Catalogue description Gloucestershire Quarter Sessions

This record is held by Gloucestershire Archives

Details of Q
Reference: Q
Title: Gloucestershire Quarter Sessions



Some counties are fortunate enough to possess Quarter Sessions 'rolls' (files), running in almost unbroken series from the 16th Century, and order books or minute books from the early 17th. Gloucestershire has nothing before the date of the Restoration. (But see Bibliographical Note (p. xiii) and Appendix II (p. 85) for earlier records surviving in other custody.) The order books run from 1672, with one volume missing (1692-1701), but there are no sessions files until 1728. From about 1730 the records are fairly complete; they include most of the classes enumerated in the 'Specimen List of Classes of Records which may be found with the Clerk of the Peace' (Appendix to Report of the Royal Commission on Public Records, 1900). Very little, except the registers of alehouse recognizances, seems to have been lost since 1800, while one valuable record was recovered in 1915 when the present earliest Quarter Sessions order book, 1672-81, was found in a solicitor's office in Dursley.


Not much is known about the history of the Quarter Sessions archives before the following order, made at Epiphany sessions, 1733/4:--


Whereas the Clerk of the Peace for this County hath lately at his own expence taken by lease a house near the Boothall in Gloucester for the greater conveniency and more regularly placeing and keeping in the rolls and records of the Peace belonging to this county In consideration whereof It is ordered by this Court that the Treasurer of the County Stock do pay to the Clerk of the Peace the sum of ten pounds towards his fitting up his said office


Thus it is evidently to William James, who had been appointed Clerk at Trinity, 1723, that we owe the establishment of a permanent home for the archives and their subsequent preservation. They were still in the same office in Westgate Street when a later Clerk made his report to the Select Committee on Public Records, printed in 1800. The records, he said, were in pretty good preservation, but scarcely a single application in a month was made for any search, inspection, or copy. He thought it might be a good thing if the office could be attached to and made part of a dwelling-house for the residence of an officer, who could keep constant watch over the records.


A committee of seven justices, appointed in 1804 to investigate the records, made a similar report at Epiphany, 1805, earnestly recommending the preservation of the existing records. They were moved to the Shire Hall when it was built a few years later, but no further interest in the subject appears to have been taken until 1870, when another committee was asked to consider the best means to preserve and render more accessible the records and documents open by law to public inspection. This committee's report (Epiph., 1871) is long and interesting; it mentions the historical value of the records as well as their importance for legal purposes, dwells upon the need for a proper catalogue and indexes, and remarks that


'Record Offices should be large enough to allow of a proper staff of officers and proper and safe repositories and convenient accommodation for searching etc. But when these requisites can be secured, the claims of provincial over central deposit are considerable.'


This report had little noticeable effect, but in 1896, when the Council Chamber was added to the Shire Hall, it became necessary to move the archives. The opportunity was taken to examine them, to destroy superfluous documents, and to make a brief Catalogue of County Records, which was printed in 1898. Care was taken to preserve all documents which were thought to have historical or antiquarian value, though many were not placed in a strongroom until after the establishment of the County Records Office.


The surviving archives cover a wide field of historical interest, as the catalogue will show. Besides the proceedings of the court itself, and documents relating to county administration, they include a great variety of records enrolled or deposited with the court or with the Clerk of the Peace under a long succession of statutes. Social, constitutional, and administrative history, trade, industry, law, finance, and religion are all represented; the topographer as well as the local historian and the genealogist will find grist for his mill; and some documents, notably the inclosure awards and deposited plans of public undertakings, are still frequently consulted for legal purposes. The efficiency which distinguished Gloucestershire Quarter Sessions in the 18th and early 19th Centuries was commended by the historians of local government, (S. and B. Webb, The Parish and the County (1906), pp. 429-430, 441.) and for this period the archives are well preserved. At the end of the 18th Century, thanks to the energy and perseverance of an outstanding county magistrate, Sir George Onesiphorus Paul, Gloucestershire was in the forefront of prison reform, and material of value to students of penology is among the records of the county gaol and the houses of correction.




In addition to the Quarter Sessions archives of the county and of Tewkesbury borough, the present volume briefly lists a number of others which have been deposited with the Gloucestershire Records Office by their official custodians. These comprise the older minutes and other documents of many, though not all, of the Clerks to Petty Sessional Divisions, records of H.M. Coroner for the Stroud Division, shrievalty records (unfortunately comparatively late and scanty) from the County Undersheriff, and records relating to the militia, etc., from the Clerk to the Lieutenancy. As the latter's office has long been held jointly with that of Clerk of the Peace, the absence of any lieutenancy records of the Napoleonic War period or earlier is difficult to account for.


