Court Leet

An excellent presentation to the club by Andrew Harvey


COURT LEET OF THE ISLAND AND ROYAL MANOR OF PORTLAND

WE ARE NOT SOME SECRET SOCIETY WITH UNUSUAL HANDSHAKES OR SECRET SIGNS WHICH SOME SEEM TO THINK WE ARE WE LEAVE THAT TO THE MASONS

THE COURT LEET IS OF SAXON ORIGIN AND IS MENTIONED IN THE DOOMSDAY BOOK, AND HAS CONTINUED IN MUCH THE SAME FORMAT EVER SINCE, BEING AN IMPORTANT PART OF COMMUNITY LIFE, AND UNLIKE OTHER COURTS WHICH FELL INTO DECAY AND WERE ABSORBED BY LOCAL GOVERMENT

PORTLAND IS A ROYAL MANOR AND IT IS THOUGHT THAT THE MANOR MAY HAVE EXTENDED INTO WYKE AND WEYMOUTH AT SOME TIME ,AND IT HAS BEEN ABLE TO MANAGE ITSELF DUE TO ITS ISOLATION AND DETERMINATION OF ITS ISLAND RESIDENTS

AT VARIOUS TIMES DURING THE MIDDLE AGES THE MANOR OF PORTLAND WAS GRANTED TO VARIOUS INDIVIDUALS INCLUDING THE MONKS OF ST SWITHENS IN WICHESTER , HOWEVER THEY WERE EXCHANGED AND CONFISCATED BACK TO THE CROWN IN FOLLOWING YEARS

FOR PURELY LOCAL AFFAIRS AND MINOR OFFENCES EACH MANOR WOULD HAVE HELD ITS OWN COURT RUN BY THE LORD OF THE MANOR AND IN PORTLANDS CASE THIS WAS THE COURT LEET. MORE SERIOUS ISSUES WOULD HAVE BEEN DEALT WITH BY THE COURT ROYAL OR CROWN COURT

IT IS UNDERSTOOD THAT THE COURT WAS HELD TWICE YEARLY HENCE THE WORD LEET MEANING TWICE , AND THE COURT HAS RUN UNBROKEN SINCE THE NORMAN TIMES IN MUCH THE SAME FORMAT DUE TO THE DETERMINATION AND THANKS OF SOME RESOLUTE ISLANDERS , HOWEVER WITHOUT QUITE THE POWER IT USED TO HOLD

THE FIRST AND MAIN CONCERN OF THE COURT WAS TO MAINTAIN AND ADMINISTER THE COMMONS ON THE ISLAND , IT WAS ACCEPTED THAT THE SOIL BELONGS TO THE CROWN AND THE HERBAGE IS FOR THE TENANTS ALSO KNOWN AS THE COMMONERS, THE RIGHTS OF THE TENANTS ARE PROTECTED AND UNALTERED AND IT WOULD TAKE AN ACT OF PARLIAMNET TO ALTER THIS SYSTEM. ALTHOUGH TODAY WITH LESS FARMING ON PORTLAND THIS IS NOT QUITE SO APPARENT

THERE ARE 2 TYPES OF COMMAN LAND ON PORTLAND THE FIRST BEING CROWN FREEHOLD LAND WHICH IS CONTROLED BY THE CROWN ESTAES THIS CAN BE FOUND IN THE VERNE, VERNE COMMON , VICTORIA AND EASTON GARDENS LEASED TO THE COUNCIL AND VARIOUS PROPERTIES ON PORTLAND AND MANY OF THE QUARRIES, AND THIS IS WHERE THE CROWN GENERATE INCOME RECIEVING A FEE FOR EVERY TONNE OF STONE QUARRIED

