Star the twenty-fourth

I’m creating a virtual star chart, to record my progress in Dry July. The star for making it through Saturday 24 July without touching the demon drink, despite severe provocation, is the Star chamber, of odious reputation.

Dark beamed ceiling, with inset small golden stars

Source: Wikimedia Commons

(Description: Dark beamed ceiling, with inset small golden stars)

The Star chamber was so named for the starred chamber or room where it met. This picture is not the Star chamber. The original star chamber is no longer extant: it was demolished in 1806, but its door is now in Westminster School, and its ceiling was taken to Leasowe Castle, which is now a hotel. I can’t find whether the ceiling is still preserved there. The starred chamber I have shown here is from Ordsall Hall in Salford. The chamber is one of the oldest parts of Ordsall Hall, dating to the 15th century.

The court of the Star chamber first developed from the King’s council, and its roots seem to go back to the medieval period. By 1487 it had been established as a separate tribunal from the King’s council. The reasons for setting up the court seem to have been honourable enough: it’s purpose was to try people who were so powerful that no ordinary court could hope to prevail against them. But its methods doomed it. Trials were held in secret, there were no witnesses, no juries, no right of appeal. Inevitably, the court abused its powers, and its name became a byword for treachery and injustice. It was abolished in 1641.

One of Mr Strange Land’s forbears was a clerk of the Star Chamber.


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