Contents of the collection:




County Quarter Sessions:


Justices of the Peace:


Commissions of the peace 1727-1974 (Q/JC); justices' oaths 1784-1872 (Q/JO); Justices' Dining Club: vouchers, lists of subscribers and diners, correspondence and annual reports 1852-1877 (Q/JP)


Court in session:


Order rolls 1728-1932 (Q/SR); highway and footpath diversion orders with plans 1775-1971 (Q/SRh); witnesses' and defendants' depositions 1728-1770, 1834-1971 (Q/SD); recognizances 1728-1836 (Q/Sza); registers of recognizances 1791-1876 (Q/SZb); presentments 1733-1861 (Q/SP); indictments 1728-1836, 1931-1971 (Q/Sia) and indictment books 1660-1668, 1770-1773, 1808-1910 (Q/Sib); process books 1745-1769 (Q/SWb); gaol calendars 1728-1966 (Q/SG); jury books 1743-1878 (Q/SJb); transportation bonds 1727-1772 (Q/CB); court minutes 1781-1971 (Q/SM); order books 1672-1692, 1702-1868 (Q/SO); appeals 1963-1969 (Q/SA); rating appeals papers 1929-1957 (Q/Sar); summary jurisdiction appeals papers 1934-1962, 1970-1971 (Q/Sas); committals for sentence 1949-1962 (Q/SC); court administrative papers 1889-1971 (Q/Sra); police antecedent histories 1910-1951 (Q/SRp)




Papers concerning building and repair of bridges 1777-1886 (Q/AB); coroners' districts and expenses 1844-1886 (Q/FSc); county buildings 1802-1864, including minutes of Shire Hall building commissioners 1814-1831 (Q/AS) and deeds and accounts of the Judges' Lodgings, Spa Road, Gloucester 1824-1864 and 1892-1935 (Q/AJ); *county gaol and houses of correction, including building plans c.1785, reports of governors 1825-1887 and applications for appointments 1836-1872 (Q/AG); highway maintenance, including papers about formation of highway districts 1862-1865 and plans of main roads 1873 (Q/AH); alehouse licensing, including minutes of licensing committee 1874-1889, recognizances 1755, 1781 and licensing papers 1905-1963 (Q/AV); lunatic asylums, including plans and reports concerning private asylums 1814-1893, papers concerning the management and extension of county asylums and the building of Coney Hill Hospital 1823-1892, and accounts 1899-1960 (Q/AL); police, including police committee minutes 1857-1861, Chief Constable's letter book 1840-1884 and reports 1854-1889 and plans of police stations 1856-1886 (Q/AP); petty sessions divisions and court houses 1836-1880 (Q/P); weights and measures 1808-1884 (Q/AW)




Treasurer's accounts and ledgers 1726-1889 (Q/Fac, Fal); abstracts of accounts 1784-1852 (Q/Faa); auditor's reports 1850-1878 (Q/FC); rating records, including valuation of Forest of Dean 1841, papers regarding abolition of detached parts of parishes 1882-1885 and accounts 1826-1829, 1844-1848 (Q/FR); police accounts 1840-1888 (Q/FSp)


Registration, enrolment and deposit:


Declarations of militia officers 1847-1904 (Q/Ram); duplicate returns of assessed taxes 1841-1873 (Q/RT); charitable donations 1813-1849 and accounts of charities 1852-1861 (Q/RC); certificates of "fishing engines" 1866-1870 (Q/RF); Commission on Encroachments in Forest of Dean - report, maps and schedules 1834 (Q/RGf); award of commissioners under Dean Forest Mines Act 1872 (Q/RGf); returns of members of freemasons' lodges 1834-1887 (Q/RM); registers of deputations to gamekeepers 1711-1889 (Q/SO); inclosure maps and awards 1727-1918 (Q/RI); minutes of Arlingham inclosure commissioners 1801 and Hempsted inclosure commissioners 1814-1815 (Q/Rlm); register of canal boats 1795 (Q/RR); sacrament certificates 1730-1770 (Q/Ros); oaths of allegiance 1729-1950 (Q/RO); dissenting ministers' oaths 1771-1811 (Q/RNp); Roman Catholics' oaths of allegiance 1778-1866 ; registers of papists' estates 1717-1765 and of conveyances 1708-1814 (Q/RNc); land tax assessments 1775-1832 (Q/Rel); registers of electors 1832-2008 (Q/Rer); poll books 1763-1834 (Q/Rep); vagrants' passes 1764-1765 (Q/RV); printing press licences 1799-1869 (Q/RP); plans of public undertakings 1792-1960 (Q/Rum); rules and regulations of savings banks 1817-1844 (Q/RB), of friendly and building societies 1820-1865 (Q/RSf) and of scientific and literary societies 1843-1865 (Q/RSl); memoranda of summary jurisdiction convictions 1728-1837 and registers of convictions 1847-1891 (Q/PC); turnpike trust accounts 1823-1885 (Q/Rut) and conveyances 1787-1880 (Q/RD); tyburn tickets 1769-1829 (Q/RX); register of friendly societies 1750-1828, convictions under Game Laws 1853-1876 and of dissenting meeting houses 1839-1855 (Q/RZ)


Clerk of the Peace:


