The Corporation
Courts

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Institute of Historical Research

Publication

Author

Eneas Mackenzie

Year published

1827

Pages

628-636

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'The Corporation: Courts', Historical Account of Newcastle-upon-Tyne: Including the Borough of Gateshead (1827), pp. 628-636. URL: http://british-history.ac.uk/report.aspx?compid=43395 Date accessed: 23 August 2014.


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COURTS IN NEWCASTLE.

MAYOR'S AND SHERIFF'S COURTS.

In the town and county of Newcastle upon Tyne, "there are, and from time beyond memory have been, two Courts of Record: the one held before the mayor, whereof the mayor is judge, and wherein free burgesses only, or their widows, are sued; the other held before the sheriff, whereof the sheriff is judge, and wherein all persons except free burgesses and their widows, are sued. (fn. 1) Of both these courts the recorder is the assistant judge. They both hold plea of any sum either above or under 40 shillings in debt, case, trover, &c. as also in ejectment for messuages or lands, lying within the liberties of the said town and county; and the plaintiffs and defendants, wheresoever their residence be, are always styled in the plaints and pleadings, 'of the town and county of Newcastle upon Tyne;' and wherever the causes of action arise, they are always laid 'within the jurisdiction of the court;' and are managed and carried on by the parties' attorneys, who are sworn and admitted of these courts, and it is a part of the oath of the attorneys when they are admitted, 'that they shall plead no foreign pleas.' And the executive officers of the said courts, are a class of the eligible officers of the corporation, called serjeants at mace, whose badge or ensign of office is a silver mace; and who are annually, with the other incorporate officers, elected and sworn into office. A part of whose oath relates to the due execution and return of the process of the said courts, particularly summonses, attachments, and executions, in these words, viz.—' Also you shall make just return and true satisfaction to all parties, of your executions according to the contents thereof, without any delay of the parties' plaintiff either for favour, lucre, or hate; and you shall truly present all summonses and attachments, that you shall make at the suit of the parties at the next court after the office thereof done without any concealment.'" (fn. 2)

COURT OF CONSCIENCE.

The Court of Conscience, or Court of Requests, was erected by act of parliament in the year 1689, and confirmed by statute of 27 George II. c. 16, s. 2. It is directed by the mayor or senior alderman, six other aldermen, and seven common council men, annually chosen for the purpose. Three of these commissioners, with the mayor and one alderman, have power to hear and determine all matters of debts or actions, upon the case upon assumpsits not amounting to the full value of 40s. "as they shall find to stand with equity and good conscience," in a summary way, and with or without adjournments. They can by their beadle levy debts or damages by them awarded, by distress and sale of the creditor's goods. It extends to all persons, nonfreemen as well as freemen, residing within the liberties of the town; but not to any debt for rent upon lease of lands, or any real contracts, or debt concerning any testament, matrimony, or ecclesiastical things, though they amount not to 40s. Its charges are limited by act of parliament as follows:—"For every plaint 2d. for every appearance 2d. for every order 3d. and for entering of the said order 3d. more; for every precept or warrant to committ to prison 4d. for every search 2d. for every warrant for seizing and disposing of goods and chattells pursuant to this act 4d. for every satisfaction acknowledged upon an order 3d. and that the beadle or other officer of the said court for the time being shall take noe more than 2d. for warning every person, nor more than 4d. for serving every precept or warrant, any law, custome, or usage to the contrary notwithstanding." This court, which had been held three times a year, has, since 1825, been held every three months. About 4000 summonses are, on an average, issued every year.

COURT OF ADMIRALTY.

Admiral jurisdiction was granted by King John, and confirmed by succeeding princes, to the mayor and burgesses of Newcastle. Lord Howard, of Effingham, was admiral of this port and the river Tyne from 1522 to 1605, when he resigned it to the mayor and burgesses, with power to hold a court of admiralty, &c. Brand says, "The oar that has been carried or placed before the mayor, as an ensign of authority in this court of admiralty, and which, by the date it bears, evidently appears to have been made in consequence of the above grant, is still preserved in the archives of Newcastle upon Tyne. On one side are painted the royal arms, with 'A°. R. R. Ja. 4.' On the other, those of the town, with 'A°. Dni. 1606.'" This court is held before the mayor, at such times as he chooses to direct. His deputy, the waterbailiff, gives notice of all injuries done to the river and the breed of salmon, that offenders may be punished according to law. In Grey's time it was held "every Monday in the after-noon. This is a court of record for inrolling of deeds and evidences."

