Middlesex County Records. Calendar of Sessions Books 1689-1709. Originally published by Middlesex County Record Society, London, 1905.

This free content was digitised by double rekeying. All rights reserved.


'Preface', Middlesex County Records. Calendar of Sessions Books 1689-1709, (London, 1905), pp. iii-xxvi. British History Online [accessed 21 June 2024].

. "Preface", in Middlesex County Records. Calendar of Sessions Books 1689-1709, (London, 1905) iii-xxvi. British History Online, accessed June 21, 2024,

. "Preface", Middlesex County Records. Calendar of Sessions Books 1689-1709, (London, 1905). iii-xxvi. British History Online. Web. 21 June 2024,


When the County of London was constituted by the Local Government Act, 1888, it was arranged by the Authorities of the County of Middlesex and the new County of London that the former should retain the Guildhall, Westminster, as its headquarters, while the Sessions House, Clerkenwell, where the County Records were then stored, was retained, for Quarter Sessional purposes, by the County of London.

It was only natural, owing to the upheaval of Local Government affairs brought about by the Act of 1888, that some time should elapse before the County Records were transferred from the Sessions House, Clerkenwell, to the new home of the Middlesex County Authority at Westminster, and it was not until the early part of the year 1894 that the removal of those records to the Guildhall, Westminster, was completed. Had it not been for the fact that extensive alterations were being carried out at the last named place, including the provision of specially-constructed muniment rooms for the reception of the records in question, the removal would have been completed at an earlier date.

About this time a dispute arose as to who was the lawful custodian of the documents, with the result that, in 1899, the Court of Queen's Bench decided that the Custos Rotulorum of Middlesex, and not the Custos Rotulorum of London, was the legal custodian of the records. (fn. 1)

The County Council of Middlesex had, in 1898, obtained special Parliamentary powers authorising the expenditure of the county funds on the work of repairing, binding, calendaring, and publishing the records; and it is a gratifying fact that, the question of the custody of the records having been determined, little time was lost in exercising the powers obtained. A Sub-Committee of the Standing Joint Committee of County Justices and members of the County Council (of which Sir Richard Nicholson is the Clerk) was appointed to deal with the whole question of the county records; and their repair and binding are being carried on under the able direction of Mr. Douglas Cockerell. A detailed account of what is being done by him appeared in the fifth volume of the "Home Counties' Magazine" at pp. 37–39.

This Sub-Committee above mentioned now consists of:—

Sir Ralph Littler, C.B., K.C., Chairman.

Montagu Sharpe, Esq., D.L.

J. W. Ford, Esq.

Henry Gervis, Esq., M.D.

A. S. Montgomrey, Esq.

Herbert Nield, Esq., and

William Regester, Esq.

Under the same direction I have commenced the work of calendaring the records on a system somewhat different to that followed by the late Mr. J. Cordy Jeaffreson, whose work (in four volumes) was issued a few years ago by the Middlesex County Record Society, and which has thrown such a valuable side-light on the history of London and the county generally.

My plan is to deal with one class of records at a time, instead of making selections, as did Mr. Jeaffreson, from various classes, of the most interesting items. None of his extracts come down so late as 1690, and so, in commencing my work, 1 decided to begin at that year. The class of documents I selected to deal with is known as the Sessions Books. I continued the calendar to these books—noting every entry, with the exception of lists of names, and I have indicated the positions of these lists in the different volumes—down to 1709, and this is the calendar now printed. Since completing it, and since it was determined to print it, I received directions from the Committee to continue the calendar back from 1690 to the commencement of the series in 1639, and forwards from 1709 to 1759. I have done these things, and I have quite recently discovered a record of the business at Sessions in a class known as Sessions Registers, which extends from 1607 to 1667, and which fills many gaps in the Sessions Books, between their commencement and the latter of the dates just mentioned. I am now dealing with these registers, and when I have done so we shall have in manuscript a fairly complete record of the Sessions Orders from 1607 to 1759.

I hope that the sale of the present volume will warrant the Committee in printing the earlier and later portions of my calendar. I ought, perhaps, here to explain that in the earlier part of it I have only very briefly referred to those entries which Mr. Jeaffreson has already noted at what appeared to me to be sufficient length, and I have, of course, given in each case a reference to the volume and page of his calendar.

With regard to the arrangement of the Sessions Books, the reader, on consulting the calendar, will observe that it is similar in the case of those which record the proceedings at the Sessions for Middlesex and in those which record the proceedings at the Sessions for Westminster. First come the writs, lists of Justices, and the jury panels; then memoranda as to recognizances and appearances, which, in the case of the Middlesex books, usually occupy between 20 and 30 pages. In the Westminster books the list is not so long, but it is more interesting, as it often gives the charge against the person indicted and his place of residence and occupation. As might be expected, some notable names occur in the lists, both for Middlesex and Westminster, as, for instance, that of Titus Oates, who in January, 1696, is described as of Westminster, and "clerk" (p. 143). After the lists come the orders, all of which are calendared. Following them are usually some notes of committals, sentences, and fines. Then come lists of persons in the New Prison and House of Correction, and then a list, arranged alphabetically, of persons indicted, and referring to the Sessions Rolls, and a similar list of persons entering into recognizances. In some of the later books the names are given of those who took the oath of allegiance. Quite at the end are rough memoranda of a very miscellaneous description, but sometimes of much interest; anything of an important nature has been indicated in the calendar.

