This record is held by Surrey History Centre

Details of PS1
Reference: PS1
Date: 1880-1962
Held by: Surrey History Centre, not available at The National Archives
Language: English
Access conditions:

There are no access restrictions.

  • Administration of justice
Administrative / biographical background:

Chertsey Petty Sessional division was created in 1840 out of Godley hundred, and comprised the parishes of Chobham, Horsell, Pyrford, Bisley, Byfleet, Chertsey, Egham and Thorpe, and Weybridge parish, formerly in the Kingston and Elmbridge division. Windlesham was added to the division from Guildford in 1880.


The records here listed were created by justices of the peace acting outside Quarter Sessions, and include two volumes dating from the 18th century, before Courts of Petty Sessions were formally constituted by statute.




The workload of justices of the peace, particularly in what are now regarded as administrative matters, was greatly increased by 16th and 17th century legislation. In cases where justices were empowered to act alone or in pairs it may be inferred from Bostock Fuller's notebook, for example (see below) that meetings were held when and where mutually convenient; few procedural details were laid down.


William Lambard's Eirenarcha or the office of the Justices of the Peace (1581 and later eds.) gives a full picture of the powers of a Justice at the end of the 16th century. For the present purpose they can be summarised:


A justice acting alone could arrest and imprison suspected felons, rioters and other offenders. He could take sureties, examine defendants and take information from complainants preliminary to a case being sent to Quarter Sessions.


Justices acting in pairs could summarily try and sentence certain offenders. They could also issue alehouse licences, taking recognizances from the licensees, nominate overseers of the poor, and approve their rates and accounts. Their general surveillance over parish officers included approving parish apprenticeships and punishing negligent weights and measures officers.


Various 16th century statutes provided that in matters such as vagrancy and poor relief the justices who acted should be those living in or near the parish concerned, or in the division in which it lay, (see S & B Webb, The Parish and the County pp. 297 ff). These measures do not appear to have been effective. In June 1605 the Privy Council sent a letter to the justices of all counties instructing that the counties should be divided into convenient areas for the justices to work in. A copy of a scheme of divisions for Surrey, along hundred boundaries, with the names of the Justices in each, and their meeting places, survives among the Carew papers in the Surrey History Centre (643/1/10). The wording suggests that these divisions already existed before 1605.


East Division


Hundreds: Brixton and Wallington, Southwark Meeting place: Croydon


Hundreds: Reigate and Tandridge Meeting place: Bletchingley


Middle Division


Hundreds: Kingston, Elmbridge, Copthorne and Effingham Meeting place: Leatherhead


West Division


Hundreds: Farnham and Godalming Meeting place: Godalming


Hundreds: Godley and Woking Meeting place: Woking


Hundreds: Blackheath and Wotton Meeting place: Shere


The paucity of surviving evidence - there are no formal records earlier than those of the court of Quarter Sessions, which begin in 1659 - makes it difficult to judge how the system operated. Among unofficial records the notebook of Bostock Fuller, JP of Tandridge Court (Bodleian MS Rawlinson C. 642), published in Surrey Archaeological Collections vol IX pp 171-232, which covers the years 1608-22, well illustrates the range of his activities but does not throw any light on questions of county-wide administration. He does not mention the Divisions of the County, and therefore it would be dangerous to explain the limited area within which he acted in terms of the 1605 Privy Council order. Apart from attending the Assizes and Quarter Sessions (at Kingston, Southwark, Croydon or Reigate - he did not travel to Guildford) his activities seem to have been confined to his immediate home area, his journeys, and the cases with which he dealt, lying almost entirely within the hundreds of Reigate and Tandridge. On occasions when he acted with another justice, to take examinations or recognizances for example, meetings seem to have been by informal arrangement at one or the other's house. Pre-arranged annual meetings were held to license alehouses and approve overseers' accounts. It appears, at least in 1616 (p.212) that separate Brewster sessions may have been held in the two hundreds.


