England Examples of Quarter Sessions Cases Taxation, Theft, Trade Regulations (National Institute)

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The original content for this article was contributed by The National Institute for Genealogical Studies in June 2012. It is an excerpt from their course English: Court Records-Criminal, Civil and Ecclesiastical  by Dr. Penelope Christensen. The Institute offers over 200 comprehensive genealogy courses for a fee ($).


Records of the collection of taxes for many purposes were kept by the county clerk, and cases heard for those unwilling or unable to pay.

Frant, Sussex Magistrate Summons 1815 Film 1364155
Summons to Wm Francis Woodgate esqire of Tunbridge, Kent to
show cause why he refused to pay £7. 16s Poor Rate.


The cut-off point between petty and grand larceny was 1/- so many goods were valued at slightly under a shilling, say 10d so they could be dealt with in Quarter Sessions rather than be sent up to the Assizes. Barlow (2004 part 2) quotes a blatant case making the crime fit the sessions in 1782 in Hampshire where a total value of 10d was placed on 22 silver buttons, one black coarse gown, one pair of stays, one apron, a check shirt, two black silk handkerchiefs and 10 lbs of tallow!

Berkshire Quarter Sessions 1800 Film 0088146
John Palmer transported for 7 years for stealing 4 cheeses value 10d, property of Ann Hallard widow. [Perhaps not his first offence]

Warwickshire Quarter Sessions 1850 Film 0225170 There are nine pages of depositions regarding the loss of a duck!
Mary Jeffs on her oath saith: I am a singlewoman and live in the
parish of Brailes in the County of Warwick. I am a servant to Mr
John Warmington of that Parish farmer. I have been in his Service
about a year and a half. From about May last I have had the care
of Mr Warmington’s Ducks. It was my custom to fasten up all the
Poultry every night. We had four Ducks and a Drake. They were
all safe on Saturday morning last, and at night when I went to shut
them up one Duck was missing. Two were light coloured ones and
one of these was gone. The Duck produced by the Police Officer is
the one we lost. I know it by its feathers and from having reared it
and had the care of it every since.
X the mark of Mary Jeffs
Taken and sworn before me, H. Townsend.

Essex Quarter Sessions Indictment 1827 Film 0853352
It is ordered by this Court that the Bill of Indictment which has
been preferred and found at this present Session against William
Monk, William Dellar and Crane Harris for an Highway Robbery, together with the recognizance now taken in Court for the
prosecution of the same (or a transcript or certificate of such
recognizance) be transmitted by the Clerk of the Peace to the next
Assizes or Gaol Delivery to be holden for the said County in order
that the said William Monk, William Dellar and Crane Harris may then take their trial on such Bill of Indictment.

East Sussex Quarter Sessions 1842 Film 1657819 29 Jun 1842 Recognizances filed by Levi Jupp late of Horsham labourer and sureties, for poaching in the night time and not to offend again for one year.

Rochester, Kent 1742
A certificate authorizing payment of a £40 reward for the
apprehension of John Ransom [appropriate name!] convicted of
highway robbery in Smarden, Kent was issued by the sergeant-at-law
and magistrates at Rochester on 19 Mar 1742. This item is on
vellum, 8 x 13" manuscript and signed by Thomas Hussey, the sergeant-at-law and countersigned on the reverse by the three men
who apprehended Ransom. Offered for sale at auction (Titford).

Ashbourne Petty Sessions, Derbyshire 1863 A most interesting case is reported by Armstrong (1993). James Clifford of Shardlow gentleman was charged with removing, in 1804, a page from the Longford parish register containing baptism entries for 1724-1729. The depositions of four witnesses are long and detailed and give much family detail about various members of the community.

Bow Street Police Court Theft Case
Summary of newspaper report in The Times 5 Sep 1823
Page 3, issue 11969, col D

Two men, Darby and McCarthy were accused of plundering Lady Ann Dashwood of [silver] plate. The report details at length how McCarthy supplied Lady Dashwood with fruit through Darby, her butler. McCarthy wasn’t being paid on time and Darby gave him some plate to pawn to raise the money to pay his bill. Lady Dashwood had once given Darby permission to pawn some spoons, but the justices felt he had overstepped his authority and committed him to Newgate for trial.

