"Justices of the Peace developed from the Keepers of the Peace who were appointed by a commission under the Great Seal in 1277 and 1287. They had acquired their name by 1361, when a statute gave them the power to try minor offenders. Their duties were greatly extended under the Tudors." [Oxford Companion to Local and Family History.]
Most of the more important work of the justices was conducted at the Quarter Sessions for each county. But informal meetings of a few local justices gradually developed into the Petty Sessions, which dealt with minor criminal proceedings. These early meetings were generally not well recorded, and the borderline between Quarter and Petty Sessions was not always clear-cut. But during 1828 Petty Sessions were first formally recognised within parliamentary legislation: the county justices were authorised to divide their areas into petty sessional districts and to appoint a local attorney to act as clerk.
1828-1993: Official name for a new Separate division; met chiefly in Ulverston. Might be referred to colloquially as "Ulverston Magistrates". Subsequently merged into Furness & District.
Court registers 1854-1937 (with gaps) together with five licensing registers 1872-1927, formerly in the Lancashire Record Office at Preston, were transferred to Barrow during 1999. A few registers after 1968 (entitled "Ulverston Magistrates Court") are similarly in Cumbria Record Office, Barrow. Some stray 19th century case papers are in the Furness Collection at Barrow.
Slater's Directory 1848: "Petty Sessions are held every Thursday, at the magistrates' office in Theatre-street; as are also special sessions and the divisional meetings as occasion require."
Ordnance Survey map 1852: Magistrates' office shown in Theatre Street.
Kelly's Directory of Lancashire, 1865: "Petty Sessions are held weekly at the magistrates' room in Union-street. There are also manor courts baron and courts leet held annually in this town. The Duke of Buccleuch is lord of the manor."
Kelly 1887: "The Police Court, in Neville street, is a plain limestone building and was erected in 1872 on the site of Neville hall, at a cost of £2,000; it has magistrates' court room, consulting and solicitors' rooms and residence for police officers ... the Petty Sessions are held at the Magistrates' Court house every thursday at 11 a.m.".
Kelly 1905: "The Petty Sessions are held at the Magistrates' Court, Ulverston every thursday at 11 a.m. and at Cartmell [sic] the second tuesday in each month at 3 p.m."
At time of local re-grouping of magistrates divisions in 1993, the court building was affected by roof leaks and by other problems, and it was subsequently disused.
DALTON-IN-FURNESS: an occasional court within the division of Lonsdale (North)
Walton: A History of Dalton-in-Furness
"A magistrates' court was opened in August 1883, to ease the pressure on the Ulverston court, and it was constituted as being suitable for disposing of cases which could be dealt with by one magistrate ... The last case to be heard in the Dalton court was for a betting offence, when the magistrate was Mr. James Price. This was on 31 October 1928, and Marked the end of judicial courts in Dalton."
Bulmer's History and Directory c. 1912: "Dalton Occasional Court House, within the Petty Sessional Division of Lonsdale North of the Sands - Held when required at the Police Station, Market Street".
CARTMEL: sub division of Lonsdale (North)
Kelly 1865: "The resident magistrates hold petty sessions here on the first Tuesday in every month, at the Cavendish Arms".
Kelly 1887: "Petty Sessions held on the first Tuesday in each month at Cartmel Institute."
Kelly 1905: "Petty Sessions held 1st tuesday in month at Cartmel Institute at 2 p.m."
19th Century-1993 Official name of a Separate division. Subsequently merged with Kendal.
Kelly 1865: "Petty sessions are held here weekly in the Town-hall; also a manor court yearly in November."
Kelly 1887: "Petty sessions are held at the Police station alternate mondays at 11 a.m."
Kelly 1905: "Petty sessions are held at the Police station alternate mondays at 11 a.m."
Furness & District Year Book 1952: "Petty Sessions:- Alternate Mondays at Hawkshead."
Surviving Hawkshead records in Cumbria Record Office, Kendal: court registers 1948-1975; juvenile court registers 1937-1975; licensing register 1918-1975.
19th Century up to 1987: Official name of a Separate division, which subsequently met at varying hours in both Bootle and Millom. Might be referred to colloquially - particularly in latter years - as "Millom Magistrates", but Millom was never formally Separated. Merged with Barrow after 1987.
The majority of registers are now in Cumbria Record Office, Barrow.
First surviving Magistrates' Minute Book (1858-1861): "9 October 1858 entered new Magistrates' office" ... (at Bootle?)
Kelly's Directory of Cumberland & Westmorland, 1894: "Petty sessions are held at the Magistrates' Court room, Bootle & Millom every alternate saturday at 12.30."
Kelly 1938: "Petty Sessions are held at Millom on alternate tuesdays at 11.45 a.m. & at Bootle every fourth saturday at 12.30 p.m."
FURNESS & DISTRICT
1994- Official name of new division, which superseded the various earlier local Magistrates Court divisions from 1st January 1994.
The new Magistrates Court on site of the Abbey Baths in Barrow was completed in November 1994. It was officially opened by the Duchess of Kent on 28th March 1995.