THE OTHER IS THE CROWN COMMON LAND AND THIS IS ADMINISTERED BY YHE COURT LEET AND INCLUDES THE COMMONS AT PORTLAND BILL, HAMM COMMON ALONG PORTLAND BEACH ROAD , CHURCH OPE AND OTHER AREAS OF LAND INCLUDING PARTS OF CHESIL BEACH AND THE COMMON BEING REINSTAED ALONG THE EAST SIDE OF WIDE ATREET AS THE REFILL THE QUARRY

THE COURT LEET EXISTS DUE TO ITS CLOSE CONNECTIONS WITH THE CROWN ESTATES THE OWNERS OF THE LAND AND HAVE A CLOSE WORKING RELATIONSHIP, HOWEVER THERE ARE NO WRITTEN DOCUMENTS FORMALISING THIS AGREEMENT

 

AN EXTRACT FROM THE 1905 YEARBOOK STATES THAT THE COURT DINNER BE HELD AT THE LUGGER INN AND THE DINNER BE BROCCOLI AND ARTICHOKES THIS INN BEING THE FIRST HOUSE ON PORTLAND TO HAVE GLASS WINDOWS, IT THEN MOVED TO MEET AT THE GEORGE INN, PENNSILVANIA CASTLE AND NOW MEETS AT THE HEIGHTS HOTEL

NOW

THE CURRENT COURT IS SET UP VERY SIMILAR TO THAT OF THE LAST FEW HUNDRED YEARS AND STILL HAS THE SAME MISSION STATEMENT OF MANAGING THE TRADITIONS SAFEGUARDING AND PROTECTING THE COMMON LAND AGAINST ENCROACHMENTS AND ABUSE WHILST EMBRACING FUTURE CHANGE FOR THE BENIFIT OF THE ISLANDERS.

INSTEAD OF THE LORD OF THE MANOR WE NOW HAVE THE LOCAL CROWN BALIFF WHO IS APPOINTED AND PAID BY THE CROWN ESTATES AND HE ALSO TAKES THE ROLE OF STEWARD OF THE COURT AND IT IS HIS DUTY TO CALL THE COURT TO ATTEND MEETINGS . WHEN YOU RECIEVE THE INVITE YOU ARE WARNED TO ATTEND THE COURT, WHICH IS STILL HELD TWICE YEARLY IN MAY AND NOVEMBER FOR ALL MEMBERS , THE NOVEMBER MEETING IS ALSO ATTENDED BY THE CROWN STEWARD, DEPUTY CROWN STEWARD AND OTHER CROWN RERESENTATIVE INCLUDING THE MINERAL AND MARINE AGENT, AND GUESTS WHO ARE CHOSEN FOR THE INPUT INTO LOCAL LIFE ON PORTLAND.

AT THIS MEETING A LIST OF PRESENTMENTS ARE READ OUT CONFIRMING THE ACTIVITY OF THE COURT AND THE REVENUE RAISED BY THE COURT AND CROWN. OFFICIALS ARE SWORN IN BY THE CROWN STEWARD AND UNTIL RECENTLY THE MINUTES OF ALL THE MEETINGS THROUGHOUT THE YEAR WERE READ

FURTHER MEETINGS ARE HELD EVERY 2 MONTHS WITH COURT OFFICIALS AND VILLAGE INSPECTORS

THE FOREMAN IS THE FIRST OFFICER OF THE COURTAND HE CONTROLS AND CONDUTS THE MEETINGS AND HE IS ALSO RESPONSIBLE FOR OTHER APPOINTING SOME OTHER OFFICERS OF THE COURT WHO WE WILL MENTION SHORTLY. HE WILL WORK VERY CLOSELY WITH THE BALIFF . WHEN ITS TIME TO RETIRE AT THE AGE OF 75 HE WILL BE THE PERSON TO SELECT HIS SUCCESSOR

