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by Liz Whitehouse and Stan Bristow


Page 3 of  3


Page 1 Page 2


This article first appeared in the July 2005 edition of

Family Tree magazine


Local History archives index


The Photograph shows a Manor of Brierley Court Leet meeting on 1st November 1961. On the left seated George Michael Foljambe, stood up on the left is Thomas Moxon (b.1877) who is next to Arthur Hargreaves

Photograph reproduced from an old newspaper cutting.

'Then comes the task of appointing "byelaw men and pinders" responsible for ensuring that the laws relating to the use of the local common lands are observed.

      'One young farmer, attending his first court following taking over the farm, demurred somewhat when he was nominated and asked what the duties entailed. It was pointed out to him, a little sadly, I thought, that only in the unlikely event event of some unauthorised person turning their livestock on to the common to graze would he be required to assert his authority.

     'As I have already said, the duties of the Brierley Court are now reduced to caring for the local commons upon which, according to the deeds of his property, each member has the right to graze so many cattle, or geese, or donkeys.

     'Now it is usually a matter of confirming an application for a way leave over the common land (permission to enter) and here it is interesting and not a little ironical, to find two of the innovations, the Coal Board and the Electricity Board, coming, almost cap in hand, to make applications to this relic of feudalism.

     'Generally, the atmosphere of the meetings of the Court Leet is cordial, although several of the common lands have been let of for farming - a development of the last war, when every acre of land put under food cultivation was valuable - a little acrimony has crept in with regard to what happens to the revenue from the leasing of the land.

     'There is a school of thought that the court members (they are called "commoners", by the way), having lost some of their grazing rights., should receive some of the income by way of compensation. Leading advocates of this old school is `old Arthur Hargreaves (see photograph) who farms at Shafton and who, with a temerity which, I am sure, would have had his forebears quaking in their shoes, repeatedly tells the Lord of the Manor. or his Steward, that "the commoners are being done down",

     'His suggestion is that the revenue used to provide the commoners with the same "Goodly Feast" that used to mark the closure of the court. Arthur has been a member long enough to have personal recollection of the feasts, with tables groaning with a baron of beef and plenty of whisky and rum - at 2d a tot by the way - and beer at three ha'pence a pint. He agrees with the song that "Things ain't what they used to be," and takes a poor view of the pickles and sandwiches that are now dispensed.

     'To attend the Court brings home to one just how much times have changed, for a man who warned his tenants about missing one of his meetings "at their peril", would certainly have had a quick way of dealing with such recalcitrants as Arthur.


     Sadly, the Court Leet of the Manor of Brierley is no longer held at the Three Horse Shoes. My search for its records via the internet led me to Nottingham University Library's Department of Manuscripts and Special Collection, where the papers of the Monckton-Arundell Family, Viscounts Galway of Serby Hall, Nottinghamshire, (early 13th century -1958) are held. Access to the 20th century records is restricted. In addition, Sheffield Archives have the Court Rolls for 1656-60 as part of the Spencer Stanhope Muniments.

     Manorial records are stored in a wide variety of places. Many can be located online by looking at The National Archives website www.archiveshub.ac.uk/, or the access to Archives website www.nationalarchives.gov.uk/a2a.

     Readers who are interested in learning more about the court leet and baron will find a good summary in Mark Herber's book Ancestral Trails, published by Sutton.

'Footnote. There is a transcription of a 1655 Brierley Manor Court Roll on the Brierley Yorkshire England web site at http://www.brierleyyorkshireengland.com in the on line booklet  ‘Brereley a History of Brierley'.  Many of the court rolls for Brierley Manor are in the Savile of Rufford manuscripts at Nottingham County Record Office. Some copies may be loaned from Richard Watson (please see the Ask Richard link)). The Galway Manuscripts mentioned are for the estates of Hodroyd Hall Felkirk.'