer thereon branded them on the brawny part of the thumb wit the letter A, standing for the word “Abjure” so that all men might know in what relation they stood henceforth to society. when that was done, the Coroner named a port to which the outcast should journey forthwith, and taking passage with what speed he might, should leave the country. If he found no passage over sea, he was bound each day to walkout knee-deep in the water, in proof of his goodwill to make the passage. All these were irksome penalties, but it was probably much more painful to be hanged, and so business was always brisk not only at Beverley, but at all other places where the privilege of sanctuary was maintained.