THE CHIEF CONSTABLE IS THE SECOND OFFICER AND THIS IS THE POSITION THAT I CURRENTLY HOLD, AND I SIMILAR TO THE FOREMAN CAN STAY IN THIS POST IF I SO WISH UNTIL THE AGE OF 75 WHEN ALL COURT MEMBERS HAVE TO RETIRE, OR IF I DECIDE I CAN PASS THE POSITION ON TO SOMEONE ELSE IN THE COURT OF MY CHOOSING. AS CHIEF CONSTABLE THE TRADITIONAL POST WAS TO ENSURE LAW AND ORDER NOT ONLY IN THE COURT BUT IN THE MANOR AND TO APPOINT THE VILLAGE INSPECTORS AT THE VARIOUS VILLAGES AROUND THE ISLAND. IT IS STILL MY RESPONSIBILITY TO APPOINT THE VALLIGE INSPECTORS AND OBTAIN REPORTS FROM THEM ON ANY ISSUES RELATING TO CROWN LAND WITHIN THE VILLAGE

THERE ARE 6 VILLAGE INSPECTORS COVERING

PORTLAND BILL SOUTHWELL WESTON WAKEHAM FORTUNESWELL AND CHISWELL

THIS IS THE CHIEF CONSTABLES STAFF WHICH AS FAR AS WE ARE AWARE THE ONLY ONE IN USE IN ENGLAND AND WAS FIRST USED IN THE REIGN OF GEORGE FIFTH

 

 

THE REEVE IS NEXT IN LINE AND IS APPOINTED FOR A TERM OF I YEAR AND YOU CAN ONLY HOLD THIS POSITION ONCE . THE REEVE WAS ORIGIONALLY THE PERSON WHO COLLECTED THE RENT FROM THE TENANTS AND THEY WOULD HAVE HAD A REEVE STICK SIMILAR TO THIS, SOMETIMES UPTO 6 FT LOMG AND THEY USED A FORM OF CUTS AND SCRATCHES TO DETERMINE WHO HAD PAID THE RENT ON THE LAND, EACH REEVE STICK HAD THE VARIOUS MARKINGS OF THE VILLAGES AND ACTED LIKE THE MODERN DAY RENT BOOK.

THE DIFFERENT MARKINGS REPRESENTED THE DIFFERENT VILLAGES ON THE ISLAND

SOUTHWELL A HOLLOW CIRCLE WESTON A CROSS BETWWEN PARALELL LINES WAKEHAM WAS THE CROSS IN THE CIRCLE EASTON A W CHESIL A V AND FORTUNESWELL A CROSS THE LATTER SEEMS TO BE A MORE RECENT ADDITION TO THE VILLAGE SIGNS

THE RENT WAS SET AT 3PENCE PER ACRE, WHEN A SHEEP COST ONE PENNY, GENERATING AN ANNUAL INCOME OF SOME £14 PER YEAR, THESE RENTS STAYED IN PLACE FOR SOME 800 YEARS

PORTLAND WAS ONE OF THE FIRST PLACES IN THE MONACHY TO COLLECT MONEY AS RENT RATHER THAN THE USUAL OBLIGATION OF SERVICE TO THE KING OR QUEEN,, THIS BECAME KNOW AS QUIT RENT THE TENANT BEING QUIT OF THE OBLIGATION. CURRENT DUTIES FOR THE REEVE INVOLVE LAYING OF THE WREATH ON REMEMBERENCE DAY AND BEATING THE BOUNDS HELD EVERY 7 YEARS

OTHER OFFICERS INCLUDE THE AFFERORS , THERE WOULD HAVE BEEN 5-7 OF THESE IN DAYS PAST, HOWEVER TODAY THERE ARE 2 WITH NO FORMAL DUTY . THE AFFEROR WOULD SET FINES FOR UNLAWFUL ENCROACHMENTS AND SET RENTS IF THE LAND WAS TO BE CONTINUED TO BE USED UNDER AUTHORISED USE

THE HAYWARD , AGAIN NOW WITH NO OFFICIAL DUTIES WOULD HAVE BEEN RESPONSIBLE TO KEEP A CHECK ON ANY STRAY SHEEP OR CATTLE AND THESE WOULD HAVE BEEN PUT INTO THE POUNDS AT WESTON AND FORTUNESWELL , AND THE ANIMALS WOULD ONLY HAVE BEEN RELEASED ON PAYMENT OF A FINE.

