In English law, the term headborough, head-borough, borough-head, or borrowhead, referred historically to the head of the legal, administrative or territorial unit known as a tithing (and sometimes, particularly in Kent, Surrey and Sussex, as a borgh, borow, or borough). In the Anglo-Saxon system of frankpledge, or frith-borh, the headborough presided over the borhsmen in his jurisdiction, who in turn presided over the local tithingmen.[1] The office was rendered in Latin documents as capitalis plegius or decennarius.[2]

By the early 16th century,[3] the term was also applied to a parochial law-enforcement officer subordinate to constable. In this sense it is found in the induction to Shakespeare's The Taming of the Shrew (written c.1590–92), when the Hostess of an alehouse, arguing with a drunken troublemaker, declares, "I know my remedie, I must go fetch the Headborough" (Induction. i); and again in Much Ado About Nothing (written c.1598–9), where the dramatis personae describes Verges as a Headborough, subordinate to Constable Dogberry (Act 3, scene 5).



  • Bouvier's Law Dictionary. Revised 6th Ed. 1856.
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