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Court & Law Day Ceremony

Updated: Nov 21, 2022

Ashburton's Court & Law Day, what is it all about?

Ashburton's "Court & Law Day" takes place on the fourth Tuesday in November, commencing at 4pm. Usually the event takes place in St Lawrence Chapel - generally considered to be the "home" of the Courts. The Court & Law Day ceremony is the most important event in the year for Ashburton's ancient court.

What Happens During Court & Law Day?

Traditionally the Law Day of the ancient Courts is when the Juries and their foremen are sworn in at the start of their legal term. Other offices such as Ale Tasters and Bread Weighers are also confirmed in the Presentments.

The new Portreeve dons their robes for the first time

Much of the ceremony is centred around the Portreeve the head of the Courts - Law Day is when the Portreeve retires and the new Portreeve takes office. During the ceremony the new Portreeve dons their robes for the first time before they are sworn in along with their new Bailiff. The retiring Portreeve receives their Portreeve's Medallion and a plaque on the roll of honour.

The Order of the Proceedings

The Portreeve invites the Representative of the Lord of the Borough to officiate at the ceremony which is directed by the Steward to the Courts.

  • The Leet Jury meet to sign their Court Book and read their Presentments.

  • The Juries and members of the public assemble in the Chapel

  • The Portreeve's Party enters and takes their seats

  • The Court is opened with a prayer led by the Chaplain

  • The Bailiff is asked to produce the precepts summoning the Juries to the Court

  • The Leet Jury is sworn in, starting with their elected Foreman

  • The Baron Jury is sworn in, starting with their elected Foreman

  • The Foremen of the Leet & Baron Juries make their presentments

  • The retiring Portreeve addresses the Court and delivers a report on his year in office before presenting the Portreeve's Cups and Pence

  • The retiring and new Portreeves, Representative of the Lord of the Borough and Chaplain leave the Court to robe the new Portreeve.

  • The Portreeve and Bailiff return to the Court to take their oaths of Office

  • The new Portreeve and then the new Bailiff address the Court

  • The Chaplain leads the closing prayers

The Home of the Courts

St Lawrence Chapel is generally understood to be "the home of the courts" and is consequently where Law Day is generally held. This stems from a deed relating to the Chapel and granting its use for two law days annually to the manor and borough of Ashburton, as recorded in the following report from 1826.

In the event that the Chapel is not available - then another location may be used at the discretion of the Portreeve. The Town Hall has in the past been regarded as part of the Manor of Ashburton and therefore not appropriate for the Borough Court, however, over the years the boundaries have become less clear.

The Portreeve's Pence

During the Ceremony the retiring Portreeve awards Portreeve's pennies to two "scholars". The scholars are children selected from the final year at Ashburton Primary School for their achievements during the academic year.

In addition to presenting the pence, the Portreeve also awards two cups. The cups are will be returned to be awarded at the next ceremony.

Other Formalities

During any meeting of the Court the Portreeve's flag is flown at the Chapel and the Portreeve's Banner is placed next to the dais.

The Complete Ceremony

The complete ceremony, including the oaths and assents for the foremen, jury members and the Portreeve and Bailiff is detailed in the Rule Book which may be downloaded and printed for reference.



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