At the Norman Conquest of 1066, England had no central court. The law applied to the courts varied from one location to the next. A small number of rules were derived from legislative enactments by the King. England had many local courts. Therefore, it can be concluded that although a perfect legal system was not possible for all of England, it was necessary. The Anglo-Saxon judicial system was based on political organizations. England was divided into Shires during the Anglo-Saxon period. Each Shire had a Shire Court or County Court. The Shires were further subdivided into hundreds. A Hundred courts represented each Hundred. Each Hundred was then divided into either township. Each Hundred and Shire had its court. However, Vill was more for police organization than the administration of justice. These political units were kept in England after the Norman Conquest. These courts could be courts from different areas of the country or courts owned by large landowners. The Communal Courts were a national system that had jurisdiction and government. The Franchised Courts, or courts of seigniorial jurisdiction, were the latter. The Shire, County, and Hundred remained their originality after the Norman Conquest. However, they adopted some unique features that were not yet known.



Before the Norman Conquest, the three major officers of the Shire were the Ealdorman (or Bishop) and Shire-Reeve (or Sheriff). The sheriff was elevated and made more dignified after the Norman Conquest and became the first male in the county. This fundamental fact made him more closely connected to the royal authority. Before the Norman Conquest Sheriff was the King's Reeve. However, he was made the President of the County Court. One of his functions was declaring the judgment or "doom" in cases before it. He was the chief of staff in the county up to the introduction of the Lord's Lieutenant. The Shire, or County Court, was made up of the suitors. Persons who owed the court suit because of feudal landholdings These suitors were appointed Judges in cases before the court. The character of the law can be seen from the quality and qualifications of the suitors. The sheriff presided over it. These suitors were uneducated and could not enforce customs passed down from generation to generation. Pollock and Maitland pointed out that the Shire Court was a large, important, and often meeting twice per year in Anglo-Saxon times. The second Magna Carta reissue stipulated that the County Court would meet approximately once per month. The court's suit was considered a burden to the parties.


These three categories can be used to examine the court's jurisdiction: First, there was the Anglo-Saxon period's old customary jurisdiction. Their jurisdiction was restricted to criminal cases, pleas to the Crown, and suits relating to the land to which the parties were tenants of different Lords after the Norman Conquest. This was due to competition with the Common Law Courts and later with feudal and the creation of the ecclesiastical court. This court retained exclusive jurisdiction in outlawry. The Royal Judges made their decisions based on customary law. The second was sheriff's jurisdiction. The sheriff was for a while the top official in the county and performed many important functions after the Norman Conquest. His administrative position was particularly important. All his judicial functions were performed through the County Court, where he often acted as a Royal judge. Any other pleas than those concerning land could be directed by the King to be heard and decided by the sheriff. By the Writ of Tolt, he was also authorized to expel land-related suits from the manorial courts. The sheriff did not make use of this power. This jurisdiction's principal significance lies in the fact it allowed the administration of justice to be administered by a Royal official under the authority of a royal writ. The Royal Justices were also present in County Courts. The King started sending a Royal Representative, also known as Itinerant Justices, to the County Court to handle certain matters shortly after the Norman Conquest. After the Grand & petty Assizes introduction, the practice of sending Royal Justices into the County Courts to hear pleas was common.


The County Court's jurisdiction started to decline when the Itinerant Justices became the King's Common Law Courts. The County Court's criminal justice slowly but surely disappeared after the Assizes at Clarendon (1166) and Northampton (1176) handed criminal law administration to the Crown. Like his court, the power and authority of the sheriff vanished gradually. The Norman Kings took strong steps to stop the sheriff's office from becoming hereditary, as it was in pre-Norman times. The Statute of Gloucester (1278) was interpreted to limit jurisdiction to a maximum 40shillings value of claim or subject matter. The County Court's jurisdiction was weakened and disused after the Writ of Justices was no longer issued. As the centralization of justice in England developed, the sheriff's jurisdiction and powers declined. The court's procedure for trial became cumbersome and too outdated by this point. Justice was difficult because the suitors had not been trained in the law. These flaws gradually became apparent due to the popularity of the County Court. In the future, County Court jurisdiction will decline to its lowest point.