A COURT OF PYE-POWDER (fn. 3)

Is proclaimed at "the two faires of Lammas and Saint Luke. All the priviledges and power that a court-leet can have, is granted to this court." It is for examining and trying all suits brought for petty differences and offences committed contrary to the proclamation issued at these fairs. This court at present is never formed.

THE QUARTER SESSIONS.

This court is held in virtue of the great charters of Elizabeth and James, by which the mayor, recorder, and three or more aldermen, are invested with full power "to take and arrest whatever murderers, felons, and other malefactors within the town and county, there to be kept until by due process of law they be delivered." Also, "to hold gaol deliveries for the town, and to erect a gallows within its liberties, to hang felons, murderers, and other malefactors, according to the laws and customs of England."

COURT OF ASSISE.

England was, at a very early period, portioned into four divisions, and itinerant justices were appointed to go the circuits in each division. These justices were either prelates or considerable noblemen, and were vested with great power and authority, in order to curb the oppressive barons, and to protect the inferior gentry and common people in their property. They determined pleas of the crown and common pleas, assessed tallages and aids, seized eschaets of the crown, and admitted men to make conventions, fines, and oblatas in their several iters. The wise and politic Henry II. was careful to give weight and consequence to these justices. (fn. 4) In Newcastle they held their courts in the church of St. Nicholas or St. Andrew.

JUSTICES ITINERANT FOR NORTHUMBERLAND.

5th King Stephen, William Espec and Eustace Fitz-John.
1165 and 1166, Earl Geoffrey and Richard de Luci.
1169, William Basset and Alan de Nevil, Junior, Robert de Stutevill and Hugh de Morvill.
1170, Alan de Nevill and William Basset.
1175, Randulph de Glanvill, Robert de Pikenot, and Robert de Vals.
1176, Randulph de Glanvill, William Fitz-Ralph, William Basset, and Michael Belet.
1177, 1178, and 1179, Ranulph de Glanvill and William Basset and their companions.
1269, Gilbert de Preston and his companions occur.
1279, John de Vallibus was one of the justices upon the northern iter.
1292 and 1293, Hugh de Cressingham and his companions.

In 1400, the town of Newcastle upon Tyne was separated from Northumberland, and, being made a county of itself, has ever since had its own sheriff and court of assize. During a long period after this, no names of justices occur. In 1597, the assizes were adjourned on account of the plague.

