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PEACEKEEPING in medieval England has long been portrayed in terms of a grand centralized design as kings strove to meet the ideological goal and uphold their coronation vow to maintain public order. (1) To a large extent this view has been conveyed and reinforced through focus on the apparent conflict between central government and the localities over the administration of justice and in the powers accorded to the keepers/ justices of the peace. (2) As a result of a resurgence of interest in the evolution and functioning of the justices of the peace, the exhaustive research work carried out by Professor Bertha Putnam and continued by her disciples, Rosamund Sillem and Elizabeth Kimball, has been revisited and a more contextual approach taken. This new analysis, taking into consideration the wider judicial, political and social context in which the justices of the peace evolved as well as the personnel of `local' and `central' justice, has arguably yielded a fuller, balanced, more three-dimensional picture of a crucial phase in legal history. (3)

One of the important conclusions emerging from this new approach is that to draw a sharp distinction between `central' and `local' is in fact to misunderstand and misrepresent the whole nature of law enforcement. (4) Indeed, it has been convincingly demonstrated that the processes or agencies of peacekeeping operated as an entire system. This paper adds a further dimension to these new accounts by examining the officials responsible for maintaining the peace who were operating below the generally more closely analysed county level. The county keepers of the peace were never the sole agents responsible for maintaining law and order in the shire: there were keepers/constables of the peace for hundreds, keepers of the peace for towns and liberties and, at a lower level still, constables of townships and neighbourhoods. (5) The county keepers were thus only part of a wider circle of peacekeeping officials functioning at differing levels and within varying jurisdictions, whose duties usually coincided with or aided the sheriff (who in government terminology was custos of the shire) and his staff. (6) They do not simply represent layers of bureaucracy. The need for a hierarchy of local officials employed in a peacekeeping capacity was a natural adjunct to the community responsibility entailed in the frankpledge system, which supplied an awareness and alertness at the truly local level, and in the watch, a nocturnal vigilance against unwanted or dangerous outsiders. (7)

Much of the ordinary work of these peacekeeping officials took place within the context of the county courts and the manorial or hundred courts. Since Professor Helen Cam provided detailed studies on the administration of the latter (8) and Professor Robert Palmer has researched the operation of the county courts, (9) this paper assesses instead the importance of these shire officials in the arena of royal justice. First, it considers the methods by which they were appointed and the authority under which they operated, and then goes on to examine the judicial and administrative context of their work. The political and social ramifications of their duties are also highlighted where appropriate. In spite of the problems presented by a scarcity of detailed information on the personnel functioning at this level, it is possible to view them at work through a careful perusal of the surviving plea rolls and by using the texts of commissions enrolled on the dorses of the manuscript patent rolls. While it is clear from the sources that there was a distinction between the level at which an official operated and his area of jurisdiction, there does not appear to have been a perceptible difference between the terms `constable of the peace', `keeper of the peace for the hundred' or `sub-keeper'. (10) Indeed, they seem to have been interchangeable and occasionally used jointly, as in the case of John Carelton and Reginald Worstead, described as capitales constabularii et custodes pacis of Worstead hundred. (11)

In examining the appointment and employment of local peacekeeping officials, this study argues that they played a significant role not just in local justice, but in the microcosm of shire politics and society. Their existence and activities should be included in a comprehensive vision of the local administration of justice and their development viewed in parallel with that of the county keepers. It should be acknowledged that they were not `rivals' of the justices of the peace, as has been alleged, (12) but partners. It is apparent from this and other studies that they played an important part in the prosecution and punishment of crime, not just in their capacity as arresting officers, but through service as presenting jurors, witnesses at trials and even as trial jurors. In political and social terms as well as the purely administrative, the position of these men was significant. Their independence and capacity for initiative was vital, as was their ability to maintain a balance between the king's interests and sensitive local issues. (13) The networks of service and patterns of friendship subsisting at the level of the hundred and even of the village could achieve compromises, but also harbour tensions. The ambiguity of their position is highlighted by the responses of certain members of officialdom to local crises. Their reactions indicate, on the one hand, that the authority they legitimately wielded was not always respected and, on the other, that at critical moments it was not necessarily possible for the Crown to guarantee their unswerving loyalty. This paper stresses, however, that royal justice was an integrated system and demonstrates that the office of keeper of the peace (at whatever level) was only one manifestation of the work of highly competent and valued local officials, just as the office itself was only one weapon in the armoury of law enforcement.

By the fourteenth century, authority for local law-enforcement derived primarily from the Statute of Winchester (1285), which, although essentially a codification of much earlier measures, encompassed instructions on the communities' obligations regarding the possession of weapons and maintenance of the king's peace. (14) As a precaution against violent assaults, robberies and other criminal activity, there were provisions concerning watch-keeping, while highways were to be widened and ditches filled in if they did not fulfil the statutory requirements in width or otherwise. The statute specifically gave the power to arrest suspicious strangers, who were to be kept under guard until further investigation by the eyre justices or, as was the norm by the fourteenth century, at gaol delivery. Two constables in each hundred, who were responsible to the county keepers of the peace, were entrusted with the view of arms and on two occasions each year were to check that the men were arrayed according to their competence. (15)

It is not clear how the constables of the peace for the hundred were generally appointed. They may have been elected or simply put themselves forward. When subjected to investigation, some hundreds and liberties claimed that they had never had any constables (or had never appointed any). (16) Certainly in the early fourteenth century, when replacements were needed as a result of continued illness, death or mere laxity, they were `elected' and, in the presence of royal justices, swore to carry out their office according to the Statute of Winchester. (17) Their period of service was often lengthy. Robert le Palmer was constable for the town of Bridgewater in Shropshire for ten years, while John Smethcote and John Remington were constables of the peace for the hundred of Condover in the same county for about twenty years. (18) Although probably not all of these men were as assiduous as they ought to have been, their durability in office and consequent accumulation of local knowledge and experience were undoubtedly advantageous for the Crown. (19)

A `second chapter' in the code administered by the keepers/justices of the peace and their subordinates was founded on the Statute of Northampton (1328), which, in particular, made it an infringement of the peace for anyone to ride armed by day or night, in fairs and markets, in the presence of the king's justices or elsewhere. (20) The power to enforce this provision was given to the king's justices, sheriffs and other ministers, lords of franchises and their bailiffs, mayors and bailiffs of cities and boroughs, borough-holders, and constables and keepers of the peace. Representing all those who in their own areas of jurisdiction (and at differing levels) were responsible for preserving the peace, it does not imply subordinate status for the keepers of the peace, as Professor Putnam thought: it underlines the fact that the keepers of the peace at county level were not the sole agents for law enforcement, but were involved in a partnership with other office-holders within the shire. This statute was shortly followed by one in 1331 (also known as the Statute of Westminster) which conferred on town constables and bailiffs of liberties responsibility for the arrest of `people that be called roberdesmen, wastors and draw-latches' who were suspected of criminal activity during the day or at night, a duty which had previously been a collective one. (21)

The enforcement responsibilities accorded constables and bailiffs after the Black Death brought their duties into the economic sphere. The Ordinance (1349) and Statute of Labourers (1351) appointed them to control the movements, conduct and service arrangements of labourers and servants within their jurisdiction. In particular, local officials were directed to compel labourers to take an oath to uphold the statutory provisions, while the legislation empowered them to imprison any who refused or disobeyed and broke their agreements. Workers who left the village could be arrested. (22) The labour legislation thus gave constables the means to maintain (or at least attempt to maintain) the status quo in their various regions following the dislocating effects of the plague, and provided a substratum of enforcement below the level of justices of the peace/special justices of labourers. (23)

The Statute of Winchester offered a new direction to the office of keeper of the peace at county level in that the commissions issued to enforce its provisions became more judicial in character, but the statute contained no specific responsibilities for constables other than general policing and military array, essentially inquisitorial and supervisory tasks. (24) There was an attempt to remedy this, however, early in Edward II's reign. In the aftermath of the countrywide general oyer and terminer (or `trailbaston') visitations of 1305-7, during which local peacekeeping measures came under intense scrutiny, local officials were informed (following the issue of peace commissions to all counties in March 1308) that in due course they too would be receiving specific instructions regarding the keeping of the peace. (25) Unfortunately, as far as it is possible to discover, there are no surviving indications of the Crown's intentions in this respect. However, royal commissions to keepers of the peace at hundred level recorded in the patent rolls for the 1320s provide some evidence of the powers, duties and expectations accorded these officials.

