London Metropolitan Archives - Item Details


Date of Creation:


Reference Code:


Scope and Content:
  • Records of Marlborough Street Magistrates Court, 1896-1991, including court registers; rates registers; registers of means enquiries; registers of ex-parte cases; registers of applications for time to pay; Married Women's Act orders; Guardianship of Infants Act orders; Affiliation orders and domestic proceedings registers.

    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.

    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: 80.3 linear metres (1616 volumes)
Site Location: London Metropolitan Archives
Level of Description:

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Administrative History:
  • Marlborough Street court was one of the seven Public Offices established by Act of Parliament in 1792. It has the distinction of being the only Metropolitan Police Court to have remained on its original site, 21 Great Marlborough Street, Westminster, until its closure in 1999.

    The 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.

    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.

Creator: Marlborough Street Magistrates Court
Copyright: Depositor
Source of Acquisition:
  • These records of Marlborough Street Police Court (later Magistrates' Court) were deposited by the Chief Clerk, 29 May 1985 (ACC/2140). Additional deposits (some of them deposited jointly with the records of Bow Street Magistrates Court): 2003, 2006.
  • ACC/2140
  • B03/008
  • B06/123
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: PS/MS/A: Court Registers (General Matters)
PS/MS/B: Court Registers (Particular Matters)
\qj PS/MS/C: Domestic Proceedings