There are several references to the Courts Leet, chiefly in reference to the appointment of Constables.


In 1635, George Small, Steward of the Prebendal Court of North Muskham, certified the Court of Quarter Sessions "of a certain felony committed by a certain Henry Rogers of Bathley, carpenter, within the jurisdiction of the aforesaid Court, as it is said, and presented at the same Court."


At the Newark Sessions on 15th July, 1607, it is recorded that "the constables and freeholders within the liberties of the Reverend Father in Christ the Archbishop of York were spared as to their issues these three Sessions now last past with the intention that the said Lord Bishop should show something for their relief, which as yet he has not done." An Order was made that if at the next Sessions sufficient reason be not shown for their relief then all their issues shall be estreated against them. What the issues were is not recorded.


The records contain many references to Parochial Officials, not only to the parish Constable but to Churchwardens and Overseers of the Poor, and to Surveyors (Overseers) of Highways; and there were many presentments against them for "negligence in office."

Service in these offices was compulsory, and apparently went by rotation from one householder to another.

On 10th October 1653, there was a "Complaynt by divers of ye Inhabitants of Willoughby that John Wyldman gent holdeth eight or nine yards land in the said towne and refuseth to undergoe anie publique office for the same for ye Comonwealth but the burthen thereof lyeth wholly upon ye rest of the Inhabitants to their great oppression and charge." An Order was made that John Wyldman so serve.

Particular parishes were presented " for not having Overseer of the Poor."

There are other parochial officials mentioned, with titles that have become strange, but which were common in the seventeenth century, e.g.

On 12th July, 1641, Edward Poe of Gedling was indicted for not making a true account to the town "being the burleyman."

Burley is a corrupted form of Byrlaw, i.e., the local custom or law of a manor, township, etc., and the Burleyman was the officer appointed to see that these local customs, ordnances or laws were administered and obeyed. Among other things he looked after the stocking of the pastures by the farmers and owners of common rights.

In the early part of the century there were many presentments for the following offences:

"For not paying the salary " of the herdsman (armentar)"; and for not paying "the keepers of the fields."

In January, 1633-1634, some Husbandmen of North Collingham were presented for not paying sums of 1/-, 8d., 8d., and 1/- "for salary of the keeper of Oxon there."

On 20th April, 1653, a gentleman of Balderton was presented "for deteyning Swinheards Wages."

On 9th July, 1693, Edward Stapleford of Willoughby was presented "for neglect of office of ffield Reeve."

The duties of all the above mentioned officers were probably in connection with the Commons and "Fields" then existing.


There were many Indictments or presentments in connection with the Commons and Fields, e.g.:

"For overburdening the Common"; "For surcharging the Common"; "For oppressing the Comon"; "For trespass on the Comon with beasts, cattle, sheep and pigs"; "For pasturing cattle and sheep on the Comon, when not entitled to do so"; "For depasturing and driving cattle out of the fields of Burton into the fields of Willoughby."

There are also presentments:

"For keeping scabbed horses on the Comon"; and "for not ringing swine."

On 5th October, 1635, a "shepperd" of Widmerpoole was presented "for keeping his sheep in Key worth beast pasture."

On 3rd October, 1642, Thomas Ludley of Orston was presented "for chasing the sheep of William Marshall, being on the Comon."

On 27th April 1677, four men were indicted "for burning Jampnar anglice Gosse on the Comon at Scrooby."

On 8th April, 1679, Gervase Woodward of Barton in Fabis was indicted "for digging of alabaster (gypsum) upon the Comon."


There were a large number of Indictments or piesentments "for breaking the common pound," and "for rescues from the common pound." Evidently a very common offence.

On 2nd October, 1616, three men of Stathorpe and Lanford were charged with "riotously breaking the door of the common pound."

On 5th October, 1691, a fine of 6/8 was imposed "for a rescue of goods going "to ye pound."

There are presentments against parishes and against individuals "for not making common pound"; "for not repairing the common pound"; "for not making his share of the common pound"; "for not repairing pinfold," etc., etc.

The individuals so presented included "Sir Wm. Cope, Bart, of Marnham."

On the 11th July, 1681, the parson of Costock was "ordered to pay his proportion towards the repaire of the common pounde of Costock."

In regard to the office of Pinder or Pound Keeper:

On 11th January, 1640-1641, Thos. Coates of Cortlingstock was presented for neglect in his office being that of Pound Keeper.

