Legal Landmarks: The Architecture of Justice in late medieval England
By Anthony Musson
Australia & New Zealand Law & History E-Journal, vol.2 (2006)
Introduction: This paper starts from the premise that psychologically architecture can promote, reflect and convey ideals and notions of law, authority and the exercise of justice. Here I am attempting to use the visual experience, the practical and physical reality of going to court, to shed light on some of the questions and dichotomies that exercise historians: for example, the broad question of how (given a lack of the kind of resources that in modern times are taken for granted) medieval kings upheld the rule of law; and stemming from this, what was the nature of the relationship between the perceived centre and the localities both geographically and in terms of judicial personnel. The present paper is naturally limited in scope, but I will endeavour to assess some of the significant issues that arise from these broad themes: the extent to which an over-concentration on the royal courts housed at Westminster has skewed views on the administration of justice and the relationship between royal government and the political elite (whose residences and power bases were in the provinces). In this respect I shall consider especially sensitivities regarding the exercise of jurisdiction and the balance of public and private power in late medieval England.