Letter books 1877-1881 (Q/CC); accounts 1801-1892 (Q/CF, Sme); legal opinions 1818-1849 (Q/CL); returns to parliament concerning charities, coroners, county rates, highways, judicial business, jurors, justices, licensing, lunacy, militia, parliamentary elections, petty sessions, police, poor relief, prisons, religion, and sheriffs 1815-1893 (Q/CR); precedent books 1714-c.1825 (Q/CP); correspondence and papers concerning proposed establishment of War Zone Courts in event of invasion 1940-1941 (WZ)




County Gaol, Gloucester: visiting justices' journals 1791-1878, *1878-1923 (Accession 10919), and order books 1859-1878; governor's journals 1795-1879, 1969-1976, letter book 1867-1874 and orders 1978-1989; deputy governor's minutes 1844-1845; orders of Quarter Sessions 1844-1878; commissioner's and inspector's minutes 1879-1935; chief officers' daily report books 1947-1988; registers of remand prisoners 1817-1879; registers of prisoners 1838-1879, 1886-1891, 1951-1964; calendars of prisoners for Assizes 1882-1950 and Quarter Sessions 1924-1971; prisoners' wage accounts 1847-1850; return of habitual criminals (with photographs) 1870; album of prisoners' photographs 1882-1906; minutes of committee for prison charity 1792-1925; chaplain's journals 1806-1872; surgeon's journals 1791-1799 and 1809-1820; alterations of diet register 1924-1970; medical officer's journal 1915-1931; medical officer's reports and papers 1925-1971; medical reception register 1942-1946; hospital register 1925-1971; hospital occurrence book 1945-1946; complaining sick register 1946-1947; record of petitions 1894-1940; particulars of service of officers 1905-1984; register of officers 1906-1922; register of temporary officers 1923-1926; staff meeting minutes 1919-1941; building works books 1919-1948; armed forces committal register 1947-1962; adjudication book 1960; Charity Committee book 1846-1925; visiting committee minutes 1924-1955; visiting magistrates' observations book 1944-1957; nominal [prisoners'] registers 1879-1951; record of previous convictions books (1880)-1936; weekly habitual criminals lists 1920-1931 (Q/GC)


Horsley House of Correction: visiting justices' journals 1792-1823, 1844-1878; governor's journals 1809-1823, 1840-1843; order book 1844-1860; letter book 1844-1859; governor's accounts 1844-1878; diet books 1828-1836, 1871-1878; provision accounts 1844-1848, 1874-1878; prisoners' property book 1844-1859; registers of prisoners 1825-1839, 1833-1860; chaplain's journal 1852-1858; surgeon's journal 1843-1844; flour milling accounts 1822-1847; orders of Quarter Sessions 1844-1859 (Q/Gh)


Lawfords Gate House of Correction: governor's journal 1820-1826; orders of Quarter Sessions 1844-1866 (Q/GLa)


Littledean House of Correction: visiting justices' journals 1791-1831, 1844-1887 and order books 1791-1853; governor's journals 1791-1797, 1807, 1816-1854, accounts 1791-1835, 1844-1874, and letter book 1844-1853; bread book 1826-1834; diet books 1839-1887; prisoners' property books 1844-1854; prisoners' punishment books 1844-1853; prisoners' labour book 1844-1847; registers of prisoners 1791-1923; discharged prisoners returns and statements (with photographs) 1875-1900; chaplain's journals 1805-1854; surgeon's journals 1806-1854; surgeon's register 1844-1854; matron's journal 1844-1854; schoolmaster's journal 1844-1854; schoolmistress' journal 1844-1851 (Q/GLi)


Northleach House of Correction: visiting justices' journals 1830-1844 and order book 1791-1844; governors' accounts 1791-1812; registers of prisoners 1791-1816; surgeon's journals 1800-1841 (Q/Gn)


Probation Committee:


Minutes 1927-1974; correspondence 1924-1945; agreements reports, returns and accounts 1925-1934; staff files and miscellaneous papers 1938-1953 (QX/PR)


Insolvent Debtors Court:


Minutes 1824-1847; deeds and papers 1799-1842 (Q/RID)




Personnel: alphabetical register of rural constabulary 1839-1919; register of recruits 1839-1877, 1904-1948; register of applicants 1944-1959; default and commendation books 1839-1920; disciplinary report books 1921-1952; registers of police pensioners 1850-1932; pensioners' newsletters 1962-1972; service statistics 1945-1971; sickness registers 1954-1969; volunteer cadet force records 1961-1962; 'B' Division disciplinary report book 1933-1952; personnel files 1880s-1980s; and other records 20th cent. (Q/Y)