A later Justice, Richard Wyatt of Egham, kept at least one 'Liber Memorabiliorum' (sic). Volume 1, 1767-76 (Surrey History Centre, 446/1), which is the only volume known to survive and has been published by the Surrey Record Society, contains examinations and information taken before him in a variety of cases, criminal offences as well as numerous routine bastardy and settlement matters. The volume contains signatures and marks of examinants, and an index of names. It begins with a table of fees which gives a useful indication of the scope of his work.


Miscellaneous papers of the Carew family, 16th to 18th centuries (643/-) and of the More-Molyneux family (LM/-, LM/COR/ & 6729/-), reflect their varied official activities: some were deputy lieutenants of Surrey, as well as justices of the peace. Many of the papers are similar in content to those later preserved in the Quarter Sessions bundles.


The first Quarter Sessions order book contains references to the three Divisions, both in the form of instructions to local justices and in references to county finance. A task might be entrusted to 'the next [i.e. nearest] justices' or 'two justices of the division'. These show at least a token observance of the scheme. That this evidence appears to be at variance with the findings of the Webbs in Middlesex may perhaps be due to local factors such as poor communications in the more remote rural areas of Surrey.


Surrey had in the latter half of the 17th century two Treasurers 'for Charitable Uses', one for the West, the other for the East and Middle Divisions. They were 'to receive and pay moneys ordered by [the Court] to be charged on the said division' (QS2/1/1 pp.154, 157-9 gives examples). The geographical areas within which they acted were identical with the three divisions set out in 1605, but since the treasurers were paid officials, apparently not justices, there is no certainty that the divisions within which they acted were created by the same ordinances as those governing the work of the justices. Indeed entries in the 1720s record the appointment of treasurers of the three divisions when justices out of sessions were working within smaller areas.


Regular meetings of justices outside Quarter Sessions appear to have evolved as the growth of business required. The frequency of their meetings and the area they served were presumably determined by local circumstances. In 1661 (QS2/1/1 p.202) weekly meetings were being held in Southwark. The earliest references by name to Petty Sessions so far found in Surrey Quarter Sessions records occurs in 1689 (Estreat book QS3/1/1 p.9) referring to Petty Sessions held in Vauxhall for the half hundred of [East] Brixton. In April 1692 Hugh Hare, chairman of Quarter Sessions, in his address to the jury mentioned monthly Petty Sessions held by justices in some hundreds, unfortunately not specified. His speech is published in Surrey Archaeological Collections vol. XII pp.109-144 (esp. p.115). The reference may be indirect evidence of smaller divisions. Another reference in Quarter Sessions records shows the justices of West Brixton issuing alehouse licences in 1719 (QS2/1/12 p.33). The earliest Petty Sessions minute book known to survive begins in 1723.


Further investigation would be needed to establish when the eleven smaller divisions, noted at the time of the Division of Counties Act 1828, first appeared, and how their areas were determined. The only Petty Sessions minute books known to survive from the 18th century relate to the hundreds of Kingston and Elmbridge and Copthorne and Effingham, which together made up the former Mid Division. The other Divisions were similarly sub-divided (see Appendix).


The Division of Counties Act 1828 (9 Geo. IV cap.43) was the first effective statute to divide counties into Petty Sessional Divisions. As stated in the preamble to the Act, existing legislation prescribed action by justices within divisions, but the limits of some divisions were inconvenient or uncertain, and there were doubts as to the authority which had constituted them. Under the terms of this Act some changes were made in the boundaries of divisions in Surrey. These and later changes, resulting in the divisions whose records are noted here, are given in the Appendix.


The records listed here mostly date from after the Summary Jurisdiction Act, 1879, which included provisions for the keeping of records. The few earlier surviving volumes will, however, be considered first.


The earliest formal Petty Sessions records known to survive in Surrey are the three eighteenth century minute books already mentioned: two for Kingston and Elmbridge Hundreds (1723-1751, 1751-1794) and one for Copthorne and Effingham Hundreds (1784-1793). The first of these is among the archives of the Royal Borough of Kingston upon Thames (KS2/1/1); the others are held in Surrey History Centre as, respectively, PS3/1/1 and PS2/1/1.


The range of business they include is fairly uniform - appointment of parish officers, approval of rates and accounts, licensing, settlement and bastardy examinations, and summary treatment of a number of offences, including breaches of excise regulations. In PS3/1/1 the names of some local Quakers are found, distrained upon for non-payment of church rate and tithes.


