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Stoke-on-Trent Districts: Tunstall


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Tunstall,  Stoke-on-Trent, Staffordshire.

The Manor of Tunstall:

Tunstall Manor, also called Tunstall Court from the 16th century, covered an area which extended to the Cheshire border and included the following townships: Tunstall. Chell, Oldcott. Ravenscliffe. Chatterley, Brieryhurst, Stadmorslow, Thursfield and Wedgwood in the parish of Wolstanton; Burslem and Sneyd in the parish of Burslem; and Bemersley in the parish of Norton-in-the-Moors.

In 1576 Ralph Sneyd of Keele Hall bought two-thirds of the manor from the Audley family for 1,200. The remaining one third passed through various hands until it too was acquired by the Sneyd family in 1787.

Courts were being held for the manor by 1274. Until the 16th century the manor courts were always held at Tunstall but after the mid 16th century they were held elsewhere in the manor. By the mid 18th century they were always held in Burslem probably at the alehouse known as the Court House.

The original Tunstall court house stood in Cross Street (now Oldcourt Street) until it was demolished in 1888.

Many of the functions of the manor court were taken over by new forms of local government developed in the 19th century. However the manor court was still held in 1917 and some aspects of its work survived to the beginning of the 20th century......

.....for example the court was responsible for the upkeep of the pinfold for the impounding of stray animals and the appointment of the pinner. In 1782 the pinfold was situated at the junction of Furlong Lane and the road north from Tunstall to Lawton.
By 1839 it had been moved to the west end of Clayhills Road where it still stood in 1878. In the 1830s the pinner for Tunstall manor was chosen at the court leet on the nomination of the chief inhabitants.

Andrew Dobraszczyc's notes

The Old Court Leet in Cross Street, Tunstall
The Old Court Leet in Cross Street, Tunstall
[drawn from a photograph by William Scarratt]

The illustration of the "Old Court Leet" is taken from William Scarratt's, Old Times in the Potteries (1906). It shows the house, which had clearly been re-roofed at some time, without the adjacent buildings which surrounded it in the 19th century.

What is the court leet?

The court leet was an historical court in England and Wales.

At a very early time in medieval England the Lord of the Manor exercised or claimed certain jurisdictional franchises. The most important of these was the "view of frankpledge" and its associated police jurisdiction. Some time in the later middle ages the court baron, when exercising these powers, gained the name of leet, and, later, of court leet.

The court leet was a court of record, and its duty was not only to view the pledges but to try by jury, and punish, all crimes committed within the jurisdiction. The steward of the court acted as judge, presiding wholly in a judicial character, the ministerial acts being executed by the bailiff.

The court leet began to decline in the fourteenth century, being superseded by the more modern magistrates' courts, but in many cases courts leet operated until nearly the middle of the nineteenth century

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