Off The Record

Quarter Sessions: Committees

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The following source list was originally available only on paper in one of the West Yorkshire Archive Service offices. It may have been compiled many years ago and could be out of date. It was designed to act as a signpost to records of interest on a particular historical subject, but may relate only to one West Yorkshire district, or be an incomplete list of sources available. Please feel free to add or update with any additional information.


The Quarter Sessions delegated business to the committees on grounds of convenience and statutory obligation. Few of the committees have complete series of records which survive to the present day, in fact no records have been found of the Highways Committee established in 1878.


A committee of visiting justices was created to superintend any asylum established by the quarter sessions. The records for Wakefield asylum were deposited as part of the asylum collection (ref. C85). As the minutes of the Wakefield Asylum committee were found amongst the records of the asylum, this suggests the committee met in the institution. No records of the visiting justices for the other two asylums provided by the West Riding Magistrates (Wadsley and Menston) have been found.


The visiting justices were appointed under the provisions of the Gaol Act 1823 but no minutes survive pre 1834. The visiting justices made annual reports to the quarter sessions for the extensive manufacturing activities carried out by the prisoners.


A Finance Committee was appointed annually from 1832 but no minutes survive pre 1877.


This committee was appointed in April 1843 under the provisions of an Act of the previous year which authorised quarter sessions to provide lock-up houses for temporary confinement before commital and to appoint a superintending constable for each. Plans of the lock-ups and court houses can be found in the West Riding Surveyor records (ref. QD3/537-540).


Private asylums were to be inspected by a committee of visiting justices under an Act of 1832. There are minute books for the visitors to asylums at Painthorpe House, Crigglestone; Mount Stead, Otley; The Grange, Rotherham; Rook Nest, Stanley; and Field Head, Stanley. Other records can be found in the Court sessions (ref. QS13), Clerk of the Peace (ref. QD1/386-389) and miscellaneous plans (QD1/680-700).


Under the Militia Act 1854 quarter sessions were to provide storehouses for the arms and equipment of militia. The minutes of this committee do not survive after 1869. For further records relating to militia depots see the West Riding Solicitor (ref. QD4/145-150).


This committee was appointed in Aug 1856 following the enactment of the County and Borough Police Act of that year which obliged quarter sessions to establish a county constabulary. There are also minutes of the clothing and equipment sub-committee from 1883. For other records see Appointment of Chief Constable (ref. QD1/628), County Constabulary (ref. QD2/140-150), Police Committee (ref. QD4/151) and records of the West Riding Constabulary (ref. WYP1).


The committee, known before 1884 as the periodical payment reformatory committee, was appointed in April 1858 to arrange for the maintenance of juvenile offenders (in accordance of an Act of 1857). The only minute book to survive covers the period 1886-1889, but itemised accounts exist from 1871. For other records see Clerk of the Peace (ref. QD1/390-413).


The 'cattle plague' committee was established in January 1866 in consequence of an order of the Privy council in December 1865. When the epidemic ceased the committee was disbanded, but in 1869 an executive committee was created under new legislation. For other records see Clerk of the Peace (ref. QD1/414-416) and West Riding Treasurer Cattle Plague (ref. QD2/151).


An Act of 1852 authorised the quarter sessions to appoint a committee to prepare a 'basis or standard for fair and equal county rates' by harmonising the valuations made by overseers of the poor. The minute book was continued in use by the West Riding County Council, amongst the records of which it can now be found.


The Licensing Act of 1872 made it necessary for the quarter sessions to create a standing committee, the county licensing committee, to confirm licenses for the sale of alcohol in areas outside boroughs with their own commissions for the peace (for further information see Licensing: Alehouses). Up to 1887 the West Riding was divided into northern and southern divisions, the records of which only survive for the northern division. The provisions of the 1872 Act were amended in an Act of 1904 which introduced compensation provisions when licenses were not renewed. The committee was retitled the West Riding County Confirming and Compensation Committee from November 1961. For other records see Clerk of the Peace (ref. QD1/417-441), West Riding Treasurer's Compensation Accounts (QD2/185) and Confirming and Compensation Authorities such as the WRCC and Wakefield County Borough collections.


This committee was appointed in January 1880 to investigate the condition of the records of the quarter sessions with 'a view to their safe custody, and their being classified and rendered more accessible by the public'. No minutes survive pre 1882, and only four meetings are minuted between 1882 and 1884.


Although it was established in April 1890 no minutes exist for this committee before 1904. For other records see Clerk of the Peace Finance and General Purposes Committee (ref. QD1/442-447).


This committee was formed in 1952 under the terms of the Justices of the Peace Act 1949 to make administrative arrangements for the courts, including the formation of petty session divisions, the appointment of staff and the provision of instructional courses for Magistrates. The committee had finance and general purpose sub-committees as well as some area sub-committees (Doncaster, Harrogate, Huddersfield, Skipton and Wakefield). For other records see Clerk of the Peace (ref. QD1/448-459).

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