> MANCHESTER COURT RECORDS - Plus brief details of other local courts.
 

 

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MANCHESTER FAMILY HISTORY RESEARCH

FOR METHODICAL THOROUGH AND EXHAUSTIVE RESEARCH

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CONTENTS

HOMEPAGE

A  MANCHESTER RESEARCHER'S TALE

MANCHESTER AND STOCKPORT CERTIFIED INDUSTRIAL SCHOOLS

MANCHESTER COURT RECORDS

BELLE VUE PRISON RECORDS

NEW BAILEY PRISON RECORDS

STRANGEWAYS PRISON RECORDS

STRANGEWAYS PRISON: FIRST REPORTS

MANCHESTER MARTYRS' PRISON RECORDS

PRESS REACTION TO THE MANCHESTER EXECUTIONS PART I

PART II

PART III

WHAT  DID HAPPEN TO THE REMAINS OF THE PRISONERS EXECUTED AT MANCHESTER?

THE MANCHESTER FELONY REGISTER Pt 1

PART 2

PART 3

PART 4

GREATER MANCHESTER RIOTS IN 1868

MANCHESTER AND LANCASHIRE STRAYS IN MILL BANK PRISON

MANCHESTER POOR LAW AND WORKHOUSE RECORDS

MANCHESTER POOR LAW UNION MINUTES

CHORLTON AND SOUTH MANCHESTER REGISTRATION DISTRICT

VOTING REGISTERS AND ELIGIBILITY IN MANCHESTER

1831 POPULATION FIGURES FOR MANCHESTER

MANCHESTER CENSUS COLLECTION DETAILS

PLACES OF WORSHIP IN MANCHESTER AND SALFORD

MANCHESTER PARISH AND CITY

MANCHESTER CITY CENTRE CHURCHES

MANCHESTER AND GENERAL INFORMATION

MANCHESTER BOROUGH POLICE FORCE

SECOND PART

THIRD PART

FOURTH PART

MANCHESTER INQUESTS WITNESS STATEMENTS INDEX

TRANSPORT IN MANCHESTER PART ONE

PART TWO

USEFUL LINKS

MANCHESTER FAMILY HISTORY CONTACT PAGE

 

   

   MANCHESTER COURT  RECORDS

 

 

 MANCHESTER COURT  RECORDS

FIND MY PAST

DO YOU have any black sheep in the family or any other skeletons in the cupboard? Well this may be the place to look to see if it is possible for me to access to any records that might reveal your relatives life of crime. As the great George Bernard Shaw said; "If you cannot get rid of the family skeleton, you may as well make it dance.If you have landed on this page via search engine and you have not found what you were looking for, just take a few minutes to look around the site. There is a vast amount of information here about Manchester and the surrounding districts. If you follow this link you may find a few facts about Manchester that you did not know.

A senior member of the Legal Profession has asked permission to use some extracts from this page as a source for a training lecture for criminal lawyers.

I now have access to the vast majority of England & Wales Criminal Registers from 1791-1892. I also have access to many of the various other Lancashire Hundred Quarter Sessions (including the Salford Hundred) which are held at Lancashire Record Office. The majority of records described here are available at Manchester Archives. An  update have been added to include details of the few surviving Manchester Coroner's records see below. For details of  Manchester Prison Register on line see here.

For a fourteen day FMP free trial see here or for Genes Reunited see here

ASSIZE COURTS

 Serious offences were dealt with by the Assize Courts. Manchester came under the jurisdiction of the Lancaster Assize Court until 1864. On July 26th of that year the first separate Assizes for the Salford Hundred were held at Manchester. The correct name for them was the Salford Hundred Assizes, but papers of the time referred to them variously as The Manchester Assizes,  The South Lancashire Assizes or even as the Crown Court. It was replaced by the Northern Circuit. Assize court records are held at the National Archive, however it is possible to consult list of persons accused between 1882 and 1964. There are some gaps. These are held at the Greater Manchester Police Museum.  I now have access to the vast majority of England & Wales, Criminal Registers, from 1791-1892. The following is an extract from the Manchester Courier from 1825.

John Cronshaw, John Garin, Henry Parkins and Joseph Diggins were charged with having assaulted Mathew Sykes, at the corner of Lever St, Manchester, on the night of the 30th January, and robbing him of his watch.

The prosecutor and a Mr John Campbell, coachmaker, who accompanied him, proved the facts ( which are fully reported in The Courier of the 5th February). A woman named Sarah Bothery, who happened to be standing close by when the transaction took place, proved that it was another man, who is not in custody, that took the watch, but that the prisoners were all of his party, as she believes. Upon further examination, she said, she could not undertake to swear positively that the prisoner Parkins was one of the number. Richard Howcroft, a watchman, and Benjamin Battye, one of the police, proved having taken all the prisoners into custody together. the prisoner Gavin, said in his defence that the man, Thomas Matthews, [who had been sentenced here earlier] was the person who took the watch. The prisoners called some witnesses to character.

Mr Norris recapitulated the evidence, and explained the law on the subject, by which, persons aiding and abetting in the committing of a felony were equally culpable with the person who actually did it, and the question the jury would be to consider, if from the evidence they were satisfied that the prisoners were so aiding and abetting. The jury found all the prisoners guilty.

The learned Chairman in passing sentence on the prisoners, remarked that the crime for which they had been guilty, had increased to am alarming  extent, not withstanding the vigilance of the police, and the number of convictions for similar offences. The prisoner, Cronshaw, having been three time before convicted, gave no hope of ever becoming an orderly or a useful member of society. The sentence of the court upon him, therefore, would be, that he be transported for the term of his natural life: and upon the other prisoners, that they be imprisoned and kept to hard labour for the space of twelve calendar months.

 

MANCHESTER QUARTER SESSIONS

The name of the court implies that the court met four times a year. In Manchester's case it usually met at least six times per year. These extra court sessions were called the Intermediate Sessions. Sad to say, the larger the population, the more crimes that were committed. The City of Manchester was first granted its own Quarter Sessions in April 1839. Prior to that  cases were tried by Lancashire Quarter Sessions under the auspices of the Salford Hundred Court. Most the records of which are held at Lancashire Record Office, although some of the order books are on microfilm at Manchester Central Library. The Salford Hundred Court sat at the New Bailey Court House until 1868 when it was transferred to the Courts at Strangeways Prison (which is in Manchester). This has lead to some confusion both on the England and Wales Criminal Registers and the Lancashire County Records Office catalogue where the Salford Hundred Quarter Sessions are  sometimes recorded as being the Manchester Quarter Sessions. Other limited records for this court are also at Manchester Central Library. Records for the Manchester Quarter Sessions are available from 1839 until 1951.These courts and the Petty Sessions (see below) were under the control of the Borough, and later, the City of Manchester.

This is an example of a  Bill of Indictment against a prisoner from the Quarter Sessions Court records held at Manchester Archives from the Sessions dated 14th February1851.

 In the margin, the Foreman of the Grand Jury had signed to acknowledge that this was a True Bill of Indictment.