On 14th April, 1675, Thos. fflintham of Caunton was "sworne Pinder."

On 10th April, 1678, John Trowlow Junr. of South Collingham was presented for not paying the stipend of the Pinder or Poundkeeper."


On the 4th April, 1687 four men of Gedling were presented for not keeping "the comon Towne bull" for the space of thirteen weeks.


An Order was made on the 4th April, 1687, "that Henry Hemsley of Gotham, pay Thos. Boulton of ye same 31s. 6d. for mould catching and charges about it."


There were many Indictments and presentments for not cleaning and scouring ditches (fossat), some of these ditches "adjoining the King's Highway" and some "submerging the common way."

There were also Indictments or presentments for not cleansing and scouring "communis suera." The term "suera" or "sewera" has been defined to mean "drains or trenches to preserve lands from "flooding, or sewers."

Another English term given to it was "common issue." In 1612 and 1613, Sir Francis Leake of Newark, was indicted "that communis suera anglice a common issue" between the town of Newark and the town of Balderton "is very defective and unscoured to the annoyance of the King's Highway."

In the latter part of the century when English was more used there were Indictments or presentments "For not scouring the comon issue"; "For stopping ye comon issue"; "For not cleaning the comon issue in the East More between Eyton and Tuxford," &c, &c.

Some ditches or drains (suera) named in the records are the following:

In  1607    "A ditch called Old Trent " (Girton).
In  1614    Green Poole dyke (Lambley).
In  1615    Symon Close dyke (Hawkesworth).
In  1617    Middlebeck (Hawton).
In  1618    Car ditch (Flintham, Hawkesworth and Sibthorpe).
In  1631    Moore ditch (Aslackton).
In  1637    Nells Close dyke (Hawton).
In  1682    Aldebeck ditch (Epperstone).
In  1684    Ditch called Ireland Spring (Lowdham).
In  1687    Ditch called Carlowe ffoard (Caunton).
In  1692    Stoley ditch between Holme and Langford.

[The places bracketed are the places the defendants came from.]

In 1613, two persons of West Stockwith and Bawtry were presented "for not scouring the Vicar's ditch."

On 21 st April, 1613, an Order was made "That Richard Holmes of Gedling shall laye a paire of gutter trees in some place convenient for conducting rain from his house across the street of Gedling to the ditch of Valentine Barnes who to-day made fine on a presentment for stopping up the ditch so that the water could not descend." Valentine Barnes was ordered to scour the ditch "so that the water conducted to it as aforesaid may descend by that ditch without nuisance to the street or to the danger of the inhabitants there passing by."

On 21st July, 1631, William Mellish gentleman was ordered to "sufficiently scour a drain (suera) before the feast of St. Michael next."

On 5th May, 1641, there is an entry that "the highway leading from Southwell to Newark being a market town is in decay in a certain place called the Wathes* by reason of a certain ditch there not being cleansed, and lying between Fisgarton and Rolston," and an Order was made to scour the ditch.

On 3rd October, 1677, John Arnold of Newark was presented for not repairing ditch near Markham Bridge.

On 10th April, 1678, the Inhabitants of Elston were presented "for scouring the common shore (? sewer) from Chapell Bridge to Carre Bridge."

On 16th January, 1679, Stephen Turnley of Ordsall was presented for not "scouring the Comon Water Lane," and James Robins of Ordsall was presented "for not scouring the comon sewer leading from Water Lane to the River of Idle."

On 10th July, 1609, the Inhabitants of Aslacton were ordered "to improve a ditch between Bingham and Scarrington."


There were many Indictments or presentments for not scouring or for obstructing streams, rivers and watercourses:

River Smyte.

Between 1605 and 1617 the Inhabitants of the following places were from time to time presented "For not scouring the stream called the Smyth"; or "the river called Smyte," viz.:

Whatton ‡†


Aslackton ‡†


Scarrington ‡†


Elton ‡


Orston ‡

Hawkesworth †

Thurraton ‡ Thoraton †


Colston Bassett






Those parishes marked ‡ were fined 1/- each in 1605, and those marked † 3/4 each in 1613.

Private persons were also indicted "for not digging out the Smyth"; and "for not scouring the river called Smyte."

In 1698 the Inhabitants of Hicking were presented "for not scouring parte of the River Smite between the place called Water Lane and the Manor of . . . . . [torn]"

In 1605 a gentleman of Aslackton was presented "for obstructing the water course in Smyte."

River Devon.

