This record is held by Hertfordshire Archives and Local Studies

Details of PS
Reference: PS

The records so far transferred consist of court registers and various other subsidiary series.


The only division for which no records have as yet been received into the record office is the Eastwick Division (PS7).


Classification of Petty Sessional Records


1 Court Registers


1A Juvenile Court Registers


1B Adoption of Children Registers


1C Bail Registers


2 Court Minutes


2A Juvenile Court Minutes


3 Alehouse Licence Registers


4 Club Registers


5 Register of Premises under Explosives Act, 1875


6 Register of Cinematograph, Music and Dancing Licences


7 Fines and Fees Accounts


8 Remitted Fees Accounts


9 Plaint and Minute Books, Employers' and Workmen's Act, 1875


10 Miscellaneous (includes correspondence, security books, depositions, summary convictions, poor law licensing papers and other classes, where received)


List of Petty Sessional Divisions


PS/1 Albury


PS/2 (Chipping) Barnet


PS/3 Bishop's Stortford


PS/4 Buntingford


PS/5 Cheshunt


PS/6 Dacorum


PS/7 Eastwick


PS/8 Hatfield


PS/9 Hertford (Borough)


PS/10 Hertford (County)


PS/11 Hertford and Ware


PS/12 Hitchin




PS/14 Odsey


PS/15 St Albans (County)


PS/16 Shenley


PS/17 Stevenage


PS/18 Ware


PS/19 Watford


PS/20 Welwyn


PS/21 St Albans City


A classification scheme for this archive group, whereby specific reference numbers are assigned to the principal classes of records, follows that. Reference to any item in the following catalogues of petty sessional records can be made by using the division reference (e.g. PS1), followed by the class reference (e.g./1 for a court register) and the item reference within that class (e.g./1 for the first volume). Therefore the reference for the first volume of the Albury Petty Sessional Division court registers, which is to be given in requisitioning this volume and to be quoted in any printed work, is PS1/1/1.

Held by: Hertfordshire Archives and Local Studies, not available at The National Archives
Language: English

Albury Petty Sessional Division

Barnet Petty Sessional Division

Bishop's Stortford Petty Sessional Division

Buntingford Petty Sessional Division

Cheshunt Petty Sessional Division

Dacorum Petty Sessional Division

Eastwick Petty Sessional Division

Hatfield Petty Sessional Division

Hertford Borough Petty Sessional Division

Hertford County Petty Sessional Division

Hertford and Ware Petty Sessional Division

Hitchin Petty Sessional Division

South Mimms Petty Sessional Division

Odsey Petty Sessional Division

St Albans County Petty Sessional Division

Shenley Petty Sessional Division

Stevenage Petty Sessional Division

Ware Petty Sessional Division

Watford Petty Sessional Division

Welwyn Petty Sessional Division

St Albans City Petty Sessional Division

Access conditions:

Records less than 30 years old are not available for public inspection.

Custodial history:

By the Public Records Act, 1958, records of Petty Sessional Courts are public records within the meaning of the act and are records which the Lord Chancellor may direct to be placed in the custody of repositories other than the Public Record Office. In so far as records of Petty Sessional Divisions within the County of Hertford are concerned, the Hertfordshire Record Office is the recognised repository for this purpose. Arrangements have been made with Clerks to Petty Sessional Divisions for the regular transfer of the principal classes of records which are to be permanently preserved, to the record office.

  • Albury, Hertfordshire
  • Chipping Barnet, Hertfordshire
  • Bishop's Stortford, Hertfordshire
  • Buntingford, Hertfordshire
  • Cheshunt, Hertfordshire
  • Eastwick, Hertfordshire
  • Hatfield, Hertfordshire
  • Hertford, Hertfordshire
  • Hitchin, Hertfordshire
  • South Mimms, Hertfordshire
  • St Albans, Hertfordshire
  • Shenley, Hertfordshire
  • Stevenage, Hertfordshire
  • Ware, Hertfordshire
  • Watford, Hertfordshire
  • Welwyn, Hertfordshire
  • Administration of justice
Unpublished finding aids:

A detailed list of the bound volumes of summary convictions and registers QSC1-43 can be found as an appendix to this inventory.

