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Jury Duty: What are Your Verdicts?

We don’t have the verdicts for these case near Agecroft. Let’s discuss how the jury might have voted based on the records we have for similar cases.

First Case: In our discussion about the regulation of dunghills in Prescot, we have seen that some towns allowed residents to maintain dunghills on the side of the street as long as they paid a fee or a tax for it. Perhaps Birdsall could have offered to pay a fee so he could leave it there. Or, the jury may have fined him so the dunghill could have been dealt with. Another option was to bind him over to the next court with the understanding that he would deal with the dunghills before the next court. This could also have been the verdict regarding the holes by the highway. The jury likely would not be interested in why Birdsall had done these things, they would want him to fix it.

Second Case: As was saw in our discussion of the changing role of the leet and manorial courts, town residents increasingly brought their concerns about dangerous structure to the jury. It is likely that Jane Bowker would have had to repair her chimney to prevent her house and other structures from catching on fire. Bowker may have been able to plead for poor relief, which was another issue handled by local courts. If she indeed did not have the money for repairs and her chimney was a danger to the community, perhaps a two part judgement could be made: she needs to repair the chimney, and the town will provide either the founds or the labor to address the issue.

Third Case: This case reflects one of the earlier roles of lower courts: handling personal disputes. Looking at the records from Wigan, a neighboring community, we see case after case of one person being accused of assaulting another. Because the courts were held semi-annually, some people racked up multiple charges against them. The Wigan records do have some verdicts. In cases of assault in the 1630s, the punishments are often public humiliation. For example, when a tailor named Edward Prescott assaulted a gentleman named James Molyneux, he was required “to continue in the sic hall till eight of the clock in the morning for his offense above expressed and to acknowledge him selfe sorye for the same". In another case, Alice Kidd was convicted of “abusing” multiple people and being a “Common scold” and was “Sentenced to wear the bridle.”. Therefore, the Keys may have had to apologize to George Man and endured some form of public humiliation. Or, if the jury decided that they were all at fault for disturbing the peace, the three of them may have been cautioned to stay out of trouble until the next court.

Image Courtesy of Wikipedia. From Cassell's Illustrated History of England, Volume 3

Sources: Agecroft Court Leet Program

How High is Too High? Disposing of Dung in Seventeenth- Century Prescot. Walter King, The Sixteenth Century Journal.

Governing England Through the Manor Courts, 1550- 1850. Brodie Waddell. The Historical Journal

The Development if Poor Relief in Lancashire, c 1598-1680. Johnathan Healey. The Historical Journal

Wigan Court Leet Rolls. Accessed online.





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