The Courtroom - Northleach
Northleach Petty Sessional Court
Established by order of the Quarter Sessions, Michaelmas 1836. The Court met in Northleach until 1859 when it moved into the house of correction. Thomas Fullijames, the County Surveyor, was responsible for the alterations and additions. His plans dated 1857-9 survive in the Records Office.
The Court Room took the place of the Committee Room, where visiting magistrates had met to discuss grievances with prisoners. The adjoining room, previously part of the Keepers private suite of rooms, was turned into a robbing and retiring room.
The magistrate’s bench and docks, and the panelling round the room are as they were in the 1850’s.There was also a semi-circular table in front of the bench where the clerk sat to record proceedings. Benches were provided for the public.
The Court met at least twice a month, and sometimes four or five times if there were several cases to be heard. The room continued in use until 1974 when the Court moved to Sow-on-the-Wold. It still meets as the Court for the Northleach Petty Sessional Division.
The business of the court
Any aggrieved party could bring a case to Court, providing he could afford to pay the costs, but it was usually the local officials – the police constable, guardians of the Northleach Union, or gamekeepers,who acted as informants.
The majority of cases were for offenders against the highway laws, the game laws, and theft. Thomas Basson, the policeman stationed at Northleach in the 1880’s, prosecuted at least 10 people a year for obstructing the highway, riding without reins, and allowing animals to stray onto the road. One man, Anthony Lathe, even set up camp on the highway one night.
Poaching was common, as was petty thieving of food and fuel. Any growing vegetables, particularly watercresses, were a target. In 1882 John and Albert Marles tried to steal some live chickens and George Leary some bacon from a butcher’s shop.
Other convictions included failure to vaccinate a child against smallpox, not sending him to school, and wrongly taking poor relief. Fines were the usual penalty. In 1885 the sums varied from2/6d for riding on shafts to£1.0s.0d for game trespass. Several days’ hard labour was the alternative.
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