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Identity Statement

Reference code(s): GB 0074 MF
Held at: London Metropolitan Archives
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Date(s): 1737-1900
Level of description: Collection
Extent: 18.9 linear metres
Name of creator(s): Middlesex Quarter Sessions of the Peace


Administrative/Biographical history:

From 1361 a group of men existed who were known as Justices of the Peace, and who were given the power to try offences in their court of Quarter Sessions. 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 to 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 (judicial and administrative) cannot be underestimated. As their workload grew, particularly during the Eighteenth and Nineteenth Centuriesore help was needed, and there was an increase in the number of officers (such as the County Treasurer) appointed for specific tasks, and committees for specific purposes were set up.

By the beginning of the Nineteenth Century it was clear that the quarter sessions structure was unable to cope with the administrative demands on it, and it lost a lot of functions to bodies set up specifically to deal with particular areas. By the end of the century, when the Local Government Act of 1889 passed which established county councils, the sessions had lost all their administrative functions. The first treasurers appointed by Middlesex were only appointed on a temporary basis - to look after funds for specific purposes (for maimed soldiers' funds, the repair of a bridge, or building a house of correction), as and when rates were levied for that purpose. The first surviving record of such an appointment appears in the sessions register for April 1608 where the names of several treasurers for different funds are entered (see MJ/SB/R) - although some treasurers held several funds at the same time. In 1726 Sir Daniel Dolin was made treasurer of all funds and was sometimes referred to as the General Treasurer of the county.

In 1731 John Higgs was formally appointed General Treasurer to receive sums raised by any public rates. He was to be paid an annual salary of twenty five pounds and was required to give security to three Justices. He was also required to keep an account book which was to be audited annually and then kept with the county records by the Clerk of the Peace. The County Rate Act of 1739 stipulated that in future only one, general, rate was to be levied, and that it should be paid to the treasurer appointed by quarter sessions. Under the 1739 Act the City and Liberty of Westminster was not given a separate rate and the Middlesex County Treasurer was to pay any sums of money approved by the Westminster quarter sessions. The range of the Treasurer's work can be seen by looking at the scope of his accounts in this collection. Accounts were audited regularly every quarter by a committee of justices appointed for that purpose, the first occasion being September 1740. Their report, including an extract of both Middlesex and Westminster income and expenditure accounts were usually recorded in the Orders of Court books (see MJ/OC). After audit they were signed as approved by the court of sessions. In 1822 a local Act of Parliament was passed to regulate more closely the Middlesex Treasurer, as a result of the loss of some county funds while G B Mainwaring was in the post (1804-1822), following the failure of the Mainwaring Bank in 1814.


Scope and content/abstract:

Records of the County Treasurer for the Middlesex Quarter Sessions, 1737-1900. No proper county accounts have survived for Middlesex before 1739, although the series MF which includes them up to 1900 does have record of transactions back to 1737; MF/L are accounts of the reclamation of subsistence paid to families of men serving in the Middlesex militia from outside the county (1779 - 1861); MF/T are records of annuities (or tontines) sold to raise a loan to build a new house of correction (1790-1888); MF/V are accounts concerned with the removal and subsistence of vagrants (1740-1864); MF/A covers the maintenance of lunatics and asylums (1828-1889); and MF/X are watch repairs accounts (1838).

Access & Use

Language/scripts of material:

System of arrangement:

The material is arranged in six classes -
MF: General Accounts;
MF/L: Militia Family Relief;
MF/T: Tontines;
MF/V: Vagrants' Removal Expenses;
MF/A: Lunatic Asylums;
MF/X: Watch Repairer's Accounts.

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:

The records passed to the Middlesex County Council, and thence to the Archives.

Allied Materials

Related material:

For other records of the Middlesex Quarter Sessions see MA (County Administration); MC (Clerk of the Peace); MJ (Court in Session); MJP (Justices of the Peace); MR (Enrolment, Registration and Deposit); MSJ (Petty Sessions and Summary jurisdiction) and MXS (Sessions post 1889).

Publication note:


The original Guide to the Middlesex Sessions Records 1549 - 1889, E.D. Mercer, 1965 (LMA library ref: 60.32GRE), 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, 1987 (Historical Association) (LMA library ref: 60.32 EMM).

Quarter Sessions Records for Family Historians (Federation of Family History Societies), Jeremy Gibson, 1985 (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).

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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