The Chancery Court of York: A Forgotten Jurisdiction?

October 1, 2022

Peter Collier KC writes:

Morag Ellis KC, Auditor; Professor Norman Doe; Peter Collier KC.

With his customary enthusiasm Professor Norman Doe provided a great overview of the Chancery Court of York in his lecture at York Minster on 29th September. He told us that it was not a forgotten court but a hidden one being rarely mentioned in the indices of the great ecclesiastical commentaries, in contrast to the many references to its Canterbury counterpart, the Court of Arches. We learned of its development, its jurisdiction, with fascinating statistics about the types of case it dealt with over the centuries. The personnel who worked in it were described with a number of the more interesting individuals being identified. We learned of the vast treasure trove of documents to be researched at the Borthwick Institute, but of the difficulty of identifying the Chancery Court records as they are spread across the different collections of court papers. Its jurisprudence through several notable northern jurists were highlighted, the last-mentioned being Professor Mark Hill KC, current Chancellor of the Diocese of Leeds. Throughout it was clear that there is a stubborn northern streak of difference and practical common sense justice running through its history. At the conclusion of the lecture we visited the present Consistory Court in the Minster which came into existence in the first half of the nineteenth century, prior to then it had sat in the north transept until 1776 when it moved to the south transept. A fascinating evening.