Ref NoQ/R
TitleDerbyshire Quarter Sessions Court: Enrolment, registration and deposit
Date1683-1922
DescriptionComprising 12 discrete groups of records:
Q/RA Licensed/registered tradesmen, 1746-1827: victuallers (alehouse and innkeepers), badgers, drovers and swa(i)lers, slaughterhouses and wool winders
Q/RD Militia records (registration), 1762-1880
Q/RE Parliamentary elections, 1768-1918, including poll books, land tax assessments and electoral registers
Q/RG Poor rate returns, 1801-1817
Q/RI Enclosure maps and awards, 18th-19th cent
Q/RJ Jurors: Lists of men eligible for jury service, 1702-1922
Q/RK Corn rents and tithe payments
Q/RM Assorted Registration records, 1795-1849 (gamekeepers, hairpowder duty, boats and barges, crop returns)
Q/RP Deposited Plans, 1729-1963, particularly relating to turnpike roads, canals and railways
Q/RR Religion and State Security, 1683-1854
Q/RS Charities, Societies, Printing Presses, 1799-1875, including Friendly Societies and Benefit Building Societies, Freemasons' lodges, and Savings Banks
Q/RT Turnpike Accounts, 1822-1876
Q/RV Vagrant Passes and Settlement Examinations, 1711-1809

Administrative HistoryThe most varied group of Quarter Sessions records are those which the government at various times enacted should be enrolled, registered or deposited with the Clerk of the Peace or which resulted from the obligation on individuals to register or subscribe to oaths and institutions to seek registration.

Few had any connection with the court’s judicial or administrative functions – the lists of those qualified to serve as jurors at the sessions and assizes, registers of licensed victuallers (inn and alehouse keepers) and registers of badgers, drovers and swailers (itinerant tradesmen) are the chief exceptions. Comparatively few of the original lists of jurors returned by the constables survive but the “freeholders books” (not in fact an accurate term) compiled from them and existing in almost unbroken sequence from 1775 to 1875 are a useful source of information on occupations and trades in an area.

The control of itinerant tradesmen dates back to the beginning of Elizabeth’s reign – fear of rogues and vagabonds was a recurrent theme of 16th and 17th century legislation – and returns of badgers, drovers and swailers can be found in the sessions bundles. It is likely that the registers of 1746-1772 were compiled from such returns. They provide local historians with considerable information on travel and movement within the county. Other trades or tradesmen registered at Quarter Sessions are slaughterhouse keepers (an attempt to reduce cattle and horse theft) for 1787-1823 and boats and barges under an Act of 1795. The register resulting from the Act is undated, but gives types of vessel, their burthen and the master’s name.

The earliest records to be enrolled with the Clerk of the Peace under an Act of Parliament were deeds of bargain and sale under a Statute of 1535, although the earliest enrolment to survive is dated 1583. The object of the Act was to prevent secret land transactions but few of the tens of thousands of conveyances which must have taken place between 1583 and 1831 when the last enrolment was made were registered. Far more important are the later series of documents deposited for public information, the plans and awards relating to Parliamentary enclosure between 1730 and 1872 and the plans and books of reference for canals, railways, turnpike roads and water, gas and electricity undertakings in the 18th and 19th centuries.

Less well-known are the series of documents which came into existence for reasons of state security. Roman Catholics in particular, but also Protestant dissenters from the Church of England, were regarded as a threat to church and state and in times of danger and insecurity measures were taken against them. This can be seen in the 17th century session papers which contain the petty constables’ presentments of persons not attending church. By the Test Act of 1673, every person holding civil or military office was required to receive the sacrament of the Lord’s Supper according to the use of the Church of England and to deliver a certificate into court to this effect. As a result, there exists a long series of sacrament certificates beginning in 1674 and continuing until the repeal of the Test Act in 1828. Office holders had also, under the same Act, to make a declaration against transubstantiation, a measure aimed against Roman Catholics, and these exist for 1673-1828. Further legislation brought into being other records of a similar nature, principally registers of oaths of allegiance, abjuration and supremacy 1702-1837, originating in fear of the doctrine held by some that rulers excommunicated by the Pope might be deposed or murdered by their subjects.

The Jacobite Rebellion of 1715 led to the passing of an Act in the same year requiring papists to register their names and property with the Clerk of the Peace. The resultant register takes the form of copied wills and title deeds and was maintained from 1717 to 1778. Relaxation of religious control likewise resulted in the creation of new series of Quarter Sessions records: both the Toleration Act of 1688 (which benefited Protestant dissenters) and the Acts of 1778 and 1829, principally for the relief of Roman Catholics. Registration of Protestant dissenters’ meetings houses and Roman Catholic chapels followed these Acts and documentation of them is to be found in QS as late as 1854.

The French Revolution and the Napoleonic Wars frightened the government of the time as much as Roman Catholicism had earlier governments, and the period was one of repression of political dissent. Friendly Societies had to register with Quarter Sessions from 1793 and the Unlawful Societies Act of 1799 led (slightly indirectly) to the registration of freemasons’ lodges – they were exempt from the provision of the Act if their members’ were certified annually. Records of such certification survive from 1799 to 1915 but this is misleading as in fact there are no records for most of the years between those dates. The same Act also instituted control over printers to prevent the printing of irreligious, treasonable and seditious papers by certain societies. The resulting register and papers filed with QS cover the dates 1799 to 1879 (but there are few for the later years). The exigencies of war also led to the return of names of persons to serve in the navy and army.

One of the most used series of QS records arose out of government concern with the number of disputes at county elections – it was declared by an Act of 1780 that no person could claim a vote unless assessed to the land tax. From that year until 1832 duplicate copies of land tax assessments were deposited with the Clerk of the Peace. From 1832, as a result of the Representation of the People Act, lists of voters were prepared and sent to the Clerk of the Peace to be preserved by him. Printed electoral registers from 1832 are another very well used QS series (see Electoral Registers guide for link to catalogue).

These are by no means the only registration records, there are also rules of Savings Banks, deposited under an Act of 1817 (ref: Q/RS/4), gamekeepers appointments between 1789 and 1849 (ref: Q/RM/1) and, strangest of all under an Act of 1795, persons using hairpowder were required to take our a certificate on payment of a stamp duty and the commissioners of taxes had to send lists of the persons concerned to Quarter Sessions. There are such lists 1795-1797 containing hundreds of names including those of women (see Q/RM/2).

The use of the court as a place of deposit and registration declined in the 19th century and its administrative functions were largely transferred to the newly-created County Council in 1889. It once again became chiefly concerned with the keeping of the peace, its original function.
TermElections
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