Court Leet Officers and their Duties
Steward of the Manor
Not an elected Court Officer, but the Lord of the Manor’s personally appointed Steward, who would in medieval times have been a legal executive and Judge to the Court. The Steward takes charge of the Annual Court Leet and all reports and Presentments are made to him as the Lord of the Manor’s representative. The Steward also acts in an advisory capacity to the Court.
In medieval times the Manor or Estate Manager, and principal officer of the Manor Court Leet, with responsibility for the overall running of the Manor, the collection of fines and rents, the keeping of accounts, and occasionally the assistance of Assize Judges. Today the principal officer of the Court Leet and one of the formal representatives of the Town and the Court, ensures the correct administration and running of the Court, and maintains proper records and accounts.
Assistant and Deputy to the High Bailiff. Is responsible for assisting the High Bailiff and representing him in his absence at any function. Has the duty of observing and learning the role of High Bailiff, in preparation for his forthcoming term in office if elected. The Low Bailiff should begin to prepare the programme for the Court for the forthcoming year of office.
Immediate Past Bailiff
Aide to the High Bailiff.
Town Crier & Beadle
Originally two separate offices, but now combined, The Beadle
was the Court Crier and Usher, or Summoning Officer, charged with the duty of assuring the punctual appearance at the Court; of defendants of law suits. The Town Crier proclaimed the news of the day throughout the town. Today, as Beadle, this Officer takes charge of the Court Mace, ensuring that it is correctly presented at the start of the Annual Court. He acts as Toastmaster at Court Dinners and Banquets; and he announces guests on formal occasions. As Town Crier, he proclaims details around the Town of relevant Court happenings, and he is also available to Town organisations, to announce details of their events.
Originally the keeper of law and order, with the responsibility of the operation and upkeep of the stocks, the pillory, the town armoury, and the Lock-Up. Today escorts the High Bailiff on ceremonial occasions, ensuring free and unobstructed passage to him.
This Officer’s duties are to organise, conduct and control Court ceremonial processions. In particular to organise Court Leet Sunday, when many Town organisations join in the formal parades. He ensures that Officers are correctly attired on ceremonial occasions, and that proper standards of dress are always observed.
Two Market Officials whose duties were to assess the quality of the ales offered for sale in the inns of the town, whether brewed on the premises or not, together with ensuring that these were only served in correct measure vessels, and at the right price – the “Assize of Ale.” Also known as Ale Connors or Ale Kenners, these gentlemen would wear leather breeches, and pouring a small amount of ale upon the wooden bench, would then sit in it for some while, whilst drinking and conversing with others present. If upon rising they stuck to the bench, then they knew that the sugar content in the brew was too high, and that therefore the alcohol content was too low, and they would reject the brew as being of inferior standard. Today these Officers organise one visit annually to each of the licensed premises within the Manor, where in a scripted ceremonial, they pronounce upon the ale’s quality.
Two Market Officials, whose duties were to check that loaves of bread baked and sold within the Manor, and also any bread brought into the Manor for sale on market days, was of a satisfactory consistency and of the correct prescribed weight. Today these officers organise the Assize once a year when a scripted ceremony is carried out to assess the quality and weight of bread sold at premises within the Manor.
Fish & Flesh Tasters
Two Market Officials whose duties, particularly on market days, were to assess the quality of the meat and fish offered for sale, and to determine that these were wholesome, and fit for consumption. They also had the duty of presenting anyone who had not baited their bulls before slaughter, which operation was required to be carried out in the Town Bull Ring – the wide space at the lower end of the High Street, outside the Royal Oak Inn. Today, as with the Bread Weighers, these Officers organize and conduct the Assize once a year in a scripted ceremony
Two Officers whose duties were to affeere or assess the amount of an amercement, which was the penalty or fine imposed by the Court for an offence, and which amount was determined by the Affearors according both to the severity of the offence, and the personal circumstances of the defendant. Today these Officers collect robe fees and payments for Court functions from Court Officers. They may also be requested to maintain the accounts on behalf of the High Bailiff.
Surveyor of the Highways
The Official having the responsibility of checking on the state of the highways and by-ways within the Manor, and ensuring that these were maintained to the appropriate standard, reporting offenders as necessary. Today organizes High Street closures for Court events: Church Service, Pancake Races, Street Market and Mop Fair.
As the name implies, this Official checked on the state of all watercourses within the Manor, ensuring that they were kept clean and free from any fouling. Today annually
arranges river cleaning.
The Official having charge of the fences and enclosures within the Manor, ensuring that they prevented stock from breaking through from the common lands onto enclosed fields. Sometimes this Officer would be the herdsman of the cattle feeding on the Common.
Searcher & Sealer of Leather
Another Market Official whose duty was to check the
quality of skins and leather goods offered for sale, and to apply his Seal of Approval as appropriate. As with the other Market Officials, the Searcher and Sealer of Leather conducts the Assize once a year, again in a scripted ceremony.