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Quarter Session Minute Books

Bedford and Luton Archive Services

In the earliest surviving minute book of the quarter sessions in Bedfordshire dates from 1650 to 1660, and includes indictments, informations, subpoenas and licences. It is entirely written in Latin. Until 1798, quarter sessions minutes are unevenly kept. Some volumes are rough books or drafts.

The main series of Bedfordshire quarter sessions minute books begins at Michaelmas 1711 and the series runs to 1967. While minutes for the Bedford Quarter Sessions survive from 1771 to 1955. The type of information included in the minute books includes the appointments of High Constables and Petty constables, indictments, verdicts on cases and sentences, and notes of whether those called to do so appeared before the magistrates. The changes in sentencing and types of crime are notable over the years. However, crime is best studied using the Quarter Sessions Rolls where the depositions give more information than the notes included in the minute books.

From 1711 – 1798 the most frequent cases are assault and theft. There are also cases of vandalism, fraud, breach of licensing laws, poaching. Sentences include whipping, initially always in public, then in the House of Correction or Gaol.

From 1799 – 1820 references to crime in the minute books become less detailed, with terms such as misdemeanour and felony becoming commonplace. Assault continues at the same level and the amount of theft increases, perhaps reflecting the economic conditions.