On 11th July, 1613, the Inhabitants of Hawton, ffarndon, Thorpe, Elston, Cottam, Shelton, Staunton, Kilvington, and Alverton, were indicted for not scouring the Devon.

On 14th July, 1613, "a fisher of Newark and a ffowler of ffarndon" were indicted for obstructing the river Devon.

Carr Dyke.

On 7th October, 1607, the Inhabitants of fflyntham were indicted for obstructing a drain (suer) called Carr Dyke.


On 15th January, 1633, a miller of Woodborow was indicted for obstructing the water of the Doverbeck with flood gates to the damage of neighbours.

River Greete.

On 13th July, 1642, the Inhabitants of Rolleston, Upton and Southwell were indicted for not scouring the River of Greete. River Erewash.

On 20th April, 1696, the Inhabitants of Stableford were indicted for not scouring the River "Erewith."

River Trent.

On 11th July, 1604, the Inhabitants of Sutton on Trent and Mearringe were indicted for not cleaning the Trent.

On 15th July, 1607, the Inhabitants of Girton were fined 4/- for not cleaning a ditch called old Trent.

These entries are interesting, as it is believed by many that the River Trent once flowed past Girton, probably on the line of the present River Fleet.

Other Watercourses.

There were Indictments "for obstructing water"; "For diverting a watercourse in the King's Highway"; and "for diverting water from the straight course."

There were also Indictments for "obstructing water," particularly against millers.

On 4th October, 1611, Robert Markham of Houghton Mill, Walesby, miller, was fined 6d. And on 8th July, 1639, Wm. Thorne of Sutton on Trent, was charged with obstructing a water course with water mill."

On 8th October, 1658, there is an indictment "for stopping the water (with a sluice) called ye White Water at Blyth."


In 1629, Edward Baxter of South Clifton, gentleman, was elected "Sub Conservator of Salmon and the frye of other fish in all the rivers within the County"; and in 1675, Henry Upton of Clifton, gentleman, was sworn "Conservator for the River of Trent for Broxtowe and Rushcliffe Hundred."

There are several Orders "for the pulling up of Stakes or Salmon Garthes in the River Trent," and in 1678, "Mr. Gregory and Hen Upton" (the Conservator above named) were directed to prosecute certain persons at "ye Assizes" apparently for not pulling up "Salmon Garthes at Nott Bridge and Hazleford fferry."

The last Order on the subject is in 1684: "That all persons that have any Stakes or Salmon Garthes sett up in the River Trent doe forthwith pull up the same upon the notice of this Order or els the Clerk of the Peace doe issue Warrants, &c."


On 28th April, 1617, the Inhabitants of Aslockton and Skarrington were indicted ' for non repair of a dam."


On 13th July, 1691, a man named George Smith was charged with throwing a corpse (injicien cadover) in the River of Soare."


By 33 Hen. VIII. c. 17, it was not lawful for "anye person at any tyme to water any manner of hempe or flaxe in anye River, runnyinge water, streame, brooke, or other common ponde where beastes be used to be watered."

In the early part of the seventeenth century the offence of washing flax and hemp in streams appears to have been a common one. No Indictments or presentments appear after 1636. On one occasion (8th October, 1617) about two hundred persons were presented for soaking flax and hemp in the River Trent. On 30th September, 1622, fifty-nine persons were presented.

On 8th October, 1619, Joseph Watt of East Retford, clerk, was presented for soaking flax in the river Idle, and on the 5th October, 1636, a laborer of North Collingham, was presented for washing hemp "in a water course called the ffleet."

On 7th October, 1618, a widow of Norwell was charged with washing flax on the Sabbath.

On 7th April, 1624, four women of North Collingham were charged with buying stolen hemp, and on 19th April, 1658, a man and his wife were charged with stealing "one stone and a halfe of fflaxe."


On 2nd October, 1605, to a memorandum of Recognisance to appear at Newark on 22nd November, 1605, there is the following marginal note: "No meetinge then because of the waters."

On 1st April, 1611, Andrew Shittlewood of Kinoulton, labourer, appeared and took his corporal oath that he being about his special business at Lincoln on 6th January, 1610-1611 And therefrom returning the same day to appear at the Sessions of the Peace at Nottingham on the following day viz. 7th January, 1610-1611 "by reason of a certain great flood in the river of Trent then instantly happening was not able to cross to the town of Nottingham to appear at the aforesaid Sessions without danger to his life."