1642, Sir Robert Heath occurs as being on the northern circuit.
1654, Richard Newdigate and Hugh Windham.
1655, William Steel, chief baron, and John Parker.
1656, John Parker and Erasmus Earl. (fn. 5)
1667, John Parker and Uniton Crouch.
1664, Thomas Twisden and Charles Turner.
1668, Christ. Turner and Richard Rainsford, Knts.
1669, The above and —Walker, serjeant-at-law.
1670, The above and Timothy Littleton, Knt.
1671 and 1672,William Wylde, Bart. and the above.
1673, William Wylde, Bart, and William Ellis, Knt.
1674 and 1675,Richard Rainsford and Timothy Littleton, Knts.
1676, Francis North, Knt. and Vere Bertie. (fn. 6)
1677, William Montague, lord chief baron, and Timothy Littleton.
1678, William Wylde and Vere Bertie.
1679, William Dolben and Thomas Raymond, Knts.
1680, William Dolben and Edward Atkins, Knts.
1681, William Dolben and William Gregory, Knts.
1682 and 1683,Thos. Jones and Thos. Street, Knts.
1684, Geo. Jeffries, Bart. and Richd. Holloway, Knt.
1685, Edward Atkins and Thomas Walcott, Knts.
1686, Robert Knight and John Powell, Knts.
1687, Richard Allibon and Thomas Powell, Knts.
1688, Robert Wright and Thomas Jenner, Knts.
1689, John Powell and Penton Ventris, Knts.
1690, William Dolben and John Powell, Knts.
1691, John Holt and John Turton, Knts.
1692, Robert Atkins and John Powell.
1693, Edward Nevill and John Powell, Knts.
1694, George Treby and John Turton.
1695, Edward Neville and John Turton, Knts.
1696 and 1697,Edw. Ward and John Turton, Knts.
1698, John Powell and Samuel Eyre, Knts.
1699, Edward Ward and John Powell.
1700, John Turton and John Blencowe, Knts.
1701, Edward Ward and John Turton.
1792, Thomas Trevor and Littleton Powis,
1703, Thomas Trevor and John Blencowe.
1704, Edward Ward and Littleton Powis.
1705, John Powell and John Blencowe, Knts.
1706, Edward Ward and Robert Tracy.
1707, John Blencowe and Thomas Bury.
1708, Robert Tracy and Thomas Bury.
1709, Littleton Powis, Knt. and Thomas Bury.
1710, John Powell, Knt. and Robert Price.
1711, Thomas Parker and Thomas Bury, Knts.
1712, Littleton Powis and Thomas Bury, Knts.
1713, Thomas Bury, Knt. and Robert Dormer, Esq.
1714, Robert Tracy, Esq. and Thomas Powis, Knt.
1715, Robert Price, Esq. and James Mountague, Knt.
1716, James Mountague, Knt. and — Hanbury.
1717, Robert Dormer, Esq. and John Fortescue Eland,
1718, 1719, and 1720,Sir James Mountague and Sir Francis Page.
1721, Mr. Justice Tracy and Mr. Baron Price.
1722, Lord Chief Justice King and Mr. Baron Gilbert.
1724, Sir Francis Page and Sir Alexander Denton.
1725, Robert Price and James Reynold, Esqrs.
1726, Sir Francis Page and Bernard Hall, Knt.
1727, Edmund Probin and Laurence Carter, Knts.
1728, John Cummyns, Knt. and Spencer Cowper, Esq.
1729, Francis Page and Bernard Hall, Knts.
1730, Francis Page and John Fortescue, Knts.
1731, Alexander Denton and Edmund Probyn, Knt.
1732, Francis Page and Sir William Thompson, Knts.
1733, Sir Robert Eyre and Thomas Reeve, Esq.
1734, Sir Francis Page and Thomas Reeve, Esq.
1735, Alexander Denton and Mr. Justice Lee.
1736, Mr. Justice Lee and Mr. Baron Fortescue.
1737, Mr. Baron Fortescue and Sir William Chapple.
1738, Wm. Fortescue, Esq. and Sir Wm. Chapple.
1739, Sir William Chapple and Mr. Baron Parker.
1740, Thomas Parker and James Reynolds, Esqs.
1741, Thomas Parker and Martin Wright, Esqs.
1742, Thomas Burnit and Samuel Urlin, Esqs.
1743, Thomas Dennison, Esq. and John Birch.
1744, Thomas Burnitt and Charles Clarke, Esqs.