In some matters common to both volumes PS2/1/1 gives greater detail than PS3/1/1. Settlement examinations, for example, are transcribed in full, whereas the Clerk of Kingston and Elmbridge made only the briefest note that persons were examined and removal orders granted. Similarly, in Copthorne and Effingham the names of licensed houses are given as well as those of the licensees, supplying information which is not given in the Quarter Sessions victuallers' recognizances until 1822.


Conversely, more of the administrative background is revealed in PS3/1/1, including the appointment and fees of the clerk, a list of justices, and the arrangements for notifying them of meetings. The justices of Kingston and Elmbridge formed a society, to which other gentlemen were admitted, which met and dined monthly after the court had sat. Its rules and notes of elections are included in the minute book.


In spite of the general absence of Petty Sessions records before 1880, some indication of the work of magistrates courts from 1831 can be gleaned from the records of Quarter Sessions (QS4/-). A number of statutes, including the Juvenile Offenders Act 1847 (10 & 11 Vic. cap.82) and the Criminal Justice Act 1855 (18 & 19 Vic. cap.126) stipulated that returns of convictions and dismissals should be sent to the Clerk of the Peace from the Petty Sessions and Police Courts. A number of these volumes survive, containing a numbered alphabetical list for each quarterly session, with the name, offence, court and date of trial.


A list of offences extracted from one of the later volumes (QS4/4/2, beginning in 1901) shows the range of offences which were tried summarily. They included robbery (burglary, larceny with or without housebreaking, embezzlement), receiving stolen goods, grievous bodily harm, assault, indecent assault, attempted suicide, offences on the railways (maliciously by placing an obstruction on the track, throwing stones, trying to evade fare), malicious damage, arson. There were also infringements of regulations, mostly concerning licensing laws, the riding of bicycles and hazards and obstructions on the highway. Cruelty to animals, failure to send children to school and not providing water for tent dwellers were also tried summarily.


Some of the cases may have related to indictable offences, particularly larceny of goods worth 40s or more, which were tried summarily because the defendant either consented, or pleaded guilty. Such offences are set out in a schedule to the Summary Jurisdiction Act 1879. They are not identifiable in the returns to Quarter Sessions.


The legal provisions of the Summary Jurisdiction Act 1879 and its predecessors are not considered here, only the innovations in record-keeping. The Act stipulated that the clerk of the court should keep a register recording all convictions and orders made by the court, and entered or signed by a justice before whom the order or conviction was made. The Summary Jurisdiction Rules, 1880, explained these provisions more fully, specifying the particulars to be included and the form in which they were to be set out. An extract appears in PS2/2/1. Minute books, though not stipulated in the Act, have also been kept. They do not follow a set form as the registers do, and may include verbatim reports of statements and evidence given, sometimes in shorthand. They have not been preserved as consistently as registers.


Record-keeping practice as illustrated in these records is not uniform. In some cases separate registers have been kept when there were two courts, though one series of minute books covered both. Conversely, one series of registers is found in Woking, with separate minute books for each court.


The Children and Young Persons Act 1933, setting up Juvenile Courts, does not contain any provision about the records to be kept. Separate series of juvenile court registers were sometimes created (eg. Woking); in other places the existing registers were used.


Access conditions


Records of Petty Sessions and magistrates' courts are Public Records under the Public Records Acts, 1958 and 1967.


1) All records are closed to public inspection for 30 years (but see 3 below).


2) Adoption records are closed to public inspections for 75 years.


3) Under the Licensing Act 1964 s.34, access to licensing registers might be granted within the 30 years closure period to:


a) any person rated in respect of a hereditament in the district.


b) any owner of licensed premises situated within the district.


c) any holder of a justices' licence granted in the district.


A note of any access granted under these provisions should be made for each separate court and placed on the deposit file.






