COURTS IN NEWCASTLE.
MAYOR'S AND SHERIFF'S COURTS.
In the town and county of Newcastle upon Tyne, "there are, and from time beyond memory have been, two Courts of Record: the one held before the mayor,
whereof the mayor is judge, and wherein free burgesses only, or their widows, are
sued; the other held before the sheriff, whereof the sheriff is judge, and wherein all
persons except free burgesses and their widows, are sued. (fn. 1) Of both these courts the
recorder is the assistant judge. They both hold plea of any sum either above or
under 40 shillings in debt, case, trover, &c. as also in ejectment for messuages or
lands, lying within the liberties of the said town and county; and the plaintiffs and
defendants, wheresoever their residence be, are always styled in the plaints and pleadings, 'of the town and county of Newcastle upon Tyne;' and wherever the causes of
action arise, they are always laid 'within the jurisdiction of the court;' and are managed and carried on by the parties' attorneys, who are sworn and admitted of these
courts, and it is a part of the oath of the attorneys when they are admitted, 'that
they shall plead no foreign pleas.' And the executive officers of the said courts, are
a class of the eligible officers of the corporation, called serjeants at mace, whose badge
or ensign of office is a silver mace; and who are annually, with the other incorporate
officers, elected and sworn into office. A part of whose oath relates to the due execution and return of the process of the said courts, particularly summonses, attachments, and executions, in these words, viz.—' Also you shall make just return and
true satisfaction to all parties, of your executions according to the contents thereof,
without any delay of the parties' plaintiff either for favour, lucre, or hate; and you
shall truly present all summonses and attachments, that you shall make at the suit of
the parties at the next court after the office thereof done without any concealment.'" (fn. 2)
COURT OF CONSCIENCE.
The Court of Conscience, or Court of Requests, was erected by act of parliament
in the year 1689, and confirmed by statute of 27 George II. c. 16, s. 2. It is directed
by the mayor or senior alderman, six other aldermen, and seven common council
men, annually chosen for the purpose. Three of these commissioners, with the
mayor and one alderman, have power to hear and determine all matters of debts or
actions, upon the case upon assumpsits not amounting to the full value of 40s. "as
they shall find to stand with equity and good conscience," in a summary way, and with
or without adjournments. They can by their beadle levy debts or damages by them
awarded, by distress and sale of the creditor's goods. It extends to all persons, nonfreemen as well as freemen, residing within the liberties of the town; but not to any
debt for rent upon lease of lands, or any real contracts, or debt concerning any testament, matrimony, or ecclesiastical things, though they amount not to 40s. Its
charges are limited by act of parliament as follows:—"For every plaint 2d. for every
appearance 2d. for every order 3d. and for entering of the said order 3d. more; for
every precept or warrant to committ to prison 4d. for every search 2d. for every warrant for seizing and disposing of goods and chattells pursuant to this act 4d. for every
satisfaction acknowledged upon an order 3d. and that the beadle or other officer of
the said court for the time being shall take noe more than 2d. for warning every person, nor more than 4d. for serving every precept or warrant, any law, custome, or
usage to the contrary notwithstanding." This court, which had been held three times
a year, has, since 1825, been held every three months. About 4000 summonses are,
on an average, issued every year.
COURT OF ADMIRALTY.
Admiral jurisdiction was granted by King John, and confirmed by succeeding
princes, to the mayor and burgesses of Newcastle. Lord Howard, of Effingham, was
admiral of this port and the river Tyne from 1522 to 1605, when he resigned it to
the mayor and burgesses, with power to hold a court of admiralty, &c. Brand says,
"The oar that has been carried or placed before the mayor, as an ensign of authority
in this court of admiralty, and which, by the date it bears, evidently appears to have
been made in consequence of the above grant, is still preserved in the archives of
Newcastle upon Tyne. On one side are painted the royal arms, with 'A°. R. R.
Ja. 4.' On the other, those of the town, with 'A°. Dni. 1606.'" This court is held
before the mayor, at such times as he chooses to direct. His deputy, the waterbailiff, gives notice of all injuries done to the river and the breed of salmon, that
offenders may be punished according to law. In Grey's time it was held "every
Monday in the after-noon. This is a court of record for inrolling of deeds and
A COURT OF PYE-POWDER (fn. 3)
Is proclaimed at "the two faires of Lammas and Saint Luke. All the priviledges
and power that a court-leet can have, is granted to this court." It is for examining
and trying all suits brought for petty differences and offences committed contrary to
the proclamation issued at these fairs. This court at present is never formed.