Administration: standing orders 1922-1962; general orders 1840-1980; order books 1840-1911; Chief Constable's day book 1840-1868; superintendents' diaries 1840-1865, and letter books 1846-1863; register of alehouse licences in Moreton-in-Marsh Petty Sessions Division 1903-1949; police station diaries from Ashbrook 1843-1851, Bibury 1841-1848, South Cerney 1842-1852, Cirencester 1843-1888, Cribbs Causeway 1969-1974, Daglingworth 1968-1969, Eastington (nr Northleach) 1852-1857, Fairford 1843-1848, Hawkesbury 1841-1843, Hewelsfield 1840-1843, Lechlade 1842-1851, Nailsworth 1848-1849, Painswick 1947-1951, Sapperton 1846-1852, 1964-1970, Wickwar 1885, Wotton-under-Edge 1866-1897; Chief Constable's Annual Reports 1966-1976; training notes, slides and films c.1889-1983; G Division, Tuffley, scientific investigation circulars [typescript] 1920s-1930s; photographs, newscuttings etc collected for an intended Force Museum (1815)-c.1985 (Q/Y); Gloucestershire Branch of the Police Federation: annual reports 1932-1961 (Q/Y)


Finance: Petty Sessional Division of Berkeley, fines book 1899-1904; fines and fees book, 1911-1928; fines instalment ledgers, Chipping Sodbury 1922-1955, Whitminster 1900-1947; station cash books 1926-1970; Gloucester division sports club accounts 1932-1963 (Q/Y)


Police Duties, Criminal: Gloucester City informations book 1841-1847; station offence books Berkeley, 1911-1949; Birdlip 1931-1965, Bisley 1935-1949, Brimscombe 1911-1951, Cambridge 1898-1936, Chalford 1912-1953, Chipping Sodbury 1894-1928, Churchdown 1893-1961, Coleford 1894-1922, Daglingworth 1927-1968; Dursley 1909-1919, Dymock 1874-1928, Gloucester 1904-1912, Guiting Power 1951-1960, Hardwicke 1901-1927, Hawkesbury 1894-1922, Huntley 1900-1968, Kemble 1956-1962, Kingscote 1894-1922, Longwell Green 1941-1968; Mitcheldean 1900-1918, Northleach 1920-1925, Oldland Common 1937-1958, Painswick 1927-1952, Pilning 1944-1968, Rodborough 1911-1941, St Briavels 1949-1968, Sapperton 1923-1968, Stanton 1874-1933, Stow-on-the-Wold 1933-1949, Stroud 1894-1910, Tewkesbury 1897-1903, Uley 1899-1956, Westbury-on-Severn 1898-1912, Winchcombe 1894-1922; register of habitual criminals 1869-1933; registers of charges, Berkeley, 1911-1949; Chipping Sodbury 1893-1950, Cirencester 1941-1949, Coleford 1905-1950, Stonehouse 1912-1950, Stow-on-the-Wold 1920-1951, Tewkesbury 1890-1929, Winchcombe 1896-1950; Longwell Green Station prisoners' reception book 1929-1967 and bail book 1932-1935; bail books 1885-1958; prisoners' property books 1890-1968; stolen and found property books 1902-1972; criminal record cards 1908-1970; papers concerning Haw Bridge murder inquiry 1938 and Longhope murder inquiry 1945-1947; copies of information and circulars received concerning wanted persons from around the country 1884-1885 (Q/Y)


Police Duties, Civil: registers of stray dogs 1906-1980; registers of notifiable animal diseases 1910-1963; sheep dipping registers 1908-1961; Whitminster station road accident book 1951-1961; papers concerning wartime restrictions 1940-1944 and Communist activities 1921-1930; papers concerning General Strike 1926; papers concerning Severn Barge Disaster 1939 and Severn Bridge tanker disaster 1960-1961; registers of pedlars' certificates 1933-1985; registers of licences granted in city and county of Gloucester 1951-1970s; register of licences, Cheltenham divsion, 1930s-1970s; *Aliens and Overseas Visitors registration cards, c.1946-c.2004, and transfer cards, c.1939-c.2004 (Q/Y)


Photographs of personnel including social events c.1839-1991, buildings c.1890-1978, duties 1926-1970 and road accidents 1929-1975; scrapbook of newscuttings about Haw Bridge murder inquiry 1938-1939; H Thomas, 'History of the Gloucestershire Constabulary, 1839-1910', 1987 (Q/Y)




Warrants of appointment of sheriffs 1834-1980 (Q/RAs)


Tewkesbury Borough Quarter Sessions:


Justices of the Peace:


Regrant of separate court of Quarter Sessions 1836; Commissions of the Peace 1836-1892; justices oath rolls 1838-1887 (QT/J)


Court in Session:


Presentments of grand jury 1848-1937; recognizances 1852-1897; warrants and orders 1738-1854; register of adoptions 1940-1943; depositions 1858-1932; indictments 1847-1936; calendars of prisoners 1853-1937; appeals 1853-1939; estreats of fines 1698-1860; order books 1774-1946 (QT/S)




Appointments of officers 1854-1908; papers concerning lunacy 1846-1934 and prison 1817-1818; gaol accounts 1816-1838 (QT/A)


Registration, enrolment and deposit:


