London Metropolitan Archives - Item Details


Date of Creation:


Reference Code:


Scope and Content:
  • Records of Clerkenwell Magistrates' Court, 1893-1987, including court registers; registers of adoption applications; probation order applications; means enquiries; court minutes recording charges and summons; court note books; probation orders; domestic proceedings including matrimonial cases and bastardy orders; registers of endorsements of driving licences; cash books; gaoler's index of defendants and clerk's papers.

    Court registers record the date of the hearing, the name of the informant or complainant (often the police), the name of the defendant, a brief note of the offence and the decision of the magistrate. Court minute books or notebooks are rough notes of the proceedings recording the gist of the evidence given.

    Domestic proceedings: A married woman under the provisions of the Summary Jurisdiction (Married Women) Act 1895 and subsequent Acts could go to a magistrates' court and apply for orders which in certain circumstances would enable her to separate from her husband, have custody of any children and receive maintenance from him. Under the Poor Law Amendment Act 1844 a mother expecting a bastard child or who had given birth to one could obtain a maintenance order against the putative father.
Extent: 80.1 linear metres (approx. 1900 files)
Site Location: London Metropolitan Archives
Level of Description:

The Collection Tree View below shows the catalogue level, document or item described on this page in the hierarchical context of the collection it belongs to, identified in the tree by the open folder icon and highlighed text. Browsing the collection tree can be a useful way to find similar or related documents.

You can click the arrows next to the folder icons to explore the collection, opening and closing the levels of the Collection Tree. If you click on a title, you will leave this page, opening instead the page of the catalogue level, document or item you selected. Only the DOCUMENT and ITEM levels describe physical documents. The COLLECTION, GROUP, SERIES and SUBSERIES levels provide structure for the collection, but are not physical documents. See Help-Using the Catalogue for more information on our levels of catalogue description.

Administrative History:
  • An Act of 1792 established seven 'Public Offices' (later Police offices and Police courts) in the central Metropolitan area. The aim was to establish fixed locations where 'fit and able magistrates' would attend at fixed times to deal with an increasing number of criminal offences.

    Offices were opened in St Margaret Westminster, St James Westminster, Clerkenwell, Shoreditch, Whitechapel, Shadwell and Southwark. An office in Bow Street, Covent Garden, originally the home of the local magistrate, had been operating for almost 50 years and was largely the model for the new offices.

    In 1800 the Marine Police Office or Thames Police Office, opened by 'private enterprise' in 1798, was incorporated into the statutory system. In 1821 an office was opened in Marylebone, apparently replacing the one in Shadwell.

    Each office was assigned three Justices of the Peace. They were to receive a salary of £400 per annum. These were the first stipendiary magistrates. Later they were expected to be highly qualified in the law, indeed, to be experienced barristers. This distinguished them from the local lay justices who after the setting up of Police Offices were largely confined, in the Metropolitan area, to the licensing of innkeepers. In addition each office could appoint up to six constables to be attached to it.

    The commonly used term of 'Police Court' was found to be misleading. The word 'police' gave the impression that the Metropolitan Police controlled and administered the courts. This was never the case, the word 'police' was being used in its original meaning of 'pertaining to civil administration', 'regulating', etc.

    In April 1965 (following the Administration of Justice Act 1964) the London Police Courts with their stipendiary magistrates were integrated with the lay magistrates to form the modern Inner London Magistrates' Courts.

    The police courts dealt with a wide range of business coming under the general heading of 'summary jurisdiction', i.e. trial without a jury. The cases heard were largely criminal and of the less serious kind. Over the years statutes created many offences that the courts could deal with in addition to Common Law offences. Examples include: drunk and disorderly conduct, assault, theft, begging, possessing stolen goods, cruelty to animals, desertion from the armed forces, betting, soliciting, loitering with intent, obstructing highways, and motoring offences. Non-criminal matters included small debts concerning income tax and local rates, landlord and tenant matters, matrimonial problems and bastardy.

    Offences beyond the powers of the Court would normally be passed to the Sessions of the Peace or Gaol Delivery Sessions in the Old Bailey (from 1835 called the Central Criminal Court). From the late 19th century such cases would be the subject of preliminary hearings or committal proceedings in the magistrates' courts.

    Clerkenwell Magistrates' Court:
    Clerkenwell Police Court was originally established in Hatton Garden, St Andrew Holborn, under the Act of 1792. It was transferred to Bagnigge Wells Road (renamed King's Cross Road in 1863) in approximately 1841. Part of the district it served was transferred to the newly established Dalston Police Court c. 1888.
Creator: Clerkenwell Magistrates Court
Copyright: Depositor
Source of Acquisition:
  • Received in multiple accessions in 1984, 1994, 1998 and 2007.
  • ACC/2020
  • ACC/2025
  • ACC/3411
  • B98/194
  • B07/023
Access Restrictions: These records are available for public inspection, although records containing personal information are subject to access restrictions under the UK Data Protection Act, 2018
Physical Condition: Fit
Arrangement: Court Registers (PS/CLE/A)
Court Minutes (Charges And Summonses), Notebooks And Domestic Cases (PS/CLE/B)
Justices Procedure Act (PS/CLE/C)
Domestic Proceedings (PS/CLE/D)
Motoring Offences (PS/CLE/E)
Poor Box Fund (PS/CLE/F)
Gaoler's Indexes (PS/CLE/G)
Clerk's Records (PS/CLE/H)