1745, Edward Clive, Esq. and John Bird
1746, Sir Thomas Parker and Thomas Burnitt.
1747, John Birch and Sir Heneage Legge.
1748, Sir Edward Clive and Sir Heneage Legge.
1750, Sir Thomas Abney and Thomas Dennison, Esq.
1751, Edward Clive and Sydney Stafford Smyth, Esqs.
1752, and 1752,John Birch and Heneage Legge.
1753, Heneage Legge and — Eyre.
1754, Heneage Legge and Sydney Stafford Smyth.
1755, Sir Richard Adams and Henry Bathurst.
1756, Henry Bathurst and Sir John Eardley Wilmot.
1757, Henry Bathurst and William Noel.
1758, Lord Chief Justice Mansfield and Sydney Stafford Smyth.
1759, Henry Bathurst and William Noel.
1760 and 1761,Henry Bathurst and Sir Richd. Lloyd.
1762, Henry Bathurst and Sir Henry Gould.
1763, Sir Henry Gould and George Parrot, Esq.
1764, Henry Bathurst and Sir Joseph Yates.
1765, Sir Henry Gould and Sir Joseph Yates.
1766, Henry Bathurst and George Parrot, Esq.
1767, Sir Henry Gould and George Parrot, Esq.
1768, Sir Henry Gould and Sir Joseph Yates.
1769, Sir Henry Gould and George Parrot, Esq.
1770, Hon. George Parrot, and Sir Richard Aston.
1771 and 1772,Sir Hen. Gould and Hon. Edw. Willes.
1773 and 1774,Sir Hen. Gould and Sir and W. Blackstone.
1775 and 1776,Sir Hen. Gould and Sir W. H. Ashurst.
1777, Sir Henry Gould and Sir George Nares.
1778, Hon. Edward Willes and Sir Beaumont Hotham.
1779, Hon. Edward Willes and Sir Francis Buller.
1780, Lord Loughborough and Sir Beaumont Hotham.
1781, Sir George Nares and Hon. John Heath.
1782, Lord Chief Baron Skinner and Baron Eyre.
1783, Sir James Eyre and Hon. Francis Buller.
1786, Francis Buller and Mr. Justice Heath.
1787, Lord Loughborough and Judge Wilson.
1788, Mr. Justice Grose and Baron Thompson.
1789 and 1790,Sir J. Wilson and Hon. Baron Thompson.
1791, Sir Nash Grose and Hon. Baron Thompson.
1792, Lord Kenyon and Hon. Baron Thompson.
1793, Lord Chief Baron Macdonald and Hon. Baron Thompson.
1794, 1795, and 1796,Sir Giles Rooke and Sir Soulden Lawrence.
1797, Hon. Baron Thompson and Sir Giles Rooke.
1798, Sir Giles Rooke and Sir Soulden Lawrence.
1799, Sir Soulden Lawrence and Sir Simon Le Blanc.
1800, Sir Allan Chambre and Hon. Robert Graham.
1801, Sir Allan Chambre and Lord Alvanley.
1802, Lord Ellenborough and Sir Allan Chambre.
1803, Sir Alex. Thompson and Sir Allan Chambre.
1804, Sir Allan Chambre and Sir Robert Graham.
1805, Sir Allan Chambre and Sir Thos. Manners Sutton.
1806, Sir Robt. Graham and Sir Thos. Manners Sutton.
1807, 1808, and 1809,Sir Allan Chambre and Sir George Wood.
1810, Sir Allan Chambre and Sir Robert Graham.
1811, Sir Allan Chambre and Sir George Wood.
1812, Sir George Wood and Sir John Bayley.
1813, Sir Allan Chambre and Sir George Wood.
1814, Sir John Bayley and Mr. Serjeant Marshall.
1815, Sir John Bayley and Sir Richard Richards.
1816, Sir George Wood and Sir John Bayley.
1817, Lord Chief Baron Richards and Sir George Wood.
1818, Sir George Wood and Sir John Bayley.
1819 Jonathan Raine, Esq. in Lent. Sir George Wood and Sir John Bayley.
1820 Sir John Bayley. Sir John Bayley and Sir James A. Park.
1821 Sir John Bayley. Sir John Bayley and Sir George S. Horoyd.
1822 Sir John Bayley. Lord Chef Justice Abbott and Sir George Wood.
1823 Sir John Bayley. Sir John Bayley and Sir G. S Holroyd.
1824 Sir John Bayley. Sir John Bayley and Sir John Hullock.
1825 Sir John Bayley.
Sir John Bayley and Sir John Hullock.
1826 Sir John Bayley.
Sir James A. Park and Sir John Hullock.

