On this day … 23 December 1812

The Preston Court Leet appointed officers to look after the affairs of the town. They had titles that have long been forgotten, but meant a lot to Prestonians in the early 19th century.

The court appointed a pinder (to round up stray animals), a beadle (the court’s officer) and a houselooker (to make sure houses were kept in good repair).

The picture of the beadle is taken from ‘Picturesque Representations of the Dress and Manners of the English’ by William Alexander (1767-1816) published in 1814 (source: https://www.flickr.com/…/vintage_illustration/28876919418). It gives an idea of the sort of costumes that would have been seen on the streets of Preston at this time.

The pinder had an important role, for Preston was very much still a market town, people kept cows and pigs in their back yards, and these frequently strayed and became a nuisance. It was the pinder’s job to round them up and take them to the pound, where their owners came to collect them and pay the fine for allowing them to stray.

David Berry has written a fascinating account of the work of the pinders in Preston :
https://www.wyrearchaeology.org.uk/index.php/areas-of-interest/preston/preston-pinfolds

Other officials appointed on this day included two each of the following: viewers of fish and flesh (to check the quality of food on sale), ale founders (to check the beer on sale), affeerers (who had the power to modify punishments to take account of individual circumstances), and treasurers for poor apprentices (administering an early form of poor relief).

Then there were scavengers (responsible for cleaning the streets) who were appointed for separate districts of the town. And these must have been troubled times, for the court also appointed 29 constables.

For more on the court leet records and the work of these officials, go to David Berry’s website:
http://c5110394.myzen.co.uk/mw/index.php?title=Main_Page

And for a selection from the records with lots of accompanying information about the history of Preston see Anthony Hewitson’s book.

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