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Woburn Petty Sessional Division

Petty sessions, now known as magistrates courts, are the lowest tier of justice in England and Wales. Petty sessions were set up following an Act of Parliament of 1828. This act required the local Quarter Sessions to define petty sessional districts within their county.

Prior to the act judges in Bedfordshire held unofficial petty sessions to transact minor business like approving churchwardens’ accounts. These would be held in localities within the county, usually at an inn. Woburn was one of the parishes in which such unofficial petty sessions were held.

The official petty sessional divisions in Bedfordshire were created in 1830 following the Bedford Quarter Sessions of July 1829. There were six divisions: Ampthill; Bedford (not including the Borough itself); Biggleswade; Bletsoe; Luton and Woburn. Bedford Borough had its own commission of the peace and magistrates, set up in 1556. A seventh petty Sessional division was created in 1854 at Leighton Buzzard. When Dunstable became a borough in 1866 it was granted its own commission of the peace, like Bedford. In 1872 Bletsoe Petty Sessional District was renamed Sharnbrook and in 1876 Luton became a borough with its own magistrates.

Woburn Petty Sessional Division comprised the parishes of Woburn itself and: Aspley Guise; Battlesden; Chalgrave; Chalton; Eversholt; Harlington; Hockliffe; Holcot; Husborne Crawley; Milton Bryan; Potsgrove; Ridgmont; Salford; Tingrith and Toddington. Tingrith was transferred from Luton in 1837 and in 1875 Harlington was transferred to Ampthill, but returned to Woburn in 1903. It had been suggested in 1897 that Woburn Division should be abolished but the proposal was rejected. The division was finally abolished in 1953 the parishes being transferred to Ampthill, Leighton Buzzard and Luton as appropriate.

Bedfordshire and Luton Archives and Records Service has the following sources from Woburn Petty Sessional Division (anything less than one hundred years old will be closed to public access):

  • PSW1/1-20: minute books, registers of defendants and cases and related records: 1838-1953;
  • PSW2/1-15: monthly returns of fines and penalties: 1848-1852;
  • PSW3/1-38: registers of licensed premises and related records: 1868-1953;
  • PSW5/1: Case Committee minutes: 1949-1953;
  • PSW5/2-17: Case Committee agenda papers: 1950-1953;
  • PSW6: unused forms retained as examples: 20th century.