The commission of 1321 directed to James Lambourn and Edmund Baddow to keep the peace in the hundred of Chelmsford, which unusually for this period was written in French, begins with formulaic language bemoaning the state of the peace (26) and assigns them a garder et sauver le hundred avauntdit. Offenders were to be conveyed to Colchester castle and delivered to the sheriff or his deputy. Further, the keepers were to prevent illegal assemblies and make sure all roads of the county were guarded. The differing levels of the peacekeeping network and the need for cooperation in the pursuit of their duties are encapsulated in the phrase: `in all the things written above pay attention to our faithful and loyal [Robert FitzWalter, Thomas de Vere and Nicholas Engayne] ... chief guardians of our peace throughout the said county of Essex.' (27) A list of two or three names for each of the respective hundreds in Essex (and similarly in Hertfordshire) then follows. (28)

In November 1323 up to six men described in the commission as subcustodes pacis were appointed for the Lancashire wapentakes of Leyland, Derby, Salford, Amounderness, Lonsdale and Blackburn. (29) Unlike the keepers of the peace for hundreds in Essex and Hertfordshire, the Lancashire sub-keepers were given powers for the pursuit and arrest of those committing felonies and trespasses against the peace throughout the wapentake under their jurisdiction (de villa in villam in Wapentachio predicto tam infra libertates quam extra). The ability to enter liberties in pursuit of alleged wrongdoers was thus a significant enhancement of their powers. Like their southern counterparts they were to ensure offenders were kept in prison in the safe custody of the sheriff and were similarly answerable to capitales custodes pacis, though again the cooperative nature of the undertaking was made clear. (30)

It is arguable that the powers accorded to the sub-keepers of 1321 and 1323 were atypical and, given the context of the early 1320s (a period during which the country was beset with civil war, the disorder and disruption of which was acutely felt in Lancashire among other places), (31) merely symptomatic of the need for special peacekeeping measures. This contention is seemingly underlined by the general paucity of chancery enrolments of commissions to hundredal keepers. While the unusualness of the contemporary political situation cannot be denied, it does not necessarily follow that the powers contained in the royal commissions were substantially at variance with powers already being exercised. The issuing of commissions at such a time should probably be seen as a reflection of the belief that the mere possession of a royal commission perceptibly enhanced an individual's authority and enabled him to carry out his duties more confidently. (32)

The patent rolls contain other commissions that were issued during the fourteenth century, which further shed light on the pivotal role of officials below county level. In February 1330, for instance, Robert Bereford and Walter Woburn were appointed keepers of the peace for the hundreds of Banbury and Bloxham in Oxfordshire. (33) Rather than inscribing the whole text of the commission, the chancery clerk indicated that it followed the formula of the enrolment immediately above, a commission to Robert Bracy and John Sapy appointing them keepers of the peace for Worcestershire. (34) In addition to normal powers of pursuit and arrest, this commission apparently endowed the hundred keepers with the power to hear and determine felonies and trespasses and to deal with suits of the party in keeping with the general commissions of the peace issued for all counties in May 1329. (35) This may of course have been a mistake by the enrolling clerk, blithely assuming that the previous peace commission would apply equally to the sub-keepers. On the other hand, in the light of the riots that had recently occurred in Abingdon and Oxford, and given the climate of judicial experiment existing at this time, (36) it is possible that Bereford and Woburn were actually accorded these powers. Indeed, government concern for the state of the peace in Oxfordshire is evinced by the dispatching of the highest judicial body, the court of king's bench, to hold sessions later in 1330. (37)

A second example comes from Lancashire, where in May 1345 individual wapentakes once again received a commission of the peace. (38) The text provides no specific reason for the issue, though it may have been at the request of Henry, Earl of Lancaster, as a precaution against his absence from the country owing to his involvement in Edward III's campaign on the continent and his appointment in 1345 as the king's lieutenant in the duchy of Aquitaine. (39) The measure may also be related to an incident at Liverpool during Lent of the same year, where a riot allegedly resulted in the deaths of nearly thirty people. (40) Reciting the familiar catalogue of disorder and violence, the commission assigned men to keep the peace and enforce the statutes of Winchester and Northampton; they were accordingly empowered to pursue, arrest and take those in the wapentake who formed congregations, confederations, or illicit conventicles, raped women and committed other felonies and crimes. (41) It is clear that this commission offered a broader scope than its predecessor of 1323, taking steps to curb organized violence and particularly brutal offences and indeed was wider than the 1344 peace commission for the county. (42) Special attention was also paid to the area where the disorder was supposed to have occurred: twelve men were commissioned for the wapentake of Derby, while only four to seven men were named for the other wapentakes.

Royal commissions were also issued to towns and liberties during the fourteenth century, though rarely during its opening decades. Unlike the commissions to sub-keepers, appointments usually stated specific reasons for the grant and probably resulted from borough petitions. (43) Moreover, up to 1350 the form and content tended to differ from county commissions, although the relevant clauses of the Statute of Winchester concerning the pursuit and arrest of suspects were generally cited. (44) The commissions enrolled for the early years of the century appear to have been extraordinary appointments usually linked with the keepership of the town and its castle. In January 1312, for instance, Henry Beaumont and Robert Umfraville were given custody of the castle and town of Newcastle upon Tyne `to enable them as keepers of the peace to discharge their office more efficiently'. (45) Later in July of the same year, Maurice Berkeley was appointed keeper of the town of Gloucester and keeper of the peace for the town. (46) Such appointments may have been more symbolic than functional and it is not clear to what extent the custodial powers granted were used. The apparent lack of formal appointments for other years does not appear to have compromised local peacekeeping, as there is evidence that the task was generally undertaken by the mayor and borough officials. (47)

Since the commissions to towns were sent out in response to specific concerns there is no overall pattern for issues, though there were sudden spates (four in 1338 and eleven in 1344-6), often as a result of the need to ensure peaceful conditions at home during the King's pursuit of his claim to the French throne. In 1338, for example, Henry Tideswell, William Apethorpe, William Fleming and William Norman were appointed `in view of the king's speedy departure to parts beyond the seas to defend the realm' to keep the peace pursuant to the statutes of Winchester, Northampton and Westminster in the town and suburbs of Stamford. (48) The reason was reiterated in a commission for the same town in 1346. (49) The increasing number of commissions for urban jurisdictions issued during the fourteenth century was also a reflection of the growing importance of towns such as Norwich, York, Hull and Bristol as trade centres; as well as the potential jurisdictional difficulties that could be encountered in areas where county borders overlapped. (50) Commissions for liberties also began to be enrolled in the patent rolls, particularly during the 1360s, though they were often held jointly with towns in the same geographical area. (51)

After 1350 the peace commissions issued to towns were essentially similar in their form and content to the county ones of the corresponding date and type. (52) It is clear, however, that the mayor and borough officials to whom the commissions were usually addressed not only cherished the exclusion of the county justices of the peace (when so empowered by royal charter), but also utilized their powers in the organization of local government and in the internal regulation of merchants and craftsmen. (53) Commissions of the peace in urban jurisdictions thus took on an additional element of responsibility.

The judicial and administrative context in which hundredal officials operated was closely linked to the work of the sheriff, the linchpin of central and local government. One of the major responsibilities for constables and bailiffs was, therefore, the arrest of persons prosecuted by appeal or indictment and upon whom process had been served in the county court. (54) Occasionally, however, there were conflicts in the perceived jurisdiction over prisoners. In 1315, Ralph Giffard, sheriff of Cambridgeshire and Huntingdonshire, sued Richard Caperoun, bailiff of the town of Huntingdon and others (presumably constables) for trespass to his person and contempt for the king. He argued that while the justices were in session Caperoun had abducted from Giffard's charge a certain John, son of Richard of Cottenham (indicted for burglary by the keepers of the peace). Defending the action, Caperoun replied that among the liberties claimed by the borough was the ancient right to its own prison and the freedom for the bailiff to present before the justices all prisoners taken in the said borough for any felony or trespass committed there. He added that he had arrested John son of Richard on the orders of the keepers of the peace and would have taken him before the justices that day. (55)

Responsibility to the sheriff did not mean that constables acted solely under central direction and were unable to exercise any initiative or carry out summary arrests. Indeed, Professor Putnam was not only misleading, but also clearly mistaken, in believing that `the inherent weakness in medieval criminal law procedure' lay in the fact that offenders had to be indicted before they could be arrested. (56) Frequently felons were caught in the act or apprehended with stolen goods and produced at trial for gaol delivery. (57) At the basic level arrests were achieved by the victim or someone raising the hue and cry, a posse led by village constables that was responsible for the pursuit and arrest of wrongdoers when a felony was discovered. (58) Indeed, an entry in a Northamptonshire gaol delivery roll explains that `the tithing-men of the vill (decennarii) and the constables of the peace of the king, by right and authority of their office and according to the law and custom of the realm ... have jurisdiction and power to attach malefactors and disturbers of the peace and those who are pursued by the hue and cry for felony and homicide'. (59)

