Derbyshire lawyers take up ancient roles

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Two solicitors from the Bakewell branch of Taylor&Emmet LLP are entering the history books by becoming the first women to take office in Derbyshire’s ancient Barmote Courts.

Two solicitors from the Bakewell branch of Taylor&Emmet LLP are entering the history books by becoming the first women to take office in Derbyshire’s ancient Barmote Courts.

Suzanne Porter and Juanita Haigh have been appointed deputy stewards of the Wirksworth and Chatsworth Barmote Courts respectively, which handle lead mining matters.

The solicitors will be responsible for swearing in a jury of mining experts on behalf of the Barmote steward and former colleague, Michael Cockerton. The courts are still part of the English legal system and each meets once a year to protect the area’s mineral fields and the interests of the lead mineral owners, known as Lords of the Field, principally the Duchy of Lancaster and the Duke of Devonshire.

Suzanne said: “Derbyshire lead mining customs have been in place since the seventh or eighth centuries and it is an honour to be asked to preserve and protect these ancient practises for future generations. To become the first women to do so is a landmark moment in history and demonstrates that even traditions as old as these must move with the times. Juanita and I are excited to be starting a new chapter in the Barmote Court’s heritage.”

Anyone has the right to search for lead. If found, the miner must seek permission from the Barmaster – a surveyor responsible for the administration of the mineral field – to extract it and pay a percentage of his takings to the Lord of the Field. It is the job of a Barmote jury to resolve any disputes and ensure they account properly for the Lord of the Field’s entitlement.