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piepowder courts

piepowder courts were the courts attached to fairs and markets and were probably so called because of the dusty feet (pieds poudrés) of the travelling merchants. When the king gave a town or community the franchise to hold a fair or market, he also granted the right to hold a court to decide disputes between merchants at the fair and to deal with criminal offences occurring during the fair. The judges in these courts were merchants. Piepowder courts were popular with the mercantile community, being quick, effective, and not unduly hampered by procedural technicalities. However they gradually declined, especially after statutes limited their jurisdiction in the 15th cent., and by the end of the 16th cent. most had fallen into disuse.

Maureen Mulholland

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