 

Borough of Manchester

 

THE JURORS for our Lady the Queen upon their Oath present, That Thomas Williams of the borough of Manchester in the County of Lancaster, Labourer on the 26th day of January in the fourteenth year of the Reign of our Sovereign Lady Victoria, by the Grace of God of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland Queen, Defender of the Faith, with Force and Arms, at the Borough aforesaid in the County aforesaid and within the jurisdiction of this Court did tender one piece of false and counterfeit Coin, resembling and apparently intended to resemble and pass for a Piece of the Queen's current Silver Coin called a shilling unlawfully, unjustly, and deceitfully did utter and put off to one Ellen  Drake knowing the same to be False and Counterfeit: in contempt of said Lady the Queen and her laws: to the Evil Example of all others in the like case against the Form of the Statute in such Case made and provided, and against the Peace of our said Lady the Queen, her Crown and her Dignity.

MISDEMEANOR  No 9

Tried Guilty six calendar months with hard Labour

WS Rutter

Attorney

On the rear side of the bill was a list of  witnesses who appeared in this case: Ellen Drake; Ellen Fielden, Thomas Wilson P C; Jane Smith; John Beresford P C and Richard Beswick, Superintendent of Police. I have made a note of his entry in the New Bailey Prison Register on the appropriate page.

ANOTHER good source of information about the courts are the local news papers. Sometimes their reports were not about the actual court cases themselves but rather reports of what some of the Court officials had to say. Here is an example of such a court report from the Manchester Guardian of 17th May 1866. I'll let you make your own mind as to the validity of the Recorder's comments.

MANCHESTER INTERMEDIATE SESSIONS

The sessions commenced yesterday before the Recorder H. W.  West Esq. There were also present Alderman Wallert and Messrs W.R. Callender and F. Morley. The calendar contained the names of 27 prisoners, of whom 24 are charges of felony and the other three for misdemeanours. Of these 15 can read and write, six can read only, and six have no education. In charging the Grand Jury the RECORDER said he was happy to congratulate them on the state of the calendar. There was only a small number of cases to be brought before them, and those cases seemed to him to be of a very ordinary character. He trusted that that condition of things might not be accidental, but that it might really indicate an improvement in the conduct and morals of the inhabitants of this city. But having congratulated them on the state of the calendar, he regretted to be obliged to make one general observation. He could not at all congratulate them of the state of health in this city. Many persons thought that all sanitary care of the people at large could only be taken by the Legislature. He was not of that opinion. Though the Legislature might do much, yet it was quite clear that gentlemen in their position might also to much to ameliorate the condition of the people in all ways. He thought it the more necessary to call their attention to this subject, although he would do very briefly, reserving to himself, the right to go into the matter more at length on any future occasion; because there was no reason to suppose that during this year we might be invaded by cholera. They prayed against it every day, and in the churches on Sunday, and a special prayer had been ordered to be made in the consequences of the fears which were entertained by those who understood the subject, that the cholera might be about to invade this country. He did not think it was necessary for him to point out any special provisions which ought to made with regard to the care of this city and its health, but he could not help mentioning that persons who were by education, wealth and their position in society, raised above the lower orders, were able to do much. He would forbear suggesting the method which each of them might adopt; but he was quite sure that they and all persons in their position in life would do their utmost, both in enforcing amongst their own men, in their factories and the dwellings of those people who lived round about them and near them, the common rules of prudence. Drunkenness was a great cause of ill health, and he might without flattery say that generally speaking the educated classes of this country set a good example to the lower orders. Sobriety was a matter of great importance, but they must also bear in mind that the lodgings of the working classes and the poor, and all matters affecting their morals, health and cleanliness were also matters about which considerable care should be taken. If any took such steps as might appear to them to be desirable in their own spheres to improve the condition of the lower orders, because they could not conceal themselves from the fact that disease did chiefly arise amongst the lower orders, and propagated itself with much greater rapidity amongst them , than amongst the upper classes, he thought that much good would be done, and that they would assist in improving the condition of Manchester. From the returns which had recently been published, and which had been commented upon in the newspapers, this city appeared to be in a condition very inferior to London, which was not supposed to be in a very healthy state. It was unnecessary for him on that occasion to go into this question at any greater length, because probably they were practical men, and would be able to deal with the matter by inspecting their own premises and the dwellings of the persons who were employed by them, and to do this with very great effect. -The Grand Jury dismissed to the performances of their duties. During the day a second court was held before Mr W. H. Higgin, the deputy recorder.

There was no other news of these Intermediate Sessions published in this edition, or in the following day's edition. As a former print worker, I also find this article interesting from a typographical point of view. Unless some of the names are spelt incorrectly, there are no spelling mistakes in the body of the text. That was certainly unusual for The Guardian of the 1970s and 1980s. Another point mildly worth making is that there are no paragraph breaks, probably in an attempt to cram as much text as possible into the small number of pages that made up the newspapers at this time.

A report from the Manchester Courier in 1934 reveals an early example of the cosmopolitan nature of Manchester. I think it also makes an interesting comments on the times.

ITINERANT MUSICIANS - The itinerant musicians who annoy the ears of the king's lieges in Manchester by tormenting catgut, and murdering the "Huntsman's Chorus" on the grinding organ , are at last fallen under the official lash of Mr Thomas, our excellent deputy constable. that gentleman has ordered  the whole of the police corps to chase the unlucky harmonists from the streets, and consequently since that order was promulgated our ears have been spared the castigations of hearing their execrable music. Three unhappy Italians, however, named Lewis Verdon, Lewis Gasparino and Joseph Jespie, on Wednesday fell into the hands of Sawley, the Beadle, and the following day were placed at the dock of the New Bailey, and sent to recreate themselves seven days each on the treadmill. (We think that the Magistrates and Deputy-Constable ought to find more profitable employment than that of sending poor itinerant musicians to gaol. Editor).

 

MANCHESTER CROWN COURT

The Assize Court and the Manchester Quarter Sessions were replaced by the Crown Court. Manchester and Liverpool were the first two locations to adopt the Crown Court system. The rest of the country fallowed some years later. Calendars of prisoners are available from 1956 until 1960 and contain some very useful information. As I know from personal experience, searching for Manchester Crown Court Records can be somewhat difficult. If you enter a search for "Manchester Crown Court" you will find listings under references J287 (Supreme Court of Judicature: The Crown Court at Manchester: Case Files 1971 - 1984); J109 (Stopping Up Orders) and J288 (Supreme Court of Judicature: The Crown Courts at Manchester: Indictments 1972 -1973). It seems to me that these records date from the time the whole country adopted the Crown Court System. So what happened to the records from 1956?  After a lot of searching and writing of emails it became clear that these records were held at the National Archives, not listed under Manchester Crown Court, but under the Records of Justices of Assize, Gaol Delivery, Oyer and Terminer, and Nisi Prius: Northern and North-Eastern Circuits  some of which can be found under references ASSI 51 and 52.