Arrests which were made on suspicion of a felony, but not based on prior indictment or appeal could, therefore, be carried out by local officials as part of their routine duties. (60) In the early fourteenth century at least, a sizeable proportion of prisoners appeared at gaol delivery `arrested with the goods', `arrested on suspicion' or simply `arrested' without any indictment or appeal (which presumably the clerk would have included if there had been one). The lengthy processes engendered by more formal methods of arrest and prosecution (such as issuing writs of capias on presentment by a jury) were thus circumvented by the ability of local officials to make arrests on the spot. The lack of precision in terminology in evidence in the opening decades of the century contrasts with the need for indictments insisted upon in later years which culminated in the formalities for indictments stipulated in the Statute of Additions of 1413. (61)

There were, however, objections to this practice. A petition from Cumberland (dateable to the 1330s) complained that `touz sount attachez par suspecioun un de baillie' rather than by indictment. The reply was couched in somewhat vague terms, that sheriffs and coroners were to hold inquests according to law and custom and according to the form of the Statute of Winchester. (62) By the 1370s the words per suspicionem were used to make it clear that no appeal or indictment had been made, citing the Statute of Winchester as the relevant authority. (63) This is indicative of a change in attitude that was already becoming apparent during the second quarter of the fourteenth century: the indictment was being preferred as the normal method of prosecution. From around the beginning of Edward III's reign, those who were neither prosecuted by an individual nor indicted of a felony, only `taken on suspicion', were generally spared trial unless they were of a bad reputation. In 1328 Walter le Bray and Adam Godard were taken for the theft of twenty-three sheep. It was proclaimed that if anyone wished to prosecute for these sheep they should come forward, but nobody came. The sheriff testified that the two men were not indicted for stealing, or any other felony, nor were they taken for felony at the suit of anybody and so they were allowed to go without delay. (64) Similarly, in the case of John Fairday, even though he had been arrested with stolen goods by the constables of Gretewell and his crime proclaimed on three occasions, nobody came forward to prosecute him. Since there was neither indictment nor appeal against him, and because it was testified in court before the justices that he had languished in prison for some time, he was dismissed through sureties. (65)

This change of attitude may reflect the fact that with the re-establishing of regular gaol deliveries by assize justices following the Statute of Northampton (1328) and the Statute of 1330, the central court justices staffing the circuits were insisting on the formalities of indictment. (66) Nonetheless, the initiative displayed by sub-keepers and constables bears witness to the important part the local community played in policing itself and in ensuring trial of those who might otherwise have escaped the net. More elaborate channels were occasionally employed in the interests of peacekeeping and there are examples where a suspected criminal was prosecuted through an appeal of felony made by constables of the peace or an official of similar status. In 1296, for example, Robert Loverich of Wendlingburgh, taken at the suit of Michael le Freman, constable of the peace, was convicted for burglaries and thefts occurring right across Northamptonshire. (67) In 1325, William Brom of Seaton, William le Fisher of South Luffenham and Henry Broning of Dodington were arrested carrying beef at Dodington at the suit of the constables of the vill of Clyne, who alleged that these men had stolen the meat at Clyne. The accused said in their defence that the meat belonged to them and they were eventually acquitted. (68)

The more formal methods were sometimes bypassed altogether. The plea rolls also provide an indication that an informal summary justice (which, although traditionally allowed, was by the fourteenth century regarded as illegal) (69) was occasionally carried out on outlaws, abjurors and felons caught in the act. In 1299, for example, Thurston Peyteuyn, William son of Beatrice, Roger le Fort, John Holt and Robert le Peyntour of Honingham in Norfolk were arrested by the sheriff for possession of the head of an unknown person which they had cut off and taken to Norwich Castle. In the trial it became clear that the head was that of William le Yonne of Honingham, who had abjured the realm before the coroner, but then returned by night three days later. Peyteuyn and the others had pursued him, raising the hue and cry, and while he was escaping, decapitated the same William as a fugitive felon. The coroner, Philip de Lenne, confirmed their account of events and the accused were acquitted on his testimony of committing any felony by their actions. (70) The raising of the hue and cry was an important part of the process because participation broadened public knowledge of the case. In 1331 because Walter of Winnington was a known robber, it was decided that his death, which occurred in the course of the hue and cry against him, was not an infringement of the peace and that John Corte, Peter in the Willows, Wiliam Corndon and Thomas Lote should be acquitted of homicide. (71)

There had to be a valid reason for beheading a felon. It was inappropriate to do so, for instance (at least in Lincolnshire), when his limbs were bound or once he had been arrested since he was (theoretically) not in a position to escape. The exercising of summary justice, however, may have been commoner than is usually supposed, and in some instances even those who had no real justification and did not fulfil the necessary requirements appear to have succeeded in avoiding punishment. In a case that reached the court of king's bench in 1319, the constables of the vill of Canwick were called upon by Ellis Martel to behead Thomas Leure of Kirby under what emerged to be the falsely raised justification that he had stolen a mare belonging to Ellis. In actual fact Ellis had refused to pay Thomas, his servant, the wages owed to him and along with two accomplices had attacked Thomas with knives and a pole-axe, mortally wounding him. They then tied him up and summoned the constables. The constables refused the demand to behead Thomas made by Ellis and advised him to take Thomas to the sheriff (along with the stolen mare). Instead Ellis took the matter into his own hands, dragged the profusely bleeding Thomas to a field in Bracebridge and, when the latter had eventually died, cut off his head. The constables were later handed the head and took it to the sheriff in Lincoln, apparently as a result of threats and intimidation, where they explained that Thomas had been beheaded at night without their knowledge and without the hue and cry being raised. Ellis, described as a retainer of the Earl of Lancaster, produced a pardon and was allowed to go free. (72)

It appears that officials who carried out informal executions were obliged to come to court to submit themselves to royal justice for remission of guilt and exoneration before the community. This was also necessary on occasions when it was considered that a felon was unlikely to return to the king's peace and was determined to stand and fight his pursuers. In fairness to them, therefore, the justices were willing to acquit the group (including those who had administered the coup de grace) when it was clear (as in a case from 1360) that they were only doing their job (pro lege manutenenda et pace conservanda). (73) In spite of its supposed illegality and the need to seek absolution for the death, the practice of summary execution still seems to have been a continuing feature of the justice system as administered at the local level. The extent to which it was acknowledged in judicial circles and the frequency with which it was employed is, however, a matter for speculation.

In addition to making arrests and carrying out informal executions, there is evidence that (during the first half of the fourteenth century at least) keepers of the peace at hundred level were regularly hearing indictments. Indeed, indictments taken before them proceeded to trial in a cross-section of liberties, boroughs and shires, suggesting that this practice was not a peculiar, localized phenomenon occurring only at a particular point in time. Indictments, for example, are recorded in 1299 as having been taken before constables of the peace in Northamptonshire, (74) in 1309 before constables and keepers of the peace in York, (75) and in 1316 before John Randolf, a keeper of the peace in the hundred of Copthorne in Surrey. (76) Felons appearing for trial at Oxford in 1320 were indicted before Ralph Chastiloun and John Lomire, keepers of the peace for the hundred of Chadlington, (77) at Hertford in 1326 before Walran Rochford and John le Chamberleyn, keepers of the peace for the hundreds of Oddingsley and Edminster, (78) and at Bristol in 1330, before the bailiffs and constables of the peace for the city. (79) In 1339 indictments came to trial that had been made before John Monemith and Henry Clyneshale, constables of the peace for the liberty of Bisley in Gloucestershire, (80) and in 1344 before William Henry, one of the constables of the peace for the hundred of Happing in Norfolk. (81)

Significantly, there are extant rolls of gaol deliveries effected in Essex and Hertfordshire in the 1320s which contain indictments taken before keepers of the peace for hundreds in the two counties, some of whom are described as operating per commissionem domini regis. (82) In Essex, indictments before the county keepers were differentiated from the those of the hundredal keeper by reference to Robert FitzWalter as capitalis custodes pacis. (83) Even when sessions were predominantly taken up with indictments made before other officials such as keepers of the peace or justices of oyer and terminer, indictments heard by lesser officials still appeared. (84) Sometimes, though, the indictments taken by constables of the peace were endorsed by other officials such as the sheriff or hundredal bailiffs, as in the cases of Stephen Denyel of Walsoken, indicted of theft before the bailiffs of the bishop of Ely `de Mershland' and the constables of the peace, (85) and Joanna Willes, indicted before John Daundelyn (sheriff of Northamptonshire) and Richard Foxley (keeper of the peace in the hundred of Towcester). (86) Walter Crask was indicted before John Leem and John Carleton (constables of the hundred of Tunstead in Norfolk) and before the hundred bailiff, (87) while Robert Launcy was indicted before Nicholas Golafre (bailiff of Queen Isabella for the hundred of Fawsley) and a keeper of the peace in that hundred, John Tewe. (88)