At the date at which the present calendar opens the country as a whole was agitated by rumours of plots against the occupant of the English throne. The Roman Catholics were regarded with suspicion, and we find the Middlesex Magistrates enforcing, with considerable vigour, the Acts against persons of that religion. The search for fire-arms in the houses of prominent Romanists is referred to as early as June, 1690; arms, supposed to belong to Captain Pounds, a Roman Catholic, were seized at the house of Captain Samuel Ely, but the Magistrates finding themselves in error as to the owner, directed the return of the weapons (p. 14). Some years later, in July, 1695, we find the Earl of Cardigan, a reputed papist, allowed to keep certain fire-arms for the defence of his house (p. 136). The Magistrates were careful, by means of addresses and the like, to assure William III and Queen Mary of their zeal in enforcing every measure which tended to their security on the throne. In the autumn of 1690 the Court ordered that—owing to the illegal resort of papists to London and Westminster—all householders, innkeepers, and keepers of livery stables should, within 24 hours, deliver to some neighbouring Justice the name and ordinary place of abode of any lodger or sojourner with them, and of the owner of any horse remaining in their stables (p. 17). After this it was ordered that a list should be made of all persons in the county suspected as dangerous or disaffected to the Government, to the intent that they might be summoned to take the oath of allegiance (p. 37). A long list of suspected papists in Westminster, who refused so to do, appears under the date June, 1692 (pp. 76–79).

Again, in 1696, after the discovery of the Assassination Plot, the Justices, following the example of the House of Commons, entered into and signed an "Association" (pp. 146, 147), professing their allegiance to the King's throne and person; and the leading inhabitants of the county, on their recommendation, did the same (p. 148). The Privy Council had directed a return to be made of all French papists and suspected persons, with information as to whether they were naturalised or denizised. The Justices instructed the petty constables and headboroughs to go from house to house and collect information for this return (pp. 147 and 149). The oaths were to be tendered to such persons, and on the 30th of April the Privy Council wrote to the Lord Lieutenant requesting him to ascertain the names of those who refused, and to distinguish between such as were papists and such as were protestants (p. 152). In a subsequent letter the Council gave him directions as to the discharge or detention of persons in custody in connection with the same Plot, and, a year later, demanded an account of what had been done in these matters (p. 170).

In regard to Popish schools in the county the Bench was particularly watchful, and when, in 1698, it was informed "that a school for the educating of young women in the Popish religion in the nature of a nunnery" was kept in the house of Mrs. Beddingfield, in Hammersmith, "and that divers Popish priests are sheltered in and near Hammersmith," it was ordered that the high constable of Kensington Division "do make search in Mrs. Beddingfield's house, &c., and apprehend all such women as they find, and such persons as they suspect are Popish priests, and bring them before one of His Majesty's Principal Secretaries of State" (p. 192). At the same time, upon information being given that "many Popish priests have lately come into the kingdom and are very busy in exercising their functions, which may tend to great inconvenience to the public affairs," the Court directed that on the arrest of any such priest he was to be sent in the custody of a constable to one of the Secretaries of State for examination (ibid.).

As to protestants who differed from the Established Church, there is also a great deal in the calendar, and the strength of nonconformity in and around London, at the close of the seventeenth century and the beginning of the eighteenth, is illustrated in a variety of ways—one of them, the frequent licenses granted for holding conventicles. These were generally held in private houses, but we have reference, in 1706, to "Charles Nicholetts, a protestant dissenting minister of the Gospel, who designs to make use of the market house in Shadwell Market for the public worship of God in a separate congregation, beginning the then next Lord's Day, he being qualified thereto as the law directs" (p. 306). For preaching in an unlicensed conventicle, in 1692, the preacher was convicted (p. 100).

The erection of buildings especially constructed for the religious worship of dissenters had apparently not progressed to any extent, but we have reference to "the Aylesbury Chapel," in the parish of St. James', Clerkenwell (p. 294), and, in 1707, to a chapel then lately erected by Mr. William Baguley, in Great Queen's Street, in the parish of St. Giles'-in-the-Fields. The rector and churchwardens offered opposition to the erection of this building (p. 310). There is also a reference to a Quakers' meeting-house at Tottenham High Cross (p. 43); but, as a rule, the Quakers, like other nonconformists, appear to have met for religious service in private houses. Such meeting places are mentioned in Slaughter's Yard, Wapping; at Edgware, Mill Hill, and at Stoke Newington. Other nonconformist bodies to which reference is made are, Baptists, at Whitecross Alley, in St. Leonard's, Shoreditch, and at Edgware; Anabaptists, at "the Two Blue Balls," in Covent Garden, at Glasshouse Yard, St. Giles', Cripplegate, and Goodman's Fields, Whitechapel; Independents, in Baldwin's Gardens; and Presbyterians, at Meeting-house Alley, Wapping, and at Fulham. Bodies simply described as "Dissenting Protestants" met at "le New Way," in the parish of St. Margaret, Westminster, in Little Newport Street, Westminster, and Crown Court, Shoreditch, and at Hampstead, Enfield, Hackney, Uxbridge, Ealing, Edmonton, Stoke Newington, Harmondsworth, and Bushey Heath.

A considerable amount of the time of the County Bench was occupied in matters connected with provision for the poor. County pensions, of sums varying from £2 to £5 a year, were bestowed on needy seamen and soldiers who had been wounded in action, and were also granted to the ordinary poor, unable to relieve themselves by their own industry. Quite a number of historical events are brought to mind in the applications made for the former class of pensions: one applicant had fought on the "Bonadventure," in the "river of Londonderry," during the memorable siege; another had been wounded fighting against the French at Martinique; whilst others had been at the battle of Beachy Head, or in the expeditions against Dieppe and Brest. One petitioner, who had fought in many of the wars of Charles II, in the fervour of his claim gets a little out in his genealogy, and refers to that monarch as William III's "royal father." Though, as a rule, these pensions were granted only to ordinary seamen and soldiers, we have two instances of their being bestowed on naval lieutenants.

