The Manor of Henley-in-Arden
Court Leet & Court Baron
Henley-in-Arden's first charter was granted by the Empress Matilda, daughter of Henry the First, in 1140 to Thurstan de Montfort. One of the early Lords of the Manor was Peter de Montfort, who was killed at the Battle of Evesham in 1265. This resulted in Henley being burnt down. Another important Lord of the Manor was Thomas de Beauchamp, Earl of Warwick. He was one of the principal English commanders at the Battle of Crecy. His forces included 160 archers from Henley. Sir Ralph Boteler, who was Lord High Treasurer to Henry VI from 1444 to 1447, obtained from the King Henley's second charter.
The new High Bailiff, Graham Smith (right), with Steward of the Manor David Lodder (Centre)
and retiring High Bailiff Norman Kench and their consorts.
The second charter granted by Henry VI on 16 May 1449 acknowledged that "Ralph Boteller, Lord de Seudeley, Knight, is tenant and owner of the Town and Manor of Henley-in-Arden…and he and all his ancestors tenants and owners of the Town and Manor aforesaid have had, and from the time whereof the memory of Man is not to the contrary were wont to have View of Frank Pledge of all the tenants and resiants within the same town and Manor, to be holden twice in the year at Henley." This charter also confirmed the right to hold a market on Monday of each week, but in addition conferred an unusual privilege to the Lord of the Manor and his Bailiffs in that officers of the Crown were precluded from entering the Town or Manor to execute writs or summons unless in default of the Lord of the Manor.
The earliest specific reference to the court as such occurs in 1333, when Peter de Montfort granted to Fulk the Armourer the lease of a shop in Henley at an annual rent of three shillings and suit of court twice a year. The court leet began to decline in the fourteenth century, being superseded by the more modern magistrates' courts, but in many cases Courts Leet operated until nearly the middle of the nineteenth century.
In 1915 the then Lord of the Manor, W J Fieldhouse revived the Court but their legal jurisdiction was abolished in 1977 and the courts were formally abolished in 1998 but the term may still be found in ceremonial use, for example at Laxton, Bromsgrove and Alcester.
Detailed records of the Court exist from 1546 and edited transcripts of the court rolls from 1546 to 1918 were published in 1919. The names of the High Bailiffs are recorded from 1477.
Its officers are elected annually in the Guild Hall by jurors who must have been resident in the town for a period of three years. The court administers the Guild Hall Trust, which owns the Guild Hall and other property in the town.
Mr Joseph Hardy of Pittsburgh USA, a previous Lord of the Manor, generously established a Trust Fund for the purchase a house in the town dating from the late fourteenth century, which now acts as a Heritage Centre.
The Hertitage Centre is Henley-in-Arden's earliest recorded house ~ part 14th century, with revealed crown post. The town's history is recorded here, including a model of the Norman Castle, which once stood on The Mount, details of the ancient Market Cross, the Town Criers, and a chronicle of the origins of the famous ice-cream can also be seen. Henley-in-Arden is a unique street town with 12th and 15th century churches and a splendid Guild Hall.
Past Lords of The Manor from 1086
Leet & Court Baron Officers in 2017/18
Leet Events in 2017/18
The High Bailiff's chain of office is worn at official functions.
On the evening of the second Wednesday in November, the Steward will summon members of the Court, the Court’s Jurors and members of the public to attend the Court Leet’s Annual Meeting in the Guild Hall. Reports of the various officers of the Court and the annual elections for the Court officers will be held.