At the Lent assizes in 1820, the grand jury of the town presented the late gaol of Newgate as being insufficient and out of repair. The best Report of the State of the old Prisons in Newcastle was made by Archibald Reed, Esq. and alderman, on the 21st of December, 1818, and of which the following is a summary. It may be proper to add, that this active and worthy magistrate was accompanied in his visit by Mr. James Archbold and Mr. John Dobson, architect.

Newgate Gaol, on the felons' side, contained four rooms, about 14 feet square each. The convicted felon, the untried prisoner, the deserter, and prisoners for minor offences, were all intermingled. There was one room for convicted and untried female prisoners. Six prisoners were in one room. Each prisoner allowed 5d. per day, coals, a chaff bed and tick, one double and one single blanket and a rug, and soap. They were all under close confinement, there being no safe yard; and the prison being insecure, irons were necessarily used. Tubs were the substitutes for water-closets. No clergyman attended the prisoners; but they were visited by a surgeon when ill. On the debtors' side were six rooms for men, and one bed-chamber for women. The male and female prisoners were not separated. They all had access to the common kitchen, and were permitted to walk on the leads or roof of the prison. In 1813, there were 41 debtors confined at one time, some of whom slept on bedding on the floor, and others were removed to the felons' side. The county allowance for debtors is 4d. per day. Alderman Reed adds, "I cannot conclude this report without doing justice to Mr. Gee, the gaoler. My visit was quite unexpected; the wards and every part of the gaol were as clean and neat as possible; every comfort which he could afford (compatible with the safety of the prisoners) was allowed; and his arrangements did great credit to him."

