About Danby Court Leet

“The purpose of Danby Court Leet is to prevent the enclosure of the Moor, to allocate and oversee grazing rights (by custom) and to ensure there are no infringements of the surface of the Common.”

In existence since medieval times, there are only 24 Courts Leet remaining, Danby Court Leet being one of three active Courts Leet on the North York Moors. The other two are Fylingdales and Spaunton.

The Danby Court Leet which sits at Danby Castle, comprises a Jury of thirteen local men with an elected Foreman. The Lord of the Manor appoints a Bailiff, who keeps the records and a Steward of the Court, to handle legal matters.

Danby Court Leet October 2023

October 2023 annual Manorial Court Meeting.

Members of the newly elected Danby Court Leet L – R Martin Thompson, Graham Lilley, Peter Dowson, Martin Foord (Bailiff) Ken Dowson, David Tyreman (retiring after 42 years) Hugh Thompson (Court Steward) Martin Muir (Court Leet Foreman) Bob Adamski, Andrew Welford, Paul Harrison (Pinder – responsible for rounding up stray livestock and keeping them in the ‘pinfold’ until collected by the owner), Mike Smith (Affearer – responsible for setting the level of fines), Colin Smith (Affearer – responsible for setting the level of fines), Ben Tyreman (4th generation of the family to serve the Court), Anthony Lyth, Dennis Raw.

The Court Leet keeps a Register of Common Rights; dwellings with turbary rights that allow the householder to cut turves and peat on the Common for his own use, and farms with sheep rights allowing the farmer to graze a certain number of sheep on the Common.

The Court Leet lets and controls the many common garths and common enclosures, for which a “fine” is paid, it relets sheep rights if relinquished by a farmer or if a farm is sub divided. It also agrees access and installation of water supplies, telephone and electric cables over the Common and other privileges such as improved access, cattle grids, garages, these items are also subject to annual fines which are collected in October.

No digging, fencing, planting, building, tipping or other disturbance is allowed on the Common without permission of the Court Leet. Anyone infringing can be fined and caused to reinstate the Common to the satisfaction of the Court Leet Jury

Any person wishing to do work on Common Land must apply, giving particulars to the Bailiff enclosing £1.00 (one pound) calling-out fee. The application is then considered by the Jury. On average the Jury, or a Deputation of the Jury, meet on site fifteen times in the year. Each call out requiring up to six sites to visit on separate business plus discussion of correspondence. The Jury will also meet four to six times at Danby Castle in the Jury Room for business meetings.

Once a year, in October, the Manorial Court Meeting is held at Danby Castle, when new freeholders and tenants are summoned to be sworn in by the Steward of the Court and “fines” are collected.