Returns of freemasons' lodge 1869-1936; highway and footpath diversion orders 1825-1935; deposited plans of public undertakings 1837-1930; records of summary jurisdiction, including accounts of fines and fees 1836-1855; depositions, recognizances and convictions at Petty Sessions 1850-1911; returns of convictions 1855-1861 (QT/R)


Clerk of the Peace:


Letter book 1906-1924; case papers 1856-1936; parliamentary returns 1836-1956 (QT/C)

Date: 1660-2007



The judicial archives of Quarter Sessions continue to the present day, but as most administrative functions were transferred to the County Council in 1889, that date (at which many classes actually end) has been chosen for the termination of Quarter Sessions archives in the present catalogue. Later terminal dates are given where a volume or bundle begins before 1889 but ends after that year. For other county records the actual first and last dates of all classes in the custody of the County Council have been shown; this does not imply that the later records are open to historical study.




Q/JC Commissions of the Peace 1728-1878


Q/JO Qualifications and Oaths 1745-1906


Q/JP Miscellaneous 1852-1877




Q/SR 'Order rolls' 1728-1889


Q/SRH Highway and Footpath Diversions 1775-1889


Q/SD Depositions 1728-1889


Q/SZ Recognizances 1723-1876


Q/SP Presentments 1733-1861


Q/SI Indictments 1728-1867


Q/SIb Indictment books 1660-1910


Q/SW Process 1745-1830


Q/SG Prisoners 1728-1889


Q/SN 'Nomina Ministrorum' 1740-1877


Q/SJ Juries 1688-1878


Q/SF Estreats of Fines 1781-1889


Q/SIv Cases removed and Appeals 1732-1901


Q/CB Transportation bonds 1727-1772


Q/SM Minute books 1781-1913


Q/SO Order books 1672-1889




Q/AB Bridges 1777-1886


Q/FSC Coroners 1844-1886


Q/AS County Buildings


Shire Hall 1802-1889


Judges' Lodgings 1824-1864


Q/AX Exempt Jurisdictions


Borough Quarter Sessions 1836


St. Briavels Court of Requests 1843-1846


Q/AG Gaols and Houses of Correction


Buildings and administration 1785-1876


Reports and returns 1825-1887


Staff 1836-1872


Prisoners 1816-1877


Miscellaneous 1803-1867


Q/AH Highways 1779-1890




Q/AV Victuallers and alehouse keepers 1755-1889


Badgers and dealers 1705-1764


Q/AI Homes for Inebriates 1879-1898


Q/AA Slaughterhouses 1872-1894


Q/AL Lunacy 1814-1893


Q/AP Police


Formation of Force 1839-1856


Districts 1853-1861


Administration 1840-1889


Buildings 1852-1886


Returns 1848-1866


Miscellaneous 1848-1850


Q/P Petty Sessions 1836-1880


Q/AD Public Analyst 1860-1884


Q/AW Weights and Measures 1808-1884




Q/AC Boundaries 1874


Q/AF Fisheries 1843-1876


Q/AG Industrial Schools and Reformatories 1859-1867


Q/FR Militia Storehouses 1855


Q/AR Records 1805-1871




Q/FAC Accounts 1726-1894


Q/FC Finance Committees 1833-1878


Q/FR County Rates 1786-1886


Q/FSP Police Accounts 1840-1888




Q/RA Appointments of Officers


Sheriff and Undersheriff 1834-1889


Deputy Lieutenants and militia officers 1757-1904


Commissioners for taking acknowledgements by married women 1835-1889


Q/RU Canals 1725-1864


Q/RC Charities 1813-1861


Q/RX Commissioners of Taxes 1842-1920


Q/RF Fishing 'Engines' 1866-1870


Q/RG Forest of Dean 1834-1872


Q/RM Freemasons 1834-1887


Q/SO Game preservation 1711-1889


Q/RI Inclosure 1727-1918


Q/RR Inland Navigation 1795-1797


Q/RJ Jurors 1759-1825


Q/RO Oaths and Declarations 1730-1901


Q/RN Papists' estates 1708-1814


Q/RE Parliamentary Elections


Annuities 1776-1841


Land Tax assessments 1775-1832


Registers of Electors 1832-1885


Returning Officers 1832-1885


Poll Books 1763-1834


Q/RN Places of Worship 1839-1851


Q/RV Poor relief and settlement 1746-1842


Q/RP Printing presses 1799-1869


Q/RUM Public Works legislation 1725-1889


Q/RB Savings Banks 1817-1844


Q/RSF Societies, Friendly, etc.