The County Court was organized more following the 17th and 18th centuries Common Law Courts. However, it was less popular than the Royal Courts as they were more effective. The Parliament took special measures to correct the situation of the County Court. Various Acts of Parliament defined the jurisdiction of this court, and County Courts are now subject to the ordinary jurisdiction of the 1934 County Courts Act.

  1. For claims not exceeding PS200 in contract or tort (no jurisdiction for defamation and seduction cases). If the plaintiff has more than PS 200 to claim, he can sue County Court.
  2. For land rent or a value less than PS 200, actions for its recovery are not allowed.
  3. Inequity jurisdiction where the property's value is less than PS 500
  4. Disputed probate jurisdictions where gross personal estate (without deducting debts) is below PS 200 and gross property is similar to PS 300.
  5. Certain County Courts are limited in their admiralty jurisdiction.
  6. Parties may agree to grant jurisdiction to the County Court regardless of the amount or nature of their claims.
  7. A County Court action that falls within the jurisdiction of the High Court can be commenced before the High Court. The High Court can transfer the case to the County Court regardless of whether a party applied for it. A successful plaintiff may receive costs up to the County Court scale.

Special Acts also grant the County Court special jurisdiction in Parliament.

  1. Claims under the Rent and Mortgage Intent Registration Acts
  2. Bankruptcy authority under the Bankruptcy Act 1847-1926. This jurisdiction is available to most County Courts, and it is unrestricted in amount.
  3. Many other statutes, such as the Legitimacy Act (1926) and the Agricultural Holdings Act (1923).

Appeal from County Courts decisions in matters of ordinary jurisdiction is on a question of fact or rejection or evidence directly to the court for appeal. The County Court Registrars are Solicitors who assist County Court Judges, and they are the County Court's chief clerks. They often have their courts resolve undisputed claims in small liquidated loans and disputed actions. Many County Courts have a High Court Registry that allows for issuing writs or taking preliminary steps in High Court proceedings.


Before the Norman Conquest, 'Shires were broken into smaller units called 'Hundreds' in different parts of the country. Legal historians believe that the name 'Hundred,' which was popularized in England by some legal historians, is a Wessex name. Every 'Hundred had a Shire court, and it was also called a Communal Court after the Norman Conquest.


Each Shire division was divided into hundreds, and the Hundred Court sat there. Its structure was very similar to the County Courts. The Hundred Court was formed by suitors working under the Hundred Reeve President. It had a general jurisdiction with a customary nature. Many Hundred Courts were dissolved in feudalism after the Norman Conquest. Although the Hundred Court was not considered inferior to the County Court or Shire Court, the Hundred Court could not appeal to the County Court in modern terms. However, it is possible to review the court's decision until 1268. The Hundred Courts tried cases that were smaller and less complex in practice. The Hundred Court was presided by the Bailiff, the sheriff's deputy, and the suitors were Judges. One exception to this rule was that many Hundreds appear to have fallen into private ownership, i.e., become the property of feudal lords. They might even claim to be able to exempt the sheriff from holding his Tourn. It mostly tried cases that could not be brought before the Manor Courts. It met initially at least once per month. The Hundred Court met once a month during the reign of Henry II. However, it was rescheduled to meet every three weeks by 1234. The Hundred was required to present a jury of at least twelve men who confirmed or denied the presentment. The Frankpledge system had gradually removed its criminal jurisdiction, which is used to have, so jurisdiction no longer included land pleas.


The same factors that caused the decline in the County Court were responsible for this decline, but the Hundred Court experienced a slower decline. The judges of this court were not law-averse, and this was also a conflicting and outdated procedure. The Hundred Court office was also removed from the Hundred Court's ancestral right. These courts were not allowed to flourish by Itinerant Justices or Sheriffs. Along with Frankpledge's system and Sheriff Tourn, these factors gradually took away the court's work. These factors eventually led to the demise of the Hundred Courts.


