North Craven Historical Research Group
Outreach and Education Resources

School Project: Manorial Courts

After the Conquest, Courts Baron were first introduced in 1091, Courts Leet about 1393. Manorial Courts acted as the `communal memory and as repositories of local custom’ bridging legal theory and day to day farming practices, perhaps `in many cases the single most important village institution’. The Court Baron dealt mainly with internal matters of the manor, including infringements of the lord’s rights, agrarian disputes and changes of tenancy. The right to hold also a Court Leet meant that the lord had a `wider remit as an arm of royal justice dealing with minor breaches of the peace and public order’[1].

Burton-in-Lonsdale, now in North Yorkshire, at the time of Domesday was called ‘Borctune’ and in the Pipe Rolls of 1130 ‘Burtona de Lanesdala,’ the name indicating a fortified manor; the motte and bailey on Castle Hill remains visible and is a Scheduled Ancient Monument. Burton was one of the westernmost settlements belonging to the King in what became the West Riding, though the Normans viewed Yorkshire as stretching from the east coast to the west coast.

At the battle of Bosworth in 1485, Lord Stanley’s leadership of the Lancashire and Cheshire forces in support of the Earl of Richmond helped swing the day in favour of Prince Henry. On becoming Henry VII, the King rewarded Lord Stanley by creating him Earl of Derby. In 1519, his son, Sir Edward Stanley, received Hornby Castle and local manors including Burton-in-Lonsdale. Burton’s post-Conquest history was the subject of detailed study in the PhD thesis of Mary Higham [2].

Burton in Lonsdale’s three-weekly Court Baron is mentioned in 1306 [3], generating income through fines for non-attendance or more serious transgressions. For an account of the 17th century manor of Burton and the Courthouse see [4, 5]. Court Leet and Court Baron records 1742-1806 exist at Hornby Castle for the Manor of Burton-in-Lonsdale and mainly consist of details of entailments of property, fines for non-attendance by officials and for infringements of rights. Copies of several Court Records from the above collection are provided in Appendix VII of [5] which book contains reproductions of a range of original documents and a substantial bibliography. The first of the 18th century records is for the Courts Leet and Baron on 10th May 1742, `held in the usual place in Burton’ under the Stewardship of George Foxcroft; fines of two shillings each were imposed on officers for non attendance.


On-line History Learning Reference Site
On-line National Grid For Learning: Manorial Courts
On-line National Archives: Manorial Documents Register
On-line National Archives: Manorial Documents Glossary
Translation of 1215 Magna Carta
Glossary of Medieval Terms circa 1215
On-line dictionary

Project Description
The menu below will give you access to some pages from original manorial court records of the Courts Leet and Baron at Burton in Lonsdale, North Yorkshire from 1742 to 1805. You are asked to transcribe these records and where it seems appropriate also to make notes that explain the meaning of unfamiliar terminology and in current terms try to obtain estimates of the costs of fines.

To help with some legal terms, a brief glossary is provided [cf. Collins Dictionary and Thesaurus]; but you may wish to look up elsewhere other words and usage to obtain more information to elaborate meanings and to make notes about the historical origins of the legal terminology---see for example On-line National Archives: Manorial Documents Glossary.

You may consider investigating also other historical events that were happening in England during the period of these court records.