Libri Placitorum

This record series translates to the Books of Pleas and documents the various legal cases which came before the manorial courts. These included private disputes, criminal assaults and questions relating to access to pathways and watercourses. The Libri Placitorum covers the business of the Sheading Courts (one of which was held for each of the six sheadings in both May and October each year) and the Gaol Delivery Court (which was the head criminal court and immediately followed the six Sheading Courts). Appeals made from these courts are not included however (they should appear instead in the Libri Scaccarii or Libri Cancellari).


The Sheading Court also oversaw transfers of land between tenants. The records of this latter duty are documented in the Libri Vastarum.


Organisation of the Records


The records are (mostly) organised chronologically and tend to be grouped together by year. A separate summary was produced for each court and there were a total of fourteen courts held each year (six Sheading Courts and the Gaol Delivery Court, all occuring twice). Each such document begins on a fresh page and is preceded by an introductory paragraph.


The Libri Placitorum have survived largely intact from 1496 onwards and have been microfilmed. They are predominately written in latin, but are however very formatted. The description given below is based on my examination of the Libri Placitorum circa 1630. An initial look at a sample of earlier records (from 1496 and 1540) suggests that these contain a broadly similar structure.


Description of the Court heading


Each court record begins with a header of the general form Cur plitary p lez kk Michell Sheadinge tent apud HolmeTowne decinio die october Ao dm 1631: followed by a list of the officers present. In this example the court related to Michael Sheading and was held at Holmetown on the 10th October 1631. The dates for the seven courts (the six Sheading Courts and the following Court of Gaol Delivery) typically occur a couple of days apart and commonly name the same presiding officers. The order of the courts in (both May and October) 1633 was Ayre, Michael, Glanfaba, Garff, Middle, Rushen, Gaol Delivery. This precise sequence doesn't seem to have been followed in earlier records which I have examined however. The location of the courts was variable and sometimes included people's houses !


Description of a Sheading Court record


Immediately below the above heading we have the names of the 12 man sworn jury of the Sheading (the Great Inquest). These names appear under the heading of their parish, with the jury normally being equally divided between the consituent parishes of the sheading.


The next section contains a list of presentments by the relevant annually appointed officials (Coronor, Moar, Lockman or Great Inquest). One example taken from 1631 is Presented by Nic Quirke Wm Crayne John Oates John Carrett Gilbt Cowley Robt Kinred upon their oathes that Thomas Cey did defame and slander Wm Curghie of these [] hee did report a theefe in his house and could not prove yt xiid. The parish and sometimes the names of a four or six man jury are given in the left hand column. (These would appear to correspond to the juries impanelled by the Deemsters in which six or four men of the parish would try criminal or civil cases respectively as described in Sherwood's Constition p 42.) The total of any income payable in fines may also be recorded there. This whole section is usually relatively short.


Following the above is a long section section listing complaints made by ordinary people. Each complaint takes up one paragraph. A typical example begins Jane Gale quer vs Wm Cayne for eating her corne wth cattle & geese. The words quer vs are abbreviated latin and translate to complained against. Each paragraph is concluded by several lines of latin which appear to me to give the maximum amount of the compensation claim and the conclusion of the court. The associated parish is typically given in the left hand margin.


Description of a Gaol Delivery Court record


Immediately below the heading is given the 12 man jury together with the parishes from which they came. (In the couple of examples I looked at, the jury approximately - but not exactly - comprised two men from each sheading.)


Following the jury is given more details of individual cases tried by the court. These sometimes including summaries of each of the witness statements.


Indexes to the Libri Placitorum


MS515 appears to be an 18th century (partial) index to causes in the Libri Placitorum. It covers the period 1640-1705 and also includes similar extracts from the corresponding Baronial Courts (these indexes covering a somewhat wider time period). The index is focussed on causes relating to access to land, watercourses etc.


The amount and payers of fines recorded within the Libri Placitorum are typically listed in the Lords Accounts (specifically in the Libri Assedationis until about 1700). These would therefore provide a crude index.