The ordinary poor in receipt of pensions seem to have been entitled to augment their incomes by begging within the bounds of their own parishes, but it is quite evident that they were not content with these narrow limits. In 1694 the Court was informed that great numbers of male and female county pensioners begged in parishes other than their own; it was therefore ordered by the Justices that the churchwardens and overseers of the different parishes should provide for their "pension" poor a distinctive badge, made of some durable metal, which was to be worn at the end of the left sleeve of the pensioner's "outmost garment." The pensions of those refusing to wear these badges were to be forthwith stopped, and not to be renewed until compliance had been made with the rule (p. 124). A curious case on this point arose in 1705: the overseers of St. Andrew's, Holborn, had stopped the pension of Mary Edwardes, allowed to her for the relief of her impotent child, because the said Mary did not wear the badge. The Court held that as the child, for whom the pension was allowed, duly wore the badge, the pension should be continued (p. 291).

With regard to the education of the poor, there was, of course, no organised effort on the part of the county. Whatever was done was the outcome of private charity; yet a curious light on the question is thrown by some of the entries now calendared. Students of Mr. Jeaffreson's Calendar will remember that under the Act 13 and 14 Charles II, a body, known as "the Governors of the Corporation of the Poor," had, in 1663 (Jeaffreson, vol. iii, pp. 331 and 357), erected a workhouse at Clerkenwell for ceitain London parishes, the theory being that the inmates (all save 100 impotent folk, who were to be therein housed and fed) should support themselves by their own labour. The thing proved a failure, and the building fell into decay before 1675. A portion of it was afterwards let, at a rental of £30 a year, to Sir Thomas Rowe, to be converted into a "College" for the education of poor infants (to be sent to it by the overseers of the different parishes) in the protestant religion (pp. 13 and 296, 297).

Sir Thomas Rowe died in 1696, and the following year we find that his scholars—or "inventory," as the order terms them—60 in number, had moved, under the care of one Isaac Adams, into what was doubtless considered the more salubrious air of the parish of Hornsey. But the compliment to their parish was not altogether appreciated by the careful overseers of Hornsey, who appealed to the Magistrates for some security that the children brought with Adams should not, in the future, become chargeable to them. The Court directed that Adams should furnish a list of all the children he had brought with him, and state the parish from which each child had come; and that he should, in the future, furnish to the overseers similar particulars in regard to any fresh arrivals. Adams was also to give a security to indemnify the parish of Hornsey for the charge of maintenance or provision. An interesting feature in this order is that it empowers the parish officers, from time to time, to inspect Adams' house and its inmates (p. 165).

The insane poor were supported in private houses by a specially raised rate, or they were confined in "Bedlam," or, in the case of Westminster, in the House of Correction, in Tothill Fields (pp. 21, 22).

The provision for the impotent poor in parochial almshouses seems to have been in the mind of the authorities of Ealing, for, in 1701, they petitioned the Magistrates for liberty to repair and use a building, situated "on a waste piece of ground belonging to the parish," that would accommodate eight poor people. They urged that by so doing they would save the parish £12 a year. Leave was thereupon given to raise, by rate, the £50 required for the repair of the building, the original use of which is not stated (p. 229). Two years later the churchwardens of Twickenham were authorised to build, on the Lower Common, at the cost of the parish, a fit and convenient dwelling-house for the use of its "impotent poor" (p. 265). Almshouses are mentioned in 1696, in the parish of St. Anne, Westminster, and in 1704 in that of St. Martin's-in-theFields, for widows dependent on parish relief.

A very large proportion of the entries in the calendar deals with the relieving and "passing" of pauper vagrants, and the question of actual legal settlement was a matter constantly before the Court in actions brought by one parish against another. The cost of "passing" vagrants was, of course, considerable. The vagrancy laws, which inflicted grievous whippings on the wandering poor of both sexes, and which, as we have seen by the earlier volumes of the Calendar of Middlesex Records were so vigorously enforced in the county, seem, during the period now dealt with, hardly to have been put in execution; though, as we shall presently notice, the lash was considered a salutary corrective for men or women who had been convicted of various offences. Indeed, it can have been no uncommon sight of the London streets to meet a cart, led solemnly along, behind which was tied a man or woman "stripped naked from the middle up," whose bare back the parish officer belaboured till, in the words of the sentence, it was "bloody."

The calendar is very full of references to apprentices. Indentures of apprenticehood were enrolled with the Clerk of the Peace, and a good many are entered in the Sessions Books. These documents often provide useful genealogical information, and also furnish quaint evidence as to what our ancestors considered needful for their children to learn at the school of apprenticeship. For instance, girls were apprenticed to learn the art or mystery of "keeping a linen-shop," of becoming "a child's coat maker," of "washing point and gauze," and of "housewifery"; and boys "the art of fencing."