Friendly Societies 1820-1856


Loan Societies 1836-1851


Benefit Building Societies 1838-1859


Q/RSP Societies, Scientific and Literary 1843-1865


Q/PC Summary Jurisdiction 1728-1891


Q/RUt Turnpike Trusts 1823-1885


Q/RX 'Tyburn Tickets' 1769-1829


Miscellaneous 1750-1876




Q/CC Correspondence 1781-1892


Q/CF Accounts and Fees 1753-1892


Q/CB Bonds 1795-1878


Q/CL Legal 1818-1849


Q/CR Parliamentary returns 1815-1893


Q/CP Precedents 1714-1896


Q/CI Lists and Indexes 1786-1889


Q/CM Miscellaneous 1809-1875




Q/G County gaol and Houses of Correction


Q/RID Insolvent Debtors Court


Q/RUc Accounts of Companies


Q/Y Police administrative records

Related material:

[See also D771; D2237; D5205; D6298; GBR; K338; K545; K796; K104; K451; K771; K1171; K1350; PS/MO]

Held by: Gloucestershire Archives, not available at The National Archives
Language: English
Access conditions:

* denotes uncatalogued or restricted access - viewing by appointment only


Official records less than 30 years old and certain others are not open to historical research without special permission.

Custodial history:

Deposited by the Clerk of the Peace for Gloucestershire, except accessions 4, 176 and 367, which were deposited by Gloucestershire County Council, accession 14.1, which was given by Newnham Petty Sessional Division, accession 19, which was deposited by HM Prison Commissioners, accession 129, which was given by Sir Frederick Cripps, accession 145, which was deposited by the Gloucestershire County Treasurer, accessions 163, 765, 861.1, 861.2, 861.3, 861.4, 919, 919.1, 977 and 6228, which were deposited and given (accession 6228) by the Gloucestershire County Surveyor, accessions 367 and 394, which were deposited by the Clerk to Gloucestershire County Council, accession 442, which was deposited by the Custodian of Gloucestershire Shire Hall, accession 482, which was given by Dr G Wayland Ancrum, accession 502, which was given by Clerk of the Peace for Gloucestershire, accessions 529, 530 and 939, whose provenance is unknown, accession 794, which was deposited by the Tithe Redemption Commission, accession 923, which was deposited by the Chief Constable of Gloucestershire, accessions 1094 and 1094.1, which were deposited by Wiltshire County Council, accession 1353, which was given by R K L Guthrie, accession 4096, which was deposited by the County Police Headquarters, accessions 4541, 4685, 4738, 5100, 5361, 5605, 5810, 6031, 6047, 6216, 6265, 6441, 7141, 8105, 8141, 8401, 10066 and 10736, which were deposited by Gloucestershire Constabulary, accession 4649, which was given by T C B Bowers, esq, accession 5564, which was deposited by Russell Jessop, accession 5776, which was given by British Rail, accession 6364, which was deposited by the County Electoral Officer, accession 6371, which was acquired by purchase, accession 7680, which was deposited by HM Prison, Gloucester, accession 8101, which was deposited by the Home Office, accession 9011, which was given by Mr G Stewart, accession 9849 which was deposited by Cotswold District Council, accession 9850 which was deposited by Cheltenham Borough Council and accession 10919 which was given by Mrs Barbara Kew

Administrative / biographical background:



No attempt is made here to describe in detail the history of the justices of the peace. A good account of this is found in the Introduction to Vol. V of Surrey Records (published by Surrey County Council, 1931).


Before the creation of County Councils by the Local Government Act of 1888, local administration was largely in the hands of the justices of the peace or under their supervision. Originally commissioned in the Middle Ages as 'keepers of the King's peace' in the counties, the justices had been given certain administrative functions, in addition to their purely judicial work, as early as the 14th Century. The Tudor sovereigns, with an eye to economy as well as practical convenience, employed the unpaid county justice increasingly in carrying out their system of government and enforcing their numerous statutes, so much so that he has been called 'the Tudor maid-of-all-work'. In particular, justices of the peace were charged with the superintendence of the parish officers established by 16th Century legislation, the overseers of the poor and the surveyors of the highways, while they were commonly called upon to appoint and supervise that ancient manorial officer, the petty constable or tithingman. During the 18th and 19th Centuries, new statutes were continually adding to the justices' duties, though the reforms in poor law and highway administration in 1834 and 1862 transferred some of their burdens to new bodies, the Guardians of the Poor and the Highway Boards, and in 1877 the State relieved them of responsibility for prisons. Since 1888 little work of an administrative character remains to them except for licensing and the joint control of police with the County Council.


