Sources of English Constitutional History: Chapter 11

11. DOOMS OF EDGAR (946-63)

I. This is the ordinance as to how the hundred [court] shall be held.

1. In the first place, [we command] that they[1] shall assemble every four weeks and that all shall [there] give one another justice.

2. [We also command] that men shall ride forth in pursuit of thieves. If there is pressing need, notice shall be given to the hundred-man, and he shall then inform the tithingmen;[2] and they shall all go forth, whither God may direct them, to find [the criminals]. Justice is to be done to the thief as already ordained by [King] Edmund. And the ceapgyld[3] shall be paid to the owner, and the rest [of the thief's property] shall be divided in two, half to the hundred and half to the lord — except the men [who belong to the thief]; they shall go to his lord.

3. And any one who disobeys this [command] and scorns the judgment of the hundred, should his guilt be later determined, shall pay to the hundred 30d., and for the second offence 60d., half to the hundred and half to his lord. If he does it a third time, he shall pay half a pound; on the fourth offence he shall forfeit all that he has and be outlawed, unless the king shall permit him [to stay in] the land.

4. And we have provided with regard to strange cattle that no one shall keep [any], unless he has the witness of the hundredman or the tithingman and such person is eminently trustworthy. And unless he has one of these [as witness], he shall not be permitted to vouch to warranty.[4]

5. We have also provided that, if a trail of lost cattle leads from one hundred into another, notice shall be given to the hundredman of the latter, and that he shall then join [in the search]. If he fails to do so, he shall pay the king 30s....

7. In the hundred, as in [any] other court, we will that folkrighl shall be enforced in every suit and that a day shall be set for trying it. And he who fails to appear on this day, unless his absence is caused by a command from his lord, shall pay the king 30s. compensation and on a [newly] set day do what he should have done before.

III, 2. And no one shall appeal to the king on account of any suit unless he has failed to obtain justice at home.[5] If [however] the law is too severe, he may seek mitigation from the king. And no one shall forfeit more than his wergeld for any offence that can be paid for in money.

3. And a doomsman[6] who renders an evil doom against any one shall pay 120s. compensation to the king, unless he can prove by oath that he acted according to the best of his knowledge; and he shall lose forever his rank of thegn, unless he buys it back from the king by whatever payment the latter will allow. And the shire bishop (scire biscop) may exact the compensation on behalf of the king....

5. And the hundred court shall be attended as has already been provided. And the borough court (burhgemot) shall be held three times a year and the shire court (scirgemot) twice.[7] And the shire bishop and the alderman shall be present and shall there administer both ecclesiastical and secular law (Godes riht ge worldriht)....

8. And one coinage shall have currency throughout all the king's realm and no one shall refuse it. And there shall be [as a standard] one measure (and one weight), as used (at London and) at Winchester.[8] ...

IV, 3. My will is then that every one, in borough or out of borough, shall be under surety. And witnesses shall be chosen for every borough and for every hundred: for every [great] borough thirty-six men shall be chosen as witnesses; for a small borough and for every hundred twelve — unless you wish [to have] more.[9] ...

6. And under their witness every one shall buy and sell all the goods that he buys and sells either in a borough or in a wapentake.[10 ]And each of them, when he is first chosen as a witness, shall swear an oath that neither for fee nor for love, nor through fear, will he ever deny anything of which he is a witness or [will he ever] testify to anything but what he has seen or heard. And two or three of the men thus put on oath shall be present as witnesses at every transaction.

7. And he who rides out for the sake of any purchase shall announce to his neighbours what he is going for; and as soon as he comes home, he shall also announce under whose witness he made his purchase.

8. But if, while on some journey, he makes an unexpected purchase, without having made announcement [of it] when he set out,, let him announce it when he comes home; and if it is livestock, he shall put it on the common pasture with the witness of his fellow villagers.[11] If he does not do so within five nights, the villagers (tunes men) shall notify the hundredman and shall [thereby] escape punishment, either for themselves or for their herdsmen. And he who brought the livestock there shall lose it, because he failed to notify his neighbours of it; and the lord of the land (landrica) shall take half and the hundred half.

(Anglo-Saxon) Ibid., I, 192 f.

[1] The suitors to the court; cf. Edward, II, 8 (above, p. 13).

[2] The hundredman was the royal official in charge of a hundred; by analogy, the tithing may be understood as a subdivision of the hundred and the tithingman as its head. In this respect, however, the dooms are very obscure. See below, p. 23, n. 6.

[3] The value of the stolen property; cf. angyld (above, p. 8, n. 12).

[4] That is to say, only the designated persons could be called on to warrant his lawful possession; see above, p. 4, n. 3.

[5] In the hundred court; cf. Canute, II, 17 (below, p. 22).

[6] See above, p. 4, n. 5. The provision that the bishop could exact the compensation would indicate the alderman or the reeve as a possible offender. Cf. art. s, below.

[7] This is the earliest specific mention of either the borough court or the shire court, both of which appear to have been courts of superior jurisdiction. Whether such a court was called burhgemot or scirgemot, and whether it met twice or three times a year, were perhaps matters of secondary importance. For evidence that at this time the shire was a comparatively large district, see Aethelred, II, 8 (below, p. 20). And on the controversial subject of the borough court, see C. Stephenson, Borough and Town, pp. 64-70; Tait, The Medieval English Borough, ch. ii.

[8] The phrases in parentheses are additions to the original text. The insertion' of London proves the growing importance of that city as a commercial centre in the eleventh century.

[9] Cf. Aethelstan, V, 1 (above, p. 15), which set up a select group of oath-helpers in the district later called the hundred. Note that such an oath-helper was often styled a witness and that a witness to a purchase served as an oath-helper when vouched to warranty; see the oaths under no. 14, below.

[10] A name by which the hundred was often known in Danish regions.

[11]Tunescipe, our "township." This is the sole appearance of the word in the dooms; see Maitland, Domesday Book and Beyond, p. 147.

More To Explore