Divisions set out after the Privy Council Order, June 1605


East Division: hundreds of Brixton (with Southwark) Reigate, Tandridge, Wallington


Middle Division: hundreds of Copthorne, Effingham, Elmbridge, Kingston


West Division: hundreds of Blackheath, Farnham, Godalming, Godley, Woking, Wotton


[?circa 1700] TO 1834


Divisions in existence at the date of the Division of Counties Act 1828 (9 Geo. IV cap.43)


Hundreds of Blackheath, Godalming and Woking


Half hundred of East Brixton (with Southwark)


Half hundred of West Brixton (records, 1786-1869, at Wandsworth Local Studies Library, and on on film at Lambeth Local Studies Library)


Hundreds of Copthorne and Effingham


Hundred of Farnham


Hundred of Godley


Hundreds of Kingston and Elmbridge


Hundred of Reigate


Hundred of Tandridge


Hundred of Wallington


Hundred of Wotton


A request under the Divisions of Counties Act, 1828, for the creation of a new division of Clapham and Streatham, to be created from the East Half Hundred of Brixton was made at the Epiphany Sessions 1829 (Order Book QS2/1/49 p.415) but on the report of the committee to which it had been referred (ibid. p.542, Midsummer Session) was not furthered.


A committee to consider the 'propriety and convenience' of remodelling the divisions for the whole of the county was appointed at the Epiphany Sessions 1833 (Order Book QS2/1/52 p.465). Reports were made at the Easter and Midsummer Sessions following (ibid. p. 615, QS2/1/53 pp.1-3) and the final Order setting the divisions of the County was made at the Midsummer Sessions 1834 (p.636).


Further changes were discussed in 1840 (QS2/1/58 p 474) and finally enrolled the next year (QS2/1/59 p.320, Midsummer Session 1841). These included the creation of a Richmond division, and changes in the names of most divisions, which were no longer to be called by the ancient hundred names, but by the name of the principal town in the division.


The list below gives the new divisional names with the former hundred names in use before 1840 in brackets. Constituent parishes are listed showing the divisions created in 1834. Where a parish had at that date been transferred from another division, the name of that division is given after the parish name.


eg. 'Weybridge, from Kingston and Elmbridge'


Changes made in 1840 are shown as follows:


(1) where a parish was transferred away from an area, it is marked with an asterisk, and a note of the area to which it was moved is given at the foot of that divisional list.


(2) where a parish was added to an area, it is shown in brackets, with the name of the division from which it came, eg '(Sutton, from Croydon)'


Newington (East Brixton and Southwark)


St Mary Lambeth; St Mary Newington; St Mary Magdalen Bermondsey; St Mary Rotherhithe; St Giles Camberwell; Christchurch; Clapham; Streatham; Hatcham; St George; St Saviour; St John; St Olave; St Thomas; Liberty of the Clink


See note re 1844/5 Division of Lambeth/Southwark Police Courts.


Wandsworth (West Brixton)


*Barnes; Battersea; Merton; *Mortlake; Putney; Roehampton; Tooting; Wandsworth; Wimbledon (*transferred to Richmond, 1840)


Guildford (Blackheath, Godalming & Woking)


Alfold; Dunsfold; Wonersh; Bramley; Hascombe; Shalford (*part); St Martha; Cranleigh; Ewhurst; Shere; Albury; Peper Harow; Godalming rural; Hambledon; Compton; Puttenham; Artington (*part); Chiddingfold; Haslemere; Witley; Shottermill; Thursley; Woking; Stoke next Guildford (*part); Worplesdon; Ash & Normandy (not incl. Frimley); Wanborough; Windlesham; Pirbright; West Clandon; East Clandon: West Horsley; East Horsley; Ockham; Merrow; Wisley; Send & Ripley; *St Nicholas; *St Mary; *Holy Trinity


(* included within the Borough of Guildford Quarter Sessions area)


Epsom (Copthorne & Effingham)


Fetcham; Leatherhead; Ashtead; Headley; Chessington; *Mickleham; Cuddington; Banstead; Ewell; Epsom; Walton-on-the-Hill; Great Bookham; Little Bookham; *Effingham; Cheam, from Wallington; (Sutton, from Croydon)


(* transferred to Dorking, 1840)


Kingston (Kingston & Elmbridge)


