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Oyez, Oyez: Welcome to the Court

If you committed a crime in Tudor Stuart England, where would your case be heard? At this time, England had many levels to their court system. We’ll briefly look at those here.

The highest level of court was the Court of the King’s bench. This court would be roughly equivalent to our Supreme Court, and it had jurisdiction over all common law criminal cases. If you wanted to appeal a court decision, this would be the place where it would be heard. The justices on this court would travel around the country and hold Assize courts in the six different circuits. Assize courts served an important function to bridge the local courts to the central government. These courts also handled the most serious felonies such as rape, murder, burglary and witchcraft. The assize courts would convene grand juries to decide if there was enough evidence for a trial. If there was, the case could be heard either by a jury or an inquisitor.


Church courts were another way to monitor moral behavior. These courts were held during market days or local fairs, and would deal with minor disputes.


The lowest level of courts were the Court Leet. These courts were often held at manors like Agecroft Hall. The cases heard here were mainly for petty crimes and nuisances. If you’ve ever watched Judge Judy or The People’s Court, you have a modern equivalent for these proceedings! These courts met semi annually- generally in October and around Easter.

Most of the posts in this event will focus on the Court of the King’s Bench, where some of the most famous cases at the time were heard, and the Court Leet, which would have been the court that affected the inhabitants of Agecroft Hall.

Image Courtesy of WikiCommons


Sources:

Agecroft Teachers Notes, Robert Hicks.

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