North Meadow Cricklade North Meadow

Cricklade Court Leet

The term ‘Leet’ means simply ‘the right to hold Court’. The origins of that right appear to rest in the system of Tithing established in Saxon times. Starting in London, everyone was recorded as being a unit in a ten (Tithe). Each Ten had a leader who was responsible for the behaviour of the other nine. In turn ten groups formed a ‘Hundred’ and the ten primary leaders elected one of them to be the ‘Hundredman’.

The Tens and Hundreds were responsible for catching and punishing thieves from among their number and for compensating the victims. This was the establishment of local policing under local leadership.

Later the population expanded and the Hundreds enlarged into Shires with leadership by election of the Hundredmen from one of their number. This officer had the duty of attending the local Courts and giving judgements, but as the Courts multiplied he was allowed to appoint a Shire Reeve to these duties.

The Manorial Court of the Hundred and Borough of Cricklade

At various times the jurisdiction of the court has included:- Crime; Chief of assized rents; Markets and Fairs; Dues and Tolls; Administration of the Town Mill; Rough Commonland and Common Pasture; appointment of Town Officers; maintenance of the Blind House and responsibility for the Town Stocks.

The practice in Cricklade was, broadly, to appoint a chief officer – the Bailiff – who, supported by two constables and other inferior officers, was responsible for local administration. (a pre-requisite for appointment as Bailiff was to have served in the office of Constable).

Appointments were made annually. The Lord of the Manor (or his Steward) required the serving Bailiff to present a list of all the ‘able and sufficient men’ of the borough to appear at the next Court Leet. Of these, a competent number were sworn in by the Lord (or Steward) to act as Jurors.

After adjournment the jury made a written ‘presentation’ of

  • The names of three persons to serve as Bailiff, one of whom was appointed.

  • The names of two other persons to be Constables and of other persons to serve as inferior officers.

  • Appointments were made by the Lord (or his Steward) and sworn into the respective offices.

Over the course of time the Lord of the Manor has relinquished many of his rights and responsibilities to various civil authorities – the County, District and Parish Councils – and Magistrates Courts. He retains the rights to appoint the High Bailiff, the Hayward (who under the Bailiff is responsible for grazing of North Meadow) and the other honary appointments held by the modern day officers.

The Manor was purchased in 1842 by Joseph Neeld of Grittleton and Mr Michael Neeld, the present Lord, holds the title by virtue of his ‘being tenant for life of the Grittleton Estate’.

In ‘the case of the Borough of Cricklade’ it is recorded that its inhabitants have for time out of mind elected two members to serve in Parliament. The chief officer – the High Bailiff – presides in all affairs and particularly at election of members to serve in Parliament.

The duties of High Bailiff are now limited to such matters as direct communication to the Crown at the Accession of a new Sovereign, summons to Town meetings, overseeing the pasturage rights on North Meadow and appointment as trustee of local Charities.

In parallel with this decline of responsibility the manorial Court (the Court Leet) has become largely ceremonial. It is effectively the administration/trustee body of North Meadow, fixing charges for grazing and acting in partnership with Natural England to manage an important national heritage – a water meadow where the Snakeshead Fritillary flower is protected. More information can be found on the Cricklade Court Leet website.

Officers of the Hundred and Borough of Cricklade 2012

Lord of the Manor
Michael Neeld
High Bailiff
Clive Smith
John Coole
Eddie Wells
Town Crier
Chris Atkins
Nigel Wynne
Ale Taster
John Harman
Paul Hewer
Anita Barratt
John Robinson
Bob Jones
Mike Hatton
Judy Ashby
Forman of Jury
Seymour Aitkin
Robert Baker
Brian Blackwell
Ron Blackwell
Reg Coole
Cathy Atkins
John Osman
David Tetlow
Howard Widdows
John Barratt
Karen Wilson
Chris Inglis
John Parmer


© Cricklade Bloomers 2004 - 2019 All Rights Reserved