Their judicial work, the hearing and judgment of local felonies and trespasses, has continued without substantial modification to the present day. After about 1600 they usually referred capital offences to the assizes, but on the other hand the gradual decay of manorial courts leet in the 17th Century meant that eventually all minor crimes and misdemeanours had to come before justices of the peace. The justices used their powers individually (so far as they were allowed), or jointly with one or more colleagues in local meetings later called Petty Sessions. There were also, as time went on, special sessions for the licensing of alehouses and other purposes. Their most important functions, however, were exercised, as they still are, at the General Sessions of the Peace, held four times a year (at Epiphany, Easter, Trinity and Michaelmas), since about 1350 or earlier. At these meetings, known as Quarter Sessions, those justices who attended--never more than a minority (The average quarterly attendance between 1661 and 1668 was about 16 members of the Bench, and between 1775 and 1800 roughly the same.)--sat as a court to hear and determine cases, both criminal and civil, which were outside the scope of a single justice's authority. Procedure resembled that of the assizes. (The procedure is fully described in Minutes of Proceedings in Quarter Sessions, Parts of Kesteven [Lincs.], 1674-95, ed. S. A. Peyton (Lincoln Record Society, Vols. 25, 26), 1931.) The High Sheriff was responsible for summoning a grand jury (which decided whether the initial evidence justified a trial), and also for summoning qualified persons to provide the petty juries for trying issues of fact in criminal cases. All the authority of the justices was of a judicial nature, and much business which we should now regard as purely administrative had to be handled by judicial procedure, e.g., a highway in disrepair was 'presented' as such in court, and a fine imposed on the inhabitants of the parish responsible, to enable repairs to be carried out.


In some counties Quarter Sessions were held regularly at one town which was conveniently central. In others it became the custom to hold the Sessions at several different towns in turn. Gloucestershire records of 1595-1601 show the meetings being held generally at Gloucester but once at Cirencester. Between 1664 and 1675 they were held sometimes at Gloucester, sometimes at Cirencester, and sometimes at Tetbury. From 1676 the meeting-place was always the Booth Hall at Gloucester until the building of the present Shire Hall in the early 19th Century, except that during the years 1685-1688 there were sessions held at Cirencester, Painswick, and Wotton-under-Edge; but this may be connected with a remark in the order book, at Trinity 1687, that 'the smallpox is very rife in this citty' (Gloucester).


The authority of the county justices did not run unchallenged throughout Gloucestershire. To begin with, the city of Gloucester was itself a county and from 1483 included the Hundreds of Dudstone and King's Barton--a considerable area, called the 'In-shire'--until they were restored to the county in 1672. The borough of Tewkesbury had until 1951 its own justices, granted by royal charter in 1605. The Hundreds of Cheltenham and Slaughter were Liberties, upon which the privilege of separate Quarter Sessions courts had been bestowed, originating from a grant of 1247, when the Abbey of Fécamp received these Hundreds from the Crown in exchange for Rye and Winchelsea. (Placita Quo Warranto (Rec. Comm.), pp. 257-8.) Some records of proceedings before the Cheltenham sessions of the peace, in the 15th and early 16th Centuries, have been preserved in the Public Record Office (P.R.O., SC 2/175/25-27.), and records of the Slaughter sessions (held at Stow-on-the-Wold) in the early sixteen-hundreds are among muniments of the Whitmore family, now deposited in the Gloucestershire Records Office. (Ref. D 45.) The Cheltenham court does not seem to have survived the Reformation, but the Slaughter court continued until the Civil War.


The justices were not a corporate body, and for centuries their only permanent official was the Clerk of the Peace, who advised them on legal questions, drew up indictments and other formal documents, maintained the routine of the court, and had charge of its archives between sessions. This officer, mentioned as early as 1285, was until 1888 appointed by the Custos Rotulorum, who was originally a senior justice nominally responsible for the custody of the 'rolls' of Quarter Sessions; since the 17th Century, however, the office has by custom been held by the Lord Lieutenant. Nowadays the office of Clerk of the Peace is held jointly with that of Clerk of the County Council. The Clerk was often of good family, and if not legally qualified could treat the post as a sinecure, employing a deputy to carry out the work. (In Gloucestershire, from 1801 to 1852, an able Dursley solicitor, Edward Bloxsome, was deputy to William Tudor. The latter had started life as William Cole, brother of the butcher's daughter who became Countess of Berkeley. Tudor was appointed Clerk of the Peace by his brother-in-law the 5th Earl (Lord Lieutenant and Custos Rotulorum, 1766-1810), and in the Berkeley peerage claim of 1811 was the principal witness who testified to the trumped-up earlier marriage by which his patron's eldest son tried unsuccessfully to prove his legitimacy.) The active Clerk or Deputy Clerk would have a private legal practice in addition to his official duties. His remuneration until 1853 was by fees, not salary, and out of it he had, of course, to pay his staff.




Although there are occasional references to 'the Chairman' in the Quarter Sessions Order Books at the end of the 17th Century, the names of justices present at Quarter Sessions are normally given in order of rank, and there is nothing to show which of them actually took the chair. Probably a chairman was elected on the first day of each sessions. From about 1710, however, the name of one particular justice, not usually of exalted social position, appears first in the list for a number of successive sessions, and it may be concluded that he acted as chairman. In the Minute Books, starting in 1781, the word 'chairman' sometimes appears after the first name.


