Catalogue description Records of County Courts

Details of AK
Reference: AK
Title: Records of County Courts

Records of individual county courts were formerly in Public Record Office series AK 1 to AK 64, but were transferred to appropriate local repositories in England and Wales in 1988 under s4(1) of the Public Records Act 1958.

Date: 1848-1969
Legal status: Public Record(s)
Language: English
Physical description: 64 series
Access conditions: No records held at The National Archives in this departmental code
Immediate source of acquisition:

from 1972 Lord Chancellor's Department

Administrative / biographical background:

The present-day county court has succeeded to the name of the Norman county court, which exercised jurisdiction, both civil and criminal, throughout the shire following the Conquest and which had itself originated in the Anglo-Saxon shire moot. But the similarities of title are misleading for the modern county courts, established under the County Courts Act 1846, are exclusively civil courts and their jurisdiction does not correspond to county boundaries. They were created following a report submitted to the Home Office in 1833 by the common law commissioners on the subject of small debts which, at that time, were dealt with by a variety of courts, ranging from special royal courts and ancient county courts to specialised courts of request.

Within specified financial limits county courts deal with actions in respect of debt recovery, breach of contract, road accident and similar claims. Under the Stannaries Court (Abolition) Act 1896 such of the county courts as the Lord Chancellor might direct were empowered to exercise the jurisdiction of that court. County courts also exercise jurisdiction in property possession cases and in certain Admiralty causes, leasehold actions, bankruptcy proceedings, company winding-up and child adoption cases. Until the National Insurance (Industrial Injuries) Act 1946 the county court also dealt with cases under the former Workmen's Compensation Acts but, since 1947, claims of this kind have been handled by special national insurance tribunals. For a short time they were responsible for hearing appeals against rating decisions of local valuation courts under the Local Government Act 1948 and against determinations of the Central Land Board in respect of development charges, but their jurisdiction in these matters passed to the Lands Tribunal following the Lands Tribunal Act 1949. From 1968 jurisdiction generally, in undefended divorce actions, was transferred from the High Court to certain county courts. In 1990 jurisdiction to hear patents and design cases was conferred on Edmonton County Court.

Since 1973 county courts have operated an informal arbitration scheme in respect of claims for small sums of money. At first, jurisdiction was limited to claims in respect of sums not exceeding £75 but by 1977 the maximum amount had risen to £350. To service the administrative supervision of the county courts, initially the responsibility of the Home Office and from 1867 of the Lord Chancellor, a central department of the Treasury was established in 1860; in 1922 the work of this department was passed to the Lord Chancellor's Office to be undertaken by the County Court Branch.

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