The abbey of St Augustine: The high court of St Augustine

Pages 225-227

The History and Topographical Survey of the County of Kent: Volume 12. Originally published by W Bristow, Canterbury, 1801.

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THERE was belonging to the abbot and convent of St. Augustine, A COURT, which they had the privilege of holding, which was usually called the high court of St. Augustine, being of the same kind as that which was held by the prior and convent of Christ church, within their precincts, as mentioned before; this was a court of record, which in like manner was held of their own vassals, before their bailiff for the time being, from three weeks to three weeks, to hear and determine pleas, actions of debts, &c. and subject to its authority, they had a gaol near the precinct of the monastery, within their borough of Longport.

At this court were paid the several chief rents due to the abbot and convent, from the estates held under them, and it continued in force after the dissolution, being from thenceforth held by a high-steward, appointed by the crown, from which it appears never to have been granted away, and it continued to be so held till within the memory of some not long since deceased; but the profits of the court diminishing, from the suits being removed and prosecuted in other courts, the increase of stamps on their proceedings, and various other causes, it grew less and less resorted to, and was at last totally disused, insomuch, that the memory of its having been, begins now to be almost forgotten.

After the death of king Charles I. the liberty, commonly called the high court of the liberty of the late dissolved monastery of St. Augustine, was surveyed in 1652, as part of the estates of the late king, by ordinance of parliament, in order to its being sold. In this survey it was returned, that the chief or hamlet rents, called lath or tithe silver, payable out of the several townships, tythings and lands within the liberty, were 15l. 15s. 0½d. suit of court for the inhabitants of Minister, 23s. 4d. profits of courts of record and court baron and royalties 23l. coroner and clerk of the market 70s. schedule of the green wax 25l. (fn. 1) — Total 67l. 14s. 7½d. (fn. 2) and it was returned, that there was a court of record belonging to it, held every three weeks, in which all actions, both real and personal, might be tried and determined, without limitation of any sum, the perquisites of the courts being the amerciaments of the bailiffs belonging to them and the liberties. The issues of the jurors, the fines of responsors, together with the court baron, with the waifs, estrays, treasure trove, deodands, felons goods, &c. amounting yearly as above, that the court was held every three weeks, near the scite of the monastery; that the jurisdiction of it extended to some ten whole parishes, and part of an hundred parishes besides, and into part of the city of Canterbury. That all actions as well real as personal, might in it be tried and determined without limitation of any sum; and that the court baron had been neglected of late.

The officers belonging to the court were,
The right hon. Sir Henry Vane the elder, highsteward, by grant from the committee of the late king's revenue; his deputies, Thomas Twisden, esq. and Nicholas Oliver, gent. The late keepers of the game, within the said liberty, Sir Peter Heyman, and Sir Henry Crispe; John Sharpe, chief bailiff of the liberty and keeper of the prison, who substituted several under him; eight attornies, and a collector of the hamlet rents. All which shew the consequence and high estimation this court was then held in; however it may since have been suffered to sink into oblivion.


  • 1. These schedules were under the great seal of the green wax office, estreated out of the public exchequer within this liberty.
  • 2. The particulars of these chief rents are in the original survery, in the Augmentation-office. In the roll of particulars of the sale of the late king's estates, in the same office, roll H. 14, Robert Gibbon is set down as the purchaser of them; and he appears to have been lord of the court and liberties, by the stile and preamble to the several court-rolls, till the time of the restoration.