Sussex Quarter Sessions, c 1350-1914
Sussex Quarter Sessions, Eastern Division, c 1550-1914
East Sussex Quarter Sessions, 1914-1970
When it was decided to divide the Quarter Sessions records between the two Administrative Counties, the volumes which contained records of both the old Eastern and Western Divisions of Sussex remained at Lewes.
CUSTODY OF RECORDS
It is not until 1800 that we have any reference to the custody of the official County records (i.e. of the Court of Quarter Sessions), and in a rather complacent Return made by a former Clerk of the Peace to a Select Committee (Reports from the Select Committee, appointed to inquire into the State of the Public Records of the Kingdom, etc. Appendix (1800), 1, 35, p.290.) he reports that the whole of the records were then kept "in the House in which I reside [Horsham], and [which] I conceive perfectly safe and commodious enough, and it is my own Freehold Property. Most of them have been pretty well preserved and arranged in very regular order, each being pretty much kept separately. . . . I have no Officers or Clerks but what are retained for the General Purposes of my Profession in its different Branches, and either myself, or One of them, are generally at Home every Day and all Day; I have not any Table of Fees for Searches, etc., nor can I make out an Account upon the Average, etc. . . . There is not any Person specially intrusted with the Care of the said Records, etc. There are not any Matters which it is necessary or expedient to observe, for rendering the Use of the said Records, etc. more convenient to the Public."
The records, no doubt, were kept from early times in this way in the house of the Clerk, and had to suffer being transferred to each succeeding Clerk's house until the building of the County Hall at Lewes in 1808. The Building Committee resolved in May 1809 that the Record Room be rendered fireproof by such means and such manner as the architect should direct.
Between 1826 and 1865 improvements were carried out at the County Hall at Lewes for the better accommodation of the documents. The story can be pieced together from the Quarter Sessions records where we find reference to the provision of candles, shelves, tables and other furniture, and a stove complete with a fireguard. Tenders for the construction of strong-rooms below ground-level were approved in 1866, and the records were housed there until their transfer to the muniment rooms at Pelham House in 1938.
Records transferred from Lewes were stored in a specially constructed strong-room in the grounds of Westgate (alias Wren House), Chichester, until the erection of the new County Hall there in 1936.
From the formation of the two Administrative Counties in 1889, the responsibility of safeguarding the official records of the Court of Quarter Sessions and of the County Councils was borne in each County by the Standing Joint Committee consisting of an equal number of justices appointed by Quarter Sessions and members of the County Council. The Quarter Sessions records in West Sussex did not start to accumulate until a separate Clerk of the Peace was appointed in 1914. In 1939 each County Council formed a County Records Committee which took over the responsibility of the care of its own Quarter Sessions and County Council archives. These committees were constituted so as to include representatives of Quarter Sessions and the Standing Joint Committees.
|Unpublished finding aids:
A DESCRIPTIVE REPORT ON THE QUARTER SESSIONS, OTHER OFFICIAL, AND ECCLESIASTICAL RECORDS IN THE CUSTODY OF THE COUNTY COUNCILS OF EAST AND WEST SUSSEX WITH A GUIDE TO THE DEVELOPMENT AND HISTORICAL INTEREST OF THE ARCHIVES.
With a foreword by HIS GRACE THE DUKE OF NORFOLK, E.M., K.G., G.C.V.O., P.C. LORD LIEUTENANT AND CUSTOS ROTULORUM OF SUSSEX.
Issued Jointly by The Clerk of the East Sussex County Council, County Hall, Lewes; The Clerk of the West Sussex County Council County Hall, Chichester. 1954.
Record Publication No. 2.