London Metropolitan Archives - Item Details


Date of Creation:


Reference Code:


Scope and Content:
  • Papers of the Lord Lieutenant of Middlesex, 1779 - 1965. The material includes general papers produced by the Clerk to the Lieutenancy covering the lieutenant's work and organisation of the militia (L); papers from the Advisory Committees which drew up, with the Lord Lieutenant, a list of Justices for appointment by the Lord Chancellor (L/AC); papers from the appointment of special constables following the Chartists' petition and unrest on the continent in 1848 (L/SPC); and the papers of a committee organising a volunteer company to defend the county (L/RV).
Extent: 1.22 linear metres
Classification: COURTS: SESSIONS
Site Location: London Metropolitan Archives
Level of Description:

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Administrative History:
  • Until the Sixteenth Century the Crown's main representative in the shires was the Sheriff, but in the middle of the century a new officer appeared to take over his military duties. The King's Lieutenants were first appointed in 1549 to organise the local militia - it was at first only a temporary appointment used in time of emergency. However appointments became more frequent from the late Sixteenth Century and in the first half of the Seventeenth Century as local unrest and the threat of invasion increased. Various Acts were passed reflecting the growing role of the Lord Lieutenant. The Milita Act of 1662 made the Lieutenant responsible for the entire county militia; and the post became personal to one man - in some cases even hereditary. The office was reorganised in 1757 when it was laid down that the sovereign would appoint them by Commissions of Lieutenancy; and Lieutenants themselves would have full authority to assemble, arm and command the militia, and appoint twenty or more deputy lieutenants to help them. The office was unpaid, but with deputies to carry out many of the tasks, it was in effect a post which did not involve much expense or onerous duties for the holder. It did, however, give the holder a great deal of social standing in the local community - he was a powerful man having close contact with both the centre of government and the local magistracy. It is not surprising to find therefore that the post was always held by one of the main county landowners, almost always a member of the nobility - hence the change (early on in the office's history) of prefix from 'King's' to 'Lord' Lieutenant. He was appointed directly by the sovereign - and still is, although now on the recommendation of the Prime Minister. He was responsible not to the Justices but to the Privy Council. It was the Lord Lieutenant's main duty in times of emergency to raise and supervise the local militia (see MR/ML), and from the Eighteenth Century to train it, although it remained very much an amateur force.

    By the end of the Seventeenth Century the militia had all but disappeared due to low demand on their services, but with the regular army serving abroad in the Seven Years War, and subsequent conflicts, the need for them returned again in the 1740s. The 1757 Militia Act defined the role of the Lord Lieutenant and his deputy lieutenants in the militia, and addressed such practicalities as training, pay and billeting. However, whatever new regulations were introduced were not properly enforced until the 1770s during the time of trouble caused by the American War of Independence.

    The main problem following the militia's downsizing was the shortage of volunteers. Lists of potential conscripts (Militia Ballot Lists) had to be drawn up; the Lord Lieutenant and his deputies formed a general meeting to issue orders to constables to return lists of eligible men; and names were then chosen in a ballot supervised by the Lieutenant.

    Middlesex had a quota of 1600 men and the final list of volunteers which was drawn up was known as the Militia Muster Roll. New lists were to be made after each group of men had served three years (1757 - 1786, therafter five years service); exemption appeals were to be heard by deputy lieutenants in divisional meetings. The militia continued to be called into action at various times during the Nineteenth Century. Although the Lord Lieutenant's command over it was taken from him and given to the Crown under the 1871 Army Regulation Act, he was still able to make officer recommendations.

    It was during the prolonged period of the threat of invasion caused by the Napoleonic Wars that the need for supplementary forces to the militia arose, and resulted in a variety of different forces which worked alongside, or was separate, from the main militia. None of these forces were under militia regulations, but they were all controlled to some small extent by the county lieutenancy. Special constables would occasionally be appointed (from 1831) to deal with areas of local disturbance, by the Justices although they had to send notice of appointments and circumstances to the lord Lieutenant.

    The other major role of the Lord Lieutenant aside from his military one, was (from the reign of Elizabeth I) as (nominal) chief Justice of the Peace and head of the local magistracy known as Keeper of the Peace. He was the person who recommended the names of people to the Lord Chancellor as potential Justices of the Peace. Since the turn of the last century, this has been done through his chairmanship of the county's Advisory Committee on Justices. The links between Quarter Sessions and the work of the Lord Lieutenant were many and close. Perhaps the best example is that of the usual practice of appointing the Clerk of the Peace as Clerk of the Lieutenancy. Many more militia records than those required to have ended up among sessions records in local county record offices; a lot of the pre-Eighteenth Century records are in the National Archives. The Lord Lieutenant was by the end of the Seventeenth Century the Custos Rotolorum or Keeper of the Records, officially responsible for the care of the county records, although in practice it was the Clerk of the Peace who carried out this work (MC).
Creator: Lord Lieutenant of Middlesex
Copyright: Copyright to these records rests with the Corporation of London
Source of Acquisition:
  • The papers were deposited by the Clerk of the Lieutenancy.
Access Restrictions: These records are open to public inspection although records containing personal information may be subject to closure periods
Physical Condition: Fit
Arrangement: The material is arranged in four classes -
L: Clerk's Papers (1805 - 1965);
L/AC: Middlesex Advisory Committee (1898 - 1965);
L/SPC: Special Constables (1848);
L/RV: Subscription Committee (1779 - 1782)