Court of Halimote

The Bakers’ Guild had the very onerous responsibility of enforcing the ‘Bread Assize’ within a radius of 2 miles from the City of London or a circumference of 12 miles around, excluding the City of Westminster.

The Guild was given wide legal powers by the Court of Aldermen to administer the Assize and to order such punishments as were fitting. The Master acted as Magistrate with a jury composed of Wardens and Assistants from the Court of the Company. Only two other Companies ever received such authority - the Weavers and Fishmongers.
The Court Room of the Company’s Hall was used for these judicial purposes and the curious low balustrade across the room, at which offenders and others had to appear, is retained to this day. Another important feature of this ‘Court of Holy-Moot’. (Halimote), was the pair of scales, now in a glass case at the top of the stairs, for short weights was probably the most common offence. Another, not unknown in the days when coarse sandstones were used for milling, was to add extra sand to the flour, and skulls on display in London Museums show clearly how teeth were worn down as a result. Less disastrous but no less fraudulent was the addition of sawdust.
Apart from minor infringements, the penalties for more serious offences were on the first occasion for the offender to be dragged on a hurdle through the dirtiest streets of the City with the faulty loaf hanging from his neck. For the second offence he was pilloried for an hour, and if he broke the law a third time, his oven was pulled down and he had to forswear baking for evermore.