ASSI 51 refers to records of the Northern Circuit (as from 1876) covering the counties of Lancaster, Cumberland and Westmoreland. Also included are some indictments from Liverpool for 1868. Contents include the jurisdiction and venue of the trial, name of the defendant, plea. A summary of  the statement and particulars of charge(s). The name of the Judge,  the date of trial, the verdict and sentence. These records can be closed for a 100 years. ASSI 52 refers to Assizes: Northern Circuit: Criminal Depositions and Case Papers. The documents in this series relate mainly to murder, but also to other serious crimes, particularly riot. A substantial proportion of the murders are cases of infanticide. After 1916 a wider range of offences is covered. Some of the twentieth century depositions are accompanied by lists of witnesses and exhibits and formal correspondence about the conduct of the trial and/or appeal. Documentary exhibits, mainly correspondence, photographs and medical reports, are also sometimes included. They cover the years 1877 to 1971. These documents are normally closed for 30 years.

I probably would had been satisfied with the above information, but I decided to search for a particular name and this sent me to a reference DPP2, which covers Director of Public Prosecutions: Case Papers, New Series. It contains Departmental Prosecution Files from 1931 to 2003. Most of these files related to murder case. Prior to 1931 reference should be made to DPP1. This records are normally subject to closure for 100 years. However if you go to a particular case record it will state: "This document is closed and cannot be viewed or re-produced as a digital or printed copy." Then  you can see this  link "Submit a FOI request"...FOI standing for Freedom Of Information.

 

MANCHESTER PETTY SESSIONS

Also known as Magistrates or Police courts. These courts met on a daily basis dealing with civil matters such as adoption, child maintenance and illegitimacy or bastardy as it was more commonly known. The jurisdiction of this court was within the boundaries of the Borough/City of Manchester. They also dealt with misdemeanours and felonies. In more serious  cases, people were committed to higher courts. Some records from 1839 until 1970 are available (M117), but a great source of information are the local papers. Here are some extracts, again from the Manchester Courier.

Ann Battye, charged with stealing a ham from a shop, into which she went, on pretence of buying something, was committed.

Matthew Shaw, the brewer at the Bull's Head Inn, in Manchester, in Market St, was charged with having taken some articles of wearing apparel, and money to the amount of 5s. 3d. out of the hostler's box at that inn. A person named Goodall proved that the prisoner left a bundle with him, and the prosecutor identified the contents of the bundle as the articles he had lost. The Prisoner was committed.

A man who stated himself to be an inhabitant of Withington, was charged with having been found in the most stupid state of intoxication, lying in the streets on Saturday night. He had on his person a letter, which explained the nature of his errand. When asked what he had to say for himself, the poor man was very much abashed, and acknowledged his "misconduct", as he termed it: alleging, as his excuse, that he, some years ago, had the misfortune to have his skull fractured, and that since then, very little drink was sufficient to render him totally insensible. The worthy magistrate told him, that was a strong reason why he should abstain from dinking at all, and after some further admonition, ordered him to be discharged: recommending to him at the same time to make all possible haste home, as his friends and neighbours would be dragging the rivers for him, under the supposition that he was lost. Our readers will be surprised to learn that this most expeditious messenger was dispatched to fetch a midwife to a woman in labour.

The applications for warrants and summonses were this day as numerous as usual: but there was no other case of the least interest before the Bench.

These courts also dealt with licensing issues such as: Registers of Clubs; Registers of Beerhouses etc.; Registers of Beer, Wine, Spirits, Liquor and Sweet Retailers (by police district and street name); Registers of Licensed Premises ; Register of Licensed Victuallers; Licensing Registers  (by police district and street name); Registers of Music, Dancing and Rooms; Registers of Dancing, Music and Rooms Transfers; Applications for Music Exemptions ; Special Sessions for Granting Music etc. Licences; Alehouse Licences Transfers; Surrender of Licences ; Special Exemptions; Occasional Licence and Exemptions ; Register of Licensing Complaints; etc...etc...

As mentioned above these register were compiled by street name within any one Police Division, which unless you are familiar with the Police Divisions, is a pain in the old proverbial. However Manchester Local Studies has a couple editions of of the Manchester Police Instruction Book which reveal the make up of the various divisions. The book reference  is 352.2M5. This the 1908 edition so obviously over the years some of the landmarks have disappeared, but it is still a worthwhile guide.

A DIVISION

The right side of Port St, Portland St, Chepstow St, Gt Bridgewater St, Albion St and City Rd to the boundary of the City ie to a point 8 1/2 yds beyond Brookside, then west to a point in Cornbrook Park Rd 60 yds of the south side of Princess St, then south west to the River Irwell, crossing Cornbrook Rd at a point 170 yds beyond the far end of the Bridgewater Canal Bridge, then along the left bank of the River Irwell to palatine Bridge, by the left of the River Irk to Ducie Bridge, left of Ducie Bridge and Miller St to Long Millgate, left of Long Millgate to Scotland Bridge, returning by the left of Crown Lane, Nelson St, Charter St, Ashley Lane, Portland St to Dalton St, through the passage opposite Worth St and up the steps in Aston St, across Rochdale Rd to Livsey St and across Oldham Rd to Butler St to the bridge, returning by the left to Elizabeth St, Rodney St, Jersey St, to German St, left of German St to Union St, Gt Ancoats and across to Port St.

The following wards are entirely within A Division: St Ann's, St James's, St John's and Exchange. The following wards are partially in A Division: New Cross, Medlock, Oxford, St Clement's, St George's, St Michael's and the Collegiate ward.

B DIVISION

From the corner of Livsey St, Oldham Rd, right of Livsey St, to and right of Aston St, to and right of Dalton St to the River Irk, right of the River Irk to the River Irwell, right of the River Irwell to and across the end of Rugby St, Broughton Lane, then through Messrs. Neill's premises, crossing Broughton lane  and then across to and in the direction of the Grove Inn Public House, Bury New Rd, up Ashworth St by the side of the Inn to and through the Tanneries and the paper works, then across the fields at the top end of Elizabeth St and then by the right of the boundary passage  and boundary line, across the field to Marlborough Rd and Tetlow Lane and to the rear of the houses on the left of Halliwell Lane and those on the left of St Mark's lane to the right side of Boundary St, to Cheetham Hill Rd, right of Cheetham Hill Rd and Bury Old Rd to Melbourne terrace , right of Melbourne Terrace, and by the right of the gardens in Bury Old Rd to Singleton brook, right of Singleton brook to and crossing Moorfields, passing Bowker Vale and Birch Brook Dye works along Middleton Rd to Sheepfoot Lane and including to whole of Heaton Park, by the right side of the River Irk passing Messrs. Schwabbe's reservoirs and lodge to Alkrington Brook, by the right of Alkrington Brook through the valley, crossing Rochdale Rd, Blackley and then by the right of the boundary brook and fence in a straight line across White Moss to Owler Lane, to and by the right of Moston Lane to Scholes Lane, to and right of Parkfield Rd to the boundary of the freeholds, by the right of the boundary line to Chaderton Canal, right of the Canal to Wrigley Head Bridge and Moston Brook, by the right of Moston Brook to and in a line with Dob Lane Schools, crossing Oldham Rd and over to the Croft to the Rochdale Canal, crossing the Canal opposite Britannia Mills to and by the right of Stott's Lane, crossing Albert St to and by the right of the boundary passage across Hyde St and Devonshire St, then by the right of the boundary fence to the brook, passing Brookdale Hall, crossing Hulme's Rd to the Lancashire and Yorkshire Railway line, Berry Brow and Clayton Bridge Railway Station, by the right of the railway line to Oldham Rd, Miles Platting to and left of the Rochdale Canal to Butler St to and right of Oldham Rd to Livesy St.