This type of police system was adopted during the Anglo-Saxon period. It is a system of compulsory collective bail that was established for an individual after he was arrested for a crime to protect him from future arrests. This system had two main purposes: to preserve law and order and arrest and produce criminals. This system allowed several families to be grouped into a tithing. Any member who had committed a crime was subject to this tithing. Although the exact nature of the tithing remains a mystery, its name implies a unit of ten or ten heads. The tithing system required that each man be brought to trial for any offense. If they did not, they would have to make up the lost income and pay the penalty for failing to bring him to court. All persons must be enrolled in tithing, except if they are exempted due to their rank, the extent of their property, or any other reason. A tithingman presided over a group consisting of ten men. The Frankpledge system's view was a meeting every half year by the Hundred Court Sheriff to ensure these things were properly constituted. Similar systems were used in the Norman period as well.

Members who committed misdemeanours were subject to tithing. Special fines (Murdrum) were required for the murder of Normans. If it was not proven that the victim was English, the person who was murdered was assumed to be Norman. When a person is murdered, the entire Hundred must pay a fine for murder, and the tithing contributes its special share. In the end, the Hundred Court's special sessions in which the sheriff inquired into the maintenance of the tithing system gained additional importance. These Hundred Courts received additional functions during the reign of Henry II by the Assizes of Clarendon. This increased the importance and significance of the Hundred Courts and the Frankpledge System.


It was a mixture of the Frankpledge system and that of assize under the Assize of Clarendon. The Sheriff's Tourn was later created from the half-yearly meetings held by the Hundred Courts. Professor Holdsworth pointed out that this resulted from Frankpledge and the presentation of offenses in the Hundred by an assize or jury of presentment. The assize required a jury of the Hundreds of Clarendons to present the crimes and suspects. The sheriff handled smaller offenses, and the Itinerant Justices to the King dealt with the more serious. He also created 'Articles of Tourn,' which dealt with any matter that could affect the King's peace. The King's Justices were required to try all criminals under the Act of 1461. This Act virtually destroyed the Tourn. The court's jurisdiction was transferred to the Justices at Quarter Sessions.


In certain older Boroughs, these courts were still in existence. In Anglo-Saxon times, 'Burh was a community that received special protection from King Edward VII in return for a toll.' These courts were an incident of the franchise to hold a market, and this franchise power could be held by borough authorities or the Lord of Manor. These courts had both criminal and civil jurisdiction. Before the Royal Charter was granted, many boroughs were considered corporate bodies. These courts used customary law, gradually unified by the Common Law.


The post-Norman Conquest period in England saw rapid legal and social feudalism growth. The Lords were given the land and a clearer concept of tenure. Large landlords held courts known as the Seigniorial and Franchisal Courts. The Norman Kings brought with them well-defined notions about feudalism. The feudal lords were granted certain rights, such as the right to hold court for their tenants. Professor Ault classified the points of judicial power when they reached their peak, namely in the twelfth or thirteenth centuries. These points can be classified into three types of jurisdictions according to the classification:


William I, the Norman Kings, and William I were strict in stopping feudalism and decentralization. Many economic units, known as Manors, were owned by large landlords, and they were able to hold the estates as one unit under military tenure from the Crown. The courts were created primarily for the administration of these estates. Potter pointed out that the court was responsible for distributing the knight-service duty among the tenants who had to serve and the assessment of the lands to pay their expenses. This task was made less difficult by the institution of scutage or money payment instead of personal service. As scutage became the norm and personal service ceased to be a necessity, the importance of this court began to decline.