Apprentices could not be released from their indentures without an order of the Court, and we constantly find the Magistrates occupied in dealing with applications from apprentices to be released from their masters or mistresses, and, occasionally, masters and mistresses praying to be freed from their apprentices. In both instances the complaints were sometimes trivial, but more often real ground for complaint evidently existed, and in these cases the Magistrates were not slow to execute judgment and to cancel the indentures. The charges brought by apprentices against their masters were chiefly neglect of teaching, neglect of creature comforts, immoderate correction, or other forms of cruelty, and overwork. We have the complaint of a boy apprenticed to learn the art of a surgeon who was compelled by his master to be a "tumbler, rope-dancer, and jack-pudding" (p. 140). Another, apprenticed to learn the art of a surgeon, was carried away to sea and made a cabin-boy. In one instance, indentures were cancelled because the master was a Jacobite; in another, because it was shown that the master's wife had several times induced the apprentice to attend mass in the chapel of the Portuguese Ambassador (p. 300); in another, in 1709, because the apprentice, who had been brought up as a papist, and was apprenticed to a master holding the same faith, conformed to the Anglican Church; he was thenceforward ill-used by his master, who had been very kind to him previously (p. 347). Some appealed for release of their indentures on the ground that their masters or mistresses were dead, or were prisoners for debt, and thus unable to perform their part of the contract. It was a common occurrence in the neighbourhood ot Shadwell for the master of a lad, apprenticed to the sea, to abscond. The liberties of Whitefriars and the Temple occasionally afforded sanctuary to defaulting masters (pp. 115, 141, and 230).

The charges brought by masters or mistresses against their apprentices were mainly of idleness or trivial dishonesty, though there were occasionally complaints of a more serious nature.

Other grounds on which apprenticeships were declared void were non-enrolment of the deed, or the fact that the apprentice's indentures had been entered into without the consent of his father or legal guardian, or that they were for a period of less than seven years.

The system of apprenticing pauper children, by the parishes to which they belonged, led to a good many disputes which came before the Magistrates for decision, and there are several instances of masters and mistresses refusing to accept such apprentices; sometimes the objections were allowed, but, oftener, they were dismissed as frivolous, and the unwilling master or mistress was provided with a parochial apprentice for seven years.

With regard to the punishments inflicted by the Court for the various offences which came before it there is not much to be said. We do not get any instances of the terrible penalty for standing mute which Mr. Jeaffreson's Calendars show had been inflicted by the Middlesex Bench so late as the reign of Charles II, but the pillory and whippings were chastisements inflicted on men and women with considerable frequency. The time for which persons were sentenced to stand upon the pillory was generally one hour, and this hour between 10 in the morning and noon. A paper, stating the culprit's offence, would be placed over his or her head, or affixed to his or her breast. Pillories stood at or near the following places:— The Maypole, in the Strand; Catherine Street, near Eagle Court, in St. Mary-le-Savoy; the New Exchange, in the Strand; the Fountain Tavern, in the same thoroughfare; Covent Garden; "Bow Street end"; Charing Cross; St. James's Street; New Palace Yard; Stanhope Street, Clare Market; Bloomsbury Market; Fuller's Rents or Gray's Inn gateway in Holborn ; at "the great gates" of Hick's Hall; and at Ratcliffe Cross, or the Sun Tavern in Ratcliffe Highway. In the rural parts of the county we have mention of pillories in New Brentford Market Place and at Twickenham.

Whipping-posts are mentioned in Holborn, where there were also stocks, and at Kensington, and Cow Cross. But whippings were, as already mentioned, more often inflicted at the cart's tail from some given point to another; the locality selected had, no doubt, some special applicability to the culprit's offence.

A somewhat remarkable punishment was inflicted by the Bench in 1704 on Elizabeth Staines, the wife of a coachman, who pleaded guilty of an assault on Mr. John Howard. The Court ordered her "to make a submissive and public acknowledgment of the said offence in the open market at Brentford, where she gave the abuse to the said Mr. Howard, and to ask his pardon there, which Mr. Howard is willing to accept in regard to the poverty of John Staines, the husband" (p. 275).

With regard to the condition of the prisons wholly in the possession of the county, or those to which county prisoners were committed, we learn a good deal from the present calendar. At Newgate the state of affairs was abominable, and in 1702 the debtors set forth, in a petition to the Bench, the miseries and ill-treatment they suffered (pp. 244 and 245). The report of the Magistrates appointed to enquire into the matter shows that the petitioners' story was correct, and a series of regulations were drawn up for the better government of the prison (pp. 247, 248). Had these been carried out, the sufferings of the prisoners would have been alleviated, but they were not. A second appeal was made to the Bench in 1707, in which it was shown that the previous order of the Court had not been observed (p. 317). This further petition was referred to certain Justices for report, and their report, when received, was laid before the Lord Mayor, Aldermen, and Sheriffs of London (p. 320), and this is the last we hear of the matter in the present volume.

One of the great abuses in Newgate seems to have been the extortion of "garnish" money, which if prisoners—were they male or female—could not, or would not, pay, led to stripping, beating, and confinement in a dungeon known as "Tangier."

The House of Correction at Clerkenwell was a building near the New Prison, erected at the cost of the county (pp. 2–3). The inmates of this house complained, in 1698, that, by reason of the small quantity of food allowed, two of their number had "been starved to death"; and they also complained of being detained as prisoners, after the expiry of their terms of imprisonment, for refusing to pay fees which could not be legally demanded. The matter was referred to certain Justices, who reported, giving instances of the detention as to which complaint was made, and stating that "when Captain Jones was keeper the prisoners had flesh on Mondays and Thursdays, and about a pennyworth of bread a day, and also meal pottage, water gruel, or pease pottage every day." This dietary was at first followed by the then keeper, but he had reduced the allowance of meat to one day a week, though he had lately—probably on knowledge of the enquiry—returned to the former allowance (p. 191). But, as at Newgate, so at the House of Correction, things drifted back when the keeper thought it safe to return to his evil ways. In 1709 the Justices had before them a complaint from the inmates of the House of Correction who had suffered greatly "during the late hard frost," and six of them had nearly died of starvation (p. 342). Their neighbours in the New Prison also complained, in the same year, of the exactions of the keeper (p. 345), who had not allowed prisoners to buy any food except through him, and who had extorted fees above those authorised by law (p. 347). He was dismissed and a new keeper appointed.