Kingston-upon-Thames; Ham; Hook; *Richmond; *Petersham; Long Ditton; Malden, *Kew; Claygate; Worcester Park; Walton on Thames; East Molesey; West Molesey; Ember & Weston; Esher; Stoke d'Abernon; Cobham; Coombe; Thames Ditton; New Malden; Surbiton; Tolworth


(* transferred to Richmond, 1840)


Farnham (Farnham)


Farnham; Elstead; Frensham; Seale & Tongham; Waverley; Churt & Pitfold; Tilford; Badshot; Runwick; Wrecclesham; Runfold; Frimley, from Godley; Farnham rural; Ash & Normandy; Dockenfield


Chertsey (Godley)


Chobham; Horsell; Pyrford; Bisley; Byfleet; Chertsey; Egham; Thorpe; Weybridge, from Kingston and Elmbridge


Reigate (Reigate)


Horley; Charlwood; Leigh; Betchworth; Buckland; Reigate Borough; Reigate Foreign; Kingswood; Burstow; Gatton; Chipstead; Merstham; Nutfield; Coombe


Godstone (Tandridge)


Horne; Bletchingley; Godstone; Tandridge; Lingfield; Limpsfield; Oxted; Crowhurst; Chelsham; Warlingham; Woldingham; Farleigh; Tatsfield; Titsey; Caterham


Croydon (Wallington)


Woodmansterne; Croydon; Addington; Sanderstead; Coulsdon; Chaldon; Mitcham; Morden; Beddington; *Sutton; Carshalton; Wallington; Penge, from West Brixton


(* transferred to Copthorne and Effingham 1840)


Dorking (Wotton)


Abinger; Ockley; Wotton; Dorking rural; Capel; Newdigate parish, from Copthorne and Effingham; Newdigate hamlet, from Reigate; (Mickleham, from Epsom); (Effingham, from Epsom)




(Richmond, from Kingston); (Petersham, from Kingston); (Kew, from Kingston); (Mortlake, from Wandsworth); (Barnes, from Wandsworth)


Guildford Borough, Godalming Borough and Kingston Borough had their own separate commissions of the peace, and hence petty sessions.




Changes made after 1840 can be traced in the lists given in the various editions of Standing Orders of the Court (see QS1/5/-), the lists of magistrates between 1901 and 1920 (see QS1/3/-) and the Quarter Sessions order books (QS2/1/-).


To 1867


Chaldon transferred from Croydon to Reigate: Epiphany Session 1865. Reigate Borough and Reigate Foreign removed from Reigate (on grant of Borough Commission): [see Standing Order 1867 ms amendment]


To 1880


Windlesham transferred from Guildford to Chertsey: Midsummer Session 1874 [see Standing Order 1867 ms amendment]


Kingston upon Thames: '(part outside borough)' added after parish name. Same addition made in manuscript in Standing Order 1867.


To 1892


Richmond Borough created comprising Richmond, Kew and Petersham (from Richmond)


Wimbledon Division created comprising Wimbledon and Merton (from Wandsworth)


Divisions in 1901


Chertsey: Bisley; Byfleet; Chertsey; Chobham; Egham; Horsell; Pyrford; Thorpe; Weybridge; Windlesham.


Croydon: Addington; Beddington; Carshalton; Coulsdon; Mitcham; Morden; Sanderstead; Wallington; Woodmansterne


Dorking: Abinger; Capel; Dorking; Dorking Rural; Effingham; Mickleham; Newdigate; Ockley; Wotton.


Epsom: Ashtead; Banstead; Great Bookham; Little Bookham; Cheam; Chessington; Cuddington; Epsom; Ewell; Fetcham; Headley; Leatherhead; Sutton; Walton on the Hill.


Farnham: Ash and Normandy; Dockenfield; Elstead; Farnham; Farnham Rural; Frensham; Frimley; Seale and Tongham


Godstone: Bletchingley; Caterham; Chelsham; Crowhurst; Farleigh; Godstone; Horne; Limpsfield; Lingfield; Oxted; Tandridge; Tatsfield; Titsey; Warlingham; Woldingham


Guildford: Albury; Alfold; Artington; Bramley; Chiddingfold; East Clandon; West Clandon; Compton; Cranleigh; Dunsfold; Ewhurst; Godalming Rural; Hambledon; Hascombe; Haslemere; East Horsley; West Horsley; Merrow; Ockham; Peper Harow; Pirbright; Puttenham; St Martha; Send and Ripley; Shalford; Shere; Shottermill; Stoke next Guildford; Thursley; Wanborough; Wisley; Witley; Woking; Wonersh; Worplesdon.


