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Archaeologia Cantiana - Vol. 126   2006 page 415 - Book Reviews - continued

The 1258-9 Special Eyre of Surrey and Kent, edited and with Introduction by Andrew H. Hershey, 150 x 250mm. lxxxix + 322 pp., frontispiece. Surrey Record Society, vol. xxxviii, 2004. Hardback, £15. ISBN 0 902978 13 6.

This publication is to be welcomed for the light which it throws on national politics as well as on what was happening in Kent and Surrey. The eyre constituted an important part of the baronial reform movement of Henry IIIís reign and Dr Hershey provides a clear and detailed background to the movement in his Introduction as well as showing how Kent and Surrey fit into the national picture. The eyre roll is in some respects incomplete and this is not surprising in view of the fact that the rolls remained the property of the justices and were not handed into a royal archive. For Kent it appears that some complaints were not heard by the justiciar, since there are no returns from the hundreds in the lathes of Sutton and St Augustine. In his edition of the eyre roll, Hershey has numbered the cases and has given both the Latin text and English translation.
   Judicial reform was a vital part of the baronial reform movement in 1258. Four knights were to be chosen in each county to record complaints against sheriffs, bailiffs and others and to present these to the justiciar when he visited the county to hear and determine the complaints. The office of justiciar had lapsed after 1234 during Henry IIIís personal rule. The significance of Hugh Bigodís appointment in 1258 is discussed fully by Hershey who emphasises his moderation and the extent to which he kept the trust of barons and knights in the years 1258-60.
   The thirteenth century was an age of considerable development in the royal courts and in the definition of common law and local custom. Royal and baronial officials, anxious to increase the kingís or their lordís power and wealth as well as their own, had plenty of opportunities for malpractice, as evidenced by the complaints coming from all social groups. Sheriffs were particularly unpopular. Henry IIIís need for money resulted in increments being imposed over and above the county farm which the sheriff rendered to the exchequer; Kent faced an increment of £145 in 1249. Such demands led to extortion and the imposition of new, uncustomary dues.
   Hugh Bigod sat at Canterbury in January 1259, where he heard the presentments of the four knights and also a large number of querelae or oral complaints. This eyre saw a marked rise in the use of the querela which was a simpler procedure than initiating a case by writ and indicates that the reformers wanted to widen access to justice. Cases brought against officials included the accusation against John de Wootton that he had raised new sums of money while sheriff; another former sheriff, Thomas Aubeney, was convicted of extortion. William de la Green,

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