Indictment For Larceny 1842
Borough of Faversham in Kent.
Film 1851039
To wit. The Jurors for our Sovereign Lady the Queen upon their
Oath present, that John Hopkins (plea Not Guilty) late of the
parish of Faversham within the Borough of Faversham labourer
on the 8th day of January
in thefifth Year of the Reign of our
Sovereign Lady Victoria, by the Grace of God Queen of the United
Kingdon of Great Britain and Ireland, at the parish aforesaid, in the borough
aforesaid was servant to one Joseph Kingsnorth and that
the said John Hopkins afterwards and whilst he was such servant
to the said Joseph Kingsnorth as aforesaid and
William Hopkins
(plea not guilty) late of Faversham aforesaid labourer, on the day
and year aforesaid at the parish aforesaid and within the borough
aforesaid [stole ]
three gallons of peas of the value of one shilling
of the goods and chattels of the said Joseph Kingsnorth master of
the said John Hopkins
then and there being found, feloniously did
steal, take and carry away, against the Peace of our said Lady the
Queen her Crown and Dignity.
Verdict: John Hopkins - Guilty. Sentence - to be imprisoned and
kept in solitary confinement at St. Augustine’s Canterbury for
seven days.

Verdict: Wm Hopkins - Guilty. Sentence - to be imprisoned and kept in solitary confinement at St. Augustine’s Canterbury for
seven days.

Occasionally quarter and borough sessions would pass a sentence of death, an example is shown below.

Chart: Calendar of Crimes and Sentences
Faversham Borough Sessions and Gaol Delivery 1824
Film 1851039

A Calendar containing the names, the crimes, and the sentences of every prisoner tried at the General Sessions of the Place and Gaol delivery holden in and for the town of Faversham in the county of Kent on Tuesday the 11th day of May 1824 distinguishing with respect to all prisoners capitally convicted such of them as may have been reprieved by the Court and stating the day on which execution is to be done upon those who have not been reprieved. [One wonders whether the names of the first three are real or placed as examples for the clerks]
Day on which execution is to be done upon those who have not been reprieved
Samuel Faulty


Peter Sly
John Scamp
15th May 1824 at Gallows Hole
Thomas Stedman alias Catt
Horse stealing
Not Guilty
Timothy Twyman
----- Keeper of the Gaol at Faversham in the County of Kent
John Harvey Chappendle

Lawrence Conroy
Assault with intent to murder
12 months imprisonment in Faversham gaol

Maidstone Quarter Sessions 1596/7 fiche 6025950
In January 1596/7 Helen Coppinger and Frances Mountford both of St. George, Southwark, Surrey were convicted of stealing 7s.4d in money from the house of Allan Lewes in Detling, Kent; and Elizabeth Parry of Strood stole clothes from Jane Style from the house of John Miller at Frindsbury. They were sentenced to death, however, there was a loophole for females who could manage to become pregnant before they came to court! Helen, Frances and Elizabeth were separately asked whether they knew any reason why they ought not to be put to death. They said they are pregnant and ask for the benefit of their increased wombs. A jury of matrons enquired whether they are pregnant or not and said that they are; therefore judgement is stayed.

Trade Regulation

Berkshire Quarter Sessions 1790 Film 0088144
Joseph Blagrove of Suttton Courtenay baker, for exercising the
trade of baker without having served an apprenticeship of 7 years

Kingston, Surrey Quarter Sessions 1756 Film 0993027
Copy of printed handbill from the town clerk of Shrewsbury.
Town of Shrewsbury
At the General Quarter Sessions of the Peace of our Sovereign
Lord the King, held at the Guildhall in and for the Town of
Shrewsbury and the Liberties thereof: On Friday the 30th Day of
April 1756 being the next General or Quarter Sessions held for the
said Town and Liberties after Easter-Day last.
[In margin] 112 lb to the C[wt = hundredweight]
By virtue of the Act of Parliament in that Case made, the Justices
of the Peace assembled at this Sessions, have assessed and rated
the Price of all Land Carriage of Goods whatsoever, (except
Money, Plate or Jewels) that shall be brought from London to this
Town, by any common Waggoner or Carrier, at the Rates and
Prices following, (viz.) L..s..d
For every Parcel not exceeding 12 lb Weight 0..1..0
And for every larger Parcel proportionately
By the Hundred (at 112 lb to the Hundred)
Between Lady-Day and the first of November 0..7..0
Between the first of November and Lady-Day 0..9..0
and no more.
And it is ordered by this Court, that these Rates be Printed and sent
to the several Serjeants at Mace, under-Officers and Constables,
within the said Town and Liberties, and affixed up in some publick
Places in the said Town and Liberties, to which all Persons may
resort for Inspection. And that the common Waggoners and
Carriers may not be ignorant of the Law, they are to take Notice,
that by the 3 and 4 William and Mary, and the 21 George II, no
common Waggoner or Carrier shall take for Carriage to or from
London above the Rates so assessed, on pain of forfeiting for every
Offence Five Pounds, to the Use of the Party grieved, to be levied
by a Warrant of two Justices of the Peace.
By the Court
Edwards, Town-Clerk.


Information in this Wiki page is excerpted from the online course English: Court Records-Criminal, Civil and Ecclesiastical offered by The National Institute for Genealogical Studies. To learn more about this course or other courses available from the Institute, see our website. We can be contacted at wiki@genealogicalstudies.com We welcome updates and additions to this Wiki page.