The Ancient Peculier Seal of Masham
During the reign of William the Conqueror the lands and estates of Mashamshires were given to Nigel de Albini, one of his captains, who had laid waste to this part of the country.
The lands subsequently passed to Nigel’s son, Rodger de Mowbray, who proved his worth as a knight at the Battle of Standard in 1138, when a great victory was won over the invading Scottish Army, and then went to the Holy Lands to fight in the Crusades. During this time, he was captured by Saladin and held to ransom for seven years until he was redeemed by the knights of the Templar. In gratitude for this, he donated the living of the church at Masham to the Church of St Peter in York.
However, the journey from York to Masham was both arduous and dangerous, so the Archbishop of York established the Peculier Court of Masham to avoid having to make regular visits (Peculier is a Norman word meaning particular). The chairman of this court is known as the Official and he has a special seal to mark his approval or decision.
The Court has a great deal of local power and the following are some of the offences dealt with in the past:
Not coming to church enough
Keeping a hat on at communion
For bidding the church wardens to do their worst on being asked to go to church
Not bringing their children to be baptised
Husband and wife living apart
For brawling and scolding
For harbouring Roman Catholic priests
For carrying a dead man’s skull out of the churchyard and laying it under the head of a person to charm them to sleep.