The following wards are entirely within B Division: Cheetham, Harpurhey,  Crumpsall and  Blackley and Moston . The following wards are partially in B Division: New Cross, St Michael's, Newton heath and Miles Platting

C DIVISION

Starts at Princess St, Portland St, along right of Portland St in a north easterly direction,  crossing Piccadilly along right of Newton St and Port St, crossing Gt Ancoats St and along right of Union St to New Islington, then left of the Rochdale canal to Lancashire and Yorkshire Railway, Newton Heath and along left of the railway line to Droylsden and Gorton, then in a southerly direction along the boundaries of Droylsden and Gorton to the Midway Hotel, Stockport Rd, along the right of Stockport Rd in a north westerly direction , crossing Stockport Rd and right of Albert Rd, Plymouth Grove, Upper Brook St, Brook St and Princess St to Portland St.

The following wards are entirely within C Division: Bradford, Ardwick, Openshaw, And St Mark's. The following wards are partially in C Division: Oxford, New Cross, St Clement's, St Luke's and Longsight

D DIVISION

Starts at the junction of Portland St and Oxford St, right of Portland St , Princess St, brook St, Upper Brook St, Plymouth Grove, Stockport Rd to and along the passage between Midway St and Park grove, across the London and North-Western Railway to and along the front of the Levenshulme Cricket Ground fence to Slade Lane. Right of Slade Lane to and by the right of Cringle Brook to the Boundary Stone in the brook at the rear of the convent, then across the fields (including the pond) to the Boundary Stone in High Lane, then across the fields to and by the right of the fence around Mauldeth Hospital grounds (excluding the hospital) and the rear of Tan Yard Farm to and by the Boundary Stones in Mauldeth Rd, Heaton Moor; then across the field to and by the right of the first fence to and across Burnage Lane. Right of Burnage Lane to opposite the Boundary Stone then across Burnage Lane and the field to the first fence, right of the fence to opposite the second Boundary Stone, returning to and across Burnage Lane. Right of Burnage Lane to Tamworth House then across Burnage Lane to and by the right of the fence around the field opposite to Burnage Lane, at the corner of the Mission Hall (opposite Fog Lane) then across Burnage Lane and Fog Lane to the Boundary Stone at the rear of the Bull Inn. Right of the fence at the rear of the Bull's Inn,  Priestnall View and Oxford Terrace (excluding these properties), to and across Burnage Lane to and by the right of the fence around the field opposite, to and by the right of Burnage Lane to the Midland Railway Bridge, Heaton Mersey. Across the Midland Railway to and by the right of the  fence between Parrswood Hall and Heaton Norris Sewage Works to the River Mersey. Tight of the River Mersey to the first fence past Wilmslow Rd, the by the right of the fence to and by the left of Broad Oak lane to the road leading to Didsbury Mill, then by the right of the fence to and across the Mersey and across the fields to a portion of Cheadle (Great Central) Railway Station, returning to the right of the Mersey opposite Didsbury Mill. Right of the Mersey to a point south west of Millgate Farm, then across the Mersey and the fields to around the junction of the Great Central and the London and North Western Railways, then right of the Mersey at a point due west of Millgate Farm, then by right of the Mersey to and around Stenner Lane Farm(excluding the farm) and re-crossing the Mersey to and around Didsbury Golf Links, returning across the Mersey to and by the right of the land in front of Withington Golf Pavilion, to and by the right of the Mersey to the fence at the rear of Stanton Ave, West Didsbury. Across the Mersey and the field to and again across the Mersey to the centre of the field near to red Bank Farm, then by the right of the Mersey to the second fence , right of this fence and by the right of the second fence on the left to the Mersey. Across the Mersey to and by the right of the first fence on the left to and across the Mersey. Right of the Mersey to opposite the fence surrounding the Bridge Inn, Chorlton cum Hardy, by the right of this fence across Old Hall Rd to the end of the footpath, then across the Mersey to Chorlton Brook.Right of Chorlton Brook to opposite the second fence on the left, then across the brook to and by the right of the fence to and across Hawthorn Rd, by the left of Hawthorn Rd to the second fence, and by the right of this fence to and by the right of the brook, across Turn Moss to and by the right of the footpath to Edge Lane. Across Edge Lane and Langford Hall grounds in a direct line to and by the right of the fence to the orchard adjoining Firs Farm (excluding the orchard and farm), to and across the Great Central Railway to the junction of Seymour Grove , Manchester Rd and Upper Chorlton Rd.

By the right of Upper Chorlton Rd to Egerton Rd, then in a direct line through Whalley Court to and by the right the fence at the rear of "Springfield", across Manley Hall grounds (excluding "Springfield" and Manley Hall Lodge) to Upper Chorlton Rd, opposite to Chatham Rd, then by the right of the centre of Upper Chorlton Rd.

Left of Moss Lane West (excluding all the property) to and including the Crown Inn, 157 Cornbrook St, and by the right of the passage in the rear of Moss Lane West to and including the dwelling hose 162 Tamworth St. Across  Tamworth St,, through the yard between Nos 189 and 191 Tamworth St, to and by the right of the fence, including the stables off Stanley Grove to and including the workshop at 44 Clarence St. Across Clarence St to the rear of No10 Norfolk St, including all the property in Norfolk St, the grounds and the Convent of Our Lady of Loreto and Moss Terrace, to and along the passage at the rear of Marlborough Grove and Lever Place, to and across Lever St to Mason St. Left of Mason St to and by the left of Dalton St to Crystal Terrace include No7 Cricket St, 7 Brocklehurst St, Alfred Place, 5 Temperance St and 9 Grafton St, left of Crystal St to Clayton St, Chorlton Rd. Across Chorlton Rd to No 82, left of Chorlton Rd to Drayton St, left of Drayton St to Bright St (including Thurza St) and by the left of Erskine St, including Forrest St, Hyde St and Parkinson's Court to Stretford Rd, left of Stretford Rd to No 381. Across Stretford Rd to the right of Lucy St to Browning St, then including the property on the left of Erskine St, Percy Place, Ellesmere Place to Ely St. Left of Ely St and Grove St to City Rd, left of City Rd to No 353. Right of City Rd, Albion St, Gt Bridgewater St, Chepstow St across Oxford Rd to Portland St.

The following wards are entirely within D Division: All Saints, Chorlton cum Hardy, Didsbury, Moss Side East, Moss Side West, Rusholme and Withington. The following wards are partially in D Division:  Medlock St (part also in A Division); Oxford (part also in A and C Divisions); St George's (part in A Division) and St Luke's (part in C Division).

E DIVISION

This division has no boundaries other than those which form the limits of the City jurisdiction. The division come into existence purely as the Detective Department, however over the years this changed. The E Division has several special departments responsible for work which whilst allocated by the City Council to the Police, does not come strictly within the definition of " the protection of life and property and the detection of crime." These departments are: the Administrative Staff at Headquarters; the City Police Court Staff; the City Coroner's Court Staff, The Horse Ambulance Service; the Hackney Coach Department; the Street Trading Department; the Explosives Department; the Supervision of Domestic Servants' Registries; the Motor Car Registration and Licensing Department and the Inspection of Common Lodging Houses.

