During the latter part of November, nightly in Wareham and just
after dark, a quaint band of men can be seen gathering outside of
a hostelry, some are in top hats, some in bowlers, most are in some
form of archaic dress and all are wearing a highly polished brass
medal suspended from a red ribbon.
Once inside the pub they merrily start their work, under the supervision
of a tall man in a plus-four suit, whom they refer to as 'Mr. Bailiff.
They check the quality of leather goods, weigh a sample of the local
bread. taste and report on the quality of the ale, sweep the pub
chimney and so on: often levying the Landlord for failing to maintain
These men are the Officers and Jury of the Wareham Court Leet: a
present day survival of an ancient local court, which existed long
before the current parallel systems of local and central government.
They are carrying out a ceremony handed down through the generations,
in some cases from father to son, since the time of the Norman Conquest.
These courts were once held in most towns and villages in the country,
presided over by the Lord of the Manor and dealt exclusively with
local matters. In particular, they addressed local government and
policing issues such as trading standards and breaches of local