Administrative / biographical background:

From early in the sixteenth century Parliament and the Privy Council occasionally ordered certain administrative matters or minor offences to be dealt with by Justices of the Peace in their own parts of the county outside Quarter Sessions. For example an act of 1541 (33 Hen VIII c.10) ordered Justices to meet in their divisions (approximating to the ancient hundreds of the county) six weeks before each Quarter Sessions to inquire into "vagabonds, retainers, giving of liveries, badges, maintenance, imbracery, etc." In 1605 an Order in Council required Justices in divisions to meet once between every Quarter Sessions to inquire into labourers, alehouses, the assize of bread, rogues, etc. and in 1631 meetings were ordered to be held monthly. From 1644, under the Conventicle Acts, 16 Car II c.4(1664) and 22 Car II c.1(1670) people attending illegal conventicles could be convicted and fined summarily by one or two justices. Similarly an act of 1694 (6 & 7 Wm III c. II) stated that persons swearing or cursing profanely could be convicted by a single Justice.


All these acts and orders contained a clause requiring Justices to return notices of convictions to the Clerk of the Peace for preservation amongst the records of Quarter Sessions. In Hertfordshire many of these, dating from the mid seventeenth century, are to be found on the sessions rolls and include convictions for attending conventicles (see H.C.R. vol.1) and various offences connected with the maintenance and repair of highways (QSR 15 & 22). A register of convictions of profane swearers survives for the period 1695-1705 (QS. Misc. 1471). An act of 1746 (19 Geo II c.21) laid down the precise form of a conviction to be returned to Quarter Sessions and after this date the numbers of returned convictions gradually increases. Seven boxes of these convictions giving the date, name of offender, magistrate, court, nature of charge and sentence, survive for the period 1746-1855. (A selection of these covering the period July 1812 to the end of 1818 have been printed in Appendix III of H.C.R. vol. IX) as well as those filed on the sessions rolls of both the Liberty and County jurisdictions. The administrative functions of the justices at petty sessions consisted of the appointment of parish officials and examination of their accounts, the issue of licences, settlement certificates, warrants and summonses, the taking of oaths and approval of parish rates. Many of which duties were formerly undertaken by the manorial court leet. This can be seen clearly in the minute books of sessions held at Chipping Barnet, 1750-1797 (Ref: PS2.2/1-3). Even at the beginning of the nineteenth century the justices were still undertaking a great deal of administrative work (See PS12. 2/3). The right of the Court Leet to appoint petty constables was not abolished until 1842 (5 & 6 Vic.c.109).


It is clear from the large amount of documentary evidence mentioned above that the organisation of Hertfordshire Justices for the trying of summary cases was well defined and functioning effectively from an early date. However, prior to the nineteenth century, only rarely is there a mention of the areas or 'divisions' on which this organisation was based. Convictions normally state only the place at which a case was heard without reference to a particular division. But it is clear from later evidence that the justices believed themselves to be working in divisions, although the boundaries were often indistinct and overlapping did occur, (See Chipping Barnet minute books PS2. 2/1-3.) The position was further confused by the complicated organisation of the county into two jurisdictions for the purpose of Quarter Sessions and the fact that many justices sat on the commissions of the peace for both the County and Liberty. It should also be remembered that the City of St. Albans and the Borough of Hertford were both granted separate Commissions of the Peace by their Charters of incorporation and also formed separate petty sessional divisions (See PS 9 and 21).


At the Hertfordshire sessions for Easter 1700, the court ordered that, in view of the distance of the parishes of North Mymms and Shenley from Berkhamsted and Hemel Hempstead where petty sessions for the Hundred of Dacorum were held and the resulting inconvenience to parish officers and others, the parishes of North Mymms and Shenley, and the hamlet of Theobald Street be formed into a separate division, with Shenley as its meeting place (HCR vol 7p.1-2)


The organisation of petty sessions within the Liberty jurisdiction is first seen clearly in 1750 when a rate book preserved among the records of the Abbey parish (Ref. D/P90. 10/1) refers to the divisions of Rickmansworth, Sandridge and St. Paul's Walden. Petty Sessions were also held at Chipping Barnet for "the several parishes of Chipping Barnet, East Barnet, Ridge, Idlestree and Northaw within the sub-division of the Liberty of St. Albans" as three minute books covering the period 1750-1777 and 1796-1797 indicate (Ref. PS2.2/1-3). In 1795 licensing magistrates meeting at Watford, St. Albans and Barnet were directed to put into execution a Quarter Sessions' order about the baking of standard wheaten bread (Ref. QSB 2).


