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Petty Sessions Introduction

An Act of 1828 required the Quarter Sessions to define Petty Sessions Districts. Before this Justices of the Peace in Bedfordshire held unofficial petty sessions to transact minor business such as approving payments to the poor from the accounts of Churchwardens. Bedford Borough had its own commission of the peace dating back to 1556, so was entitled to its own bench of magistrates.

Six official Petty Sessions Districts for Bedfordshire were created in 1830: Ampthill, Bedford (excluding Borough), Biggleswade, Bletsoe, Luton and Woburn. 

In 1854 a seventh division was created for Leighton Buzzard, which also took in the parishes of Billington, Eaton Bray, Eggington, Heath & Reach, and Stanbridge. From 1865 when it became a Borough Dunstable was granted its own Petty Sessions, having previously been included with Luton. Bletsoe Petty Sessions division was renamed Sharnbrook in 1872. In 1876 Luton was granted Borough Status and had its own bench of magistrates.

By 1876 there were therefore ten Petty Sessions in Bedfordshire, with seven benches of magistrates for the County as a whole, and the three Boroughs of Bedford, Dunstable and Luton having their own separate benches.

The Petty Sessions were held fortnightly apart from Luton where they were held on a weekly basis.

For further details see: