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Identity Statement

Reference code(s): GB 0074 MR
Held at: London Metropolitan Archives
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Date(s): 1552-1963
Level of description: Collection
Extent: 408.1 linear metres
Name of creator(s): Middlesex Quarter Sessions of the Peace


Administrative/Biographical history:

The court of Quarter Sessions was the place in which the Justices of the Peace exercised their judicial and administrative functions for the county, and generated a variety of records from that role. This class includes records deposited, filed (enrolled) or registered 'by statute' with the Clerk of the Peace, to be kept with the sessions records, and be available for inspection. These were records presented to the justices in a session, and certified before them, but which were not part of the normal sessions work, although sometimes it is hard to make the distinction. Indeed, statutes ordering the creation of these records often stipulated that returns or registers should be 'filed on the rolls of the Sessions of the Peace" or "be deposited with the Clerk of the Peace to be registered and kept with the records of Quarter Sessions"; which means in practice that many records which were created outside the normal sessions work are found on the sessions rolls (see MJ/SR), in the sessions books (see MJ/SB) or in the sessions papers (see MJ/SP), as well as in their own series.

These are records reflecting the political and social concerns of the times; the development of transport and travel; and the nineteenth century utility schemes for gas, water and railways; the control of law and order and social structures through such measures as the prevention of treasonable meetings and literature, secular and religious, the registration of foreigners in the capital, knowledge of those able to serve in the local militia in times of internal and external trouble and the limiting of those eligible for jury service or to vote in elections as determined by the value of the property they held. All aspects of life were regulated from slaughterhouses and hospitals to the price of corn in markets, and building practices. The overriding fear of government from the seventeenth century to early nineteenth century was the threat perceived to be posed by non-conformists - Roman Catholic or Protestant - anyone considering public office had to show that their loyalty was greater to the state than to their faith by taking a variety of oaths or producing certificates confirming their allegiance to the established church.

The Custos Rotulorum (Keeper of the Rolls) was responsible for the care of the county records. Appointed (since the fourteenth century) in the Commission of the Peace (see MJP/C), he was a leading justice, unpaid and holding the post for life; and from the seventeenth century usually also holding the office of Lord Lieutenant of the county. His Deputy was the Clerk of the Peace who was in practice the actual keeper of the records, and who drew up, registered and oversaw the storage of the records.


Scope and content/abstract:

Records of the Middlesex Quarter Sessions comprising documents registered with the Clerk of the Peace, 1552-1963. The series MR/A is concerned with the registration of foreigners; MR/B contains 5 series covering the work of building surveyors in London; MR/CF and MR/CT are the certificates issued to tax commissioners and prosecutors for exemption from parish duties; MR/E are agreements signed by volunteers wanting to work in the plantations; MR/F are returns of those eligible to serve on juries; MR/H is concerned with the repair of highways; MR/L contains 7 series concerned with the licensing of certain establishments or trades; MR/LV concerns licensed victuallers; MR/ML are returns of those able to serve in the local militia; MR/P contains returns of eligible voters, poll books and election papers; MR/PEO is also concerned with parliamentary elections and consists of overseers returns; MR/PER consists of two series of electoral registers, one for parliamentary boroughs, the other for parliamentary divisions; MR/R contains the records produced from the control and recording of all non-conformists; MR/S contains 5 series concerned with the licensing of friendly or other societies, and savings banks; MR/T are returns taken for taxation purposes; MR/U are records of public undertakings - transport, parish and utility schemes and improvements; and MR/W contains two series of returns of corn prices and carriage rates. Many series also contain uncatalogued material or are completely uncatalogued.

Access & Use

Language/scripts of material:

System of arrangement:

The material is arranged in 21 classes:
Notification of foreign aliens (MR/A) 1790-1810
Building surveyors' records (MR/B) 1764-1846
Exemption certificates: prosecutors (MR/CF) 1718-1831
Exemption certificates: tax commissioners (MR/CT) 1807-1870
Enclosure (MR/DE)
Plantation agreements (MR/E) 1683-1684
Jury lists (MR/F) 1696-1887
Highways (MR/H) 1822-1838
Licensing (MR/L) 1632-1963
Licensed victuallers (MR/LV) 1552-1878
Militia records (MR/ML) 1722-1918
Oaths of office (MR/O)
Parliamentary elections (MR/P) 1768-1846
Parliamentary elections: overseers' returns of electors (MR/PEO) 1847-1886
Parliamentary elections: electoral registers (MR/PER) 1883-1965
Land Tax (MR/PLT) 1767-1832
Records of Roman Catholics and other non-conformists (MR/R) 1603-1889
Societies and banks: rules and licensing (MR/S) 1703-1890
Taxation (MR/T) 1664-1808
Utility schemes and improvements (MR/U) 1773-1889
Prices charged (MR/W) 1727-1853.

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:

Deposited in multiple accessions between 1957 and 2004.

Allied Materials

Related material:

For other records of the Middlesex Quarter Sessions see MA (County Administration); MC (Clerk of the Peace); MF (County Treasurer); MJP (Justices of the Peace); MJ ( Court in Session); 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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