Despite the widespread evidence available in both chronological and geographical terms for the practice of hundredal keepers hearing indictments and, moreover, the acceptance of these indictments by numerous justices, some controversy and uncertainty seems to have existed (as reflected in the plea rolls) as to the competence of sub-keepers in taking indictments. In 1310, for instance, Gilbert Pentyng and his daughter, Margery, were indicted before the constables of the hundred, but the justices decided the latter did not have the power and warrant (potestatem et warantum) to inquire of felonies. (89) In 1330 John le Porter of Worstead and John Nottingham were indicted for theft by Roger Breton and Thomas Milham, constables of the hundred of Brothircross, but were released sine die after the sheriff testified that the defendants were not brought to court at the suit of anyone, nor taken with stolen goods and, furthermore, the indictment had not been made recently: it appeared to the court that an indictment taken before constables was not sufficient to bring persons to trial in a judgment of blood (ad deducendum in iudicium vite seu membrum). (90) The hearing of indictments by local officials was still regarded as a problem in 1371. When four men appeared in court who had been indicted for theft before John Lomere and Roger Upham, constables of the peace for the hundred of Munstoke in Hampshire, the justices decided that the constables did not have the requisite authority to take the indictment and ordered a diligent inquiry as to whether the men were guilty of felony. (91)

While there are some instances of court rulings against indictments heard before hundredal keepers, many royal justices were content to allow them. Indeed, there appears to have been neither legislation against the practice nor any evidence of a decided policy in this matter. (92) This seems to underline the measure of participation in the administration of justice afforded those operating at hundred level. It also illustrates the extent to which local justice could operate without definite policy, or permission from above.

The refusal to accept the indictments may have been related not so much to the standing of the officers involved as to the fact they were hearing felonies (as opposed to trespasses). Since the gaol delivery rolls are for the most part concerned solely with felonies and the surviving records of early fourteenth-century peace sessions (which include trespasses) are few in number, this hypothesis cannot adequately be tested. Alternatively, it may have been the type of felony that exercised the concern of the justices: whether the indictment was for a violent or non-violent offence. Analysis of indictments that were taken by local officials (and accepted by the justices) indicates that the majority were property-related, involving the theft of horses or other important articles or the alleged burglary of a house. (93) With certain exceptions, (94) they were not felonies involving death or violence to the person. Endorsement by other officials (as noted above) may perhaps have provided legitimation in the eyes of some doubting justices, but there were instances when even bailiffs and stewards, who were allowed to hear indictments in hundreds in private hands, were held to be acting illegally. In 1349, for example, Robert Boseville, steward of the bishop of Ely, was held to be in mercy for taking an indictment for homicide without warrant. (95) Similarly, an indictment for rape taken before John Tower, a steward of the earl of Salisbury, was held by the justices to have been heard without the requisite warrant in 1367. (96) Both were indictments for felonies where violence to the person was the principal component of the offence. Reflecting other changes in the judicial system, such as the institution of the `quorum' for felonies tried by the justices of the peace, (97) the Crown may have been taking a particular interest in the judicial processes surrounding serious crimes.

Officials involved in the processes of indictment and arrest, such as the sheriff, coroners, constables and bailiffs, were obliged to attend gaol deliveries in the line of duty. This was not simply because they held such posts, but primarily because they would (or should) have been present at the sessions of the hundred and county courts and attended the sheriff's tourn or courts leet and would thus have had knowledge and information about suspects, either at first hand or from communication with the tithing men or other local officials. (98) Sometimes they could provide evidence crucial to the continuance or outcome of a trial. Richard Oliver of Buckenham, charged with stealing a cap and other goods, said he had bought the cap from John Austin of South Walsham for 1 1/2d. in Norwich marketplace. John Austin appeared in court and admitted that he had sold the cap to Oliver as the latter had alleged. Roger Hakeford, bailiff of Blofield, then testified that Austin was indicted of the theft before the sheriff. (99) John Rust and John son of Isabel were remanded because the constables who arrested them were not present in court to testify as to the cause of their capture. (100) In cases of prison breach the keeper (or constable) of the gaol was required to provide details of the escape and recapture. (101) The discovery of some procedural anomaly or an insufficiency of evidence that could not be rectified without the presence of the official might also cause delay in the trial or result in the acquittal of the accused. Matilda at Gate was released on bail because the indictment taken by William Bredon, steward of William Ingwardly, did not indicate the inquest by which she was indicted nor show any offence for which she ought to have been arrested or imprisoned. (102) In 1325 a trial was delayed because John Fleming, constable of the peace for the hundred of Kistesgate in Gloucestershire had not come with his indictments. (103) Hugo le Bercher was similarly remanded because the constable who issued the indictment was not present in court with it. (104)

The reliance on local officials in court proceedings extended further than this: they frequently played a vital role as presenting jurors. Indeed, in 1306 at least eight of the seventeen new constables of the peace for hundreds in Shropshire were elected from the ranks of the jurors presenting offences at the trailbaston sessions. (105) This practice seems to have been common throughout the fourteenth century, although the paucity of rolls that identify jurors make its frequency difficult to quantify. One third of the hundred keepers appointed in Hertfordshire in 1321 had served as jurors in the peace sessions held in the county in 1314-15. (106) Four of the men appointed sub-keepers for Lancashire in 1323 were in a jury of combined wapentakes presenting offences in the king's bench sessions of that year, while another three were included in a `grand jury'. (107) One third of the sub-keepers then served as presenting jurors in the sessions held before keepers of the county in 1332-3. (108) Nearly 40 per cent of the men appointed in 1345 had served as jurors in major sessions, seven having been jurors for the 1332-3 peace sessions and eleven for those of 1338-9. (109) At sessions held in Coventry before the city justices of the peace, a jury of borough constables (constables empowered to keep the peace) provided presentments at sixteen out of the nineteen surviving sessions held between 1377 and 1381 and at most of those between 1395 and 1397. (110) They also acted as jurors before the county justices when they held sessions there. (111) In the later fourteenth century constables played an important role in presenting defaults under the labour legislation. (112) In acting simultaneously as peacekeeping officials and jurors they to some extent constituted an attenuated form of public prosecuting agency, though not of course in the systematic and organized way that we would understand it.

A comparison between jurors and offences presented at the two sets of Lancashire peace sessions provides evidence that there could be a link between one or more members of the panel and the victim of an offence. A jury containing one of the sub-keepers for Amounderness, Laurence Travers (1323 and 1345) accused William Dilleward of stealing at Fishwick a black ox belonging to Thomas, son of Laurence Travers. Similarly, William Heton, a sub-keeper in 1323 and a juror in both the 1332-3 and 1338-9 sessions, was among those who presented that William son of Roger Burgh had beaten and wounded John Heton. It would appear, therefore, that constables had no hesitation in putting forward offences of which they themselves or relatives had allegedly been victims, in itself a practice that was not entirely unusual among jurors at peace sessions. (113)

Constables and other officials such as coroners often served on trial juries and it may have been their knowledge of the case and involvement in forensic matters that clinched their position on the jury panel. (114) The undertaking of `considerable detective work ... by such figures of the local legal establishment as justices of the peace, undersheriffs, and constables' can sometimes be gleaned from details contained in an indictment; for example, one recorded the manner in which a grave (to hide a body) was dug (slicing through tree roots), the grave's location and the replanting of the area to confuse any searchers. (115) A one-time mayor of Lincoln, the aptly named Peter Belassise, served as a presenting juror and was named on the gaol delivery panel at Lincoln in the 1350s. (116) Three of the five Salford sub-keepers of 1323 and two of the four sub-keepers for Lonsdale formed a trial jury for their respective wapentakes at Lancaster gaol delivery sessions held in 1324-6. (117) Indeed, a quarter of the 1323 sub-keepers were trial jurors at those sessions. (118) The apparent self-interest was not necessarily prejudicial to the person indicted. At a Surrey gaol delivery session in 1317, Emma Manning, who had been indicted before the constables of the peace, John Matham and James Woodham, for theft of meat, corn and other goods belonging to James Woodham, was acquitted of the alleged crime. (119) A local official presiding as a justice could be equally benign. Thomas Milham, constable of the peace for the hundred of Brothircross in Norfolk, sat (with assize justice, Simon Hethersett) as a gaol delivery justice for the liberty of North Elmham in 1332, but the sole prisoner before him was acquitted. (120) Milham's brief appearance as a justice (probably an ad hoc co-option in order to provide a second member on the gaol delivery panel) indicates that sub-keepers could be called upon to serve the Crown in a surprising number of capacities, some of which were directly related to the administration of royal justice. The proper (and continued) functioning of the criminal justice system was thus in large measure a direct result of their substantial.

