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A bailiwick ( /ˈblɪwɪk/ ) [1] is usually the area of jurisdiction of a bailiff, and once also applied to territories in which a privately appointed bailiff exercised the sheriff's functions under a royal or imperial writ.


In English, the original French bailie combined with -wic, the Anglo-Saxon suffix (meaning a village) to produce a term meaning literally 'bailiff's village'—the original geographic scope of a bailiwick. In the 19th century, it was absorbed into American English as a metaphor for a sphere of knowledge or activity.

The term can also be used colloquially to mean 'one's area of expertise'

The term survives in administrative usage in the British Crown Dependencies of the Channel Islands, which are grouped for administrative purposes into two bailiwicks the Bailiwick of Jersey (comprising the island of Jersey and uninhabited islets such as the Minquiers and Écréhous) and the Bailiwick of Guernsey (comprising the islands of Guernsey, Sark, Alderney, Brecqhou, Herm, Jethou and Lihou). A Bailiff heads each Channel Island bailiwick.

A bailiwick (German : Ballei) was also the territorial division of the Teutonic Order. Here, various Komtur(en) formed a Ballei province.


The term originated in France ( bailie being the Old French term for a bailiff). Under the ancien régime in France, the bailli was the king's representative in a bailliage, charged with the application of justice and control of the administration. In southern France, the term generally used was sénéchal (cf seneschal) who held office in the sénéchaussée. The administrative network of baillages was established in the 13th century, based on the earlier medieval fiscal and tax divisions (the 'baillie') which had been used by earlier sovereign princes. [2] (For more on this French judicial system, see bailli , prévôt and Early Modern France.)

Bailiwick of Bicester Market End

At Bicester in Oxfordshire, the Lord of the Manor of Market End was the Earl of Derby who, in 1597, sold a 9,999-year lease to 31 principal tenants. This in effect gave the manorial rights to the leaseholders, ‘purchased for the benefit of those inhabitants or others who might hereafter obtain parts of the demesne’. The leaseholders elected a bailiff to receive the profits from the bailiwick, mainly from the administration of the market and distribute them to the shareholders. From the bailiff's title, the arrangement became known as the Bailiwick of Bicester Market End. By 1752 all of the original leases were in the hands of ten men, who leased the bailiwick control of the market to two local tradesmen. [3]

List of Bailiwicks

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<span class="mw-page-title-main">Channel Islands</span> Archipelago in the English Channel

The Channel Islands are an archipelago in the English Channel, off the French coast of Normandy. They are divided into two Crown Dependencies: the Bailiwick of Jersey, which is the largest of the islands; and the Bailiwick of Guernsey, consisting of Guernsey, Alderney, Sark, Herm and some smaller islands. Historically, they are the remnants of the Duchy of Normandy. Although they are not part of the United Kingdom, the UK is responsible for the defence and international relations of the islands as it is for the other Crown Dependency, the Isle of Man, and the British Overseas Territories. The Crown Dependencies are neither members of the Commonwealth of Nations, nor part of the European Union. They have a total population of about 171,916, and the bailiwicks' capitals, Saint Helier and Saint Peter Port, have populations of 33,500 and 18,207 respectively.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Guernsey</span> Island in the English Channel off the coast of Normandy

Guernsey is the second largest island in the Channel Islands, located 27 miles (43 km) west of the Cotentin Peninsula, Normandy. It is the largest island in the Bailiwick of Guernsey, which includes five other inhabited islands and many small islets and rocks. The Bailiwick has a population of 63,950, the vast majority of whom live on Guernsey, and the island has a land area of 24 square miles (62 km2).

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Bailiff</span> Manager, overseer or custodian

A bailiff is a manager, overseer or custodian – a legal officer to whom some degree of authority or jurisdiction is given. Bailiffs are of various kinds and their offices and duties vary greatly.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Crown Dependencies</span> Self-governing possessions of the British Crown

The Crown Dependencies are three offshore island territories in the British Islands that are self-governing possessions of the British Crown: the Bailiwick of Guernsey and the Bailiwick of Jersey, both located in the English Channel and together known as the Channel Islands, and the Isle of Man in the Irish Sea between Great Britain and Ireland.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Bicester</span> Town in Oxfordshire, England

Bicester is a historical market town, garden town, and civil parish in the Cherwell district of northeastern Oxfordshire in south-central England that also comprises an eco town development at North West Bicester and a self-build village at Graven Hill. Its local market continues to thrive and is now located on Sheep Street, a very wide pedestrian zone in the conservation area of the town. Bicester is also known for Bicester Village, a nearby shopping centre.

