Ancient Courts on the Hill Tops

  • 11 Oct 2011
  • Crime and Legal
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Way back in the very distant past, long before there was centralized legal administration, justice was administered upon the hill tops, and in some places, ancient stones still stand to mark those special places, and surprisingly, legal customs continued there until comparatively recent times. Two such places are at the King and Queen Stones on Bredon Hill, and the Kifts Gate Stone near Chipping Campden.

The King and Queen Stones stand in front of a shattered altar stone said to have been used by the Druids, and is the site of the ancient courts of the Bishop's Hundred of Oswaldslowe. Edwin Lees in his Pictures of Nature around the Malvern Hills tells of the custom for the stones to be whitewashed before holding the court. The clerk bowed to the stones and invariably asked permission to open court. Then when it was presumed to have been given, the court adjourned to the Royal Oak Inn below the Hill at Kemerton. There is a record of an 'Inquisition' held in 1301, upon the death of Maude de Beauchamp, widow of the Earl Beauchamp, which was held at 'Cockerclos Cross upon the hill of Bredon'.
In the 1870s, there were still people living who remembered the Court Leet being held before the stones.

The Kifts Gate Stone, from which the Hundred of Kiftsgate takes its name, stands hidden away in bushes at the edge of Weston Wood, on the road from Broadway to Mickleton (Map ref SP 135390). In the past it was standing in the open, on the most prominent part of the ancient road that travels along the ridgeway. Here in Saxon times, was held the Court of the Hundred, and it was continued to be a meeting place, for one purpose or another all down the centuries. An old villager of the name of Gould, who died in 1850, at the age of 98, recalled hearing George III proclaoimed King there in 1760, and such proclamations were made at this stone until the days of William lV. Posted: 17/08/2006 1