Hatherleigh.net - The Lord of the Manor
Welcome. This is a community web site for the market town of Hatherleigh in Devon, England, along with the nearby villages of Meeth, Highampton, Exbourne and Jacobstowe. Anything related to these places can find a home here free of charge, thanks to our sponsors. Please take time to read their pages (left, or see home)
Highhampton Website Meeth Website Facebook Twitter
local people and contacts visiting hatherleigh events of hatherleigh home page for hatherleigh.net Our contact details Arts and Crafts


The Court operates today as both a vehicle for the continuation of an ancient Hatherleigh tradition and as a modern and alternative forum for the community; a blend of the traditional and the contemporary. Members of the Court include officers and a jury, most having a modern as well as historic role. Recently the court has become a more proactive community group, voluntarily working to keep the town clean, writing to local authorities on behalf of the Court in response to concerns raised by members of the community, and providing stocks into which miscreants can be put for correction!
Traditionally the Court meets once a year either on Ladyday (25 th march) or Michaelmas (29 th September) but the Court may be held at other times in the year depending on the circumstances. Everyone is welcome to attend the proceedings. 2007 Pictures here

The Future The Court wishes to continue as a useful and relevant forum for the town. Giving support, history, tradition and entertainment to the community of the historic Manor. Hatherleigh has a rich historic past, which can be explored and celebrated to help sustain a sense of community into the future. The Court would therefore support projects chosen by and for the town, that positively promote Hatherleigh's past .


The Lord of the Manor: Deborah Laing-Trengove
The Court is held for the Lord of the Manor, who presides at the Court and has the right to veto the decisions made by the Jury. The Steward and Bailiff were traditionally appointed by the Lord of the Manor to represent the Lord's interests in the Court. The other officers would probably have been appointed by the Court.
Bailiff: Jerome Twomey
Traditionally this office was combined with that of the Town Crier. The Bailiff is primarily responsible for summoning the Officers and Jury members to attend the Court and for imposing fines.
Steward: Jim Hindson
This is traditionally the Lord of the Manor's right hand man, responsible for leading the business of the Court. The Steward acts for the Lord in response to actions decided by the Jury, for instance by writing to local authorities about matters of concern to local inhabitants.
Portreeve : Roy Gard
The Portreeve was probably a Borough Official originally, with responsibilities associated with markets, tolls and so on.
Reeve: Geoffrey Cleverdon
Traditionally the Reeve was a villain or tenant of the Manor, chosen to represent and be responsible for the body of manorial tenants and their agricultural accounts. A role probably disliked because of the responsibility. The current Reeve has close associations with Hatherleigh Moor, an area of traditionally ‘communal' land still owned by the Lord of the Manor, now managed by committee.
Tythingman: Brian Abell
In the Medieval period the Tythingman was responsible for the behaviour of his neighbours and for bringing incidents of interest to the Lord to the attention of the Court.
Constable: Fay Kingsford
Traditionally the Constable had charge of the Town Bull – she now has charge of the Court Truncheon and is addressing the problem of litter in the Manor & Town by organising regular litterpicks with the Scavenger.
Searcher & Sealer of Hides and Skins: Sid Newcombe
This Officer was probably responsible for manorial quality control.
Ale Tasters: Sharon Cockwill & Jeff Horn
This is the most sort after post of all the offices and possibly the most arduous. The Ale Tasters undertake an annual evening of ale tasting before each Court is held and usually manage to provide a comprehensive report on their findings at the Court (thanks to the sobriety of the Ale Tasters Clerk). Certificates are then given to each hostelry, and in the future a small trophy will be awarded to the best each year.
Town Crier: Roz Chard
Our current Town Crier is very active in her role and is planning to represent Hatherleigh in competitions in the future. She is available to ‘Cry' for events in the Town. This is the only paid office of the Court.
Scavenger & Pig Driver: Rowe Skelton
Traditionally in charge of stray pigs and keeping the town streets free of obstruction and dung, the current Scavenger is very active keeping litter to a minimum in Hatherleigh.
Bill Poster: Richard Chapel
This officer is responsible for posting any notices relating to the Court.
New Offices: The following three offices have been recently instated to allow the smooth running of the modern Court.
Clerk to the Ale Tasters: Jane Fawcett
The Clerk ensures that a legible and coherent report is presented to the Court from the ale tasting evening, and usually the most entertaining .
Scribe: Phoebe Laing-Taylor The Scribe takes notes and minutes of the meetings of the Court.
Accountant: Sue Gill The accountant has charge of any funds donated to the Court.
The Jury: Traditionally ‘twelve good men and true' the Jury is now made up of six good women and six good men, some of whom are existing officers. They make decisions for the Court when required.


The first record of the Manor of Hatherleigh dates from 981 and takes the form of a charter issued by King Ethelred confirming the endowment of the Manor of Hegporn Leah to Tavistock Abbey. Thus at this date this ecclesiastical institution became the manorial lord, the title previously belonging to Ordgar, Earl of Devon. With the dissolution of the monasteries in 1539 the manor passed into secular hands and was divided, the much shrunken manorial core passing to John Arscott of Tetcott in whose families hands the Manor of Hatherleigh lay for more than two centuries. In the 18th century the manor passed to the Molesworth family who, in 1791 sold it to Joseph Oldham, ancestor of the currant Lord of the Manor, Deborah Laing-Trengove, who is probably the first woman to hold this particular manorial title.

The lack of documentation dating from the early medieval period renders the origins of the manorial system obscure, but it would appear most likely that it has it's roots in the 8th century, when land ownership and tenure rights were becoming more firmly established. The Domesday Book of 1086; the great survey commissioned by William the Conqueror; shows that by the 11th century the manor was the fundamental unit of land tenure, which can be simply defined as the estate of a single landowner; an individual or institution. Domesday illustrates the huge variation between manorial units or estates, some were comprised of a single or discreet block of land, others encompassed land situated at other locations. Settlements and their associated agricultural land and natural resources could be divided between two or more manorial lords, or the landowner could be lord of more than one manor. Thus the manor was not a uniform entity, neither did it remain static. From the early medieval period onwards, the passage of time and the consequent changes in land ownership meant that any Manor could be subject to expansion, contraction or division, just as any modern estate.

During the medieval period the Manor functioned not only as a unit of land ownership and tax assessment but also of jurisdiction. It was the right and duty of the Lord of the Manor to hold a court of justice for his tenants. Whist today the manorial court has lost all of its administrative and jurisdictional power, many courts are still held in several English manors thereby perpetuating the ancient custom. The tradition has continued in Hatherleigh, the last court being held in 1998. The court appoints certain officers of the Manor such as Portreeve, Ale Tasters and Constables. The jury, traditionally of 'ten good men and true' but which in Hatherleigh now includes women, hears any 'plaints' brought to the court and after consideration decide on a course of action. Whilst the proceedings are generally conducted in a light hearted way, the court in a sense functions now as an alternative forum for the people of the town.

Lord of the Manor



Editorial material herein is protected under International Copyright Laws. Strictly no reproduction of any material in this site is allowed by any means whatever, whether by reprographic copying, printing, photographic reproduction or photocopying or by any electronic means except with prior written permission of the site operator or copyright owner. Copyright infringements are theft and will be challenged accordingly. All Trademarks acknowledged.