THE POUND AT POUND PIECE CAN STILL BE SEEN AT WESTON AND THE ONE IN FORTUNESWELL WAS BY THE BUSTOP BEHIND THE ELECTRIC SUBSTATION .

THE COURT HAS 24 MEMBERS ANDTHE REMAINING MEMBERS OF THE COURT ARE MADE UP OF THE RECTOR OF PORTLAND AND OTHER MEMBERS

THE COURT LEET USED TO BE MADE UP OF ALL GENERALLY OLDER GENTLEMEN AS YOU REMAINED ON THE COURT UNTIL YOU DIED .THEY WOULD HAVE BEEN TENANTS AND LAND OWNERS ON PORTLAND

IT WAS ABOUT 20 YEARS AGO THAT LADIES WERE PERMITTED AND I THINK WAS PUSHED ALONG BY THE FIRST LADY RECTOR ON PORTLAND ANITA THORNE . AT THIS POINT A NUMBER OF MEMBERS LEFT IN DISGUST.

LADIES ARE NOW AN INTEGRAL PART OF THE COURT

CURRENTLY

IN MODERN DAY THERE ARE STILL QUITE A FEW ISSUES THAT ARE DEALT WITH BY THE COURT LEET THEY ADMINISTER THE BEACH HUTS AT PORTLAND BILL AND CHURCH OPE THAT ARE ON CROWN LAND, THEY MAINTAIN THE COMMANS WITH GRASS RESTORATION AT THE BILL, THEY LOOK AFTER THE TOILETS AT CHURCH OPE AND ALSO ARE STAKEHOLDERS IN THE CHESIL BEACH CENTRE, INCLUDING FUNDING THE LITTLE TERN COLONY AT THE FLEET AND THE LOBSTER POT AT PORTLAND BILL. AT HAMM COMMAN THEY INSTALLED THE WALKWAYS AND ENSURE THAT ANY DISTURBANCE TO LAND BY UTILITY COMPANIES OR THE LOCAL AUTHORITY IS RETURNED TO A NUTURAL HABITAT WITH THE COREECT SOILS AND PLANTS NATIVE TO THE AREA THEY HAVE ALSO FUNDED THE CLEARANCE OF THE INVASIVE COTONESTER PLANT

IF PEOPLE WISH TO GAIN ACCESS OR CROSS CROWN LAND THEY WILL APPLY FOR WHAT IS CALLED AN ENCROACNMENT AND WILL BE CHARGED A FEE FOR THIS USE. FEES ARE CURRENTLY CHARGED FOR ALL PIPES BELOW AND ANY ROADSIGNS MARKERS ETC ON THE COMMON LAND

OTHER FUNDS ARE GENERATED FROM STONE EXTRACTION FROM THE QUARRIES,BEACH HUT RENTS AND AS LAND MANAGERS A GRANT FROM THE RURAL PAYMENTS AGENCY AND NATURAL ENGLAND ARE SOMTIMES RECIEVED

EACH YEAR THE COURT INVITE APPLICATIONS FOR FUNDING TO LOCAL ORGANISATIONS OR CHARITIES ON PORTLAND AND DISTRIBUTE ABOUT £10 12,000 KNOWN AS DISBURSMENTS. AND SOMETIMES ADDITIONAL PAYMENTS ARE MADE IF DEEMED APPROPRIATE IE REROOFING PORTLAND MUSEUM, LEAD WORK AT ST GEORGES CENTRE AND OTHE COMMUNITY BUILDINGS OR LARGER PROJECTS WHICH WILL BENIFIT LOCAL PEOPLE ESPECIALLY THOSE MOST DESERVING

COURT LEET OFFICIALS ATTEND A NUMBER OF CIVIC EVEVNTS INCLUDING THE MAYOR MAKING, REMEMBERENCE DAY, CEREMONY OF THE KEYS AND BEATING THE BOUNDS WHEN THE BOUDARY STONE IS CHECKED EVERY 7 YEARS ON ACCENTION DAY.

