Jurats for the Stannary of Ashburton

Trans. Devon. Assoc. vol. 8 (1876), pp. 320-321.


R.N. Worth

Prepared by Michael Steer

Stannary law (derived from the Latin: stannum for tin) is the body of English law that governs tin mining in Devon and Cornwall; although no longer of much practical relevance, the stannary law remains part of the law of the United Kingdom and is arguably the oldest law incorporated into the English legal system. Ashburton is one of Devon’s four Stannary Towns. Tin was mined in the area in Roman times. The Stannary Towns were important centres for the tin trade, as all rough smelted tin had to be stamped before it was taken away for use. This process of weighing and checking of quality was carried out at very few towns and Ashburton was designated a Stannary Town as early as 1285 AD. Its importance as the main Stannary Town peaked in 1515 when nearly 40% of Devon's tin was sold through Ashburton. By the early 1700s the trade had all but died out but small amounts have been mined even up to comparatively recent times. The article, from a copy of a rare and much sought-after journal can be downloaded from the Internet Archive. Google has sponsored the digitisation of books from several libraries. These books, on which copyright has expired, are available for free educational and research use, both as individual books and as full collections to aid researchers.

The first parliament of which I have been able to ascertain the date was held September 11th, 1494

I find the following lists of jurats - the official title of these ancient Parliament-folk - for the Stannary of Ashburton in an old black letter treatise on the laws and customs of the Stannaries published in 1574:

"The great court of our Sovereign Lord the King in his Duchy of Cornwall," held at Crockentorre, before Thomas Deneys, for Henry Merney, warden of the Stannaries, 2nd Henry VIII. (1510), was attended by the following jurats of Ashburton:

Richarde Hamlyn, John Vele, John Bonycombe, John Maddocke, Willyam Myller, John Baron, Willyam King of Hole, John Eyre, Richarde Langworthy, Thomas Mathewe, John Exte of Brenston, Richarde Forforde, Richarde Baker, John Wydecombe, Richarde Hart, Willyam Widecombe, John Clyffe, Willyam Edwarde, John Saunder, Thomas Ganerocke, Michell Sperkewill, John Baker, Robert Tomlyn, Willyam Berda

Parliament held before Sir Philip Champernown, for the warden, Henry, Marquis of Exeter, October 28th, 24th Henry VIII. (1533): John Vele, Willyam Smith, Robert Hamlyn, John Ferres, Willyam Myller, John Horsehame, John Lagworthie, of Bokelande, Thomas Philip, Richarde Coyshe, Richarde King, Walterus Eowe, Nicholas Brende, John Pethybrygge, John Wydecombe, Willyam Baron, Willyam Elys, Thomas Predyaux, John Voyse, Richard Tayler, John Forforde, John Haddock of Huishe, Thomas Jamlyn, Elias Hert, Willyam Snowdon.

Parliament held before the same, 25th September, 25th Henry VIII. (1534) : Thomas Predyaux, Willyam Cowarde, John Bery, senior, John Veal, John Voyse, Robart Hamlym, Richarde Taylor, John Maddock of Blakeal, Thomas Hamlym, John Dolbeare, Ri. Lagworthy of Lesewel, John Horsham, Jo. Langworthy of Bucklad, Willyam Smith, Jo. Widecombe of Bukelad, Willyam Bonicombe, John Stiddeston, Thomas Wodde, Thomas Philip, Richard Quoyshe, William Leer, J. Dybell, Henry Paty, Robert Hanworthie.

Parliament held before Sir John Charles, for John Count of Bedford, 26th March, 6th Edward VI. (1553): William Burgin, Christofer Warrin, Thomas Hamlin, Richarde Tayler, John Forforde, John Stydson, John Hoseham, John Wide- combe, Jehn Debyll, John Seyger, Laurence Withecombe, Wylliam Hole, Richarde Langworthy, Thomas Bickeforde, James Maddicke, Edwarde Hanworthy, Walter Stephen, Peter Kyug, Thomas Pers, Richarde Hamlyn, William Wotto, alias Bill, Quirinus Rowge, William Yollande, Richard Maye.

The next list is from Pearse's Laws and Customs of the Stanriaries, 1725. The name given by him Foxforde, is the Forforde of the preceding lists.

"The great court or Parliament of our Soueraigne Lady Elizabeth," held at "Crockerentoore," before the Earl of Bedford, 6th August, 16th Elizabeth (1576): John Rowe, younger gent; John Furselande, gent; Olyuer Franklyn, gent; Christofer Warring, Willia Wotton, alia Gale, John Heale, William Ussher, Aungell Maddocke, Adrian Foxe- forde, Richarde Foster, William Meacombe, Augustine Herte, Richard Chafe, William Lammeshed, Phillip Peterffielde, Thomas Abraham, William Ellis, John Gaunter, Edwarde Hannaforde, William Foster, Richarde Meacombe, Richard Wydecombe, Frauncis Dodde, John Mayger.

I cannot say when the last Parliament was held at Crockern. There were no set times for the holding of these assemblies, which were convened when the Lord Warden of the Stannaries saw fit. Prince, writing in 1697, mentions Crockern as the place where the Stannary parliament was wont to be held. Polwhele, just a century later, says that the "legislators of the last generations" had been accustomed merely to open commission and swear the jurors on Crockern, and then to adjourn to one of the Stannary towns. I question whether when Polwhele wrote any one was living who had taken part in one of these parliaments. The latest that I have heard of was held in 1703, when Lord Granville was Warden, and the Hon. Samuel Rolle Vice-Wairden. This “Parliament of Tinners" was summoned to meet at eight o'clock in the morning of 23rd September.