By an act of 1828 for the better regulation of Divisions (9 Geo IV c.43), Quarter Sessions were given power to make changes in the boundaries of divisions and to create new ones where necessary, provided there were five resident justices within a proposed division. Within the Liberty jurisdiction, no changes under the Act were proposed. Within the County jurisdiction, a number of changes were suggested but the only ones to bear fruit within the first few years of the Act were the transfer of the parish of Radwell from the Royston (Odsey) Division to that of Stevenage in 1830, and the creation of the Welwyn and Bishops Stortford Divisions in 1830 and 1833 respectively (see H.C.R. Vol. IX p.434 and 512). At the Midsummer Sessions, 1836, a report was considered by the Court that it was "expedient that the Divisions of the County of Hertford should have the same limits as the unions of Parishes formed" under the terms of the Poor Law Amendment Act, 1834, but the report, concerned with the variation of the Hitchin and Stevenage Divisions, was rejected (see H.C.R. Vol IX p.92 and 106).


Between 1833 and 1875, there were several piecemeal changes in the boundaries of divisions, e.g. the transfer of North Mymms, Hatfield and Totteridge, to the Hertford Division in 1840 (See H.C.R. Vol. X p.254). It was not until 1875 however as a result of the amalgamation of the County and Liberty Quarter Sessions jurisdictions that a radical re-organisation took place. The Shenley division, formed in 1700, was abolished, a new St. Albans Division consisting of the parishes of Harpenden, Wheathampstead, Redbourn, St. Michael, St. Peter, St. Stephen and Sandridge was created and various geographic changes in boundaries were made. (See HCR. Vol. III p. 142)


Since 1875 there have been numerous alterations to the boundaries and areas of divisions, largely as a result of population changes in the county, and as far as is known these changes have been noted in detail in the prefatory note to the lists of records of each division which follow.


In 1848 by 11 & 12 Vic. c. 43 the duties of justices of the peace out of sessions with regard to criminal jurisdiction were set out and the form in which a record of a summary conviction should be made was stated.


The Criminal Justice Act, 18 & 19 Vic. c.126(1855) established summary jurisdiction on a clearly defined basis. People charged with thefts of a low value and other minor offences could be convicted by two justices in an open court. Convictions, depositions etc. had to be returned to the clerk of the peace for filing. This act was amended but not altered greatly in principle by the Summary Jurisdiction Act, 42 and 43 Vic. c.49 (1879). Thirty one bound volumes of convictions and depositions etc., 1868-1913, filed with the clerk of the peace under these acts survive (Ref. QSC 1-7 and 10-33) together with five registers covering the period, 1855 - 1913 (Ref. QSC 37-41) These registers can be used as indexes to the bound convictions. For some divisions, namely Albury, Bishop's Stortford, Buntingford, Cheshunt, Dacorum, Hatfield and Watford they form the earliest record of criminal proceedings of petty sessions in these areas, supplementing the material received from the petty sessional divisions themselves catalogued on the following pages. By the Juvenile Offenders' Act, 10 & 11 Vic. c.82 (1847) and the Summary Jurisdiction Act of 42 & 43 Vic c. 49 (1879), young persons not over 14 years of age charged with simple larceny could be tried summarily by two justices of the peace. Under 29 & 30 Vic. c. 117 (1866) offenders under 16 could be sent to a reformatory school in addition to a prison sentence. Records of conviction under these acts were also to be returned to the clerk of the peace and these together with depositions and other papers are bound into five volumes covering the period, 1857-1913 (Ref. QSC 8-9 and 34-36) Two registers for the same period (Ref. QSC42-43) can be used as indexes to these volumes. Some earlier juvenile convictions are also to be found in the bundles mentioned above. These records provide the earliest information so far available in the record office relating to juvenile crime in Hertfordshire.


All acts authorising convictions before one or two justices allowed an appeal to be made to Quarter Sessions and a record of the appeal will be found in the sessions records.


The necessity for drawing up formal convictions and filing these and related documents with the clerk of the peace was removed by the Criminal Justice Administration Act 1914 (4-5 Geo V c.58)

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