Historic Year For The Barmote Courts

2016 is already proving to be an exciting year for the 700-year old Barmote Court in Wirksworth, Derbyshire.

  • External repairs and internal decoration work are underway on the historic Moot Hall, built here in the early 19th century and home to the Court since 1814.
  • Mr Jim Rieuwerts became the longest continuously serving juror of the Barmote in May, having completed 50 years of service, 14 of which were spent as foreman of the jury.
  • Also in May this year, for the first time, two lady solicitors were appointed to the post of Deputy Steward. Suzanne Porter was appointed to the Wirksworth and Juanita Haigh to the Chatsworth Barmote Courts. Both are part of the Bakewell team of legal firm Taylor & Emmet LLP.Dating back some 700 years, the Barmote Courts were set up to preside over disputes arising from lead mining rights across the Peak District. There were originally two Courts – one at Monyash (High Peak) and one at Wirksworth (Low Peak). The two Courts merged in 1814 and meetings for both Courts were held at the Moot Hall, built in the same year.

The Court consists of the Barmaster, the Steward and twelve Jury members. The Steward, who is appointed by Her Majesty The Queen as Duke of Lancaster must be a barrister of five years’ standing, or a solicitor of seven years’ standing. The main duties of the Steward are to receive complaints, issue summonses and preside over the Courts. The current office-holder is Mr. Michael Cockerton, a Solicitor of Goodwin, Cockerton and Colhoun of Bakewell. Mr Cockleton has been in post since 1983.

The Barmaster is also appointed by Her Majesty The Queen as Duke of Lancaster. The Barmaster acts as the executor of precepts for summoning members of the jury issued by Steward, attends viewings of mines, ensures that justice is done between the mines, apportions any new veins discovered and collects fines. The current Barmaster is Mr. Eddie Tennant, who is also the Duchy of Lancaster’s Mineral Agent.

The Grand Jury of the Barmote Court is formed of twelve men who must be resident within the jurisdiction of the Court in the High Peak, or be resident and working within Wirksworth. These individuals are summoned by the Barmaster to attend the Court, view mines and to give an opinion on matters put to them. The role of the Deputy Steward will be to swear in the twelve members of the Jury on behalf of the Steward.

While there has been no business at the recent sittings of the Court , the Court’s jurisdiction still exists and the jury is sworn in for 12 months. In line with tradition, beer, bread and cheese are provided before the jury is called and each member of the jury is given a clay pipe. A replica clay pipe, mounted and framed in a display case, was presented by the Duchy Solicitor Mr Timothy Crow to Mr Rieuwerts in recognition of his exceptional record of service.