The Court in Session: Bundles and files; Minute (Order) books; Process books; Recognizances; Traverses; Summary convictions; Appeals; Calendars of Prisoners. Administration: Committees; Bridges; Highways; Gaols; Other County buildings. Enrolment, Registration and Deposit: Inclosure; Railways; Drainage; Jurors; Parliamentary elections; Freemasons; Friendly Societies; Lunatics; Vagrants; Officers' appointments. Justices of the Peace: Commissions of the Peace; Dates of Qualification; Chairmen's records.
1764 - 1965
This is a handlist to the records only, and is not a full list. The 'HCP' references are those attributed to the documents by archivists in the past; it is hoped that a full list, using a more consistent numbering system, can be made available in the future.
The HCP system: 'HCP' stood for Huntingdonshire Clerk of the Peace, and the records were sorted very roughly into groups.
The classification code was then followed by the accession number of the items and then (in most cases) by the item number itself, so generating numbers like:
HCP/5/1911/17 = Clerk of the Peace/Highways/Acc.1911/item 17.
In practice this was never consistently followed. HCP/2 in particular was used as a catch-all for a variety of volumes and papers which could not be placed anywhere else. HCP/6 (Inclosure) included a variety of drainage and charity records, as well as inclosure records from non-official sources. HCP/7 (Drainage) similarly included non-Quarter sessions records. HCP/12 (Licensing Committee) was never used as the committee's records had already been placed in HCP/2. The Coroner's records were removed from HCP/13 and the Petty sessions records similarly removed from HCP/14. HCP/15 (pre-1885 misc.) included many County Council records from the 20th century. Various stray items ended up in bizarre places (eg. regulations concerning the Agricultural Rates Act, 1896 were placed in HCP/5 Highways and Bridges). The result was that finding a specific item in the list was often difficult.
Here we have re-arranged the records so that they are more in line with normal archival practice:
(see the detailed contents page which follows). At the same time we have included the comments and changes made by Philip Saunders, who went through all the Quarter Sessions records checking them against the list. The HCP numbers have been kept for the time being, although once a listing policy has been formally adopted more consistent (and shorter) reference numbers should be possible.
Quarter Sessions records are 'Public Records' defined under sched. 1. para. 4(1)d. of the 1958 Public Record Act. They are closed for thirty years from date of creation.
The original records survive here only from 1734 onwards, and even then not in any real quantity until 1815. Some 16th and 17th century records are held at the British Library.
The lack of earlier records has been blamed on a Guildhall fire about 1754 but at least some of the problems are due to the slapdash way in which Huntingdonshire's local government (and occasionally its record-keeping) has traditionally been administered. For many years Huntingdonshire's Clerks of the Peace did not even reside in the county. If there was ever one set of enrolled inclosure awards and maps (for instance) it was broken up over the years, with many copy awards and maps being added, so the provenance is often uncertain. Archives staff have occasionally compounded the problems by adding to the Quarter Sessions records from other collections. Nevertheless the records as a whole provide a valuable and irreplaceable source of information on life and government in Huntingdonshire during the nineteenth century.
Administration of justice
Unpublished finding aids:
The old handlist is still available for consultation; please ask a member of staff.
Administrative / biographical background:
The Courts of Quarter Sessions were the meetings of two or more Justices of the Peace to hear and determine criminal cases, to remit capital offences (or other serious felonies) to the next Assize Court, and to administer local government. The JPs met at least four times each year (hence "quarter sessions"). Huntingdonshire county Huntingdon borough (to 1836) and the Liberty of Peterborough all had separate Courts of Quarter Sessions.
Their work was increasingly overshadowed by an administrative burden, and in 1889 their administrative functions were transferred to Huntingdonshire County Council and the Soke of Peterborough County Council. They continued as judicial courts until 1964 when a new Commission of the Peace was issued for the new County of Huntingdon and Peterborough, creating a new Quarter Sessions Court. This court was in turn abolished on 1 January 1972 (under the 1971 Courts Act) and jurisdiction transferred to the Crown Courts.