The Administration of Justice Act 1977 confirmed the continuation of Ashburton's Ancient Courts and the right to appoint a Portreeve
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,
The Portreeve must be appointed by a Court Leet
Tradition has it that the first Portreeve of Ashburton was appointed over 1200 years ago in the year AD820 around the time of the first Saxon King of England, Egbert. The Portreeve must be appointed by a Court Leet - a part of Ashburton's Ancient Courts.
When, in 1977, the Administration of Justice Act 1977 abolished most remaining ancient courts, Ashburton was one of a very small number of towns allowed to retain theirs. Under the act, Ashburton’s Courts are explicitly permitted to sit to appoint a Portreeve and make presentments, making the office of Portreeve of Ashburton relatively unique!