WHEN ALFRED new modelled the government of this realm, he divided the office of præfect,
or governor of the several counties into distinct offices, one of which he put under certain judges, or
justices, and the other under the vice-comites, or sheriffs. By the former of these justice was, in some
measure, administered to the people throughout the
realm from that time; but from the troubles that
ensued, both before and after the conquest, there was
no regular administration of it settled in this kingdom; the king sending them, at his own pleasure,
and not in any constant course, to ride into the several counties for this purpose, from whence they were
called justices itinerant. Sometimes they had power
to hear all causes in general, and at others only special matters, as assises and the goals, &c. But peace
and quiet beginning to flourish in the reign of king.
Henry II. in order that the people might have justice
with more ease administered to them on all occasions,
and be enabled the better to attend their domestic
business, that prince, by the advice of his great council, assembled at Northampton, on the feast of St.
Paul, in the 23d year of his reign, anno 1176, divided this realm into fix parts, or circuits; into each
of which he sent three of these justices itinerant, requiring of them at the same time an oath, for the
due performance of their duties.
After this, in the 21ft of Edward I. 1293, that king
having, by his last statute of Westminster, given command that there should be special justices assigned for
taking of assises, &c. at certain times within the several counties of this realm, and no other. Eight were
appointed for this purpose; two of which were for the
counties of Kent, Essex, Hertford, Norfolk, Suffolk,
Cambridge, Huntingdon, Bedford, and Buckingham.
Which justices were diligently to attend that service
on such days throughout the year, and at such places
as might most conduce to the advantage of the people. (fn. 1)
Notwithstanding this appointment of justices for the
purpose of assise and goal delivery, the justices itinerant
still continued to be appointed, and made their itinerary progress for particular purposes, such as the
trial of quo warrantos, and the disputes arising from
grants, charters, liberties, and the like, either brought
on at the suit of the crown, or on the claim of individuals. After the 7th year of king Edward III. I.
find no more appointments of these justices itinerant,
their place being afterwards wholly supplied by the
justices of assise and nisi prius.
A list of these justices itinerant may be seen in Dugdale's Origines, as well as of the justices of the assise,
lord-chancellors, and treasurers, with other great officers of the law; among which the reader will find
many great and respectable persons of this county,
clergy as well as laymen, continually named; but
the number of them is so great, that it will well excuse the addition of them in this place.