MANCHESTER COUNTY PETTY SESSIONAL DIVISION

An increase in the population in both Manchester and Salford necessitated the creation of the above division in 1868. The courts were held at the then newly built Strangeways Court. Greater Manchester County Records Office holds some of these records, but the bulk of them are held at Lancashire Record Office (ref; PSMA). The jurisdiction of the court was outside the boundaries of Manchester and Salford and the areas covered in 1885 were: Barton-on-Irwell, Blackley, Burnage, Chorlton-cum-Hardy, Clifton, Crumpsall, Didsbury, Failsworth Flixton, Gorton, Great Heaton, Heaton Norris (that part outside The Borough of Stockport ), Levenshulme, Little Heaton, Moss Side, Moston, Newton Heath, Openshaw, Pendlebury, Prestwich, Reddish, Stretford, Urmston, Withington and Worsley. (See here for a map of the changing boundaries of Manchester from 1838 to 1931.) In 1908 the division consisted of Barton, Clifton, Davyhulme, Failsworth, Flixton, Gorton, Heaton Norris, Irlam, Levenshulme, Pendlebury, Prestwich, Stretford, Swinton, Urmston and Worsley.

OTHER LOCAL MAGISTRATES' COURTS

Altrincham: records held at GMCRO (ref: A/TRAFF).

Bolton Borough: records held at Bolton Archives (ref: JBO).

Bolton County: records split between Lancashire Record Office (ref PSBO) and Bolton Archives (ref: JLA).

Bury Borough: records held by GMCRO (ref: A17).

Bury County: records held by GMCRO (ref: A17).

Dukinfield: records held by Cheshire Record Office (ref: QPDu).

Heywood Borough: records held at GMCRO (ref: A17).

Hyde: Records held at Cheshire Record Office (ref: QPH).

Middleton Division: records held at Lancashire Record Office (ref: PS sub refs PSMD and PSMI).

Middleton and Heywood: records held at GMCRO (ref: A17).

Oldham: records held at GMCRO (ref: A/OLD).

Rochdale Borough: records split between Manchester Archives (ref: A/ROC) and Lancashire Archives (ref: PS sub ref PSRO).

Salford City: records held by Salford Magistrates' Court.

Stalybridge and Tameside area: records held at Tameside Local Studies and Archives. These records are yet to be catalogued having only been recently released by the Courts. Areas included are Hyde, Ahton and parts of Dukinfield. For further details contact the Archivist.

Stockport: records held at Stockport Heritage Library (ref: MC). These records of the Stockport Division of the Cheshire County Court, the Stockport Borough Court and the combined court post April 1974. The Borough records cover Stockport, Brinnington, Cheadle, Edgeley and Heaton Norris. Other parts of the Metropolitan Borough of Stockport are included in the County Court records. After the creation of the Metropolitan Borough of Stockport in April 1974 all parts of the borough are included in combined Court Registers. Records over 100 years old are not open unless permission has been given in writing by the Magistrates Court. Requests for access/information should be made to, Clerk of the Justices, Stockport Magistrates Court, Court House, Warren Street, Stockport, SK1 1UE. I think it would be advisable to contact them before travelling to Stockport.

MANCHESTER COURT LEET

This was only abolished in 1846. Until this date Manchester was under the control of the Lord of the Manor. It was the ancient Court for the Manor of Manchester. The records from 1552 until 1846 have been published and copies are held at Manchester Archive and Local Studies.

BOLTON AND SALFORD SESSIONS

Male Felony Registers are available for the above courts from Jan 1863 to Dec 1872. They contain similar information as that included in the Strangeways registers but are for those who committed serious offences. Through exhaustive research of this register, I have discovered that it was in fact the Felony Register for the New Bailey Prison and Strangeways Prison. In  it were found the records of the men who were charged with the murder of Charles Brett. Three of these men were executed and were later to be known by some as The Manchester Martyrs. The Felony Register can been on line here.

MANCHESTER CORONERS RECORDS

The office of Coroner is an ancient post which has evolved over the years. An early definition of the duties of the office were provide by the statute De Officio Coronatis (4. Edw. 1) 1461 which was fully repealed by a consolidating of Act 1887 which stated the following:

Where a Coroner is informed that the dead body of a person is lying within his jurisdiction, and there is a reasonable cause to suspect that such person has died either a violent or an unnatural death, or has died a sudden death of which the cause is unknown, or that such person has died in prison, or in such place or under such circumstances as to require an inquest in pursuance of any Act, the Coroner, whether the cause of arose within his jurisdiction or not, shall, as soon as practicable, issue his warrant for summoning not less that 12 but nor more than 23 good and lawful men to appear before him at a specified time and place, there to inquire as jurors touching the death of such person aforesaid.

The Coroners also had jurisdiction to inquire about treasure trove and acted as substitutes for the Sheriffs. Coroners were almost a law until themselves. Even as late as 1934 it was reported that there was nothing to prevent a Coroner holding an inquest in secret. The question had been raised in the House of Commons and it was clearly stated that a Coroner could exclude reporters from his court. Even the Home Secretary could not overrule a Coroner. A Coroners powers in his own court were almost limitless. He could fine or imprison any person who impeded him in the the performance of his duty. They were not bounded by the laws of evidence which are binding in the courts of justice. They could admit hearsay evidence if they so desired. If a person received a summons to attend a Coroners Court and the High Court on the same day, it was his duty to obey the summons of the coroner first.

The law surrounding Coroners and their Juries has changed over the years. At one point as many as 23 Jurors could be required, at other times 7, for a period involving deaths not by murder or manslaughter, none at all. The law was changed so that Inquests could be adjourned to until after criminal proceedings had been completed in manslaughter and murder cases. Another major change in the law, especially for the Jury, when the following was no longer deemed necessary "The coroner and the Jury at the first sitting of the Inquest, view the body".

Manchester Archives have a collection of Inquest reports from the early 1850s. There is also a collection of newspaper clippings dating from 1922 until 1938 which mainly, though not exclusively deal with reports of inquests in the Manchester area. These reports are not indexed, but if you are looking for an inquest and have a date of death, they are reasonably easy to search.


BROROUGH OF MANCHESTER CORONER'S INQUESTS

August 22nd 1851 - December 23rd 1852.

This relatively unknown archive is a potential gold mine. Although only covering a short period of time there are 620 original inquest reports in the books (GB127.M381/1/1/1 and GB127.M381/1/1/2)

In the period covered most inquests took place in local public houses or at the Infirmary. The contents of these books include the depositions of witnesses "touching" the death of a particular individual, the surgeon's report on the post mortem examination and the verdict. The body of the deceased was present at the hearing and had to be inspected by the Jury. The inquests usually took place about a day after death, some on the same day, some a little later.  See here for the complete index. Most were completed in a few hours, others had to be adjourned as was the case in the very first inquest recorded in the book. This is one of the longest reports.