THE QUARTER SESSIONS.
This court is held in virtue of the great charters of Elizabeth and James, by which
the mayor, recorder, and three or more aldermen, are invested with full power "to
take and arrest whatever murderers, felons, and other malefactors within the town
and county, there to be kept until by due process of law they be delivered." Also,
"to hold gaol deliveries for the town, and to erect a gallows within its liberties, to
hang felons, murderers, and other malefactors, according to the laws and customs of
COURT OF ASSISE.
England was, at a very early period, portioned into four divisions, and itinerant
justices were appointed to go the circuits in each division. These justices were either
prelates or considerable noblemen, and were vested with great power and authority,
in order to curb the oppressive barons, and to protect the inferior gentry and common
people in their property. They determined pleas of the crown and common pleas,
assessed tallages and aids, seized eschaets of the crown, and admitted men to make
conventions, fines, and oblatas in their several iters. The wise and politic Henry II.
was careful to give weight and consequence to these justices. (fn. 4) In Newcastle they
held their courts in the church of St. Nicholas or St. Andrew.
JUSTICES ITINERANT FOR NORTHUMBERLAND.
5th King Stephen, William Espec and Eustace Fitz-John.
1165 and 1166, Earl Geoffrey and Richard de Luci.
1169, William Basset and Alan de Nevil, Junior, Robert de Stutevill and Hugh de Morvill.
1170, Alan de Nevill and William Basset.
1175, Randulph de Glanvill, Robert de Pikenot, and Robert de Vals.
1176, Randulph de Glanvill, William Fitz-Ralph, William Basset, and Michael Belet.
1177, 1178, and 1179, Ranulph de Glanvill and William Basset and their companions.
1269, Gilbert de Preston and his companions occur.
1279, John de Vallibus was one of the justices upon the northern iter.
1292 and 1293, Hugh de Cressingham and his companions.
In 1400, the town of Newcastle upon Tyne was separated from Northumberland, and, being made a
county of itself, has ever since had its own sheriff and court of assize. During a long period after this, no
names of justices occur. In 1597, the assizes were adjourned on account of the plague.
1642, Sir Robert Heath occurs as being on the northern circuit.
1654, Richard Newdigate and Hugh Windham.
1655, William Steel, chief baron, and John Parker.
1656, John Parker and Erasmus Earl. (fn. 5)
1667, John Parker and Uniton Crouch.
1664, Thomas Twisden and Charles Turner.
1668, Christ. Turner and Richard Rainsford, Knts.
1669, The above and —Walker, serjeant-at-law.
1670, The above and Timothy Littleton, Knt.
1671 and 1672,William Wylde, Bart. and the above.
1673, William Wylde, Bart, and William Ellis, Knt.
1674 and 1675,Richard Rainsford and Timothy Littleton, Knts.
1676, Francis North, Knt. and Vere Bertie. (fn. 6)
1677, William Montague, lord chief baron, and Timothy Littleton.
1678, William Wylde and Vere Bertie.
1679, William Dolben and Thomas Raymond, Knts.
1680, William Dolben and Edward Atkins, Knts.
1681, William Dolben and William Gregory, Knts.
1682 and 1683,Thos. Jones and Thos. Street, Knts.
1684, Geo. Jeffries, Bart. and Richd. Holloway, Knt.
1685, Edward Atkins and Thomas Walcott, Knts.
1686, Robert Knight and John Powell, Knts.
1687, Richard Allibon and Thomas Powell, Knts.
1688, Robert Wright and Thomas Jenner, Knts.
1689, John Powell and Penton Ventris, Knts.
1690, William Dolben and John Powell, Knts.
1691, John Holt and John Turton, Knts.
1692, Robert Atkins and John Powell.
1693, Edward Nevill and John Powell, Knts.
1694, George Treby and John Turton.
1695, Edward Neville and John Turton, Knts.
1696 and 1697,Edw. Ward and John Turton, Knts.
1698, John Powell and Samuel Eyre, Knts.
1699, Edward Ward and John Powell.
1700, John Turton and John Blencowe, Knts.
1701, Edward Ward and John Turton.