The following, so far as can be judged, have acted as regular chairmen:


John Viney, c.1710-19


John Cocks, 1719-28


Thomas Cooke or Charles Hyett, 1728-43


Thomas Hayward (occasionally from 1738), 1743-68


Sir William Strachan, Bt., 1769-77


(Various justices, 1777-80) (At Trinity Sessions, 1778, the list of justices in the Order Book starts with the names of Thomas, Samuel, Charles, and William Hayward, the bench or their clerk having evidently been struck by the fact that four justices of the same surname were present. Samuel Hayward of Sandhurst does not appear to have been actually related to the others. Thomas (chairman 1738-68, d.1781 aged 75) and his two sons were of the Quedgeley family, now Curtis-Hayward, which provided also a 19th Century chairman.)


Alexander Edgar, 1780-85


Dodington Hunt, 1785-96


The Rev. John Foley, 1796-1803


Charles Tirrel Morgan, 1803-04


The Rt. Hon. Charles Bathurst, 1805-12


The Rev. George Cooke, D.D., 1813-33


Charles Bathurst, 1833-42


Purnell Bransby Purnell, 1842-63


John Curtis Hayward, 1863-74


Sebastian Stewart Dickinson, 1874-78


John Edward (afterwards Sir John, Bt.) Dorington, 1878-79


Russell James Kerr, 1889-1904


Francis (afterwards Sir Francis) Adams Hyett, 1904-29


Lt. Col. Russell (afterwards Sir Russell) James Kerr, 1929-36


Stamford Hutton, O.B.E., 1937-41


His Honour Judge Alfred Ravenscroft Kennedy, K.C., 1941-43


Robert Crompton Hutton, 1943-


During the 19th Century there were sometimes separate chairmen for the administrative and judicial business of the court, e.g. Charles Bathurst, Esq., having resigned, it was resolved 'that Ebenezer Ludlow, Esq., Sergeant at Law, be Chairman of the Appellate and Judicial Court and that Purnell Bransby Purnell, Esq., be Chairman of Financial and all General County Business' (Order Book, 1842). The latter was, however, regarded as the 'County Chairman'. Since 1939 a legally qualified chairman has been appointed under the terms of the Administration of Justice (Miscellaneous Provisions) Act, 1938.




This list gives the names and terms of office of Clerks of the Peace and their deputies from 1660, when the Quarter Sessions records begin. It is based mainly on entries in the earlier Order Books and Clerks' signatures endorsed on documents deposited with them. The earliest known Clerk of the Peace for Gloucestershire was Henry Lecche, c.1392-99. The names and dates of Clerks before 1660 can be obtained from the Pipe Rolls and the estreats of fines returned to the Exchequer. A list of Clerks for all counties, based on these sources, is being prepared by the Society of Clerks of the Peace.


Clerks of the Peace


Henry Hampson 1661-63


Robert Morse 1664-78


Benjamin Hyett 1678-89


Thomas Stephens 1689-c.1723


William James 1723-41


Robert Young 1742-c.1781


Anthony Austin c.1781-1800


William Tudor 1800-c.1852


William Joyner Ellis 1853-55


H. A. Fitzhardinge Berkeley 1855-72


George Riddiford 1873-77


Francis E. Guise 1878-93


Edward T. Gardom 1893-1933


Richard L. Moon 1933-43


Guy H. Davis 1943-


Deputy Clerks of the Peace


Philip Dorney bef. 1672-73


Benjamin Hyett 1673-78


Conway Whithorne c.1781-90


Thomas Perry c.1796-1800


Edward Bloxsome 1801-52


George Riddiford 1853-73


Edward T. Gardom 1892-93


Frank E. Goodchild 1933-39


George O. Brewis 1939-47


Donald G. Rogers 1947-


Four 14th Century rolls of Gloucestershire Sessions of the Peace (1361-63, 1378, 1384-86, 1395-98), taken to London by the justices of assize and preserved among the Assize Rolls and Ancient Indictments in the Public Record Office, were edited by Dr. Elisabeth Kimball in Transactions of the Bristol and Gloucestershire Archaeological Society, Vol. LXII (1940). W. B. Willcox, in Gloucestershire, A Study in Local Government 1590-1640 (Yale University Press, 1940) deals inter alia with the work of the justices and their relations with the central government. Sidney and Beatrice Webb's The Parish and the County (1906), the standard work on local government by the justices of the peace after 1689, draws largely on Gloucestershire sources. The work of the Gloucestershire J.P.s during the last quarter of the 18th Century is studied in an unpublished thesis for the Cambridge Ph.D., 'Local Government in Gloucestershire, 1775-1800', by Miss E. A. L. Moir, a copy of which is in the County Records Office (D 1268).


Middlesex, Warwickshire and Hertfordshire have printed large parts of their Quarter Sessions records in detail, with full and scholarly introductions. A number of county record offices have issued guides or handbooks, some more detailed than others, to Quarter Sessions and other official records. The compilers of the present catalogue are particularly indebted to the Guide to the Essex Record Office, Part I (1946) and the Descriptive Report on the Quarter Sessions ... Records ... of West and East Sussex (1954), and for typography, to the Interim Handlist of Somerset Quarter Sessions Documents and other Official Records (1947).

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