Medieval England’s piepowder courts

These days, it’s a bit of a hoot/laugh/chuckle/giggle…but then? Not so much.

Notes from the U.K.

In the Middle Ages, English fairs and markets had a fast-acting justice system called–well, what it was called sort of depends on how you want to spell it, and then your best guess about how to pronounce it. This is English, remember. Pronunciation and spelling aren’t often on speaking terms, and in the Middle Ages spelling was still a liquid–years away from taking on a fixed form.

The spellings I ran into most often were pie poudre and piepowder, but the West Sussex Records Office adds “pyepowder, pipoulder, pepowder, and pipoudre,” and notes (gleefully) that the spelling sometimes changed within the same document. How do you pronounce it, then? I consulted Lord Google, as I so often do, using the pie poudre spelling, and he led me to a website that asked if the phrase was Catalan, Mandarin, or Australian English. It didn’t matter what I chose, though, because it…

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12 thoughts on “Medieval England’s piepowder courts

  1. I don’t think the Courts Act or the Justice Act has made it’s way into Norfolk yet, as there’s always an awful lot of accusing and judging going on around Norwich Market. I’m going there tomorrow actually, so I’d better practice my accusatory finger point!

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  2. I added the site to my Reader list. After I left my comment, I saw they’re a Fiction writer too. Which is awesome! There’s no such thing as “too many” interesting stories and people! There are, however, too many boring stories and uninteresting people. Ha,ha,ha!

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