1792, Thomas Trevor and Littleton Powis,
1703, Thomas Trevor and John Blencowe.
1704, Edward Ward and Littleton Powis.
1705, John Powell and John Blencowe, Knts.
1706, Edward Ward and Robert Tracy.
1707, John Blencowe and Thomas Bury.
1708, Robert Tracy and Thomas Bury.
1709, Littleton Powis, Knt. and Thomas Bury.
1710, John Powell, Knt. and Robert Price.
1711, Thomas Parker and Thomas Bury, Knts.
1712, Littleton Powis and Thomas Bury, Knts.
1713, Thomas Bury, Knt. and Robert Dormer, Esq.
1714, Robert Tracy, Esq. and Thomas Powis, Knt.
1715, Robert Price, Esq. and James Mountague, Knt.
1716, James Mountague, Knt. and — Hanbury.
1717, Robert Dormer, Esq. and John Fortescue Eland,
1718, 1719, and 1720,Sir James Mountague and Sir
1721, Mr. Justice Tracy and Mr. Baron Price.
1722, Lord Chief Justice King and Mr. Baron Gilbert.
1724, Sir Francis Page and Sir Alexander Denton.
1725, Robert Price and James Reynold, Esqrs.
1726, Sir Francis Page and Bernard Hall, Knt.
1727, Edmund Probin and Laurence Carter, Knts.
1728, John Cummyns, Knt. and Spencer Cowper, Esq.
1729, Francis Page and Bernard Hall, Knts.
1730, Francis Page and John Fortescue, Knts.
1731, Alexander Denton and Edmund Probyn, Knt.
1732, Francis Page and Sir William Thompson, Knts.
1733, Sir Robert Eyre and Thomas Reeve, Esq.
1734, Sir Francis Page and Thomas Reeve, Esq.
1735, Alexander Denton and Mr. Justice Lee.
1736, Mr. Justice Lee and Mr. Baron Fortescue.
1737, Mr. Baron Fortescue and Sir William Chapple.
1738, Wm. Fortescue, Esq. and Sir Wm. Chapple.
1739, Sir William Chapple and Mr. Baron Parker.
1740, Thomas Parker and James Reynolds, Esqs.
1741, Thomas Parker and Martin Wright, Esqs.
1742, Thomas Burnit and Samuel Urlin, Esqs.
1743, Thomas Dennison, Esq. and John Birch.
1744, Thomas Burnitt and Charles Clarke, Esqs.
1745, Edward Clive, Esq. and John Bird
1746, Sir Thomas Parker and Thomas Burnitt.
1747, John Birch and Sir Heneage Legge.
1748, Sir Edward Clive and Sir Heneage Legge.
1750, Sir Thomas Abney and Thomas Dennison, Esq.
1751, Edward Clive and Sydney Stafford Smyth, Esqs.
1752, and 1752,John Birch and Heneage Legge.
1753, Heneage Legge and — Eyre.
1754, Heneage Legge and Sydney Stafford Smyth.
1755, Sir Richard Adams and Henry Bathurst.
1756, Henry Bathurst and Sir John Eardley Wilmot.
1757, Henry Bathurst and William Noel.
1758, Lord Chief Justice Mansfield and Sydney Stafford Smyth.
1759, Henry Bathurst and William Noel.
1760 and 1761,Henry Bathurst and Sir Richd. Lloyd.
1762, Henry Bathurst and Sir Henry Gould.
1763, Sir Henry Gould and George Parrot, Esq.
1764, Henry Bathurst and Sir Joseph Yates.
1765, Sir Henry Gould and Sir Joseph Yates.
1766, Henry Bathurst and George Parrot, Esq.
1767, Sir Henry Gould and George Parrot, Esq.
1768, Sir Henry Gould and Sir Joseph Yates.
1769, Sir Henry Gould and George Parrot, Esq.
1770, Hon. George Parrot, and Sir Richard Aston.
1771 and 1772,Sir Hen. Gould and Hon. Edw. Willes.
1773 and 1774,Sir Hen. Gould and Sir and W. Blackstone.
1775 and 1776,Sir Hen. Gould and Sir W. H. Ashurst.
1777, Sir Henry Gould and Sir George Nares.
1778, Hon. Edward Willes and Sir Beaumont Hotham.
1779, Hon. Edward Willes and Sir Francis Buller.