The House of Correction contained one receiving room, 17 feet by 12, with two beds, in which thirty-five prisoners had been confined at one time. There was one room, with one bed, for female night prisoners, in which thirty had been confined in one night. There were seven private cells, mostly appropriated to unruly and idle apprentices, or to unexamined prisoners; two rooms for convicted prisoners, and a dark cell for refractory prisoners. Prisoners allowed 3d. per day, besides coals, with straw and four horse-sheets for each bed. No soap and towels allowed. The keeper said, "The smell in a morning from the receiving room is shocking. I have had eight cases of fever lately. Teasing oakum the only employment. Divine service is never performed. Have had in charge 1500 prisoners this year, and last year 1600." The report concludes, "This prison was extremely clean, and does very great credit to Mr. Scott, the keeper." The writer is gratified to add, on good authority, that this is a well-merited eulogium, and that many of Mr. Scott's acts of humanity are performed with a delicacy and feeling highly honourable to his character.

By an entry in the common council books, made in 1653, it appears that there had been an ancient custom, which was at that time revived, for the gaoler to have a livery-cloak given him, and to attend the sheriff twice on every Sunday to church. Brand found but very few of the names of gaolers in Newcastle. The following are those that have been found:—

LIST OF GAOLERS.

William Preston, September 21, 1653.
Christopher Barker before 1718.
Michael Dawson chosen October 13, 1718.
George Ord.
John Craister.
Thomas Harle.
Martin Mordue occurs in 1788.
John Gale succeeded October 6, 1792.
George Marshall chosen October 18, 1806.
Robert Gee elected January 27, 1809.
James Sopwith appointed March 29, 1827.

COURT OF COMMON COUNCIL.

This court consists of the mayor, ten aldermen, the sheriff, "and four and twenty of the discreeter, honester burgesses," (fn. 7) abiding and dwelling within the town; and who are "yearly elected in the accustomed place by the four and twenty electors of the mayor and other eligible officers of the town." (fn. 8) The members of this court, or the greater part of them, whereof the mayor and six aldermen must be seven, when assembled, may make laws and demises, touching any hereditaments, being parcel of the rights and property of the burgesses, and act for and in the name of the whole body corporate and politic; provided they do not act contrary to the laws of England. (fn. 9)

The following are the present common council:—Messrs. Isaac Cookson, Dixon Dixon, Thomas Cookson, John Cookson, George Shadforth, Job James Bulman, Thomas Smith, jun. Ralph Naters, Thomas Logan, William Clayton, John Anderson, jun. Edward Johnson, Edward John Jackson, John Lionel Hood, John Anderson, William Laslie, Joseph Pollard, Brough Pow, George William Wilson, David Cram, James Archbold, William Smith, Matthew Anderson, and Joseph Crawhall.

COURT OF GUILD.

This court is holden thrice a year, viz. on the second Monday after Michaelmas, third after Christmas, and the second after Easter. It consists of the mayor and burgesses at large, assembled together, every one of whom has an equal voice, the mayor having the casting one. The principal business now done at this court is for the apprentices and sons of freemen to petition for their freedom. They are called by the style of the company to which their masters or fathers belonged; and this is termed, calling their Guilds. Before a man is legally allowed to be a freeman of Newcastle, he must, if he claim by servitude, have his name called aloud, in the open court, three times: that is, once on three different guild-days: If he claims by patrimony, then one calling serves. The stewards of the respective companies are now very particular in their attendance, to prevent any kind of irregularity or imposition. On calling the name in court, if any freeman knows any impediment or irregularity, a person's claim may be then annulled by the single voice of any burgess present; and this is what is called, "Stopping his Guild." The common council, however, claim a right of enquiry, and, as they see fit, either take off the stop, or allow it to remain. If taken off, at the next guild the person is called a second time, the first being reckoned one: but if the stop remain, the person claiming cannot obtain his freedom. But whether such a power be really vested in the common council, either by law or charter, has been lately questioned.

The constitution of Newcastle has, with considerable propriety, been compared to that of the nation, consisting of king, lords, and commons. The difference is, that the mayor acts not only as king in the common council, but also as speaker in the court of guild; his powers in office exactly corresponding with the royal parliamentary one, in every respect, excepting having a positive negative.

