Petty Sessions Records

The 75th accession received in 1962 comprised records of the Miskin Lower Petty Sessional Division. The court of Quarter Sessions – which was featured on the blog earlier this week – met only four times a year, but over the centuries had to deal with an ever-increasing load of legal and administrative business. The Justices began holding extra sessions, meeting in small numbers in their own localities. In time these meetings became known as Petty Sessions.

During the 19th century the system of Petty Sessions became increasingly formalised, with magistrates holding their sessions more regularly. Laws were enacted requiring formal records to be kept of the proceedings. The court was held before two or more magistrates but without a jury and dealt with minor cases such as drunkenness, poaching and vagrancy. More serious crimes would have been referred to one of the higher courts, either the Quarter Sessions or Great Sessions (replaced by the Assize Courts in 1830).

Petty Sessions divisions were based on the groups of parishes known as Hundreds. Divisions within Glamorgan were Caerphilly Higher, sitting at Pontlottyn, Gelligaer and Merthyr; Caerphilly Lower, sitting at Caerphilly and Bargoed; Cowbridge; Dinas Powis, sitting at Barry and Penarth; Kibbor, sitting at Whitchurch; Miskin Higher, sitting at Aberdare and Mountain Ash; Miskin Lower, sitting at Llantrisant, Pontypridd, Porth and Ystrad, and Newcastle and Ogmore, sitting at Bridgend and Maesteg.

By royal charter Cardiff and Merthyr Tydfil were permitted to hold Petty Sessions for the borough separately from those of the county. This right was exercised only sporadically until the 19th century.

The Courtroom was often located in a police station and so the courts were also known as police courts. As well as dealing with minor cases and committing cases to higher courts, these courts also dealt with the licensing of public houses and recorded the final step in the process of the adoption of children.

Miskin Lower Petty Sessions Register of Music and Dancing, 1904

Miskin Lower Petty Sessions Register of Music and Dancing, 1904

Records held at Glamorgan Archives include court minute books, court registers and registers of the juvenile court; licensing registers; registers of clubs; committee minutes, including licensing committees and probation committees; year books; matrimonial court minute books and registers, and adoption records.

In 1971, Quarter Sessions and Petty Sessions courts were replaced by the Crown and Magistrates’ Courts.

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