Where have all the Courts Gone?
Justice and Local Government in Bromyard by Jean Hopkinson, A4 monograph with 36 pages and 11 illustrations
‘That’s the judge’s seat’, Jean Hopkinson was told when in 1964 she moved into the farmhouse which had once been the site of the village manorial court. Years later, with the closure of local Magistrates Courts and the concentration of all the courts in a new courthouse in Hereford in 2001, the remark encouraged the author to try and uncover the relationship between the various courts of north Herefordshire during the last 1000 years.
Earlier courts dealt not only with justice but also with local government, and this continued until the second half of the 19th century and the creation of elected county, borough and parish councils. It is also apparent that the proliferation of the different royal, church and lay courts was greatly encouraged by the income from fines they generated for the various holders!
The narrative divides into four periods: 1. Pre-History and the Anglo-Saxons with their shire and hundred courts, and the hall-moots of the thegns. 2. The Norman feudal system with its manorial courts, trial by ordeal and combat, and the numerous church courts. 3. The heyday of the power of the magistrates at Quarter Sessions in the 17th and 18th centuries. How the justices achieved this position, the range of their duties such as setting the county rate and inspection of bridges, and why so many of them were clergymen. 4. The Bromyard Petty Sessional Division from 1828 until the closure of Bromyard Magistrates Court in 1987, including memories from local magistrates.
There are numerous references to material in the Herefordshire Record Office which could prove helpful to local researchers