On the 11th April, 1681, the Constable of Wysall was ordered to pay 41/- for ye repaire of ye townes wells."


The practice of enclosing portions of the King's highway was not unknown in the seventeenth century, and there were many Indictments and presentments for "enclosing the common way with hedges and ditch"; for "narrowing the way"; for "surrounding the highway"; for "encroaching and obstructing a way in Clarborough"; for "narrowing the highway with ditch at Cornhill near Gunthorpe," &c.

On 26th April, 1609, Wm. Bentley was "ordered to make a way that he had enclosed under a penalty of £5." 

On 14th April, 1634, Edward Musson of Alsworth was ordered to "reform" the encroachment which he had made on the King's highway. On 13th January, 1622-1623, two husbandmen were indicted " forpurprestura"†

On 12th July, 1637, John Raworth of Sutton on Trent, was indicted for "inclosing a parcel of common pasture there called Willowby bailee."

On 27th April, 1655, Humfrey Hopkinson of Sturton, was found not guilty for "encroaching upon the East side of the churchyard at Sturton the question being whether the pale or fence lately sett by Humfrey Hopkinson betwixt ye messuage wherein he dwelleth and the East side of the Churchyard about threescore yards in length was any Incroachment upon the Churchyard or that it was now sett according to the ancient boundary."


There are several Indictments for "Converting arable land into pasture land." This was evidently an offence under 5 Eliz. c. 2, where it is "indicted that all suche Landes . . as . . have been . . ploughed and put in Tillage and so kept in Tillage by the space of fower yeres any time since the 20th yere of Henry VIII. shall be ploughed and kept in Tillage for ever upon payne that every Offender contrary to this Act shall forfeit yearly for every Acre 10s."

Evidently the conversion of pasture land into arable land was also an offence, for:

On 12th January, 1637-1638, Thomas Blith of Tuxford, was indicted for ploughing a balk of land in West Markham called Broadbalke.

On 11th January, 1638-1639, a yeoman of Edwinstowe, was indicted for widening a selion of land with the plough.

On 16th July, 1684, there is an Indictment " for destroying a meadow and field."

On 4th October, 1616, there was an Indictment "for spoiling land."

On 4th May, 1614, a widow named Wayt of North Collingham, was indicted for "estrepement," which meant spoil or waste of land by a tenant for life.


On the 8th April, 1608, a husbandman of Barnby was indicted "that he occupies four farms in his hands contrary to Statute."

On the 10th July, 1616, William Cooke of Ferry Marnham, waterman, was indicted "for decaying a house of industry"; and on 2nd October, 1616, there is a charge for "wasting of houses of industry." The houses of industry were probably farm buildings, as the last charge is coupled with "conversion of land."


Presentments for non repair of Gates occasionally occur. The following parties were presented for this:

17th April, 1626. Wm. Wing of Teversall.

14th July, 1626. Inhabitants of West Markham and Milneton.

11th July, 1681. Christopher Newton of Bulwell, " for not repairing gates " in the Marie Close."

On 6th October, 1624, a laborer of Oxton was presented "for breaking gates in the West Criftin."

On 5th October, 1642, George Northall of Trowell, was presented "for not making gates between Norwell and Muskham."


There were many presentments "for breaking hedges" and for being "common breakers of hedges." On 17th April, 1615, three Arnold men were ordered "to be for 3 hours in the Stocks" for this offence.

On 2nd April, 1627, Jacob Fitzrandolph was "ordered to top and cut low his hedges by the King's highway."


There were many presentments and Indictments for not repairing fences;

On 20th April, 1642, "the Inhabitants of Gunnison" were presented "for not repairing their fences between Bentley Coppy and Epperstone Field."

There were also presentments for breaking and pulling down fences.


On 14th January, 1634-1635, Robert Hollingsworth of Farndon husbandman, was indicted for "carrying away the meerestone between Thorpe and ffarndon."

On 9th July, 1677, John Herson of Arnold, was indicted for "filling in the landmarke." (In this case probably the landmark was a ditch).


On 15th July, 1635, a laborer of Kneesall was ordered to be imprisoned for one hour in the Stocks "for breaking the Beacon at "Norwell Woodhouse and for carrying away a board."

There was a Beacon between Nottingham and Gedling. Vide survey of road between Nottingham and Newark opposite page 73.

* Note.—Wath is a ford.
† Note.—Purpesture or pourpresture means anything done to the nuisance or hurt of the King's demesnes or the highways, &c. by enclosure or building.