This paper has tried to provide a vignette of the world below the well-researched county keepers of the peace, indicating a parallel evolution and a role in peacekeeping that was at least as important as theirs. Constables and keepers of the peace did not exist in separate worlds, however, nor were they necessarily competing for jurisdiction. Indeed, the careers of sub-keepers reflected changes that were taking place in the personnel and status of county commissions. In the early fourteenth century the peace commissions were initially very small, consisting of a panel of two or three men. Occasionally hundredal keepers were appointed to these: Ralph St. Lawrence, a keeper of the peace for the hundred of Ringslo in Kent in 1318, was elevated to county keeper in 1323; (121) Andrew St. Lucio, a keeper of the peace for the hundred of Stotfold in Buckinghamshire in about 1316 joined the county bench in 1326. (122) A doubling in the size of county commissions, which occurred from 1332, brought in people from various counties who had previously been subordinate keepers: Thomas Lovaine, a keeper of the peace for the hundred of Dunmow in Essex in 1321, was appointed a keeper of the county for Suffolk in 1332; (123) in the same year Nicholas Langford, a sub-keeper in the Lancashire wapentake of Salford in 1323, became first a keeper of the peace for Derbyshire and then keeper of the county. (124) It was by then quite normal to find sub-keepers progressing to the county bench. Richard Keighley, a sub-keeper for Amounderness in 1323, became a justice of the peace for Lancashire in 1338, (125) while Adam Houghton and Roger Pilkington (appointed effectively as sub-keepers in a commission of 1350) became justices of the peace in 1361. (126)

It has been beyond the scope of this present investigation, however, to produce a comprehensive analysis or to compare changes within the county commissions over a lengthy time period. The effects of further expansion (and occasional reduction) in their overall size, the advent of `honorary' positions and a core of `working' justices, as well as the power to appoint deputies will have to be examined on a future occasion. From the later fourteenth century there was also a corresponding increase in the business accepted by the justices of the peace at their quarter sessions, particularly as a result of the labour legislation and other statutory economic offences, which may have led to some of this burden being placed on the shoulders of the hundred constables. (127)

In order to provide a deeper understanding of the peacekeeping network and its relationship with the authority stemming from status and position, some examination is required of the social background of keepers operating at hundred level. Although no detailed account can as yet be given (partly a reflection of the scarcity of available information on the status and landholding of some families), it is apparent that the social range was fairly varied: some sub-keepers came from recognizable county families (some were styled knights, some were distrained to knighthood), (128) but most were perhaps minor gentry and included some who were substantial peasants. Their work undoubtedly required an element of legal knowledge and understanding as well as the necessary standing locally to carry out the tasks successfully. Ralph Chastiloun, for example, one of the keepers of the peace for the hundred of Chadlington in Oxfordshire in the 1320s, was a coroner of the county in the 1330s. (129) While some men achieved `promotion' to county office, it is equally apparent that others had no such ambitions. Further, within this spectrum there were no doubt some aspiring lawyers, although it is unlikely that people in this group went on to later careers in the higher judiciary. Analysis of men serving at hundred level not only indicates a blurring of distinctions between members of landed society and `men of law', but also exemplifies the wide social background of appointments to local offices. (130)

This analysis has sought to highlight not simply the importance and the sheer weight of the sub-keepers' involvement in local law enforcement, but also their valuable contribution to the administration of justice through service on juries, in taking indictments (even if this practice was sometimes frowned upon) and in exercising their own initiative when necessary. Indeed, it was the variety of decisions and choices made by constables in their different capacities that had a profound influence on the functioning of the criminal justice system at the local level. (131) The system of peacekeeping was not immune from negligence, wilful default or plain laziness and the agents of local law enforcement were clearly not perfect. For the less scrupulous, the position of sub-keeper or constable increased the opportunity for malicious prosecution and wrongful arrest, deliberate cruelty or the working out of personal vendettas. There is some suggestion of this in sermon exempla, (132) while Langland in Piers Plowman criticized local officials who obtained payment for releasing prisoners (`unfetere the fals and fle wher hym lyketh') and for indulging in malicious prosecution (`And hangeth hym for hatrede'). (133) Judicial investigations into the administration of the shires frequently produced allegations of misconduct by officials. Overzealous officials risked amercement for false imprisonment, (134) but the accusations often proved to be unfounded or were not prosecuted. (135) They could also face judgment for letting a prisoner escape, even if the offender made off while the constables had permitted him to eat or relieve his bladder. (136)

During the trailbaston visitations of 1305-7, investigations as to whether watches had been kept and gates closed and whether the constables of the peace had held the view of arms twice a year as required by statute, revealed that in some hundreds all was well (omnia bene sunt). (137) In others, however, the watch had not been kept, the gates were left open, and although lack of diligence might be strenuously denied in some cases, constables admitted that they had not regularly carried out the view of arms. (138) Yet to what extent were the complaints indicative of failure in the system? We should be careful not to judge the effectiveness of the constables' work simply on these presentments. Although the vills and hundreds of at least four counties admitted in 1314 that the provisions of the Statute of Winchester concerning roads and ditches had not been carried out or that watches were not being kept regularly, they nevertheless maintained that nobody had suffered as a consequence. (139) Furthermore, it was surely not in the inhabitants' interests to allow lawlessness or the activities of suspicious strangers to go unchecked. Perhaps the local community balked at the cost of local policing, which in addition to expenditure in terms of time was possibly funded by levy. Certainly the 1321 Essex and Hertfordshire keepers of the peace for hundreds were granted an allowance towards their expenses (and those of the persons selected by them to keep guard) by an assessment on the inhabitants of the particular hundred. (140) Similarly, all householders and inhabitants in London had to pay charges for the guarding of the City. (141)

The shortcomings of local peacekeeping are easily highlighted in literary works and government investigations. The perception of local officialdom as disruptive and corrupt appears for instance in a sermon which offers an image of royal administration as various beasts of prey attacking a corpse: the lesser officials (constables, bailiffs and castellans) are unflattering portrayed as kites and crows. (142) Yet, while the sheriff and his officers are targeted in Piers Plowman, the sermon literature concentrates more on bailiffs and other manorial officials, who are criticized extensively, being regarded as predatory in nature and undertaking pacts with the devil. (143) Some of this may have fed into real life as law-enforcement officers frequently suffered abuse while they were trying to carry out their duties (quia ipsi constabularii fecerunt officium suum), either from some form of physical intimidation or accusations of malicious prosecution. Surviving judicial records portray a culture of violent reaction: one constable of the peace was allegedly killed, others were assaulted, had their attempts to arrest offenders resisted or their attempts to obtain oaths from labourers rebuffed. (144) One reason for the dissatisfaction may have been that individuals on the ground found it difficult to distinguish legal violence from the illegal variety, between legitimate arrests and what was an excuse for an assault, between justified distraint of goods and what appeared to be outright robbery. (145) In carrying out their duties, constables were in fact caught between the wording of the statutes on the one hand, and the reality at the local level on the other. It was not easy to maintain a perfect balance when an official might have his commission disbelieved and the warrant torn up in his face. In 1371, for instance, when local officials in Lakenheath in Suffolk attempted to distrain certain chattels, a bailiff's wand of office was broken in defiance as the villagers tried to take back their property. (146) Moreover, the constant vigilance and immediacy of response conceived of and required by the legal system to deal with any suspicious persons or actions was not humanly possible twenty-four hours a day. And even if the standard precautions were frequently ignored or overlooked, some latitude towards failures in peacekeeping should be accorded local officials and the communities they served. Sometimes informal sanctions might be considered more appropriate. As one historian has put it, `what really mattered was the maintenance of specific, local, personal relationships, not conformity to impersonal law'. The most important quality for local officers, therefore, was the ability to juggle the needs and requirements of the shire community with those of royal government. (147)

Where this broke down, as in times of political upheaval and economic stress, or as a result of continuing royal or seigneurial demands, the local community often came first. This was particularly true when, following the demands of the Statute of Labourers and with the advent of poll taxes and searching judicial inquiries, the loyalties of the `middle men' were stretched in opposing directions. An unwillingness exhibited by constables of Lakenheath `to answer for certain articles' at the king's bench visitation of Suffolk in 1379 exemplifies this dilemma. (148) It is not surprising to find that many of the leaders of the peasant movements in 1381 were those who held authority as bailiffs or constables. (149) While this was in many ways a mark of their local power, more importantly it signalled their own dissatisfaction or exasperation with the judicial system.

To argue for or against their effectiveness as peacekeepers is an inconclusive and redundant exercise since there are many areas of their activities for which we have neither source material nor adequate comprehension. Moreover, an examination of the lower echelons of the peacekeeping network should not result in an over-concentration on their role, however integral to medieval law and order it was. They were but a cog in the judicial machine, interacting with the agencies of central government and other local agents as appropriate, to enforce what was essentially everyone's right to a trouble-free existence, but which was technically `the king's peace'. In the wider context, therefore, it should be remembered that keeping the peace in late medieval England relied at every level on the continued functioning of a complex combination of law and office, obligation and influence, and upon the coordination and coherence of the social structure, which itself ultimately depended upon the role of the Crown, the stability of the regime and the nature of the king's rule.