In 1705 we have reference to the fact that a prisoner in the Marshalsea had been almost starved to death, and had been so weakened by his confinement there that he was incapacitated from thereafter earning his own livelihood (p. 281).

It is probable that much of the evil in the administration of prisons arose from the fact that the keepers, in effect, "farmed'' these prisons of the county. In 1690 the keeper of the New Prison complained of the great diminution in his perquisites, and of his consequent inability to answer his rent, by reason of the numerous commitments to other prisons in the county, "proper only for the detention of debtors" (p. 4).

The question of licensing was one which occupied a considerable amount of the Justices' attention at the period covered by this volume of the calendar, and the difficulties in regard to it experienced by the Middlesex Justices at the time of William III and Queen Anne will doubtless be appreciated by their successors of the present day. Licenses—we are speaking, of course, of alehouse or tavern keepers' licenses—were, as a rule, suppressed (in two instances, only for a limited period) for ill-rule, for allowing "tippling" at unreasonable hours, or for permitting it on "the Lord's Day," during the hours of Divine service. Various devices were practised by the owners of such houses to defeat the operation of the law, and it was no uncommon occurrence for an individual whose license had been suppressed to obtain surreptitiously, or "by surprize," a renewal of that license from a Magistrate in some distant part of the county. Thomas Charlesworth, of Leman Street, Whitechapel, whose license had been suppressed and renewed under these circumstances, had the temerity to put over his sign this couplet:—

"Here I doe dwell in my own defence, Noe rogues nor knaves shall ever drive me hence."

The Justices, as a whole, naturally regarded the expression "rogues or knaves" as intended to apply to themselves, and ordered the inscription to be obliterated, and, if not done, the license was to be recalled (p. 340). This order shows a remarkable moderation on the part of the Bench, and a further illustration of the liberal spirit in which that body acted in regard to the suppression of licenses is furnished by the fact that in those cases where the Magistrates felt in duty bound to order the suppression of a license, such suppression was not to take effect till the alehouse-keeper had had sufficient time to draw off the stock of liquor he had laid in.

Some of the special reasons given for the suppression of licenses are interesting. Thus, in 1692, those of some dozen persons, who were the sheriff's bailiffs, were suppressed, when it was found that their abodes were "common spunging houses," in which they detained their prisoners several days contrary to law (p. 85). In 1703 the license of the King's Head, in Albemarle Street, was, on the vote of the majority of the Magistrates, suppressed, on the charge, primarily, that the owner had refused entertainment to a soldier billeted on him (p. 260).

The number of alehouses throughout the county was a matter of evident concern to the Justices, and we find that, in 1695, an application for a new license in Hoxton was refused on account of the great number of licensed houses already established there. The house in question had "never before been used as a victualling house, but always inhabited" by "citizens of good worth, or gentlemen" (p. 132).

We do not know how far the "music house" was equivalent to the modern music hall, but it was certainly, at the period of the calendar, combined, as a rule, with the alehouse, and evidently not regarded with much favour by the Justices. In 1693 the license of a victualler, who kept a disorderly "ale and music house" near Lamb's Conduit Fields, was ordered to be suppressed (p. 96). There is a note, under the date 1701, that the Mitre Music House is to be indicted (p. 235), and a little earlier in the same year the constables had been directed to be very diligent in the search for those who kept, and those who haunted, disorderly houses, "particularly music houses, which tend only to the debauching of persons frequenting them" (p. 226). Lastly, in April, 1702 (p. 241), comes the drastic order that no music houses be licensed!

The due observance of Sunday was also a subject in which the Bench took an evident interest. Stimulated by the Queen's letter on the subject, written in July, 1691, the Magistrates ordered that there be printed and affixed to the great gates of Hicks Hall, and to the doors of all churches and "other public places" in every parish, a special notice against "all prophanation of the Lord's Day, by people travelling, selling or exposing anything to sale by exercise of their ordinary callings thereon, or by using any other vain imployments or sports, and especially by tipling thereon, or on any part thereof, and neglecting the worship and service of God, and also against the odious and loathsome sin of drunkennesse, and against all houses of debauchery and evill fame" (p. 49).

Not all that was hoped of it, came of this proclamation—if we may term it so: "the rash and unadvised actings" of several persons, "pretending great zeal," had resulted in the issue of the illegal and irregular convictions of "a multitude of innocent persons" for exercising their ordinary calling on the Lord's Day, without their being even summoned, or afforded an opportunity of explanation, whereby it might have appeared whether what they had done were "works of charity or necessity." To remedy this, "and to the end so religious an intention may not miscarry," the Court, in January, 1692, declared that no conviction should be made before a warrant or summons from a Justice of the Peace had been served on an accused person, which summons would be delivered free to any person requiring the same; and further, for the better encouragement of parish officers in searching for and observing profanations of the Lord's Day, the Justices gave notice that, on request from any such officer to a Justice resident in his parish, such Justice would go with him "in person" and search the suspected house. Informers were promised encouragement, and every alehouse-keeper duly convicted was not only to forfeit 10s., but also to have his license suppressed for three years (pp. 64, 65). We do not hear again of the matter till February, 1698, when "victuallers, innholders, coffeesellers, vintners, brandy-sellers, &c.," were directed to forbear entertaining company on the Lord's Day, "excepting those persons allowed by law"; and "butchers, poulterers, fruiterers, barbers, and other persons" were forbidden to expose any of their goods for sale "on Sunday next or on any Sunday following." The King's proclamation against swearing and immorality was recited, special diligence being ordered in the search for offenders against it, "particularly on the Lord's Day" (p. 181).