1780, Lord Loughborough and Sir Beaumont Hotham.
1781, Sir George Nares and Hon. John Heath.
1782, Lord Chief Baron Skinner and Baron Eyre.
1783, Sir James Eyre and Hon. Francis Buller.
1786, Francis Buller and Mr. Justice Heath.
1787, Lord Loughborough and Judge Wilson.
1788, Mr. Justice Grose and Baron Thompson.
1789 and 1790,Sir J. Wilson and Hon. Baron Thompson.
1791, Sir Nash Grose and Hon. Baron Thompson.
1792, Lord Kenyon and Hon. Baron Thompson.
1793, Lord Chief Baron Macdonald and Hon. Baron
1794, 1795, and 1796,Sir Giles Rooke and Sir Soulden
1797, Hon. Baron Thompson and Sir Giles Rooke.
1798, Sir Giles Rooke and Sir Soulden Lawrence.
1799, Sir Soulden Lawrence and Sir Simon Le Blanc.
1800, Sir Allan Chambre and Hon. Robert Graham.
1801, Sir Allan Chambre and Lord Alvanley.
1802, Lord Ellenborough and Sir Allan Chambre.
1803, Sir Alex. Thompson and Sir Allan Chambre.
1804, Sir Allan Chambre and Sir Robert Graham.
1805, Sir Allan Chambre and Sir Thos. Manners Sutton.
1806, Sir Robt. Graham and Sir Thos. Manners Sutton.
1807, 1808, and 1809,Sir Allan Chambre and Sir
1810, Sir Allan Chambre and Sir Robert Graham.
1811, Sir Allan Chambre and Sir George Wood.
1812, Sir George Wood and Sir John Bayley.
1813, Sir Allan Chambre and Sir George Wood.
1814, Sir John Bayley and Mr. Serjeant Marshall.
1815, Sir John Bayley and Sir Richard Richards.
1816, Sir George Wood and Sir John Bayley.
1817, Lord Chief Baron Richards and Sir George Wood.
1818, Sir George Wood and Sir John Bayley.
1819 Jonathan Raine, Esq. in Lent. Sir George Wood and Sir John Bayley.
1820 Sir John Bayley. Sir John Bayley and Sir James A. Park.
1821 Sir John Bayley. Sir John Bayley and Sir George S. Horoyd.
1822 Sir John Bayley. Lord Chef Justice Abbott and Sir George Wood.
1823 Sir John Bayley. Sir John Bayley and Sir G. S Holroyd.
1824 Sir John Bayley. Sir John Bayley and Sir John Hullock.
1825 Sir John Bayley.
Sir John Bayley and Sir John Hullock.
1826 Sir John Bayley.
Sir James A. Park and Sir John Hullock.
At the Lent assizes in 1820, the grand jury of the town presented the late gaol of Newgate as being insufficient and out of repair. The best Report of the State of the old Prisons in Newcastle was made by
Archibald Reed, Esq. and alderman, on the 21st of December, 1818, and of which the following is a summary. It may be proper to add, that this active and worthy magistrate was accompanied in his visit by Mr.
James Archbold and Mr. John Dobson, architect.
Newgate Gaol, on the felons' side, contained four rooms, about 14 feet square each. The convicted felon,
the untried prisoner, the deserter, and prisoners for minor offences, were all intermingled. There was one
room for convicted and untried female prisoners. Six prisoners were in one room. Each prisoner allowed
5d. per day, coals, a chaff bed and tick, one double and one single blanket and a rug, and soap. They were
all under close confinement, there being no safe yard; and the prison being insecure, irons were necessarily
used. Tubs were the substitutes for water-closets. No clergyman attended the prisoners; but they were
visited by a surgeon when ill. On the debtors' side were six rooms for men, and one bed-chamber for women.
The male and female prisoners were not separated. They all had access to the common kitchen, and were
permitted to walk on the leads or roof of the prison. In 1813, there were 41 debtors confined at one time,
some of whom slept on bedding on the floor, and others were removed to the felons' side. The county allowance for debtors is 4d. per day. Alderman Reed adds, "I cannot conclude this report without doing justice
to Mr. Gee, the gaoler. My visit was quite unexpected; the wards and every part of the gaol were as clean
and neat as possible; every comfort which he could afford (compatible with the safety of the prisoners) was
allowed; and his arrangements did great credit to him."
