The Bailie Court was the main local court within the medieval and early modern burgh of Edinburgh. In the later period into the 20th century this court was also called the Burgh Court and the Police Court and became known latterly as the District Court.
The City Archives holds voluminous records relating to both the Canongate – which was a separate burgh until 1856 – and Edinburgh Bailie Courts. The bundles of records are not the easiest to handle and decipher because of the method of storage down the years since they were first created, the earliest being 1603.
Several hundred boxes of what are referred to as ‘processes’ survive, these being the documents which were used in the legal proceedings in court. The sheer scale of these holdings together with the range of offences which were prosecuted in the courts provides a fascinating, often tragic and sometimes comic, picture of everyday life in the capital.
Cases included theft, debt, housebreaking, assault, slander, breach of contract, disputes over property and many more besides. It is likely that a good proportion of the burgh’s population made an appearance in these records in some capacity over the almost three centuries they cover. The images shown here relate to two cases of forgery recently uncovered by an individual in our search room. Both processes include copies of forged bank notes which, at least to the untrained eye, must have appeared to be the genuine article.
The first is a 30/- note of the Provincial Bank of Ireland with a note relating that it: “…is a Forgery and was passed this day in the Counting House of Robert Thomas Merchant, Royal Exchange by Margaret Hill, who stated that she received it from Ann Ballantyne – Both in custody.”
The second is a forged one pound note from the Glasgow Bank apparently circulated in Edinburgh by Margaret Wilson or Shiels and Elizabeth Davidson or Cummings and seized on 23 December 1836.
The Baillie Court records are just one of Edinburgh City Archives’ Top 12 Treasures which are featured in our gallery of the same on our website. You can access this small exhibition by clicking here. More of our Top 12 will be featured in posts here over the coming months.