These courts were often Hundred Courts that had been granted a franchise by Royal privilege, usurpation, or grant. These courts were called 'Courts Leet' because they were franchised. The Hundred Courts were where the country's criminal justice was conducted. However, many of these courts fell into private hands during the twelfth century. These "private hundreds" may be considered to have formed the basis for private or franchisal jurisdiction. The matter of jurisdiction was granted royal privileges after the Norman Conquest. This type of jurisdiction was not available to the Baronial Court or Domanial Court but was exercised in a "Court Leet." Edward, I discovered in 1272 that there were many claims for this franchisal jurisdiction. In 1274, he sent out Commissioners to conduct the famous Quo Warranto inquiry. Hundred Rolls contains more details. The Statute of Gloucester of 1290 stated that possession of any property since 1189 must be considered a valid claim. Grants should also be interpreted according to their tenor. These franchisal jurisdictions fell under the control of the Royal Justices, and new franchises were granted. These courts declined in importance due to the increasing effectiveness of Royal Criminal Justice but were still controlled by the Royal Justices.


These were the Manorial courts that dealt with disputes between tenants of the manor. They dealt primarily with petty issues relating to land, but the manor was a primary economic unit. Professor Ault states that the exercise of domanial jurisdiction cannot be separated from the ownership of a manor. The Court of Manor has jurisdiction over the tenants of the manor. This is because it is the lifeblood of the agricultural systems. The Manor Court had domanial jurisdiction. Before 1200, both freeholders and villains (unfree) were required to serve the court. Statute of Marlborough 1267 eased this burden on freeholders. No freeholder can sue the court unless it is imposed by his land grant or done before 1230. The distinction between courts for free tenants or tenants in villeinage increased as time passed. This was especially evident during the 14th, 15th, and 16th centuries. It had two functions. First, it was a court baron to whom freeholders could refer in disputes over freehold land, and secondly, it was a court of custom for villains who were later copied. This jurisdiction was only applicable to copyhold land. In his "Commentary on Littleton," Coke stated that the Manorial Court was of two types. The Court Baron was for freeholders. The Court Baron was for copyholders. The court continued to perform administrative functions until the close of the eighteenth century and the beginning of the nineteenth century.


The seigniorial courts were no longer an integral part of the administration and enforcement of justice in England long before the 18th century. Professor Holdsworth identifies three main factors that led to the demise of these courts.

    1. A feudal principle would have created a hierarchy (gradation of courts), and court suits would have been a burden on freeholders in such cases. The burden was further relieved by the centralization of justice and the Statute of Marlborough.
    2. These feudal courts were made obsolete by the issue of Writ de Pone, etc.
    3. The financial aspect of these services was changing. Scutage had significantly increased the importance of feudal tenancy by making personal service a money payment.

Royal Justice was popularized, decreasing feudal court dues. The passage of Quia Emptores, which increased the number and quality of tenants who held direct to the Crown, meant that they no longer owed suit of court to Lord Manor.



Before the Reformation in England, the Law of the Roman Church was considered a universal law that was binding in spiritual matters on all people and only subject to natural and divine law. The Canon Law, as it was applied in England, became a less universal legal system after the Reformation under Henry VIII or Elizabeth. It was subordinated to the state's law, and Henry VIII was made the supreme temporal head of the Church of England. In the administration of Ecclesiastical Law, Doctors of Civil (Roman) Law took over from Canonist lawyers.


The Ecclesiastical Courts had three types of jurisdictions over clergy and laity after the Reformation:

(a) Penal: dealing with clerical offenses and acts against religion and good morals

(b) The exercise of civil jurisdiction was over

  1. Matrimonial causes include divorce, Mensa et thoro, and nullity. This jurisdiction was transferred to Divorce Court under the Matrimonial Causes Act (1857).
  2. These courts were competent in testamentary matters, including administration of estates and gift-by-will. Probate of will was most likely granted in the thirteenth century. The Court of Probate Act 1857 transferred all testamentary jurisdiction to the Probate Court.

(c) In Church Matters, jurisdiction was claimed only by the Royal Courts and excluded Church Courts. The ecclesiastical jurisdiction also extended to personal property (e.g., church ornaments).