The Barmote Courts in Wirksworth deal with lead mining in Derbyshire, ensuring payment of royalties from mines on lands owned by the Duchy of Lancaster. They date back over 700 years.
There are two courts: the High Peak Barmote Court (set up under the 1851 Act) and the Wirksworth Barmote Court (set up by the 1852 Act).
The ‘High Peak Mining Customs and Mineral Courts Act of 1851’ applies to the King’s Field and to all parts of the Hundred of High Peak in which Her Majesty in Right of Her Duchy of Lancaster is entitled to the mineral duties.
The ‘Derbyshire Mining Customs and Mineral Courts Act of 1852’ applies to the King’s Field within the Soke and Wapentake of Wirksworth, and the smaller private liberties mentioned in it.
The Barmote Courts were originally held twice a year at Moot Hall, Wirksworth. However, since 1994 this has been altered to one sitting in April each year. Small Barmote Courts can be convened as required. The Court consists of the Barmaster, the Steward and twelve Jury members.
The Duchy is not involved in the actual running of the Court, but the Chancellor of the Duchy is responsible for the appointment of the Steward and the Barmaster on behalf of The Queen in Right of Her Duchy.
The Steward must be a barrister of five years standing, or a solicitor of seven years standing, and is appointed by The Queen under Seal of the Duchy. The main duties of the Steward are: to receive plaints; to issue summonses; to preside over courts; to issue precepts to the Barmaster for summoning juries; and to preside as judge at small Barmote Courts.
The current office-holder is Mr. Michael Cockerton, a Solicitor of Goodwin, Cockerton and Colhoun of Bakewell.
The Barmaster is appointed by The Queen on the advice of the Chancellor. He acts as a kind of policeman and is the lynch-pin or ‘stowse’ of the Court. The main duties of the Barmaster are: to act as executor of precepts from the Steward; to attend views of mines; to walk the field and see that works are wrought; to see that ‘Lot and Cope’ are measured and accounted to the Lord of the Field (The Queen); to see that justice is done between the mines, miners adventurers and the Lord; to apportion veins discovered; and to collect fines.
The current Barmaster is Mr. Eddie Tennant (who is also the Duchy Mineral Agent) appointed in April 2002 following the resignation of Mr. W. M. Erskine (who was the previous Duchy Mineral Agent and who held this post from 1974 to 2002).
The Grand Jury of the Barmote Court is formed of twelve men to be resident within the jurisdiction of the Court in the High Peak, or resident and working within Wirksworth. They are summoned by the Barmaster to attend the Court, view mines and to give an opinion in matters put to them.