Kingston: Cobham; Coombe; Long Ditton; Thames Ditton; Esher; Ham; Hook; Malden; New Malden; East Molesey; West Molesey; Stoke D'Abernon; Surbiton; Tolworth; Walton on Thames.


Reigate: Betchworth; Buckland; Burstow; Chaldon; Charlwood; Chipstead; Gatton; Horley; Kingswood; Leigh; Merstham; Nutfield.


Richmond: Barnes; Mortlake.


Wimbledon: Merton; Wimbledon.


Boroughs with their own commissions of the peace: Godalming; Guildford; Kingston; Reigate; Richmond (including Kew and Petersham).


Divisions in 1910


All as in 1901, with the following changes:


Chertsey (from 1 April 1910): Chertsey; Chobham; Egham; Thorpe; Weybridge; Windlesham


Guildford (from 1 April 1910): Albury; Alfold; Artington; Bramley; Chiddingfold; East Clandon; West Clandon; Compton; Cranleigh; Dunsfold; Ewhurst; Godalming Rural; Hambledon; Hascombe; Haslemere; East Horsley; West Horsley; Merrow; Peper Harow; Puttenham; St Martha; Shalford; Shere; Shottermill; Stoke next Guildford; Thursley; Wanborough; Witley; Wonersh.


Mortlake (renaming of Richmond from 1903): Barnes; Mortlake


Woking (from 1 April 1910): Bisley; Byfleet; Horsell; Ockham; Pirbright; Pyrford; Send and Ripley; Wisley; Woking; Worplesdon


Divisions in 1920


All as in 1910, with the following changes:


Croydon: excludes Morden from 1919


Epsom: excludes Sutton from 1920


Guildford: now excludes all of Stoke next Guildford


Sutton: Sutton Petty Sessional Division created in 1920 covering Sutton and parts of Cheam and Banstead.


Wimbledon: adds Morden from 1919.


Divisions after 1930


Parishes are distributed between the divisions as in 1920, with the following changes


Chertsey: at some time after 1930 included Walton on Thames (from Kingston), until the creation of the Esher and Walton Division in 1966


Croydon County was renamed Wallington in 1941. Merged with Sutton Division after c.1975. [Records are held at Sutton Heritage Centre]


Dorking: adds Betchworth, Brockham, Buckland, Burstow, Charlwood, Chipstead, Horley, Kingswood and Leigh from Apr 1935


Epsom: in 1928 loses Cheam; in 1953 loses Walton on the Hill.


Esher (1965), later Esher and Walton (1966): comprising Esher then Esher and Walton on Thames from Oct 1966


Godstone: adds Chaldon and Nutfield from Apr 1935


Godalming: Godalming County Petty Sessional Division created in 1951 on abolition of separate commission of the peace for the Borough; new Godalming Division created in 1953 covering former Guildford and Godalming Divisions and the parish of Worplesdon (from Woking).


Guildford: abolished 1953 on creation of new Godalming Division comprising former divisions of Guildford and Godalming and parish of Worplesdon (from Woking)


Kingston (County): abolished in 1965, and new divisions of Malden and Surbiton and Esher created


Sutton: in 1928 adds Cheam. In 1953 adds Walton of the Hill. Merged with Wallington after c.1975 [Records are held at Sutton Heritage Centre]


Reigate (County): abolished in Apr 1935, all parishes to Dorking division except Gatton and Merstham to Reigate Borough, and Chaldon and Nutfield to Godstone.


Reigate (Borough): adds Gatton and Merstham from Apr 1935


Richmond Borough: includes from at least 1930 the civil parish of North Sheen (Mortlake parish within the borough)


Woking: loses Worplesdon to Godalming in 1953.

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