1911 Encyclopædia Britannica/Court Baron

COURT BARON, an English manorial court dating from the middle ages and still in existence. It was laid down by Coke that a manor had two courts, “the first by the common law, and is called a court baron,” the freeholders (“barons”) being its suitors; the other a customary court for the copyholders. Stubbs adopted this explanation, but the latest learning, expounded by Professor Maitland, holds that court baron means curia baronis, “la court de seigneur,” and that there is no evidence for there being more than one court. The old view that at least two freeholders were required for its composition is also now discarded. Prof. Maitland’s conclusion is that the “court baron” was not even differentiated from the “court-leet” at the close of the 13th century, but that there was a distinction of jurisdictional rights, some courts having only feudal rights, while others had regalities as well. When the court-leet was differentiated, the court baron remained with feudal rights alone. These rights he was disposed to trace to a lord’s jurisdiction over his men rather than to his possession of the manor, although in practice, from an early date, the court was associated with the manor. Its chief business was to administer the “custom of the manor” and to admit fresh tenants who had acquired copyholds by inheritance or purchase, and had to pay, on so doing, a “fine” to the lord of the manor. It is mainly for the latter purpose that the court is now kept. It is normally presided over by the steward of the lord of the manor, who is a lawyer, and its proceedings are recorded on “the court rolls,” of which the older ones are now valuable for genealogical as well as for legal purposes.

See Select Pleas in Manorial and other Seignorial Courts, vol. i., and The Court Baron (Selden Society).  (J. H. R.)