The Statute of Marlborough (52 Hen 3) was a set of laws passed by King Henry III of England in 1267. It is the oldest piece of statute law in the United Kingdom that has not yet been repealed.[1] There were twenty-nine chapters, of which four are still in force.

Statute of Marlborough 1267
Citation52 Hen 3 c. 23
Territorial extentKingdom of England (incl. Wales)
Other legislation
Amended byStatute Law Revision and Civil Procedure Act 1881
Status: Amended
Revised text of statute as amended


Origins and dateEdit

The Statute is so named as it was passed at Marlborough, where a Parliament was being held. The preamble dates it as "...the two and fiftieth year of the reign of King Henry, son of King John, in the utas of Saint Martin...", which would give a date of November 19, 1267; "utas" is an archaic term to denote the eighth day (in inclusive counting) after an event, in this case the feast day of Saint Martin. The full title was Provisions made at Marlborough in the presence of our lord King Henry, and Richard King of the Romans, and the Lord Edward eldest son of the said King Henry, and the Lord Ottobon, at that time legate in England.

The preamble claimed that its purpose was peace, justice and the removal of dissent from the realm;[2] and by taking up and reintroducing many of the [previously repudiated] Provisions of Oxford, went far to meet the demands of the baronial opposition.[3]


Among its (now repealed) chapters are legislation on suits of court, Sheriff's tourns, beaupleader fines,[4] real actions, essoins, juries, guardians in socage, amercements for default of summons, pleas of false judgement, replevin, freeholders, resisting the King's officers, the confirmation of charters, wardship, redisseisin, inquest, murder, benefit of clergy, and prelates.

By regulating the use of distress of property to enforce tenurial services, and redefining other feudal obligations,[5] the statute (in the words of Frederick Maitland) "in many ways marks the end of feudalism".[6]

Unrepealed elementsEdit

The Law Commission has suggested that two of the remaining four chapters be repealed, as they are no longer useful since the Tribunals, Courts and Enforcement Act 2007.[7] In June 2015 the Law Commission and Scottish Law Commission published a draft bill incorporating the repeal of c.4 (regulating the "taking of unreasonable distresses and the removal of distrained goods out of the debtor’s county") and c.15 (concerning the "levying of distress off the tenanted property or on a public highway") of the Statute.[8][9]

The chapters currently valid are c.1, c.4, and c.15 (often referred to as the Distress Act 1267),[10] which seek to govern the recovery of damages ("distresses") and make it illegal to obtain recompense for damages other than through the courts, and c.23 (the Waste Act 1267),[11] which seeks to prevent tenant farmers from "making waste" to land they are in tenancy of. Chapter 15 sets out places in which "distresses" are forbidden to be taken; these include the King's Highway and the Common Street. In other words, actions to remedy a breach of some kind by one person against another may not be taken in the street etc.

See alsoEdit


  1. ^ The famous Magna Carta was originally passed in 1215, but the version currently in force only dates to a reissue in 1297 (25 Edw. I). The oldest piece of extant Scottish law is the Royal Mines Act 1424
  2. ^ R. Wickson, The community of the realm in 13thC England (London 1970) p. 53
  3. ^ S. H. Steinberg, A New Dictionary of British History (London 1963) p. 214
  4. ^ J. R. Tanner ed., The Cambridge Medieval History Vol VI (Cambridge 1929) p.282
  5. ^ S. H. Sternberg, A New Dictionary of British History (London 1963) p. 214
  6. ^ J. R. Tanner ed., The Cambridge Medieval History Vol VI (Cambridge 1929) p.283
  7. ^ "Oldest surviving law faces repeal after 747 years," BBC website, 5 December 2014
  8. ^ Statute Law Repeals: Twentieth Report, Law Commission, 2015.
  9. ^ Bowcott, Owen (3 June 2015). "Medieval laws face axe in legal pruning". Retrieved 3 June 2015.
  10. ^ Chapter 2 also covered distresses, but was repealed by the Statute Law Revision Act 1948
  11. ^ Whilst the bulk of the chapter remains in force, the first paragraph was repealed by the Statute Law Revision and Civil Procedure Act 1881


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