Number 979

Borough of Manchester in the County of Lancaster to wit

Depositions of Witnesses , produced sworn and examined, this twenty second day of August One Thousand Eight Hundred and Fifty One at the House of John Elton known as the Kings Arms in Kings Street in the Township in the Borough aforesaid, before me, Edward Herford, Gentlemen, Coroner of our Liege Lady the Queen within the said Borough, touching  the death of Mary Hampson wife of John Hampson of No 2 Whitehead's Buildings off Rodney Street, Oldham Road, Clogger at the age of twenty nine appears there lying dead.

Nancy Bethell of No 52 Murray St winder upon her oath saith.

About ten o'clock on Sunday night last the seventeenth instant. I was standing at the back door of Joseph Gibson's house in Whitehead's Buildings, and I saw deceased sitting behind the door in the house. The deceased husband was sitting at the fireside and I heard them quarrelling. She put the door to with her hand but the window shutters were open, and I saw him get up and run to where she sat. I did not know whether she got up from where she was sitting . I heard some noise like a smack. I heard this noise every time he jumped up and ran to her as I supposed. My stepfather (Gibson) shouted me in and I went straight home. I did not mention to anyone what I had seen till the next morning. About five minutes before ten o'clock I had seen them going in. I heard him say something about her getting drink and that he had been to fetch her. She made answer that it was not at his expense. She did not seem to me to be in liquor. I did not hear her scream. I never saw him illuse her before.


Nancy X Bethell

her mark

Alice Helliwell wife of James Helliwell No 5 Whitehead's Building, striker upon he oath saith.

I left I left our house [at] nearly 11 o'clock on Sunday night to get some beer. I heard voices of quarrelling very much between the deceased and her husband as I passed the door. I was 5 or 6 yards past when I saw them come out and she said "you must go where you have been." She went about half way down the street and she went in and fastened the door. He came back and said "Open this door," She did not do so. He stood back in the shutter place for 5 or 10 minutes and then she opened the door, all being quiet . She went in quickly, and the door was fastened directly. I heard nothing more. I passed the door, in four or five minutes after and then heard nothing. On Tuesday I first heard she was injured. I heard she had fallen down the stairs. I think that she was quite sober on the Sunday night. He was not, as I thought by his voice.

Alice X Helliwell's

mark


Ann Hargreaves wife of James Hargreaves, weaver saith.

We live next door to [the] Hampson's . On Sunday night we went to bed soon after eight o'clock and went to sleep. I was awoke by a noise which I did not know what it was. I heard something like as if someone was tumbling down stairs in Hampson's house. I heard nothing no cries. I could not hear cries in their lower room. On Tues night I saw her in bed. She was too ill to answer any questions. Five minutes after I heard the clock strike. I should hear any one walk across their room either before or after the fall . I cannot say what the noise was that awoke me.

Ann X Hargreaves'

mark

George Small of No 26 Leigh Street East, Beer Retailer saith.

At 5 minutes past 11 on Sunday night Hampson passed our house as I was standing at the door and he said "good night". About 20 minutes after this he came to my door which was fastened and he knocked several times. I opened it and he said "my wife has fallen downstairs and I believe has killed herself." I then went with him and asked how it was. He replied that he had knocked at the door and his wife had got out of bed and on her way to let him in had fallen down stairs and had been lying there half an hour and he could not get in. My house is not about a dozen yards from his. I tried the door but it was fast. He told me to try the window. I did so but could not open it. I told him that if it was my wife she should not have been lain there 2 minutes. He might have broken the shutter which was rotten at one corner. He made no reply. I left him there. I thought that he had a glass, but he was not to call drunk, I told him I would go home for a hammer and a candle. I knocked the bottom gudgeon down and unhung the shutter. He then put his hand through and seemed to unfasten it. My wife then said "Open this door" and he did so. I believe he unlocked the door having got through the window. I cannot say weather the key was in the lock. The shutters must have be fastened from within. I did not notice whether the bedroom window was fastened. A person might drop fro the upper window. I had seen [the] deceased through the window. I had a candle with me. There was no fire or light in the house. She was lying in her chemise, her head lying in the centre of the stair at the bottom and her feet pointed towards the door. I could not tell how she could get to fall in that way. I said "It looks very awkward". I cannot tell whether he made any reply. He shifted her and I saw a quantity of clotted blood where he head had lain. She had bled from her nose an d right ear, the one she lay upon. I said that she should not be there. She was quite insensible. He tried to lift her and I then helped him and we set her on a chair between us. He began by saying "drink was the cause of it," or to that effect. I smelt but could not perceive any smell of drink. I begged him to get Dr Race and he said it was of no use, what a dammed fool he should look to go for a doctor for a drunken woman. I said if she was so, he ought to go and was blameable for not going sooner. I almost forced him to go , whether he would or would not. He came back in 5 or 10 minutes and said Dr Race would be there directly. I and my wife knocked up Mr + Mrs Towers who came in about this time. My wife was rather delicate. In about twenty minutes I and her husband carried deceased upstairs. I am sure I could have told by the smell if she had had drink. We laid her head on the side. She began to vomit, a great quantity. Her husband was walking away and leaving her. She would have been suffocated with the matter if she had not been raised, and I made her as comfortable as I could. Two of her children were in the bed , whom I told him to get into another bed with the other children. It was half past 12 o'clock when I got home and Dr Race did not come while I was there. The eldest child was about six years old. They all seemed asleep. I noticed no marks or bruises, but she look very white more dead than alive. I thought the blood was more clotted and she was colder than if she had lain only as long as he said. I went in the morning at about half past seven. I saw Mary Flinn who goes there in the day time. She gave me a short answer. I did not see him. She has told me today that he was in bed. I did not see deceased. I did not see her husband until Tuesday night. I then asked him why he had not fetched a doctor as I had told him. He made no answer. He had come to the street door and I told him in and wait till the Gentleman that was upstairs spoke to him. I stood near the door and he seemed as if he wanted to gho out, but did not offer. I had given the information from which the doctor (Mr Thomas) was sent for. Inspector Wilson then took him (Hampson) to the office.

By Jurors [indicates a member or members of the Jury asked the witness a question]

I could not see what he did before unlocking the door after he had got through the window. She groaned when her body was bended as if in pain. Not a soul was near when I went with him into the house.

George Small

Anna Taylor wife of Richard Taylor saith;

I heard the deceased was badly hurt and went and got her key from next door d went to see her. She was in bed and had a deal of congealed blood about her ears and face. She said John had done it and if I did not stay with her he would beat her again. She said nothing about his throwing her down stairs.

Hannah Taylor(sic)

Mary Flinn says: I went to deceased's house on Monday morning about 7 o'clock. I knocked twice or three times and he opened the door, and as soon as I had got in I saw blood on the floor and he said "there's a ------- [this probably indicates an expletive] she's been drunk last night and Saturday night", and he said she had three women drinking with her in the house. He then went to bed again and said nothing about her having fallen. The Instant he got up he began to save her. I went upstairs and she asked me to take the child down stairs. He went to his work about 9 o'clock. I cannot recall if I asked her or if she told me what was the matter with her. She said she was very sleepy when I offered to wash her face from the blood. Before leaving the house he asked her about some meat that he had left on Sunday. I heard a slap given and he said " You may well be sick if you eat so much" I afterwards found the meat. No doctor came that day. Hampson told me that he had pretended to go to Dr Race but he had not gone. He said that he had fallen down stairs whilst he was outside. He said she was drunk. I did not think that she was in want of a doctor or in any danger. She asked me to lock the back door and put the key inside the window on Monday night. No doctor came till Tuesday evening. I never left the house till she died this morning at a quarter past 3. She never spoke after Monday night. I heard him tell the Officer that he had given his wife 12 shillings. To the best of my belief she had no money. I noticed bruises on her shoulder and on her knees and on her elbow. She never told me how she had got hurt.