In the following February we find a direction for putting into execution the orders made for the better observance of the Lord's Day (p. 195); and then, in the next year (1700), attention was drawn to the general observance of Sunday throughout the county. The Court held that churchwardens and other parish officers were very remiss in putting into execution the laws respecting profanation of the Lord's Day, and ordered all persons concerned to be more diligent in that respect. Attention was also called to idle persons who "go about in the footpaths and public streets . . . . with wheelbarrows, wherein they carry oranges, apples, nuts, and other wares, and expose them to sale, and carry and use dice to encourage passengers and others to play for such their goods, and other unlawful games." Further attention was directed to disorderly persons, both men and women, who wandered about "singing and publishing obscene ballads and other licentious books and pamphlets, drawing crowds of people, and which are the occasion of picking of pockets, affrays, and riots, disturbing the peace, and corrupting of youth." The summary arrest of all such persons was enjoined (p. 218).

After the accession of Queen Anne we find a special order for putting into force the laws "for the observance of the Lord's Day in accordance with her majesty's proclamation" (pp. 237 and 240).

Pressing for the army and navy was evidently being carried out with vigour during the years covered by the calendar, the wars in which both William III and Anne were engaged, necessitating an active replenishment of the depleted forces. In January, 1705, the Privy Council requested the Justices to assist in raising recruits (p. 279), and in the April following a certain number of Justices sat daily in St. Martin's Vestry to carry out the provisions of the Recruiting Act (p. 283). Again, at the close of that year, the Council recommended to the Justices the "vigorous execution" of the Act for raising recruits for the land forces and marines in order to enable the Government "early to enter upon action next spring" (p. 293). A similar application was made by the Council at the close of the following year (p. 307).

In the spring of 1708 a reward of 20s. was offered by the Government to any parish officer who should bring a person before the Magistrates to be enlisted; and the ranks of the army were also to be filled up by volunteers. Every person who voluntarily entered the service was to receive a gratuity of £5, and to have his discharge at the end of three years if he should desire it (p. 324).

In February, 1695, the Court directed the release of a person who had been forced by Captain Edward Taylor "to take 12 pence for enlisting as a soldier": it held that the recruit had been "oppressed," and that, not being qualified as a seaman, he ought not to be impressed as a soldier (p. 128). Again, in 1704, the Court prayed the release of the son of "a gentleman of above £500 a year," who had apparently been enlisted—partly, perhaps, as a joke—by an over-zealous lieutenant in the Welsh Fusiliers, with whom he had been drinking (p. 268).

Another recruiting ground for both services was the debtors' prison. An insolvent debtor, owing less than £100, might obtain his release on enlisting (p. 269). If his debt were over that amount his request to be discharged to the army or navy was refused (p. 277). A sheriff's officer, who had refused to release from prison a debtor willing to enter the service, was fined £10, but the fine was remitted on it being shown that the application had not been made in form (pp. 282 and 284). Not only debtors were allowed to terminate their imprisonment by enlistment; Robert Dale, who in 1696 was "convicted of a trespass and false imprisonment," was, after being pilloried, sentenced to a month's imprisonment in the New Prison, unless he should in the meantime "voluntarily list himself as a soldier" (p. 151).

The vexed question of billeting or quartering occupied a good deal of the Justices' attention. In January, 1690, they, in accordance with the Act of Parliament, settled the prices which soldiers should pay to the owners of inns, livery stables, and alehouses for their diet and the baiting of their horses; and the chief constables were thereupon ordered to furnish the Magistrates with the names of all those who were liable to quarter soldiers, with an exact account of the number, both horse and foot, which each house was capable of receiving. The Magistrates further ordered that such officers as were obliged to provide soldiers' quarters should, in the first place, assign such quarters to the houses most fit for their reception, in proportion with "other of less receipt, having a consideration of those persons who keep houses liable by the said Act to quarter soldiers who are poor and not able to provide beds for their accommodation" (p. 4).

In October, 1697, on the expected return of the Horse Guards and other troops from Flanders, who were to be accommodated in and about London, the Magistrates ordered the constables to make lists of suitable inns and livery stables (p. 175).

The actual charges allowed by the Magistrates to be made by innkeepers in respect of quarter, were settled in April, 1702, and were as follows:—For a commissioned officer of horse, under the degree of captain, for diet and small beer, 2/- a day; for an officer of dragoons, under the degree of captain, diet, small beer, and hay and straw for his horse, 1/- a day; for a commissioned officer on foot, under the degree of captain, for diet and small beer, 1/- a day; if the officer has a horse or horses, for each horse 6d. a day; for a light horseman's diet, small beer, and hay and straw for his horse, 1/- a day; for a dragoon's diet, small beer, and hay and straw for his horse, 9d. a day; for a foot soldier, diet and small beer, 4d. a day (p. 239).

