All Human Life: the North Riding Quarter Sessions Records

WhereGreat Broughton Village HallType of EventIllustrated Talk
WhenMonday 19th June 2023 at 7.30pmTutorDan Sudron

The lecture was delivered by Dan Sudron, an archivist at the North Yorkshire County Record Office.  The work of the Record Office is to “collect, preserve and make accessible historic and current records of significance for the study of North Yorkshire and its people and hold them in trust for the use of present and future generations”.  The archives are from the 12th century and hold millions of records.

The lecture commenced with a broad sweep of the work of the Record Office and its collections and then moved to more particular elements to demonstrate the breadth of the work by Quarter Sessions.  Quarter Sessions had both criminal and civil authority.  They were the predecessors of modern criminal courts and our local authorities.  From the records of these activities the emphasis of the evening related to ways in which we might understand the characters of the people contained therein.  The range included administrative records, criminal jurisdiction, police, various registrations and the register of deeds.  The Register of Deeds, set up in 1736, is of particular interest being one of only four counties which had it.  The four were North, West and East Ridings of Yorkshire, and Middlesex.

After a survey of the above, the talk concentrated on the records of a particular case in 1873 involving a young woman, an eleven year old girl and the theft of a threepenny (old money) loaf of bread.

The records included not only the offence and the immediate task of deciding guilt and punishment but also looking at the circumstances in which the two offenders had found themselves.  The sentences were serious, even harsh, but those involved in the case took care in arriving at their decisions. 

At the end of the talk questions were invited.  The audience, which was substantial, had been closely engaged with the presentation and asked a good range of questions.  Tables, on which there was a lot of documentary material laid out, had been set up and drew close attention and more questions. 

It was a good informative and entertaining evening’s lecture.

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