Mary X Flinn's

mark

Ann Stott wife of James Stott deceased's sister saith:

I left deceased standing at the corner of Whitehead's Buildings after eight o'clock on Sunday evening. She had had 2d worth of whiskey with me, and tasted what another woman had offered. As far as I know she had had nothing more. She was not the worse for drink. I did not see her husband.

Ann X Stott's

mark


Timothy Leary Superintendent of Police saith:

Hearing of the deceased's state about 6 o'clock on Tuesday evening I directed his apprehension. About 10 o'clock the witnesses were brought to the station and made similar statements to those now made. He started in reply "I have not beaten her. I declare to God I only gave her one slight tap on the head. She fell down stairs when she was going to let me in." I detained him in custody . He has this day been remanded till Tuesday next.

Timothy Leary

Severally sworn before Edward Herford,


Inquest adjourned to the 25th day of August instant at the same place.

Edward Herford

Coroner


Evan Thomas of Livesey Street surgeon upon his oath saith:

One of the Roman catholic clergymen called on me about six o'clock on Tuesday night to visit deceased. I went there immediately. She was in bed and unconscious. I observed her bleeding from the right ear. She made no reply too my questions and seemed wholly insensible. On examining the ear more carefully I found a bruise towards the temple and behind the ear. It seemed about 4 inches square, quite circumscribed and well defined. I considered she was labouring under compression of the brain. I then examined all the body and found contusions on the left collarbone, right shoulder, behind on the left side near the arm pit and a very large one about four inches in extent below the left breast. One on the right groin, over the right knee in front, on the inside of the left knee and several on the skins. As far as I could see they might all have been caused about the same time. I could not tell to a few hours. I attended to her till her death on Friday morning at three o'clock. She sank gradually and never became sensible. There were bruises on each eye and about the head, but trifling ones. I never saw her husband there. I made a post mortem examination on Saturday afternoon by the Coroner's order. In her head I found the skull fractured across the base and a good deal of blood effused into and upon the brain, The brain itself in other respects was healthy. There was a great deal of blood effused under the skin of the right ear corresponding with the parts already noticed as contused. I have no doubt the violence which caused the contusions produced the fracture. The fracture and the effusion were the cause of death. I believe the fracture was caused by direct violence. A fall on the top of the head would produce fracture, complete or right across, and the effusion would be more general. A fall on the side of the head might produce such injury, if against a hard resisting body such as a projecting stair. I do not think a fall against the floor even from a considerable height could produce them. A fall might produce injury to the place on the head and the place mentioned on the right shoulder. My opinion is that the injury was caused by a kick or some such direct violence. I am quite satisfied that all the injuries on the body could not have been caused by the fall down stairs. All the viscera was quite healthy. There were no indications of intemperance or spirit drinking. It is impossible to say whether she might have indulged shortly before the injury. Immediately after the violence she would probably become insensible. She might rally a little, and then ultimately become insensible again. The vomiting up stairs would result from injury to the head and would indicate the rallying of the person injured. I do not believe if I had been called in sooner she could have recovered. She was five months gone in pregnancy. The ear was ruptured at the opening which could not have been produced by a flat surface, only by a corner or a projecting object, struck against the centre of the ear. A fall down the stairs at the house , which are narrow and I believe without corners could not alone produce the injury to the ear.

Evan Thomas

Sworn before Edward Herford,


Inquest adjourned to the 29th day of August instant at the same place.

Edward Herford

Coroner


At the adjourned Inquest held before me the said Coroner at the same time and place aforesaid:


Elizabeth Towers wife of John Towers of no 1 Whitehead's Buildings aforesaid saith:

I live next door to deceased and her husband and have known deceased well for the last eight months. I was with her several times on Saturday 17th. I was with her from 5 o'clock to a quarter past eight. She had some whiskey in a bottle and gave us some out of it in her house. She had some but I cannot tell exactly how much. I did not see her take any. She had two penny worth in another house. About a quarter before eight she gave me her key to take to her husband which I did at his own window. At a quarter to nine I saw her standing at the top of Whitehead's Building and left her there. She was not in the least the worse for liquor. I went home and went to be and to sleep. Mr Small knocked us up and I went into the house. Mary lay on the floor bleeding. Her husband said afterwards he had been to the doctor. When he picked her up he said "Come Mary lass come to bed" quite kindly. I heard no noise during the night. I never saw her till Thursday. The husband had had some liquor> I could perceive that she had. There was a prop lying on the stairs at the time Small called me. I saw him lift it away with [the] thick end downwards. Near the end there were two pieces sticking out of it. It is the one now produced.

Elizabeth X Towers' mark

sworn before Edward Herford


Verdict: Manslaughter

John Hampson was tried and found guilty of Manslaughter. He was sentenced to transportation for life.

 

MANCHESTER CORONERS INQUEST INDEX

This is a fabulous resource, a real hidden gem. I just cannot understand why researchers have not publicised this material. Although no early Inquest Reports survive, Greater Manchester County Record Office have an index of Inquest from as early as 1918. The later records are closed,  it is not possible to view this records, but most of the information should be available on request. These records are name indexed.

Listed below are the various column headings in the index. The book has the very snappy title of  Manchester Constabulary Detective Department Daily Records of Inquests

Hour and date of receiving information of death.

Deceased name, or description if name unknown.

Residence.

Age.

Place where deceased found, or when the occurrence took place which was the cause of Death.

Officer attending Inquest

Hour and Place where the bodied was viewed.

Name and Residence of Jurors [minimum 7, maximum 11]

Place where the inquest was held.

Cause of death.

Verdict.

Remarks.

 

A VIEW FROM INSIDE THE JURY BOX AT THE NEW BAILEY COURT - 1868

The following is a personal account of what it was like to be a member of a jury at this court in 1868. It contains several interesting facts that about service on a jury and the thinking, or lack of it, behind some of the decisions reached by juries. When I have been researching the prison registers, I have often scratched my head about some of the sentences metered out by the courts, the author seems to concur, partly  at least, with some of my thoughts. It is also an interesting insight into the "privileges" of being a juror at this time. The account is taken from Odds And Ends Volume XV 1869 which was the magazine of the St Paul's Literary and Educational Society (M38/4/2/15). The majority of this piece has little punctuation, for ease of reading I have added some.

In the Jury Box 1868 by Thomas Sands

In the month of May in the present year a Session of the Peace was holden at the New Bailey, Salford, it was remarkable as being the lightest and the last ever held in those old walls. At the Session the writer sat as foreman of the jury.

