Book detailing a day’s court proceedings in 1669 found hidden in rafters of historic building

Book detailing a day’s court proceedings in 1669 found hidden in rafters of historic building

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The long-lost book, outlining 98 cases heard by a court on 9 August 1669, has been found by a joiner restoring the clock tower of Carlisle Old Town Hall, where the town’s justice was once dispensed.

The Court Book of the Mayor and Bailiffs of Carlisle, written in 22 pages of Latin, details cases of claims and debts.  During the morning session, the court heard a complaint from a George Barwick that John Davison, a miller, owed him 18 shillings (today worth around £90 or $140) – but the jury of 12 men dismissed the case and awarded Barwick nothing.  In the afternoon session, John Roall from the ‘Kingdom of Scotland’, complained that John and Margaret Foster owed him 28 shillings (£140 or $215); the court awarded him 23 shillings (£115 or $177).

Joiner Colin Heatley found the document inside the clock tower of Carlisle’s Old Town Hall
Joiner Colin Heatley found the document inside the clock tower of Carlisle’s Old Town Hall

Colin Heatley, who found the book in the most inaccessible part of the clock tower roof, said: “We had to clean out the whole roof space before any of the repairs could start on the roof timbers.  I was cleaning away several inches of chimney soot and dust and I just found it under some rubble.  It was covered in soot and nestled between two timber joists.  It soon dawned on us that it might have some significance as we could see the date was just after the town hall was built.  It was lucky we found it.  This could easily have sat there undiscovered for another several hundred years.”

Historians are now assessing the book, which will be stored in a temperature-controlled strongroom in Cumbria County Council’s archives.  The council’s archive manager, Anne Rowe, said: “This is a thrilling and really unexpected find.  The document has survived the centuries in remarkably good condition… it gives us a snapshot of life in the mid 17th Century.”

Source: News and Star

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