Duhaime's Law Dictionary

Court of Pie Powder Definition:

A special court that sat in times of public markets or fairs in England in medieval times, with exclusive jurisdiction over disputes between merchants and consumers and any other dispute arising as a result of the market or fair and on fair grounds.

Also called the Pie Poudre Courts.

Montgomery wrote:

"The Court of Pie Powder was a necessary adjunct to the fair, and was originally established for the purpose of settling all disputes arising therein.

"It was a very summary court of justice as circumstances required it to be, for it was intended to arrange difficulties between parties who had come from distant places to attend the fair, and whose occupation of pedlars, or traveling merchants, required that immediate jurisdiction should in all cases be had. It was usual, therefore, for transgressors to be arrested, the cause tried, and judgment given in the space of one hour."

The term pie powder came from the French word for a pedlar, pied puldreaux, which was taken up by the Scottish to refer to any alien merchant.

The Court of Pie Powder eventually fell into disuse; the last one convened in 1858. It was still "on the books" in Bristol when the Court of Pie Powder was officially abolished by statute in 1971 (the Courts of Justice Act 1971).


  • Bewes. W., The Romance of the Law Merchant (London: Sweet & Maxwell, 1986), page 18.
  • Montgomery, William, The Montgomery Manuscripts, 1603-1706 (Belfast: Archer and Sons, 1822), page 42.


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