University of Exeter

Published by Oxford University Press
Copyright ©Oxford University Press 2003




The office of constable was introduced into British common law following the Norman invasion of the British Isle in 1066 A.D. The Constable was one of many political institutions introduced into English Law by the Norman conquerors whose "Conestabulus" or "Count of the Stable" eventually evolved into the institution we know today.

Originally, the Constable was responsible for keeping the militia and armaments of the king, and those of the individual villages, in a state of preparedness for the protection of the village communities throughout England. The office eventually became an integral arm of the military throughout Britain. During the reign of King Stephen, the office of Lord High Constable was established, and those who filled this position became the King's representatives in all matters dealing with the military affairs of the realm and the overseeing of the King's castle.

In 1285, the first written records establishing the position of Constable appeared in the Statutes of Winchester under the rule of Edward I. According to the Statutes "in every hundred and franchise two constables shall be chosen to make the view of the armour." But even earlier records exist which give evidence of the Constable's internal peace keeping responsibility and his closeness to the king himself:  Henry King of England and duke of Normandy and Count of Anjou son King henry to William Velud greeting. I forbid you unjustly to molest or to have molested the monks of Horton concerning the land of Huntbourne....And unless you do it the keeper of the constablewick of saltwood shall have it done.... This reference to a "constablewick" (custos constablilie) indicates that the king had direct contact through his writs to the constables then operating in Britain.

The constable, then, seems to have been cloaked in a number of roles under the reigns of the early Norman kings. He was in charge of military affairs for the king throughout his realm and served as an enforcing agent of the king's writs. This combination of duties reflect the medieval character of the office when feudal government and its political institutions spread throughout Britain to assure that peace was maintained even in the remotest corners of the country far from the King's protection. During the Tudor period (Henry VIII to Elisabeth I) the constable still maintained his position as a military representative of the monarch. His duty was "to prepare the muster of his district which the constable of the Shire would embody in the array of the country to be in turn marshaled in the army of the realm by the high constable of England."

Local settlements in England depended on constables to assure the maintenance of the peace. Election of petty constable as established under the reign of Edward became the basis for local control of the "king's peace.  

In a manner similar to their English counterparts the new American constable had his roots in the military aspects of the community at least in New England. the constable of the early New England settlements bore many of the same duties and responsibilities of his counterparts in England. He was the keeper of the peace and a marshal of the early militias, established to protect the village in which he was administrator. By common law tradition, the constable was the primary official in the community and a community was not recognized as an established village or parish unless a constable was present in the community.

Constables in the newly forming colonies of America brought with them some of the trappings of the English constable. But the duties of the office were not consistent in all areas of the American colonies. In 1634 Joshua Pratt was chosen constable in Plymouth. Among his duties were the carrying out of any punishments meted out by local tribunals, sealer of weights and measurements, surveyor of the land, responsibility for announcing any forthcoming marriages in the community, and delivery and execution of all warrants. While many duties were delegated to officials other than the constable, in general the constable was responsible for the "Watch and Ward", the Ward during the day, and the Watch at night in order to keep the community peaceful. The New England settlers went as far as to appoint Indian constables each holding office for a year and responsible for overseeing nine other Indians under his command, and was obligated to report to appropriate officials any acts of misconduct.

The constables of the New England colonies bear great resemblance to the constables of Pennsylvania. Originally, Pennsylvania was part of the holdings of the Duke of York whose strict system of laws was administered by constables throughout his holdings. Later, under King Charles II land was granted within the Duke's realm to William Penn. Under Penn's governance, he and his functionaries chose constables during the early organization of the colony. Unlike their New England counterparts they were not appointed to oversee individual communities, but were appointed to hold governance over a particular geographic region. Later on with the incorporation of townships and boroughs provisions were made for the election or appointment of constables within those districts.

The role of the constable in any particular area in Pennsylvania depended largely on the form of municipal government in that particular area. In the township or ward, the constable's duties were established and uniform from one township or ward to the next. Constables in townships and wards were chosen annually, and on the same day as the selection of other local officers. The names of the men chosen to be constable by the electorate were then submitted to their governing court of Quarter Sessions. The man chosen by the local electorate was then sent to the Court of Quarter Sessions where his eligibility was determined by the Judge of that court.

Among other things, the candidate had to have a freehold estate of the value of at least $1,000. Those candidates chosen for the office in the township or ward were required by law to make an appearance before the Court of Quarter Sessions in order to accept the office and wait for Judge's determination eligibility. If the man selected did not attend the court at the prescribed time, he was fined forty dollars. If he declined to serve after election he was penalized sixteen dollars.

Constables of towns, wards or townships were cloaked with the duties of local peacekeeper. They were required to maintain the peace, execute all warrants directed to them by the local justice and to assure that no unruly crowds were allowed to gather. If while in office any constable refused to perform his duties heavy fines were provided for in law.

While the office of constable was fairly uniform within towns, townships, and wards, the duties of the constable were not uniformly established in the borough system in the colony of Pennsylvania. In the Borough of Bristol, established in the early eighteenth century, the constable aside from all his peace-keeping duties was also clerk of the market, and in addition, regulated the sale of bread, wine, beer, and wood. In Lancaster and Carlisle boroughs the constable along with the burgess and their assistants were permitted to convene town meetings, to pass local ordinances and levy fines.

By 1830 with the establishment of police forces in many of the larger municipalities in Pennsylvania the dues and powers of the constables began to erode, out of disuse (not by statue), in many of the larger cities.

By 1873 constables were given uniform powers throughout the state.

The newly passed revision of the Pennsylvania's constitution called for a regularization of all laws dealing with borough government. Constables of the boroughs of Pennsylvania were now given uniform authority to make arrests on view as their counterparts in towns, townships and wards were allowed to do.

What is a Pennsylvania State Constable today?

The Pennsylvania State Constable is the law enforcement arm of the minor judiciary (District Justices) of the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania.

The Constable is the oldest law enforcement branch of Pennsylvania and now since the enactment of Act 44-1994, we are fully certified by the Pennsylvania Commission on Crime and Delinquency.

The Constable may also act as a local law enforcement officer of his bailiwick under supervision of the local government.

A Constable is a Law Enforcement Professional that performs private, civil and official services. Constables date back to early English times, are described in the Magna Carta, and were the first Peace Officers in Pennsylvania. Constables carry the powers of arrest, both when executing Arrest Warrants, and for breaches of the peace they witness within the boundaries of the Commonwealth. Constables are required to attend and pass an 80 hour training academy to receive certification through the Pennsylvania Commission on Crime and Delinquency under Act 44, and to successfully complete 40 hours of yearly updates on law and firearms training to maintain their certification.

All costs for training are paid through a surcharge on the papers Constables serve from the District Courts. All costs for equipment, bonds, insurance and expenses are borne solely by the Constable. Constables earn their pay under a State Law called the Constables Fee Bill, and these fee's are paid by the defendant in criminal and summary cases, and up front by the plaintiff in civil cases. The Taxpayer and his money normally do not incur the costs of the Office of the Constable.      Harris County Constable

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(1.) J. A. Sharpe, `The Law, Law Enforcement, State Formation and National Integration in Late Medieval and Early Modern England', in X. Rousseau and R. Levy (eds), Le penal dans tous ces etats: Justice, etats et societes en Europe (XIIe-XXe siecles), Publication des Facultes universitaires Saint-Louis, 74 (Brussels, 1997), pp. 65-7, 79-80.


(2.) B. H. Putnam, `The Transformation of the Keepers of the Peace into the Justices of the Peace, 1327-80', Transactions of the Royal Historical Society, 4th series, 12 (1929), 24-41.


(3.) E. Powell, `The Administration of Criminal Justice in Late-Medieval England: Peace Sessions and Assizes', in R. Eales and D. Sullivan (ed.), The Political Context of Law (London, 1987), pp. 49-59; A. J. Verduyn, `The Politics of Law and Order during the Early Years of Edward III', ante, 108 (1993), 842-67; A. Musson, Public Order and Law Enforcement: The Local Administration of Criminal Justice in England, 1294-1350 (Woodbridge, 1996); R. C. Palmer, English Law in the Age of the Black Death: A Transformation of Governance and Law, 1348-1381 (Chapel Hill, NC, 1994); S. Walker, `Yorkshire Justices of the Peace, 1388-1413', ante, 108 (1993), pp. 281-311.