Footnotes

1 These courts do not stand barely upon the prescriptive right, but have been confirmed by charters, and particularly letters patent of Queen Elizabeth, made in the 42d year of her reign, by the express words whereof it appears that the said courts had, "in times (then) past, been accustomed in the said town." By which charter the said queen (among other things) granted as follows, viz.—"That the mayor and burgesses of the aforesaid town, and their successors, shall and may for ever have and hold one court of record in the Guildhall of the aforesaid town, before the mayor of the aforesaid town, on Monday in every week throughout the year, except the several weeks wherein the feast of the Nativity of our Lord, the feast of Passover, or the feast of Pentecost shall happen, or whereon any feast of any saint usually celebrated shall happen, as in times past hath been accustomed in the same town.
"And one other court before the sheriff of our town and county of Newcastle upon Tyne aforesaid, on Wednesday and Friday in every week throughout the year, except in the several weeks aforesaid, whereon or wherein any of the aforesaid feasts shall happen, or whereon or wherein any feast of any saint usually celebrated shall happen, as in times past hath been accustomed in the same town. And also, all pleas of debt, covenant, detinue, trespasses, actions upon the case, accounts, and all pleas, personal, real, and mixt, within the aforesaid town, liberties, limits, bounds, and precincts of the same; by whatsoever means arising or happening in the several courts aforesaid, to be levied and affirmed, and the persons against whom such actions and plaints in the said courts shall happen, to be prosecuted or moved by due process of law, and their goods and chattels within the aforesaid town, liberties, and precincts aforesaid, to arrest and attach. And all other pleas of lands and tenements, in the several courts aforesaid to hold, and all pleas abovesaid; and at the same time to hear the pleas of our court of pye powder, and to determine judgments and make executions thereupon for ever in the same and as ample manner and form, and as fully and effectually by such and the like processes, as have heretofore in the same town been used and accustomed.
"And that the mayor and burgesses of the aforesaid town shall and may from henceforth for ever have conizance of all pleas, as well of all real, as personal, mixt, and other pleas whatsoever of lands and tenements, within the aforesaid town, liberties, and precincts of the same being; and also of all pleas of assize, novel, disseisin, mort d'ancestor, re-disseisin, attainder, and contracts whatsoever, and other pleas whatsoever, within the aforesaid town, liberties, and precincts of the same happening and arising, in whatsoever our courts, to wit, before us, our heirs, and successors; before our justices of the bench, of our heirs, and successors; and also our justices, of our heirs, and successors, assigned and to be assigned, to take any assises, juries, and certificates, and other our justices and officers of our heirs and successors whatsoever, moved and to be moved in the aforesaid court, before the said mayor for the time being, within the aforesaid town as before mentioned; to hold, hear, and determine in whatsoever actions, suits, and plaints aforesaid; where any burgess of the said town is defendant, happening and arising; and in whatsoever actions, suits, and plaints aforesaid, where any foreigner or non-burgess of the said town is defendant, then in the aforesaid court before the sheriff of that county for the time being, to hold upon the evidence alone of our present letters patent, without any writ or writs of alocatur to be thereupon prosecuted.
"And further we grant and give licence by these presents for us, our heirs, and successors, to the aforesaid mayor and burgesses and their successors, that the mayor of the aforesaid town for the time being, and his successors in our court aforesaid, before the said mayor to be held; and the sheriff of that county for the time being, and his successors in our court aforesaid, before the said sheriff to be held, in all and singular suits, plaints, actions, and demands before them, or any of them, within the aforesaid town, to be moved at our suit or the suit of any other, can and may respectively attach the persons defendants in the same suits, plaints, actions, and demands, not sufficient in their lands, tenements, possessions, and estates, by their bodies, and the same persons to commit to our prison called Newgate in the same town, and in the same manner and form as hitherto have been used and accustomed within the aforesaid town, and not otherwise nor in any other manner."
2 The above is extracted from a case relating to these courts, with the opinion of the late Baron Wood thereon, in the possession of Mr. John Fenwick, solicitor, and printed in the Northumberland and Newcastle Magazine for 1818.
Formerly, no person who had not served his clerkship to an attorney practising in these courts was allowed to be admitted of them. Mr. John Fenwick (of the firm Kirkley and Fenwick), being fortified by the opinion of the late Sir Samuel Romilly, contended that an attorney duly entered in the court of King's Bench was eligible to practise in any inferior court; and he demanded to be admitted an attorney of these courts. The learned recorder of the town admitted the legality of the inference; but as the law gentlemen who practised in these courts were distinguished for liberality, he advised that their consent to this measure should be applied for. This consent was obtained, and no opposition has since been made to the admission of any attorney who may choose to present himself.
The late Mr. Harvey, attorney, lived in less enlightened times; and being refused admittance into these courts, he applied to Chancery, and procured a Writ of Justicies, under which a county court for the recovery of debts was held, in which the under-sheriff presided. It was usually styled Harvey's Court, and of late years became a most intolerable nuisance. The costs upon a debt of 5s. or 10s. not unfrequently were swelled out to £5 or £10. However, it was lately discovered that the Court of Conscience superseded any other court in this town for the recovery of small debts under 40s. and consequently that all the acts of the undersheriff's court for the recovery of debts, except upon the Writ of Justicies, had been illegal. This terrible scourge has thus been finally got rid of.
3 Pie-powder courts derive their name from pied-poudreux, dusty foot, because the court is summary in its proceedings, and passes judgment on offenders before they can wipe the dust off their shoes. Bracton calls it justitiam pepoudrous, lib. 5, tract. 1, ca. 6. nu. 6. See statute, an. 17 Ed. IV. ca. 2.
4 These judges have now five several commissions, viz. 1. Of oyer and terminer, directed to them and other gentlemen of the county, by which they are empowered to try treasons, felonies, &c. 2. Of gaol delivery, directed to the judges and the clerks of assize associate, which gives them power to try every prisoner in the gaol. 3. Of assize, to do right upon writs of assize brought by those who have been wrongfully thrust out of their lands and possessions. 4. Of nisi prius, by which civil causes brought to issue are tried and judgment given. 5. A commission of the peace, and the sheriffs and all justices of the peace of the county are bound to attend.
5 It was this year in agitation to erect a court of law and a court of equity in Newcastle upon Tyne.—Journals of Commons, vol. vii.
6 On September 26, this year, the following order of common council was made concerning gloves, presented by the sheriff at the assizes, when no prisoners recelve sentence of death:—"To prevent abuses formerly committed, ordered for the time to come, that the sheriff give gloves only to the following persons: Two judges of assize, one paire jessamy and one paire keide; the clerk of assize the like—two marshals—two cryers—four associates, serjeants at law, a paire of jessamy a piece, of 2s. 6d. a paire."—Braud, vol. ii. p. 495.
7 Brady cites a clause in a private act of parliament, which clearly proves that the mayor and commonalty of a borough were a select number, and distinct from all the other burgesses, or other persons resident and dwelling within the same. So that mayor and commonalty means the mayor, aldermen, and common council, or the mayor and chief burgesses which composed the governing part of the town.—Treatise of English Burghs, p. 24, fol. ed. quoted by Brand.
8 The following is the oath administered to the members of the common council.—"You shall swear that you shall be true to our sovereign lord the king's majesty that now is, and to his heirs and successors, kings of England, and readily you shall come when you be summoned to the common council of this town, unless you shall be reasonably excused, and a good true council you shall give in all things touching the common wealth of this town, after your best skill and cunning, and not to the favour of any man, you shall not maintain any singular profit against the common profit of this town; and after that you be come to the common council, you shall not from thence depart until the common council be ended, without reasonable cause or the mayor's licence; and also any secret things that be spoken and said in the common council, which ought to be kept secret, in no wise you shall disclose. So help you God."
9 The court of guild, by the charters of Elizabeth and James, also possesses this power; but "the laws made, or acts done in the guild, are not binding, except the same be ratified by the common council:— This is a severe negative check on the court of guild; while, on the contrary, these made in common council are valid, if not positively forbid to be made by the court of guild. Judge Gould said well, and I think justly, when he said, 'that he could not conceive how it was possible the governing part of a corporation could demise any part of the freehold of the governed against their consent:' and I cannot conceive, if this be the case, that the common council can dispose of any thing belonging to this corporation, against the consent of the burgesses in guild, because—every thing they possess is freehold, or at least of the nature of it; but supposing it were not, common sense, and I would hope common law too, say, that no distinction ought to be made between one sort of property and another; where right of the possession is neither called in question, nor manner of its disposition proved illegal. I must request the reader to remember this, and also that I have warned him to observe the distinction between the meaning of the words withot and against, for they, in my opinion, are very material ones in the topic we are discussing. He must also forgive me in reminding him, that I allow the common council the privilege of acting, in many cases, without the consent of the burgesses, but not against it."—Collier's Essay on Charters, page 100.