But despite these arrangements, disputes as to matters connected with the quartering of soldiers sometimes occurred. A petition from the innkeepers of Westminster in regard to quartering the Earl of Oxford's regiment of horse was dismissed as groundless in 1694 (pp. 123, 124). Payment for quarters was, we know, often neglected, and, in 1694, £119 is mentioned as owing to various persons in Staines for quartering Captain Fletcher's troop of horse in Colonel Coy's regiment (p. 112). In 1695 a further claim of the inhabitants of that place was made for unpaid quarters (p. 127). When, in the spring of 1703, the foot guards were about to be quartered in various London parishes, Queen Anne especially directed that the officers should "take care that the soldiers behave themselves civilly, and duly pay their landlords." The Magistrates and their officers were to assist, in all ways, in providing quarters (p. 257).

In the matter of recruiting the needs of the navy were quite as urgent as those of the army. In 1691 the Court directed that the constables should make a list "of all mariners and seafaring men in their respective districts, together with their ages, places of abode, and whether they are at home or abroad." These lists were to be sent to the Commissioners of the Customs, for the more speedy and sufficient supply for the furnishing of their Majesties' fleet with able and sufficient seamen and mariners (p. 27). It is well known that the riverside taverns, and other riverside houses, formed hiding-places for seamen unwilling to serve in the navy, and how the merchants and traders were ready to lend their aid in sheltering mariners, whom they so greatly needed for the conduct of their trade with foreign ports. We are not surprised, therefore, to find that, in 1695, the Court detected that many beadles and headboroughs who kept alehouses, sheltered in such houses seamen liable to be pressed for the fleet, "when His Majesty requires them for his service" (p. 129). A year later, in February, 1696, the Council directed the Justices to order the constables "to take up for the fleet all seafaring men who abscond or cannot give a good account of themselves." As an encouragement, each constable was to receive an allowance of 10/- from the Navy Board for every absconding sailor placed on board any of the King's ships or tenders before the 10th of the following April (p. 147). Similar directions were issued in 1701 (p. 226).

In 1703 the Bench was directed to give orders for the "capture" of all "straggling seamen" (p. 259); and in 1709, on a complaint of the Earl of Sunderland, Secretary of State, the Clerk of the Peace informed the head constables of the county that several seamen impressed had been sent into the army instead of the other service (p. 352).

The salutary discipline of the navy was appreciated by the Justices, who in 1694 delivered a "pilfering boy," aged 14, then in prison at Clerkenwell, to some officer belonging to one of their Majesties' ships, "whereby he may be able to get an honest livelihood" (p. 117).

The value of many of the entries in the calendar, from a topographical point of view, needs, perhaps, a word in the Preface. The names of signs, and references to streets, new and already existing, abound. The spread of London, outside the limits of the City, north of the highway from Temple Bar to Westminster, and west of the Haymarket, had begun, and we find it illustrated in the orders to pave newly-made streets, as well as existing thoroughfares (which had only just ceased to be "country" roads), so far as buildings extended on either side of the way. The "village" of Kensington, too, by an eastward expansion, was creeping on to touch the western extension of London. East of the eastern limits of the City, building operations had been in progress for more than a century; but even there the growth of commerce and of the docks and quays on the Thames was populating the eastern villages and joining them with the Metropolis itself. As to the care and repair of London streets, their watch and ward, and their lighting, the calendar has also much to tell us. In 1691, after the first Act which dealt with the lighting of the London streets, the Court ordered that every householder whose house adjoined a road, or was in close proximity to it, should display a lighted lantern on the outside of his residence "as it shall grow dark," and keep the same alight till midnight (p. 27).

A few months later the Court was informed that several householders neglected this duty, and that the "patentees," (fn. 2) who set up the lamps by agreement with the householders, placed them too far apart (p. 50). Certain persons evidently refused either to hang out lights at their own expense or to pay their shares to the "partners" for keeping up the lights. The Court ordered the payment of penalties by defaulters, and also declared that all public passages and thoroughfares in and about the town, comprised within the bills of mortality, ought to be esteemed streets (p. 111).

We hear of the matter again as late as 1705, where the streets and lanes of Spitalfields had been lit partly with the convex lights and partly with other glass lamps. Great confusion had consequently arisen, and behind that confusion many of the inhabitants had sheltered themselves and avoided paying their penalties for not exhibiting lights, "sometimes pretending that they contribute to one kind and sometimes to the other kind." The matter was referred to certain Justices resident in the locality, who were to examine and report how the streets were lighted (p. 281).

With regard to watch and ward of the streets it is, from the entries in the calendar, rather difficult to decide whether or not the arrangements were at all adequate; but the perpetration of a robbery in any particular locality generally led to an order by the Bench for a stricter guard of the streets in that locality, both by day and night. A fruitful source of danger—which we find the Court active in combatting—was the practice of workmen leaving in the streets at night the ladders on which they had been working during the day.

There are, in the calendar, several interesting entries as to watch and ward; one goes into much detail in regard to the watchman's beat in Whitechapel (p. 252); another shows that the care of the Strand between Temple Bar and Salisbury House was committed to four "able and sufficient warders," who were to be placed "at convenient stands" as soon as the "candles" were lit (p. 27); whilst a third refers to a special guard of the road between Bow and Mile End for the better security of travellers from the attacks of highwaymen who lurked in and about Bearbinder Lane (p. 96). Watch houses are mentioned for several localities. These had occasionally been allowed to fall into decay by parochial neglect, and—as in the following case, in 1694—the aid of the county Bench was invoked: "Upon the petition of divers of the inhabitants of the liberty of East Smithfield, in the parish of St. Botolph Without Aldgate, showing that they, being destitute of a watch house for the said liberty, have been forced to make use of a public house, which produces many inconveniences, the watchmen being often overtaken in drink, and that the lord of the manor has granted a lease of a piece of ground at the upper end of the first street of East Smithfield, where a middle row of houses are rebuilding, near the place where the former watch house stood; it is ordered that the inhabitants be at liberty to erect a convenient watch house there" (p. 119).

