Before the formation of Derbyshire County Council in 1889, many of the things that we now regard as local authority functions were the preserve of the County Quarter Sessions. That’s why, from the very moment of its creation, the new authority already had such a wealth of historic quarter sessions records. It also benefited from work that had been kicked off in 1872 by the appointment of a Quarter Sessions Committee charged with “inspecting and arranging the records of the county”. For more about these early efforts to understand and organise Derbyshire’s archives, have a look at “Three Centuries of Derbyshire Annals” by John Charles Cox (1843-1919). There is a copy in our search room.
The Quarter Sessions had a broad and changing range of responsibilities and used a lot of very formal language to record what was going on. The format and language can be a little off-putting for first-time users (or even second- or third-time users, to be frank) and I think that explains why Quarter Sessions records remain relatively under-used.
To help people hack a pathway through the forest of words, names and places, we have transcripts and indexes that you can use. We can’t take any credit for their existence, except in the few instances (such as the amazing Prisoners Database) where they have been produced by our staff. They are the work of people who have devoted their energies and expertise into making the records easier to use.
The point of this blog post is to let you know that we have been adding these indexes and transcripts to our online catalogue. You can follow this link to the indexes/transcripts.
You can use them to find out if someone you are tracking through history was
…employed on a barge in the 1790s (Q/RM/3/1)
…an apprentice in a cotton mill in 1841 (Q/AG)
…enrolled in the Navy or Army in 1795 or 1797 (Q/AN) or an officer in the Derbyshire Rifle Volunteers (Q/AD/31)
…the subject of an inquest after their death (Q/AF/8)
…legally classified as a “lunatic” in the early 19th century (Q/AL/13)
…the proprietor of a business that had its scales tested for accuracy in 1797 (Q/AM/1), or who was convicted of weights and measures offences in 1798 or 1825 (Q/SO)
…considered suitable for jury service in 1775 (Q/RJ)
…apprehended as a “vagrant” or subjected to a settlement examination to work out whether they were legally entitled to remain in a parish they had moved to (Q/RV), or a removal order to send them back again (Q/SB/7)
…a Roman Catholic from 1693-1767 (Q/SB)
…ordered to pay for the upkeep of illegitimate offspring between 1682 and 1800 (Q/SO)
…tried by the Local Magistrates between 1792 and 1830 (A/SO) or the Assizes Court between 1834 and 1853 (Q/SP) – although this index has really been superseded by the Prisoners Database which I mentioned above.