The Bailiff is the chief justice in each of the Channel Island bailiwicks of Guernsey and Jersey, also serving as president of the legislature and having ceremonial and executive functions. Each bailiwick has possessed its own bailiff since the islands were divided into two jurisdictions in the 13th century. The bailiffs and deputy bailiffs are appointed by the Crown on the advice of the Secretary of State for Justice and may hold office until retirement age.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Bailiwick of Guernsey</span> British Crown Dependency consisting of several islands

The Bailiwick of Guernsey is a self-governing British Crown Dependency off the coast of Normandy, France, comprising several of the Channel Islands. It has a total land area of 78 square kilometres (30 sq mi) and an estimated total population of 67,334.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">British Islands</span> Term within the law of the United Kingdom

The British Islands is a term within the law of the United Kingdom which refers collectively to the following four polities:

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Bailiff of Guernsey</span> Head of the government of Guernsey

The title Bailiff of Guernsey has been used since at least the 13th century and indicated the leading citizen of Guernsey.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Bailiff of Jersey</span> Civic head of the Bailiwick of Jersey

The Bailiff of Jersey is the civic head of the Bailiwick of Jersey. In this role, he is not the head of government nor the head of state, but the chief justice of Jersey and presiding officer of Jersey's parliament, the States Assembly. The Bailiff is also the President of the Royal Court. It is similar in role to the Bailiff of Guernsey.

The jurats are lay people in Guernsey and Jersey who act as judges of fact rather than law, though they preside over land conveyances and liquor licensing. In Alderney, however, the jurats are judges of both fact and law in both civil and criminal matters.

A bailiff was the king's administrative representative during the ancien régime in northern France, where the bailiff was responsible for the application of justice and control of the administration and local finances in his bailiwick.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Lieutenant Governor of Jersey</span> Representative of the British monarch in the Bailiwick of Jersey

The lieutenant governor of Jersey is the representative of the British monarch in the Bailiwick of Jersey, a Crown dependency of the British Crown.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">German occupation of the Channel Islands</span> 1940–1945 German occupation of the Channel Islands

The military occupation of the Channel Islands by Nazi Germany lasted for most of the Second World War, from 30 June 1940 until liberation on 9 May 1945. The Bailiwick of Jersey and Bailiwick of Guernsey are British Crown dependencies in the English Channel, near the coast of Normandy. The Channel Islands were the only de jure part of the British Empire in Europe to be occupied by Nazi Germany during the war. Germany's allies Italy and Japan also occupied British territories in Africa and Asia, respectively.

A prévôt was a governmental position of varying importance in Ancien Régime France, typically referring to a civil officer, magistrate, head of cathedral or church, often anglicised as provost. A unit of justice or court overseen by a prévôt was known as a prévôté.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Coat of arms of Guernsey</span> National coat of arms of Guernsey

The coat of arms of Guernsey is the official symbol of the Channel Island of Guernsey. It is very similar to the arms of Normandy, Jersey, and England.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">History of the Jews in Guernsey</span>

The history of the Jews in Guernsey dates back to well before the events of 1940–5. A London Jew named Abraham was described in 1277 as being from "La Gelnseye" (Guernsey). A converted Portuguese Jew, Edward Brampton, was appointed Governor of Guernsey in 1482.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Courts of Guernsey</span> Court system of Guernsey

The Courts of Guernsey are responsible for the administration of justice in the Bailiwick of Guernsey, one of the Channel Islands. They apply the law of the Island, which is a mixture of customary law dating back as far as the 10th century and legislation passed by the legislature, the States of Deliberation.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Law of Guernsey</span> Corpus of law governing the island of Guernsey

The Law of Guernsey originates in Norman customary law, overlaid with principles taken from English common law and French law, as well as from statute law enacted by the competent legislature(s) – usually, but not always, the States of Guernsey.

Bailiff usually refers to law enforcement officers involved with lower courts of the UK or providing courtroom security and order in the US.


  1. "Definition of Bailiwick". Oxford University Press. 2020. Archived from the original on May 28, 2020. Retrieved 2021-01-16.
  2. Schneider, Zoë A.. The King's Bench: Bailiwick Magistrates and Local Governance in Normandy, 1670-1740. United Kingdom, University of Rochester Press, 2008.
  3. "The market town of Bicester." A History of the County of Oxford: Volume 6. Ed. Mary D Lobel. London: Victoria County History, 1959. 14-56. British History Online. Web. 23 June 2022.