(4.) A. Musson and W. M. Ormrod, The Evolution of English Justice: Law, Politics and Society in the Fourteenth Century (Basingstoke, 1998), pp. 72-4.


(5.) H. Cam, `Shire Officials: Coroners, Constables and Bailiffs', in J. Willard, W. A. Morris, and W. H. Dunham (ed.), The English Government at Work, 1327-1336 (3 vols; Cambridge, Mass., 1945-50), vol. 3, pp. 165-7.


(6.) H. M. Jewell, English Local Administration in the Middle Ages (Newton Abbott, 1972), pp. 37, 173-4; A. Harding, `The Origins and Early History of the Keeper of the Peace', Transactions of the Royal Historical Society, 5th series, 10 (1960), 86, 88-90.


(7.) H. R. T. Summerson, `The Structure of Law Enforcement in Thirteenth Century England', American Journal of Legal History, 23 (1979), 315-17.


(8.) H. Cam, The Hundred and the Hundred Rolls (London, 1930) and Liberties and Communities in Medieval England (London, 1963).


(9.) Robert Palmer, The County Courts of Medieval England, 1150-1350 (Princeton, NJ, 1982).


(10.) In the same way, there was an overlap in the terminology employed for the county keepers which could vary from the Latin `custos' or `conservator' to the French `guardein'.


(11.) Public Record Office, JUST 3/50/2 m6 (1337 -- Norfolk). All subsequent ms references are also to documents in the Public Record Office.


(12.) Proceedings before the Justices of the Peace in the Fourteenth and Fifteenth Centuries: Edward III to Richard III, ed. B. H. Putnam, Ames Foundation (London, 1938), pp. xxxvii-xxxviii.


(13.) Cam, `Shire Officials', pp. 166-7; Cam, Liberties and Communities, pp. 200-4; H. Summerson, `Maitland and the Criminal Law in the Age of Bracton', Proceedings of the British Academy, 89 (1996), 136-7; P. King, `Decision Makers and Decision Making in the English Criminal Law, 1750-1800', The Historical Journal, 27 (1984), 27, 55-6.


(14.) M. C. Powicke, Military Obligation in Medieval England (Oxford, 1962), pp. 64, 119-20; H. R. T. Summerson, `The Enforcement of the Statute of Winchester, 1285-1327', Journal of Legal History, 13 (1992), 232.


(15.) Statutes of the Realm (hereafter SR), 1101-1713, ed. A. Luders et al. (11 vols; London, 1910-28), vol. 1, pp. 96-8; Powicke, Military Obligation, p. 120.


(16.) JUST 1/746 m5 (Chirbury Hundred), m6 (liberty of Shrewsbury).


(17.) For example: JUST 1/746 m4 (1306 -- Shropshire).


(18.) JUST 1/746 m5, 5d.


(19.) Summerson, `Maitland and the Criminal Law', 137.


(20.) SR, vol. 1, p. 258 (c. 3); Cam, Liberties and Communities, p. 152.


(21.) SR, vol. 1, p. 268 (c. 14); Cam, `Shire Officials', pp. 169-70.


(22.) SR, vol. 1, pp. 307-9, 311-13; B. H. Putnam, The Enforcement of the Statute of Labourers during the First Decade after the Black Death, 1349-59 (New York, 1908).


(23.) L. R. Poos, `The Social Context of Statute of Labourers Enforcement', Law and History Review, 1 (1983), 28-31, 34.


(24.) Harding, `Early History', 99-100; Cam `Shire Officials', pp. 167-9.


(25.) Parliamentary Writs and Writs of Military Summons, ed. F. Palgrave (2 vols in 2 parts; London, 1827), vol. 2, pt. 2 (appendix), pp. 11-12.


(26.) A phrase found in the Statute of Winchester and also used regularly in the preface to general commissions of the peace and of oyer and terminer: come plusours maufesours et destourbours de nostre pees ...


(27.) C 66/155 m7d.


(28.) C[alendar of] P[atent] R[olls] 1321-4, pp. 60-1.


(29.) CPR 1321-4, p. 382.


(30.) C 66/159 m12d.


(31.) South Lancashire in the Reign of Edward II, ed. G. H. Tupling, Chetham Society, 3rd series, 1 (1949), pp. xxii, lviii; S. Waugh, `The Profits of Violence: The Minor Gentry in the Rebellion of 1321-1322 in Gloucestershire and Herefordshire', Speculum, 52 (1977), 843-69.


(32.) R. Horrox, Richard III. A Study of Service (Cambridge, 1989), pp. 11, 23.


(33.) CPR 1327-30, p. 481.


(34.) CPR 1327-30, p. 481 (25 December 1329).


(35.) C 66/172 m2d: ad felonias et transgressione ... perpetractas ad sectam nostram vel aliorum versus eos inde prosequi volencium audiendas et terminandas sumpto ad hoc si necesse fuerit posse comitatu predicti.


(36.) Verduyn, `Politics of Law and Order', 847.


(37.) The king's bench rolls provide evidence of indictments heard before Richard Damory and his associates (county keepers of the peace) and before the mayor and bailiffs and keepers of the peace of the city of Oxford (KB 27/281 Rex mm 20d, 22).


(38.) CPR 1343-5, pp. 509-10.


(39.) K. Fowler, The King's Lieutenant: Henry of Grosmont, First Duke of Lancaster, 1310-1361 (London, 1969), pp. 48-51.


(40.) R. Stewart Brown, `Two Medieval Liverpool Affrays', Transactions of the Lancashire and Cheshire Historical Society, 85 (1933), 71-81.


(41.) C 66/213 m15d.


(42.) A fresh county peace commission was issued in 1346 and included an array clause (CPR 1345-8, pp. 231-2).


(43.) For one of the few early examples see A. J. Verduyn, `The revocation of urban peace commissions in 1381: the Lincoln petition', Historical Research, 65 (1992), 108-111.


(44.) E. G. Kimball, `Commissions of the Peace for Urban Jurisdictions in England, 1327-1485', Proceedings of the American Philosophical Society, 121 (1977), 449-51.


(45.) CPR 1307-13, p. 415.


(46.) Ibid., p. 480.


(47.) For example: JUST 3/51/4 m8 (Northampton); Rolls of the Warwickshire and Coventry Sessions of the Peace, 1377-1397, ed. E. Kimball, Dugdale Society, 16 (1939), pp. xxiv-xxv.


(48.) CPR 1338-40, p. 140 (12 May).


(49.) CPR 1345-8, p. 176 (16 July).


(50.) Kimball, Warwickshire Rolls, pp. xxv-xxvi; W. M. Ormrod, `York and the Crown under the First Three Edwards', in S. Rees Jones (ed.), The Government of Medieval York, Essays in commemoration of the 1396 Royal Charter, Borthwick Studies in History, 3 (1997), p. 32.


(51.) For example: CPR 1361-4, pp. 530 (Beverley), 531 (Knaresborough and Stancliff), 531 (addressed to the Chancellor of Oxford University and the Mayor of Oxford); Kimball, Warwickshire Rolls, p. xxiii.


(52.) Kimball, Warwickshire Rolls, p. xxiii.


(53.) S. Rees Jones, `York's Civic Administration, 1354-1464', in S. Rees Jones (ed.), Government in Medieval York, pp. 116-18.


(54.) W. A. Morris, `The Sheriff', in Morris and Strayer (ed.), English Government at Work, vol. 2, pp. 57, 68-9; E. Powell, Kingship, Law and Society (Oxford, 1989), pp. 74-6.


(55.) JUST 1/353 m6.


(56.) B. H. Putnam, The Place in Legal History of Sir William Shareshull (Cambridge, 1950), p. 63.


(57.) For example: JUST 3/96 m15d (1296 -- Warwickshire), 31/1 m1 (1307 -- Leicestershire), 51/4 m8 (1324 -- Northamptonshire), 32/1 m3, 3d (1329 -- Lincolnshire).


(58.) For example: JUST 1/96 m59d (1299 -- Cambridgeshire), JUST 3/48 m16 (1312 -- Norfolk), 32/1 m7d (1331 -- Lincolnshire).


(59.) JUST 3/95 m6 (1295).


(60.) For example: JUST 3/51/3 m14 (constables of the peace in Peterborough).


(61.) 1 Henry V c. 5; Powell, Kingship, p. 67.


(62.) SC 8/41/2034.


(63.) For example: JUST 3/166 m1.


(64.) JUST 3/119 m10d (Norfolk).


(65.) JUST 3/133 m1d (1341 -- Lincolnshire).


(66.) Musson, Public Order and Law Enforcement, pp. 107-22.


(67.) JUST 3/96 m16d.


(68.) JUST 3/51/4 m3.