MANY ASK HOW THEY CAN JOIN THE COURT LEET, IT IS NOT SOMETHING THAT YOU CAN ASK TO JOIN, YOU ARE APPROACHED BY THE CROWN LOCAL BALIFF , AND IT IS TOTALLY HIS CHOICE WHO CAN JOIN, IT IS GENERALLY PEOPLE WHO HAVE KNOWLEDGE AND CARE ABOUT THE PORTLAND ENVIROMENT .

iF MEMBERS DO NOT SUPPORT AND ACT ACCORDINLY THEY CAN BE REMOVED AND GENERALLY ALTHOUGH VERY RARE WILL NOT BE INVITED TO ATTEND THE COURT .

AS MENTIONED YOU RETIRE AT 75 AND THEN BECOME A RETIRED MEMBER AND WILL BE INVITED TO COURT FUNCTIONS.

I FEEL QUITE PRIVALEDGED TO BE ON THE COURT LEET , AND HAVE BEEN FOR 14 YEARS NOW , AND HOPE THAT THIS HAS GIVEN YOU AN INSIGHT INTO WHAT THE COURT LEET IS ALL ABOUT WITHOUT BORING YOU TOO MUCH WITH A HISTORY LESSON

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more President Dave's Diary

Rotary Walk

more Members from Portland and Casterbridge walked up Colmer's Hill and Golden Cap

John Butler District Governor meets Portland President Dave Shaw

District Governor visits Portland

more John Butler visited the club

£500 Donated - Haylands Pre-School

more This money was raised from our 2015 Burn's Night Party, and will go towards providing an outdoor canopy, so that children can enjoy being outside all year round, especially in the windy Portland weather.

Hilda Swinney - Honorary Member

more Hilda was welcomed into the club on our guest night on 16th August 2015

New Vice President and Six new members

more Tuesday 8th September an historic occasion

Diary of life in Neo Chorio

more No 3 - February 2021

Water Projects Nepal 2018 Overview

more Portland, Casterbridge and Poundbury Rotary Clubs with help of RIBI Donations Trust, District 1200 and Okhle Village Trust

Yangsing Water Project 2017

more Nepal water project - Portland Rotary in conjunction with Dorchester Casterbridge, Poundbury and the Okhle Village Trust

Payaswora Nepal Water Project 2017

more Portland, Casterbridge and Poundbury Clubs with help of District Grant

Arubot Nepal Water Project 2018

more Portland, Casterbridge and Poundbury Clubs with help of RIBI Donations Trust and Okhle Village Trust

The Village of Okhle in Nepal

Nepal Water 2013/14

more Project to provide water to villages in Nepal

Gairiswora Nepal Water Project 2018

more Portland, Casterbridge and Poundbury Clubs with help of District Grant and Okhle Village Trust November 2018 - Work virtually completed

Pokharichap Nepal Water Project 2018

more Nepal water project - Portland Rotary in conjunction with Dorchester Casterbridge, Poundbury and the Okhle Village Trust

Payaswora New Nepal Water Project 2018

more Nepal water project - Portland Rotary in conjunction with Dorchester Casterbridge, Poundbury and the Okhle Village Trust and RIBI Donations Trust

Dungeni Nepal Water Project 2018

more Portland, Casterbridge and Poundbury Clubs with help of RIBI Donations Trust and Okhle Village Trust

Raipali Banyang Nepal Water Project 2018

more Portland, Casterbridge and Poundbury Clubs with help of RIBI Donations Trust and Okhle Village Trust

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Latest News

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