Wednesday, 11 February 2015

At the Barmote Court in Wirksworth

When the Barmote Court sat at the Moot Hall in Wirksworth last April, they were asked to award lead mining rights to Castleton's Treak Cliff Cavern. Although a tourist attraction, this show cave is also the source of the rare blue john, a semi precious stone. Although lead is no longer mined, they needed to establish their rights and thus ensure that nobody else might make a claim. 65lbs of lead ore was presented to the court in a wooden "freeing dish"

The Court sits just once a year and is presided over by the Barmaster. In attendance is the Steward who is a local solicitor or barrister, and the Lord of the Fields who represents the Crown. A jury of 12 local citizens is appointed. Before proceedings begin, the officials sit down to a meal of bread and cheese and beer and are offered clay pipes and tobacco. A brass measuring dish is chained to the wall and is engraved with inscriptions ” This dish was made the iiij day of October iiij yere of the reigne of Kyng Henry the viij before George Erle of Shrowesbury Steward of the kyngs most Honourable household and allso Steward of all honour of Tutbury by the assent and consent as well of all the Mynours as of all the Brenners within and adioyning the Lordshyp of Wyrkysworth Percell of the said honour. This Dishe to Remayne In the Moot Hall at Wyrkysworth hanging by a cheyne so as the Merchauntes or Mynours may have resorte to the same at all tymes to make mesure at the same ”.

The Moot Hall, Wirksworth as re-built in 1814

The Barmote Court is an ancient institution first established over 700 years ago. Each lead mining district once had it's own court and that at Wirksworth is the last remaining. Their responsibilities include awarding mining rights, overseeing disputes and ensuring that royalties are paid to the Duchy of Lancaster. It is the oldest industrial court in the land.

The lead mining region of Derbyshire equates approximately to that known as "The White Peak". It is called the King's or Queen's Field, an area of 115 square miles and is divided between the High Peak Hundred in the north and the Soke of the Wapentake of Wirksworth in the south. Wapentake is a Norse word for hundred, this being a division of a county. Each division had it's own court. That of the High Peak sat at Monyash until 1994 when the two were merged.

Lead is no longer mined in Derbyshire and the role of the Barmote Court is now largely ceremonial. The Court will next meet on Wednesday April 15th 2015 at the Old Moot Hall in Chapel Lane. Although a private establishment, the public are allowed to view the proceedings.

The Wirksman, a depiction of a lead miner

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