In the matter of rights of way, the up-keep of bridges, the deviation of roads, and other matters of what we may term current importance, because they now often occupy the attention of the County Council, the calendar has a good deal to say. Of Chertsey Bridge we hear much; there was an interesting dispute as to the liability to repair Colnbrook Bridge in 1691 (p. 28), and we find the Justices, in 1707, so solicitous as to the care of Brentford Bridge that, during the summer months, they set up posts and chains at either end, in order that carts and carriages might be forced to use the ford, the bridge itself being reserved for foot passengers (p. 317).

The attitude of the Bench in regard to fairs is shown by several entries: "Greengoose" Fair, at Stratford-le-Bow and Bromley, caused an annoyance in consequence of the booths and sheds erected along the high road to Romford (p. 342) ; "Rag Fair" is referred to, in an order made in 1700, as a riotous and unlawful assembly in Rosemary Lane, Whitechapel. "for the buying and selling of old goods, wearing apparel, and other things, greatly suspected to be stolen" (p. 211); Hendon Fair, held at "Burrows Green "in 1697, brought together "a concourse of disorderly persons" (p. 170); and May Fair—which Pennant, writing in 1805, could himself remember as a gathering at which there was "every enticement to low pleasure" —was certainly productive of a good deal of trouble, though its theatrical features, on which Pennant dwells, are not particularly mentioned. If they existed at the period of the calendar we can well understand the Bench's objection to the fair, for the attitude of that body towards the drama was certainly hostile. In the case of Hampstead, whose growing fame as a health resort had led to the establishment of a theatre, the Middlesex Magistrates took singularly drastic measures: they directed the petty constables and headboroughs of the town to apprehend the players that they might be duly punished as rogues, vagabonds, and sturdy beggars—that is to say, stripped naked from the middle upwards and beaten on their backs till they were bloody (p. 346).

Lotteries and gaming houses were viewed by the Bench much in the light of theatres, and we find throughout the calendar a persistent endeavour to check what the Magistrates evidently regarded as a danger to public morals. Some interesting details are given of the measures taken, in February, 1698, with regard to "an unlawful assembly, called the Redoubt, after the Venetian manner, kept at Exeter Change in the Strand, and carried on by persons unknown, who, by printed tickets, give notice of games that are not lawful and tend very much to encourage all manner of vice and debauchery." Those who frequented it went masked and disguised (p. 181). What exactly was done in the matter we do not learn, but the Court ordered the high constables of Westminster and Holborn, "with all the petty constables," to meet on a certain day at Exeter Change, to preserve the peace and arrest the managers (ibid.). A note informs us that the "Redoubt" was duly suppressed, and that its suppression cost the county 25s., which was expended at the Fountain Tavern. One item in the account (which, by the way, adds up to 25s. 5d.) is to the "drawer" (p. 182). Was this a "tip" to him who drew the ale, or was it a wisely-bestowed inducement to an official of the lottery to supply useful information?

Amongst the entries of a miscellaneous character may be noted the petition of the Justices, in 1691, that the number of paid members of the Bench might be increased (p. 37); and a curious request made by one Peter Joyce, in 1695, for exemption from serving a parochial office to which he had presumably been recently elected. The entry reads as follows:—"Petition of Joseph Joyce, esquire, of Stepney Parish, praying to be discharged from serving as overseer of the poor of Mile End New Town, for the following reasons:—He has been employed in the Island of Nevis for ten or twelve years as King's Counsel and Justice of the Peace, and has held highest rank in military affairs; he has lived in Mile End Hamlet about three years, and has now a family of whites and blacks in the said island of one hundred and ten persons, and that he is here for the despatch of his affairs in England, and is suddenly returning to Nevis. Order that the petitioner be discharged" (p. 133).

There are many other points of interest in the calendar to which I should have liked to draw attention, but I fear making this Preface of inordinate length. I sincerely hope that—as I said at the outset— the student of London life and manners in the past will show his appreciation of the material made available for him by the Standing Joint Committee of the County Justices and County Council, and so warrant that body in printing the remainder of the calendar which I have compiled to the Sessions Books. I trust also that, in conclusion, I may be permitted to tender my warm thanks to all members of the Committee—especially to Sir Ralph Littler, C.B., K.C. (the Chairman), Mr. Montagu Sharpe, D.L., and Mr. E. S. W. Hart, of the Clerk of the Peace Office—for their constant help and advice. My thanks are also due to Miss Constance Toulmin for her assistance in classifying the very varied material in the calendar for the purpose of the Preface; and I am sure all who consult the index will appreciate the skill and patience exhibited by Miss M. Dorothy Brakspear in compiling it.


21, Old Buildings, Lincoln's Inn, W.C.

December 31st, 1904.


  • 1. In this action, which was tried before Mr. Justice Bingham, the Duke of Westminster (as Custos Rotulorum of the County of London), was plaintiff, and the Duke of Bedford (as Custos Rotulorum of Middlesex), defendant.
  • 2. The proprietors of the Convex lamp lights, who had letters patent for their invention. Cal. State Papers, Domestic, Will. & Mary, 1691–2, p. 386.