Swanimotes

One of the medieval courts in England was called a swanimote. It was held to try offenses against vert and venison, that is, against the vegetation and game of the forest. The court also heard grievances against officers of the forest.

In England, a forest was an area set aside as a hunting monopoly. It included woodland, heath, grassland and wetland. The chief administrative officer of a forest was a warden, assisted by verderers (who levied fines), foresters (charged with enforcement of the forest law), and other officials.

The warden (or his steward) and the verderers of a forest held a swanimote three times a year, a fortnight before each of the Feasts of Saint Michael, Saint Martin and Saint John the Baptist.

The swanimote has nothing to do with swans, however. It was so named because local swains (freeholders) were the jurymen. The word swain comes from the Anglo-Saxon swein, a herdsman, shepherd or youth.

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