Ref NoQ/S
TitleDerbyshire Quarter Sessions Court in Session
Date1558-1971
DescriptionComprising 7 discrete groups of records:
Q/SB Sessions bundles, 1633-1971, including "Liber Pacis" 1558-1870; precepts, (sheriff's writs), 1559-19th cent; jury panels, 16th cent-1882; highway and footpath closures and diversions, 1773-1971
Q/SC Court in session: poor rate valuations and assessments, 1729-1836
Q/SD Records relating to tithe, particularly corn rents, 1801-1958
Q/SM Minutes, 1711-1888 and Recognisance books, 1740-1851
Q/SO Quarter Sessions Order Books and associated documents, 1682-1971
Q/SP Quarter Sessions: Calendars of Prisoners, 1729-1971
Q/SS Coroners' inquests, 1877-1890


Records of business that today would be regarded as administrative is also to be found in the session bundles. In part, this is because some administrative business was dealt with in a judicial form. For instance, an out-of repair highway would be “presented” and the parish responsible indicted by the grand jury just as a petty criminal would be indicted to answer for their crime. The justices became responsible for ensuring that parishes carried out their duties with respect to the maintenance of roads under 16th century legislation and large numbers of presentments of highways and footpaths out of repair have survived. To this duty was added, under a statute of 1773, the responsibility for ordering the diversion and stopping up of highways where a more convenient route was possible. As a result of this, there came into existence a long series of documents beginning that year, relating to changes in the county’s road system (see also Q/AH). They include plans, consents of landowners, certificates of road-worthiness of new stretches of road and orders for closure and diversion, records which appear to have been preserved in the sessions bundles.
Administrative HistoryThe formal record of the court was the series of order books (ref: Q/SO/1) which survive from 1682 and continue for nearly three hundred years to 1971. The books contain the justices’ decisions (orders) on all the matters brought before them, both criminal and administrative. The minute books from which they were probably compiled also survive from 1704 to 1888, together which volumes of minutes and indictments 1712-1867 and recognisance books 1740-1851 (ref: Q/SM/1-3).

A large part of the justices’ work probably taking up more time than their strictly judicial work and reflected in the order books and sessions bundles (see Q/SB), arose from duties imposed on the justices from the 16th and 17th poor and vagrancy laws as it was to the justices that the poor appealed for relief when the overseers of the poor were disinclined to grant them any money and the justices who would order payment of relief if they felt this justified. When poor people became chargeable (in need of help) in a parish which did not acknowledge responsibility for them, the justices examined them and decided where their legal place of settlement was and ordered their removal to that place. The order books are full of such orders and hundred of the signed removal orders survive amongst the sessions papers.

The justices also had wide powers in relation to bastardy, which would almost always have resulted in the mother and child becoming chargeable. The justices could examine the mother (or mother-to-be) to obtain the putative father’s name and on the child’s birth and survival order him to pay maintenance. Again, there are hundred of such cases in the order books, and you can search the cases by name in the catalogue for the period 1682-1786 (search the catalogue for Reference Q/SO/* and enter the name in the AnyText field).
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