The Portreeve of Ashburton
In Anglo Saxon Britain, law and order was maintained by reeves who implemented the decisions of the local court. A port-reeve officiated within a town and a shire-reeve (later known as a “sheriff”) held administrative responsibility for a shire. In most places, Portreeves were replaced by Mayors however, some towns retain the office and sometimes the Mayor is also Portreeve.
Ashburton has had a Portreeve since 820AD and is one of a very small number to retain that office through an Act of Parliament! The Portreeve is head of a legally constituted Court, though these days the role is mainly as a social head of the town attending community or fund-raising events and, together with the Mayor, representing the town.
Photo by Amanda Germon
Photo by John Germon
The Master Bailiff
Ashburton's Portreeve is supported by the Master Bailiff who will become Portreeve at the end of their year in office.
The office of Bailiff originated in Norman times. Like the Portreeve, the Bailiff was also responsible for executing the decisions of the courts which might include administrative matters for the area such as land use, day-to-day supervision of work within the area and collection of debts.
These days the Master Bailiff accompanies the Portreeve as they go about their duties, and stands in for the Portreeve when necessary.
The Leet & Baron Juries
The Court comprises the Leet & Baron Juries. In the past the Leet Jury would have been concerned with the the enforcement of law and order and would also be concerned with the quality of bread and ale in the manor.
The Baron Jury would have been concerned with matters affecting the community of the manor such as land rights.
Ashburton's Leet & Baron Juries elect some members to a small number of roles including Ale Taster, Bread Weigher, Marshall, Constable and others. Members help to maintain our traditions, participating in events such as the Ale Tasting and Bread Weighing Ceremony, Beating of the Bounds and Court & Law Day.
Photo by John Germon
Find out more...
The Portreeve, Master Bailiff and other members of the Court support our community through preserving the traditions that make Ashburton unique and raising funds for local causes that benefit the community.
To find out more about how the Court functions, refer to the rule book below.