The House of Correction contained one receiving room, 17 feet by 12, with two beds, in which thirty-five
prisoners had been confined at one time. There was one room, with one bed, for female night prisoners, in
which thirty had been confined in one night. There were seven private cells, mostly appropriated to unruly
and idle apprentices, or to unexamined prisoners; two rooms for convicted prisoners, and a dark cell for refractory prisoners. Prisoners allowed 3d. per day, besides coals, with straw and four horse-sheets for each
bed. No soap and towels allowed. The keeper said, "The smell in a morning from the receiving room is
shocking. I have had eight cases of fever lately. Teasing oakum the only employment. Divine service is
never performed. Have had in charge 1500 prisoners this year, and last year 1600." The report concludes,
"This prison was extremely clean, and does very great credit to Mr. Scott, the keeper." The writer is gratified to add, on good authority, that this is a well-merited eulogium, and that many of Mr. Scott's acts of
humanity are performed with a delicacy and feeling highly honourable to his character.
By an entry in the common council books, made in 1653, it appears that there had been an ancient custom,
which was at that time revived, for the gaoler to have a livery-cloak given him, and to attend the sheriff
twice on every Sunday to church. Brand found but very few of the names of gaolers in Newcastle. The
following are those that have been found:—
LIST OF GAOLERS.
|William Preston, September 21, 1653.
|Christopher Barker before 1718.
|Michael Dawson chosen October 13, 1718.
|Martin Mordue occurs in 1788.
|John Gale succeeded October 6, 1792.
|George Marshall chosen October 18, 1806.
|Robert Gee elected January 27, 1809.
|James Sopwith appointed March 29, 1827.
COURT OF COMMON COUNCIL.
This court consists of the mayor, ten aldermen, the sheriff, "and four and twenty
of the discreeter, honester burgesses," (fn. 7) abiding and dwelling within the town; and
who are "yearly elected in the accustomed place by the four and twenty electors of
the mayor and other eligible officers of the town." (fn. 8) The members of this court, or
the greater part of them, whereof the mayor and six aldermen must be seven, when
assembled, may make laws and demises, touching any hereditaments, being parcel of
the rights and property of the burgesses, and act for and in the name of the whole
body corporate and politic; provided they do not act contrary to the laws of England. (fn. 9)
The following are the present common council:—Messrs. Isaac Cookson, Dixon
Dixon, Thomas Cookson, John Cookson, George Shadforth, Job James Bulman,
Thomas Smith, jun. Ralph Naters, Thomas Logan, William Clayton, John Anderson, jun. Edward Johnson, Edward John Jackson, John Lionel Hood, John Anderson, William Laslie, Joseph Pollard, Brough Pow, George William Wilson, David
Cram, James Archbold, William Smith, Matthew Anderson, and Joseph Crawhall.
COURT OF GUILD.
This court is holden thrice a year, viz. on the second Monday after Michaelmas,
third after Christmas, and the second after Easter. It consists of the mayor and
burgesses at large, assembled together, every one of whom has an equal voice, the
mayor having the casting one. The principal business now done at this court is for
the apprentices and sons of freemen to petition for their freedom. They are called
by the style of the company to which their masters or fathers belonged; and this is
termed, calling their Guilds. Before a man is legally allowed to be a freeman of
Newcastle, he must, if he claim by servitude, have his name called aloud, in the open
court, three times: that is, once on three different guild-days: If he claims by patrimony, then one calling serves. The stewards of the respective companies are now
very particular in their attendance, to prevent any kind of irregularity or imposition.
On calling the name in court, if any freeman knows any impediment or irregularity,
a person's claim may be then annulled by the single voice of any burgess present;
and this is what is called, "Stopping his Guild." The common council, however,
claim a right of enquiry, and, as they see fit, either take off the stop, or allow it to
remain. If taken off, at the next guild the person is called a second time, the first
being reckoned one: but if the stop remain, the person claiming cannot obtain his
freedom. But whether such a power be really vested in the common council, either
by law or charter, has been lately questioned.
The constitution of Newcastle has, with considerable propriety, been compared to
that of the nation, consisting of king, lords, and commons. The difference is, that
the mayor acts not only as king in the common council, but also as speaker in the
court of guild; his powers in office exactly corresponding with the royal parliamentary one, in every respect, excepting having a positive negative.