A centuries-old tradition continued as Southampton held its annual court leet, an event that dates back to at least 1549.

The historical ceremony allows citizens to take matters of concern to the council.

Courts leet have been around since ‘long before 1066′ – and despite their function changing over the centuries, their main purpose has remained constant: to give the people a voice.

However, the vast majority of courts leet – historically run by the lords of an area across the country - don’t exist anymore, with only a couple of dozen or so remaining.

It was the lords, gathered in the court leet, who used to have an ancient jurisdiction over something called View of Frankpledge.

View of Frankpledge was a system of guaranteeing responsibility for wrongdoings such as crimes and debts by splitting the responsibility geographically, each ’10 hides’ large, which translates to just under 2 square miles, and each with its own leader, known as the Chief-Pledge.

If anybody committed an offence, it would be up to the Chief-Pledge of that area to hand them into the lords for punishment, and if they didn’t, then they would be in trouble themselves.

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However, over the years, authority over the View of Frankpledge, shifted away from the lords and into the hands of the magistrates. Magistrates were not part of the court leet, and as a lot of the dealings within a court leet ended up regarding the View of Frankpledge, the whole purpose of the civic event gradually became all but obsolete.

Southampton, however, didn’t think so; and when the country abolished them in 1977, 22 were allowed to remain, and the port city was one of them.

Today, remaining courts leet hold no legal jurisdiction – all except for one – Laxton in Nottinghamshire. They are, however, a valuable element to modern local democracy, as they allow the public to bring matters to the people who run the place they call home, just like they always did.

Southampton’s Court Leet used to be held on Cutthorn Mound on the Common, but it was long ago decided that the meeting, which is always held on the first Tuesday after Michaelmas (September 29), would be warmer indoors, as it moved into the old Guildhall in the Bargate. It now takes place in the Civic Centre chambers.

The ceremony begins with the ‘Beating of the Bounds’. This is a tradition of travelling, historically on horseback, the perimeter of the city to make sure that the boundary is clear and intact, and beating back any undergrowth that might be covering it.

The exercise used to be carried out by the Sheriff and the Mayor, but in modern times, the Mayor has been replaced with the council’s legal director, and the horses they used to ride have been replaced with cars.

This year, Sheriff Councillor Valerie Laurent, along with legal director Richard Ivory carried out the tradition, inviting school children to join them in the Beating of the Bounds, before arriving back at the Civic Centre for the meeting to begin.

Cllr Laurent chaired the meeting, according to tradition, and heard several representations from members of the public, including matters ranging from developing libraries to protecting green spaces, to concerns regarding a more modern reason for drama – e-scooters.

A jury of past mayors, sheriffs and aldermen took each representation individually either agreeing to bring the matter to council, or refusing it – on the advice of Mr Ivory.

Any agreed-upon representation will now go to the relevant cabinet member for deliberation.