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Identity Statement

Reference code(s): GB 0074 MS
Held at: London Metropolitan Archives
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Date(s): 1853-1914
Level of description: Collection
Extent: 0.5 linear metres
Name of creator(s): County Surveyor for Middlesex


Administrative/Biographical history:

The origins of the Justices of the Peace lie in the temporary appointments of 'conservators' or 'keepers' of the peace made at various times of unrest between the late twelfth century and the fourteenth century. In 1361 the 'Custodis Pacis' were merged with the Justices of Labourers, and given the title Justices of the Peace and a commission (see MJP).

The Commission (of the Peace) gave them the power to try offences in their courts of Quarter Sessions, appointed them to conserve the peace within a stated area, and to enquire on the oaths of "good and lawfull men" into "all manner of poisonings, enchantments, forestallings, disturbances, abuses of weights and measures" and many other things, and to "chastise and punish" anyone who had offended against laws made in order to keep the peace. During the sixteenth century the work of the Quarter Sessions and the justices was extended to include administrative functions for the counties. These were wide ranging and included maintenance of structures such as bridges, gaols and asylums; regulating weights, measures, prices and wages, and, probably one of their biggest tasks, enforcing the Poor Law.

The dependence of the justices on officials like the sheriff, the constables, and the Clerk of the Peace to help them carry out their functions (both judicial and administrative) cannot be underestimated. As their workload grew, particularly during the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, more help was needed and there was an increase in the number of officers appointed for specific tasks, and committees for specific purposes were set up.

The County Surveyor, sometimes known as the Bridgemaster, was appointed to oversee the maintenance of those roads and bridges which were the county's responsibility. He was a salaried official but the post was not always filled. Esther Moir in her study of the Justices of the Peace (1969, p118) believes that it was only with great reluctance that the Justices admitted "the necessity of a permanent and professional skilled architect or engineer in the place of their old habit" of giving such jobs to local workmen as they came up. The first County Surveyor appointed for Middlesex was Thomas Rogers (c1773-1802), followed by William Wickings (1805-1815), Robert Sibley (c1820-1829) and William Moseley (1829-1846). Frederick Hyde Pownall was appointed in 1847 and continued as surveyor following the creation of the Middlesex County Council in 1888, until 1898, and thereafter as consulting architect and surveyor until 1907. Following Pownall, four more county surveyors were appointed for Middlesex until the abolition of the county in 1965 - Henry Wakelam (1898-1920), Alfred Dryland (1920-1932), William Morgan (1932-1949), and Henry Stuart Andrew (1949-1965).


Scope and content/abstract:

Records of the Middlesex County Surveyor, 1853-1914. The records in this series relate mainly to the period when Frederick Hyde Pownall was County Surveyor for Middlesex. They cover two of his major responsibilities - the upkeep and repair of bridges (MS/B and MS/BC); and the inspection of plans concerned with proposed Acts of Parliament for local undertakings (MS/PU).

Access & Use

Language/scripts of material:

System of arrangement:

The material is arranged in three series -
MS/B/001 - 024: Bridge Maintenance (1853-1898);
MS/BC/001: Bridge Maintence Accounts (1880-1898);
MS/PU/001 - 031: Parliamentary Undertakings (1880-1914).

Conditions governing access:

These records are open to public inspection although records containing personal information may be subject to closure periods.

Conditions governing reproduction:

Copyright to these records rests with the Corporation of London.

Finding aids:

Please see online catalogues at:

Archival Information

Archival history:

Immediate source of acquisition:

Records were originally deposited with Middlesex County Record Office.

Allied Materials

Related material:

For further records relating to Middlesex Sessions see M&WA (administration); MA (administration); MC (Clerk of the Peace); MF (County Treasurer); MJ (Court in Session), MJP (Justices of the Peace); MR (Enrollment, registration and deposit); MSJ (Petty sessions and summons) and MXS (Sessions of the Peace post 1889).

For other records relating to bridges and bridge maintenance in Middlesex, see the records of Middlesex County Council (reference MCC), especially the Engineering department (MCC/ES).

Publication note:

The original Guide to the Middlesex Sessions Records 1549-1889, E.D. Mercer, 1965 (LMA library ref 60.32 GRE), remains a good thorough introduction to the records, although it does omit and confuse some classes of records, and the descriptions and language are occasionally difficult to follow.

Many county record offices have produced guides to their own collections of Quarter Sessions records, and these are useful summaries of the types of record and sessions personnel that researchers will come across. Of particular note are the ones for West Yorkshire Guide to the Quarter Sessions Records of the West Riding of Yorkshire 1637-1971, B.J. Barber, 1984 (LMA library ref: 60.32 WES); and Leicestershire Quarter Sessions Records in the Leicestershire Record Office, G. Jones, 1985 (LMA library ref: 60.32 LEI); and the general County Records, F.G. Emmison and I. Gray, 1973 (Historical Association, LMA libary ref: 60.32 EMM)). Quarter Sessions Records for Family Historians (Federation of Family History Societies), Jeremy Gibson, 1992 (LMA library ref: 60.32 GIB), lists the existing Quarter Sessions records by county.

A good basic introduction to the processes of the law can be found in Crime and the Courts in England 1660-1800, John Beattie, 1986 (LMA library ref: 21.5 BEA)

Justices of the Peace, Esther Moir, 1969 (LMA library ref: 21.6 MOI) The Justices of the Peace in England, 1558-1640, J.H. Gleason, 1969 (LMA library ref: 21.6 GLE) Justices of the Peace, 1361-1848, B. Osborne, 1960 (LMA library ref: 21.6 OSB)

Description Notes

Archivist's note:

Rules or conventions:
Compiled in compliance with General International Standard Archival Description, ISAD(G), second edition, 2000; National Council on Archives Rules for the Construction of Personal, Place and Corporate Names, 1997.

Date(s) of descriptions:
November 2009 to February 2010

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