It is intended in this article to give the reader a general idea of the impressions received in our moral occupation. One or two words on the New Bailey itself, it is no doubt familiar to most readers of this Magazine, not that any of them have been incarcerated therein, but its sombre appearance, its lofty walls and threatening bastions are things to be had in remembrance.

The Irwell flows by its front, a turgid stream, the very impersonation of crime, as black as night, pursuing its tortuous course like a detected robber when the Law is on his back. Over the front entrance there is a felon's manacle in the form of the letter "M" to denote the misery in chains and about the whole place there seems to hang an atmosphere of gloom and ponderosity (sic) akin to what one feels when afflicted with [a] nightmare.

But our business is not with the outside but within, let us enter the room used for the trial of prisoners. It is a dingy uncongenial place and smells of damp and policemen, there is a great uncomfortable gallery for the audience and a very comfortable bench, well upholstered and in [the] form of a semicircle for the presiding  and committing magistrates, on the left is the witness box and directly opposite to this, the Jury Box, narrow seated and high backs like some  very old fashioned church pews. Opposite the eyes of witnesses are the word " Thou shalt not bear false witness against thy neighbour" painted in conspicuous letters. In the centre are the lawyers, wigged and gowned, and right in front of the Judge is a square box- like concern covered with wire gauge and resembling an outside meat safe. This is the Dock, and standing beside it is a red-whiskered clean shaved warder, with a head the roundness and consistency of a bullet, who nevertheless handles those in his charge kindly considering their antecedence.

The administration of the law to the punishment of evil doers is the only object aimed at in the arrangement of the court and we believe it is attained with full effect.

The first thing that strikes a jury man is the wearisome monotony of the customary oath with its endless " Well and truly try and true deliverance make between our Sovereign Lady the Queen and the prisoner at the bar whom we have in charge, so help you God" (sic), repeated twelve times over at the commencement of every trial, however trivial.

The cases tried were mostly for petty felonies such as robbing a hen roast, stealing a bag of cotton waste, stealing lodgers' apparel, defrauding employers by robbing tills and such like, yet to defend such cases as these the brightest legal talent that Manchester can provide, a hard hearted mechanical fellow read the indictments to the prisoners and demanded  whether they were guilty or not guilty. No antecedent circumstance was allowed to weigh with the jury in their decisions, each case was of course tried upon its own grounds of evidence and considering some of the sentences, they seemed out of all proportion to the crime committed. For instance one young woman aged 28 was sentenced to seven years penal servitude for stealing a string of coral beads from a child's neck and throwing a half brick at another woman that detected her, but on conclusion of the trial it was announced in court that ten other previous crimes had been proved against her; but in no case was the previous character of any prisoner communicated until the jury had pronounced their verdict, and thus their minds were kept free from prejudice.

Of course we went to work with very high notions of the importance of these duties we had to discharge as one of the "Honest British Twelve" supposed to be endowed with a large share of human penetration and determined to serve their country to the best of their ability.

The Judge, Mr Alfred Milne, has a genial and good natured face, he had a word for every prisoner, of reproof, of encouragement, or of kindness as the case might require. He is a good lawyer and we believe his judicial awards are well appointed to the offences.

At the Bar were the late Ernest Jones, Mr J B Torr "the High Tor" as we must announce him, Mr Corbett, Mr Collingham, Mr Leresche and others of similar standing, and it did to us appear to be a waste of forensic power for these gentlemen to be wrangling over a disputed cab fare, the stealing of a watch, theft from a drawer and such like offences. Dull dreary work all this and it was not perhaps unnatural that the sorriest pun perpetrated by Counsel should convulse the court with laughter and give relief to us all.

Juries are composed of queer materials, men of all qualifications, addled headed crotchety fellows who can see no farther than their own nose end are jostled together with sharp eyed, quick witted, intelligent men. They are selected indiscriminately from those who have accumulated a little property, or obtained a position a trifle above their fellows, they may happen to be solons or they may (which is more likely) be fools, and as may be expected queer verdicts are arrived at sometimes. One Jury returned a verdict of " not guilty" and appended to it "they hoped the prisoner would not do it again", another "If the prisoner committed the crime he was guilty but if he didn't, why then he wasn't", and a third "Guilty and serve him right for being catched" and a fourth " Guilty but recommended to mercy on account of his previous long imprisonments".

Jurymen ought to be selected from the middle class of society, men of leisure and a moderate amount of intelligence. This is indefensible (sic) as they often have intricate dealings to unravel, a couple of lawyers to confuse them and a number of witnesses giving conflicting evidence which they must sift and winnow, they have to weigh probabilities, assess motives, and give a conscientious verdict according to the evidence before them. A man must have his head put on the right way and keep his wits about him to discharge this duty well, if not he may send an innocent man to prison and perhaps ruin him for life.

At the close of the Session the Jury were thanked for their services and of course complimented on their intelligence and discharged. We had given our time and talents, we had served our Queen and Country and we paid a shilling for a certificate exempting us from a similar service for the next two years, which we did not think was quite fair considering your services are gratuitous and you are fined five pounds a day for refusing to serve and in [the] case of a long trial you are locked up and fed only bread and cheese, never mind, let us hope British justice was duly administered and we had the satisfaction of contributing thereto.

Jurymen have the privilege of looking through the prison and we availed ourselves of it, tasted the "skill and wack", saw the "crank" and the prisoners in solitary confinement at their dreary and melancholy work weaving cocoa-nut mats, gloom and misery everywhere, some prisoners were carrying  cans of water in the yard for the cooking department, but on our approach they put down their cans and stood still with their faces thrust to the wall, such is the rigour of the discipline enforced.

It was saddening to read such an announcement as the following written on a card:

John Smith

Felon

February 8th 1868

to

February 8th 1869

These are nailed on each cell door and indicate the name of the occupant with his time of servitude.

Scarcely do the prisoners notice your presence, they seem settled down in a moody speechless hypocondria (sic), it is a sight to make one sorrowful.

The other places of interest are the graves of the murderers* and the whipping post, which latter has been freely used of late in cases of garotting (sic) or personal violence and we believe with the most satisfying results, it is only right that these criminals should feel some of the pain they inflict on their victims, since the lash has been used garotters (sic) are seldom heard of.

We have finished, and hope to be delivered from all further contact with trials and prisons, it may seem a little presumptuous but we venture to say it, that the only berth we would care to have about the whole concern is that of the Judge.

*These would have been the graves of James Burrows, William Gould (aka Michael O'Brien), William Omeara Allen (aka William Philip Allen), Michael Larkin, Miles Weatherill and Timothy Faherty. Gould, Allen and Larkin were collectively known as the Manchester Martyrs for details see here. For details about the other three men see here. Other surviving Manchester Prison registers can be seen  on line here.

 SOURCES; MANCHESTER ARCHIVES AND LOCAL STUDIES and GMCRO (as was) and other local repositories.

NEW CATHOLIC RECORDS FROM FIND MY PAST. This will eventually be the most comprehensive online collection of Roman Catholic records for Britain, Ireland and the USA. TRY A 14 DAY FREE TRIAL NOW.

FOR UK  SEE HERE

FOR USA  SEE HERE

FOR AUSTRALIA SEE HERE

FOR IRELAND SEE HERE

SEARCH GENES REUNITED HERE


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Last update: 14th February 2017