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Country code GB
Repository code 234
Repository National Records of Scotland
Reference RH11
Title Records of Local Courts in Scotland
Dates 1470-1834
Access status Open
Location Off site
Description This catalogue lists the records of the Court of the Lord Lyon, the Court of the Conservator at Campvere in the Netherlands, and Local Courts (other than Sheriff, Justice of the Peace, Commissary and Burgh Courts) preserved in the National Records of Scotland. The main series of Records of the Lyon Court are preserved in the Lyon Office.

Information on the historical and legal background of local or franchise courts may be found readily in the Stair Society's two publications, 'Sources and Literature of Scots Law' (Stair Society, vol. 1, 1936) and 'Introduction to Scottish Legal History' (Stair Society vol. 20, 1958), and in the introduction to W. C. Dickinson, 'The Court Book of the Barony of Carnwath, 1523-1542' (Scottish History Society, 1937.)

Briefly, there were four different types of local court -
(1) the regality, representing the higher private jurisdictions;
(2) the barony, representing the lower private jurisdictions;
(3 and 4) the stewartry and the bailiary, representing the special royal jurisdictions.

The heritable jurisdictions of regality and barony were held by immediate vassals of the crown in terms of Great Seal charters, and were transmitted with the lands to which these privileges attached. Exercise of the jurisdiction was usually committed by the lords of regality and barons to deputes or bailies appointed during pleasure, for life or heritably. Extent of the jurisdiction was limited to the bounds of the lands conveyed by the charter and qualified by the terms of the charter. By the Act 20 Geo. II c.43 (1747), the rights and courts of regality and other heritable jurisdictions were abolished, with payment of pecuniary compensation, but the baron courts were not interfered with, and barons infeft cum curiis continued with power to hold courts limited in scope. It is doubtful if the full extent of baronial jurisdiction was ever exercised in some cases as enforcement depended on the strength and influence of the baron. Baron courts fell into decline otherwise because of (1) growth of central authority; (2) development of the Court of Session; (3) multiplicity of erections and growth of the peerage.

Stewartries and bailiaries were royal lands administered on behalf of the crown but apart from the King's other jurisdictions. The bailiary had the lower jurisdiction. The stewartry and bailiary courts were included in the Act of 1747, and their jurisdictions were extinguished thereby.

Apart from their value as legal records, the court books of the local courts may also be of interest to the local historian or genealogist in that they often contain lists of vassals, tenants, etc. compearing at the head courts, lists of jurymen, etc.
Level Fonds
Format Text
Language English
Related material There are many records relating to local courts in other collections held in the National Records of Scotland. These are listed in an appendix to the paper version of this catalogue held in the Historical Search Room of the NRS at General Register House. Most of these other records can also be seen in this electronic catalogue, however, listed with the respective collections to which they belong.

National Records of Scotland, H.M. General Register House, 2 Princes Street, Edinburgh, EH1 3YY; tel +44 (0) 131 535 1314; email: [email protected]