1902 Encyclopedia > Court of the Arches

Court of the Arches

COURT OF THE ARCHES. This court derives its name from its ancient place of judicature, which was in the church of St Mary of the Arches (de Arcubus), the modern repre-sentative of which is now called ordinarily Bow Church. The modern church is on the south side of Cheapside, in the city of London, and stands on the site of a very ancient church, which was burnt down in the great fire of London in 1666, and which had a very fine arched crypt, whence it derived its name. The ecclesiastical tribunal, which has passed for a long time by the name of the Arches Court, is the court of appeal of the archbishop of Canterbury, as metropolitan of the province of Canterbury, and the proper designation of the judge is the Official Principal of the Arches Courts, but by custom he has come to be styled the Dean of the Arches, from the circumstance that the office of dean has been in modern times usually united in the same person with that of the official principal of the court of appeal. The office of the dean of the Arches may now be regarded as extinct, or at least as purely titular, like that of the dean of Booking in Essex, inasmuch as the peculiar jurisdiction which he exercised as dean (decanus) over thirteen churches, locally situated within the diocese of London, but exempt from the bishop's jurisdiction, has been abolished, and the churches have been placed by statute under the ordinary jurisdiction of the bishop of London. It was, no doubt, owing to the circumstance that the Arches church was exempt from the bishop of London's jurisdiction that it was selected originally as the place of judicature for the archbishop's court. After the College of Advocates was incorporated and had established itself in Doctors' Commons, the archbishop's court of appeal, as well as his prerogative court, were usually held in the hall of the College of Advocates, but since the destruction of the buildings of the college, the court of appeal has had no settled place of judicature, and the official principal appoints from time to time its sittings, which have been held for the most part in Westminster Hall. The appeals from the decisions of the Court of Arches were formerly made to the king in Chancery, but they are now by statute addressed to the king in Council, and they are heard before the Judicial Committee of the Privy Council. By 23 Henry VIII. c. 9, the Arches Court is empowered to hear, in the first instance, such suits as are sent up to it by letters of request from the consistorial courts of the bishops of the province of Canterbury; and by the statute 3 and 4 Vict. c. 86 (the Church Discipline Act) this jurisdiction is continued to it, and it is further empowered to accept letters of request from the bishops of the province of Canterbury after they have issued commissions of inquiry under that statute, and the commissioners have made their report. The official principal of the Arches Court is the only ecclesiastical judge who is empowered to pass a sentence of deprivation against a clerk in holy orders. (T. T.)

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