1) The word ‘grith’, often metathesised to ‘girth’, meant peace or guaranteed security, and a sanctuary seeker in Durham would rap at the knocker on the door of the Cathedral asking <i>gyrth for God’s sake</i> (SS64/72). In Yorkshire, both Beverley and Ripon had similar rights.
Once safely within the church the sanctuary seeker was known as a ‘grithman’ or ‘girthman’ and a by-name provides an early example of the word: 1297 Paulin Grithman, Beverley. In 1342, pardons were granted ad omnes homines vocatas grithmen if they agreed to fight the Scots. Both spellings occur in fifteenth-century records: 1458 confugć sive gyrthmanij, Ripon
1460 nullus Grithmannus ejusdem ville, Beverley. Within Ripon church was a stone called the grithstone: 1228 et infra portam cimiterij et locum qui vocatur Grythstane, Ripon: in an earlier undated reference it was the stane that Grythstole hatte
that is ‘is named’. The sanctuary seekers were ministered to by a ‘grithpriest’: 1392 in tenura domini Johannis vocati le Grithpreste, Ripon. In 1471, John Eksmyth, gyrthman of Ripon, sought permission to carry the gyrthrod which was apparently a stave with a banner, borne by the grithmen at Rogation-tide. Byland Abbey charters of 1240 and 1246 refer to a liberty which granted them freedom from payment in cases of grithbreche or grithbreke. These are alternative spellings of a term which is explained as ‘the breaking of the king’s peace’. Stones which marked where sanctuary ended were placed on the outskirts of Beverley and some of these have survived.