The Barmote Court is an old Wirksworth custom that dates back 700 years. In Medieval times, an area known as the Kings Fields, about 115 sq miles in size, of which Wirksworth was the centre, was established as a free mining area. Anybody was allowed to set up as a miner and work by very liberal rules permitting them to search for lead ore anywhere but in churchyards, gardens, orchards and highways. The miners had right of access, water and space to mine and dump their waste without regard. They did however have to pay a royalty on all ore mined, of one thirteenth to the Crown( known as a lot ) and one tenth or tithe to the Church.
The Barmote Court was established to deal with disputes and claims arising from lead mining and to collect the royalties due.
There were several Barmote Courts held in different villages but the main court for the High Peak was Monyash and for the Low Peak was Wirksworth. Each court was set up with a Stewart and Barmaster and a Grand Jury of 24 men who were appointed for 6 months. The laws were not fully listed until the mid 17th century when Thomas Manlove a Barmoot Stewart wrote them down. His original manuscript can be seen at the Peak District Mining Museum at Matlock Bath.
Today only Wirksworth holds Barmote Courts. It is held in the Old Moot hall, in Chapel Lane, close to the centre of the town. There are now only 12 jurors and at meetings, bread, cheese, clay pipes and tobacco are still provided as was the old custom. They sit before a famous brass measuring dish, made in 1509 and normally chained to a wall of the building.
Other Derbyshire & Peak District Customs
Royal shrovetide football at Ashbourne in Derbyshire
Castleton Garland Day - a Derbyshire village celebration held annually on Oak Apple Day
Clipping the Church - an annual custom held in Wirksworth