(69.) F. M. Pollock and F. W. Maitland, The History of English Law before the Time of Edward I (2nd edn; repr. Cambridge, 1968), vol. 2, pp. 578-80; R. B. Dobson and J. Taylor, Rymes of Robin Hood: An Introduction to the English Outlaw rev edn (Stroud, 1997), p. 29.


(70.) JUST 3/47/3 m1 (Norfolk).


(71.) JUST 3/125 m8d (1331 -- Norfolk).


(72.) Select Cases in the Court of King's Bench, ed. G. O. Sayles, Selden Society, 74 (London, 1957), vol. 4, pp. 88-91.


(73.) JUST 3/145 m8d (1360 -- Yorkshire).


(74.) JUST 3/96 m42.


(75.) JUST 3/74/3 m1.


(76.) JUST 3/112 m12.


(77.) JUST 3/115B m4, 4d.


(78.) JUST 3/22/2 m2.


(79.) JUST 3/214/3 m16.


(80.) JUST 3/127 m15d.


(81.) JUST 3/134 m2.


(82.) Essex: JUST 3/18/5 m10; Hertfordshire: JUST 3/22/2 mm2, 3d, 4d, 5d. Unfortunately, no indictments before the Lancashire sub-keepers can be found on the surviving gaol delivery roll for 1324-6 (JUST 3/29/2).


(83.) JUST 3/18/5 m18d.


(84.) For example: JUST 1/333 (Hertfordshire), JUST 3/50/2 (Norfolk), 51/4 (Northamptonshire).


(85.) JUST 3/117 m14 (1326 -- Norfolk).


(86.) JUST 3/51/4 m7 (1324 -- Northamptonshire).


(87.) JUST 3/119 m10 (1328 -- Norfolk).


(88.) JUST 3/51/4 m7.


(89.) JUST 3/48 m12.


(90.) JUST 3/125 m1 (Norfolk).


(91.) JUST 3/156 m3.


(92.) A statute of 1327 refers to `sheriffs and bailiffs of liberties and all others that do take indictments in their turns or elsewhere' in the context of the correct procedure for making indictments and presenting them to the gaol delivery justice (SR, vol. 1, p. 257 (c. 17)), but does not indicate that certain officers were preferred for hearing them. Professor Cam considers the apparent vacillation to be the result of a clash between the Crown's policy of `the more presentments the better' and the desire among some judges that the hearing of indictments be restricted to certain authorized or accepted personnel (Cam, `Shire Officials', pp. 168-9).


(93.) For example: JUST 3/31/2 mm5, 7 (Lincolnshire); 96 m47 (Warwickshire); 51/4 mm3, 6, 7 (Northamptonshire); 112 mm12-13d, 15, 16 (Surrey).


(94.) For example: an indictment for homicide taken before the bailiffs of the town of Derby and bailiffs of the Earl of Lancaster OUST 3/55/3 m2d); the indictment of John Culverd for the death of Isolde, his wife, taken before the keepers of the peace of the town of Oxford (JUST 3/115B m1); and the indictment of William son of Matilda Maydenman for the death of Luke Marshal, heard before William Farnham, constable of the peace for the hundred of Bocking in Surrey OUST 3/112 m23d).


(95.) JUST 3/134 m64d.


(96.) JUST 3/156 m2.


(97.) For such developments see Musson and Ormrod, Evolution, pp. 51, 61-2, 66-8.


(98.) Summerson, `Structure of Law Enforcement', pp. 318-24.


(99.) JUST 3/49/1 m21.


(100.) JUST 3/48 m4.


(101.) JUST 3/49/1 m49.


(102.) JUST 1/467 m14d.


(103.) JUST 3/116 m5d.


(104.) JUST 3/48 m6.


(105.) JUST 1/746 mm1, 2d-4d, 5d.


(106.) JUST 1/333 m4.


(107.) KB 27/254 mm11, 12; Tupling, South Lancashire, pp. 37, 42.


(108.) JUST 1/428 mm2-3.


(109.) JUST 1/429 mm16, 16d, 18.


(110.) Kimball, Warwickshire Rolls, pp. li, liii: the writ to the sheriff in the 1395 commission specifically instructed him to summon the borough constables. Generally the borough constables presented three times as many offences as the ordinary presenting jurors, though a third of these were economic trespasses and only one sixth were felonies.


(111.) Ibid., p. liv.


(112.) Putnam, Proceedings, p. xcix.


(113.) A. Musson, `Twelve Good Men and True? The Character of Early Fourteenth-Century Juries', Law and History Review, 15 (1997), 120-1.


(114.) Musson, `Twelve Good Men and True', pp. 227-8.


(125.) P. C. Maddern, Violence and Social Order: East Anglia 1422-1442 (Oxford, 1992), p. 52.


(116.) Sessions of the Peace in the City of Lincoln, 1351-1354 and the Borough of Stamford, 1351, ed. E. G. Kimball, Lincoln Record Society, 65 (1972), p. xxix.


(117.) JUST 3/29/2 mm32, 33.


(118.) JUST 3/29/2 mm12, 32, 33, 39.


(119.) JUST 3/112 m29d.


(120.) JUST 3/125 m15.


(121.) CPR 1317-21, p. 17; 1321-4, p. 370.


(122.) JUST 3/5/2; CPR 1324-7, p. 286.


(123.) CPR 1331-4, p. 61; 1330-4, p. 293.


(124.) CPR 1321-4, p. 382; 1330-4, pp. 286, 295, 297.


(125.) CPR 1321-4, p. 382; 1338-40, p. 137.


(126.) CPR 1348-50, p. 533; 1361-4, p. 66.


(127.) This was certainly the case by the sixteenth century (K. Wrightson, `Two Concepts of Order: Justice, Constables, and Jurymen in Seventeenth-Century England', in J. Brewer and J. Styles (ed.), An Ungovernable People: the English and their Law in the Sixteenth and Seventeenth Centuries (London, 1980), p. 26).


(128.) Five of the 1345 Lancashire sub-keepers were styled as knights in the commission; at least two others were distrained to knighthood: Gilbert Skaresbrek (C 47/1/8 m13) and David Egerton (E 198/3/22 m3).


(129.) For the dispute between the Chastiloun and Nowers families that erupted in the mid-1330s and culminated in Ralph Chastiloun's death and Roger Nowers' disgrace, see Musson, Public Order and Law Enforcement, pp. 259-60, 274-6.


(130.) This area is explored more fully in Musson and Ormrod, Evolution, pp. 68-70.


(131.) M. K. McIntosh, Controlling Misbehaviour in England 1370-1600 (Cambridge, 1998), pp. 27-8, 40-1; King, `Decision Makers', p. 26.


(132.) G. R. Owst, Literature and Pulpit in Medieval England, 2nd edn (Oxford, 1961), pp. 169-71.


(133.) `Piers Plowman' by William Langland: an edition of the C-text, ed. D. A. Pearsall (London, 1978), CIII ll. 175, 177.


(134.) JUST 1/850 m5.


(135.) JUST 1/850 m1d, m4 (Suffolk), 596 m6d (Norfolk).


(136.) JUST 3/145 m3 (1360), m17 (1361 -- Yorkshire).


(137.) For example: JUST 1/891 m6 (Surrey).


(138.) For example: JUST 1/746 mm4-5d (Shropshire).


(139.) JUST 1/20 mm4-5 (Bedfordshire), 70 mm2-3 (Buckinghamshire), 596 mm1-4 (Norfolk), 850 mm6-8d (Suffolk).


(140.) C 66/155 m7d.


(141.) CPMR 1323-64, p. 189.


(142.) Owst, Literature and Pulpit, p. 326.


(143.) A. P. Baldwin, The Theme of Government in Piers Plowman (Woodbridge, 1981), p. 28; Owst, Literature and Pulpit, pp. 162, 169-70, 328-9.


(144.) For example: JUST 1/1395 m1; Sessions of the Peace for Bedfordshire, 1355-59, 1363-4, ed. E. G. Kimball, Bedfordshire Historical Record Society, 48 (1969), pp. 34, 47-8, 73, 74, 75; Poos, `Social Context', pp. 31-3; Wrightson, `Two Concepts of Order', p. 31.


(145.) Maddern, Violence and Social Order, p. 72.


(146.) C. Dyer, Everyday Life in Medieval England (London, 1994), p. 231.


(147.) Summerson, `Structure of Law Enforcement', 315-17, 325-7; Wrightson, `Two Concepts of Order', pp. 23-6 (quotation at p. 25).


(148.) Dyer, Everyday Life, p. 231.


(149.) C. Dyer, `The Social and Economic Background to the Rural Revolt of 1381', in R. H. Hilton and T. Aston (ed.), The English Rising of 1381 (Cambridge, 1981), pp. 17-19; A. J. Prescott, `Judicial Records of the Rising of 1381', unpublished Ph.D. thesis, University of London (1984), p. 100.


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