RepositoryLancashire Archives
LevelCollection
Reference numberQ
TitleLancashire Courts of Quarter Sessions.
Date1583-1999
DescriptionAlphabetical list of references
AE Enclosure Awards
AT Tithe Commutation
AV Awards: Various
CP Clerk of the Peace
CT County Treasurer
MA Manchester Assize Courts
EL Electoral Registers
PD Deposited Plans
PM Militia Storehouse Plans
PP Prison Plans
QAA Lancashire County Probation Committee
QAB Reformatory and Industrial Schools Committee
QAC Cattle Plague Committee
QAD Licensing Committee
QAF Finance
QAG General Purposes Committee
QAH Provisional Courts Committee
QAL Lancaster Castle Committee
QAM Lunacy
QAP Parliamentary Committee
QAR Roads and Bridges
QAS Standing Militia Storehouse Committee
QAV Various
QDB Bills, Acts and Orders
QDC Charities
QDD Enrolled Deeds and Other Documents
QDE Disputed Elections
QDF Freeholders or Jury Lists
QDG Gamekeepers
QDH Hair Powder Tax
QDL Land Tax
QDP Papists' Estates
QDR Register of Vagrants Deported from Liverpool to Ireland
QDS Societies
QDT Turnpike Trusts
QDV Various
QEC Constabulary Committee
QEV Various - Constabulary
QGB Gaol Sites and Buildings
QGC Convictions
QGG Visiting Committees
QGL Lancaster Prison
QGP Preston Prison
QGR Gaol Reports
QGT Transportation
QGV Various - Gaols
QJA Orders made under Summary Jurisdiction Appeals Act 1933 and National Parks Act 1949
QJB Insolvent Debtors
QJC Calendars of Prisoners
QJD Riot Depositions
QJE Estreats
QJI Indictments
QJS Cases Committed for Sentence to the Appeal Committee of Quarter Sessions
QJV Various
QJX Appeals, Arbitrations, Civil Suits, etc.
QSA Attendance Books
QSB Recognizances
QSC Commissions of the Peace
QSD Highway Diversion Orders
QSG Annual General Sessions
QSJ Oaths and Sacrament Certificates
QSL Lists of Magistrates
QSM Sessions Minute Rolls
QSO Order Books
QSP Petitions
QSQ Property Qualifications
QSR Sessions Rolls
QSV Various
QSZ Annual Sessions Proceedings and Reports
Unlisted records: appeal papers 1964-1966
Images (click for larger copy)

QSB-1-210-27wc.jpg

Image DescriptionOne of the hundreds of thousands of documents in the Quarter Sessions collection: QSB 1/210/27 - Sibyl wife of Thomas Fairclough, of Orrell, blacksmith, to appear at Sessions accused of witchcraft.
Background InformationThe law required the Justices of each county to meet at Quarter Sessions four times yearly. Quarter Sessions had a considerable criminal jurisdiction exercised by the Justices sitting with juries; but their other functions were of a very different character. At these sessions were present a grand jury of the county, the hundred juries, and also the several Petty Constables and High Constables. All these were bound to present those seemingly guilty of such breaches of the law, including nuisances, as came within their cognizance. Further, each Justice could himself present on his 'own view'. Thus Quarter Sessions were supposed to punish not only ordinary crimes, but also omission to perform the various duties imposed on parishes and counties; in this way their task was one of supervising administration. A great part of it had to be discharged in open court, but there was nothing to prevent the Justices from deciding at private meetings upon certain general principles to be applied by them. The Justices tended therefore more and more to use Quarter Sessions as a means of forming and executing a policy. Nor was this strange, for there was a need of policies, and they could only be devised by the Justices. After 1700 the hundred juries gradually disappeared, and the High Constables usually made only such presentments as the Justices desired; further presentments by individual Justices increased in frequency. Hence the Justices were able to make a growing use of judicial machinery in order to carry out an administrative policy. For instance, the Justices had been given power by an Act of 1691 to levy a rate not exceeding 6d. in the pount upon a parish for the upkeep of a highway. But when a sum exceeding that thereby obtainable was desired, they often raised it by imposing a fine upon a parish for not discharging its highway obligations.

Only a fraction of the Justices' duties were performed at Quarter Sessions. They are also found acting alone, in pairs and at Special and Petty Sessions. In each of these capacities their functions were equally mixed. According to the law, some things could be done by a single Justice, others by any two Justices, and others, again - such as the enforcement of various statutes relating to highways and liquor licensing - by the Justices of a division meeting at Special Sessions. In the eighteenth century the Justices in each division took, to meeting together for other purposes at regular intervals, and these meetings became known as Petty Sessions. The Justices there assembled had a certain criminal jurisdiction - such as was assigned by statute, to any two Justices sitting together - and also exercised some quasi-administrative functions.

As the eighteenth century advanced the Justices made alterations in the methods of local government. In many counties they began to employ a small salaried staff; much business was referred by Quarter Sessions to committees; at the same time Quarter Sessions themselves tended to become a court of appeal from the Justices sitting alone or in Divisional Sessions. Many of the new developments were extra-legal and the virtual assumption of power by the Justices at Quarter Sessions, to act as a subordinate law-making body was definitely illegal. But Parliament encouraged the Justices to ignore the letter of the law by continually adding to their functions and by increasing the number of purposes for which they could levy rates.

Under the Crown Courts Act, 1971, Courts of Quarter Sessions and Assize were replaced on 1 January 1972 by Crown Courts administered by central government.
AccessStatusSee items
AccessConditionsRestricted access for 30 years
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