Law and Order around Stony Stratford

Newport Pagnell became the first Petty Session Division by the late 1830’s which included the market town of Stony Stratford.

Stony Stratford was constituted a separate Petty Sesional Division by Quarter Sessions soon after 1858.

In the case of Stony Stratford, there are records of Petty Sessions being held at the Cock Hotel and also in private houses long before the Court House was built. \there is also an additional complication at Stony Stratford when it became a separate Petty Sessional Division. Petty Sessions were already being held there for certain adjoining parishes, all in the neighbouring county of Northamptonshire, these parishes were Alderton, Ashton, Cosgrove, Furtho, Grafton Regis, Hartwell, Passenham, Wicken and Yardley Gobion.

These parishes remained in the Stony Stratford Division from the time the present Court was built in the town until 1937 and were known as the sub division of Stony Stratford. Cases were held at Towcester Police Court on alternate Tuesday’s and at the Police Court in Stony Stratford on alternate Friday’s.

The Rev H J Barton stated in an undated letter that where he sat at the Inn (presumably the Cock) it as dark and noisy and calculated to lessen the respect which is due to a Court of Justice. He wrote of space at the Lock-up by building a room over it at a cost of not more than £200 which is all that is required; the Lock-up being on the site of where the present Court was built.

Extracts from early records - ,


Offences against game laws were exceedingly frequent; if poachers were caught, the fine was heavy. The age long war between poachers and gamekeepers, rich and poor, continued all the time.

Cock Inn, Stony Stratford, 27 February 1824.
Present: The Rev H L Mansel,
Rex -v- Smith
John Smith appeared to summons against him for keeping snares to destroy game. Thomas Pargeter sworn in proved fact, prisoner convicted in a penalty of £5 declared he had no money or goods, whom to levy penalty. Committed from Yardley to Aylesbury Prison for three months.


Newport Pagnell Petty Sessions, 26 November 1851.
Present: T A Boswell, W G Duncan.
Alfred Pateman and James Parkes for trespassing after rabbits at Filgrave.
Fined 11/-d. ach (default one month)
Newport Pagnell Petty Sessions, 24 December 1852.
James Reed, Frederick K Roberts, Frederick Campion, trespassing in pursuit of rabbits at North Crawley.
Reed and Roberts fined 10/6d, Campion fined £1.0.0d.


What today would be called domestic work was commonly called Bastardy. Since Magistrates were not given proper jurisdiction over domestic work until 1878, before that date it was part of poor Law Administration. Nearly all early Court recorded dealt with Bastardy or arrears due to failure to support a child, wife, mother, grandparent or pauper returning home after removal etc.

Cock Inn, Stony Stratford, 27 February 1824.
Present: Rev H L Mansel.
Thomas Hurst entered into recognizance of £10 for the appearance of Joseph Hitchcock at the next Sessions to answer charges of Bastardy by Elizabeth Barley.

Other Crimes

These included coining, theft, robbing from a garden, using false measures, cutting sods, burglary, housebreaking etc.

Newport Pagnell Petty Sessions 26 November 1851
Present: T A Boswell, W G Duncan
John Plackett stealing part of a line fence from field in occupation of George Mills, Fined £5 (two months in default)
John Millard of Bow Brickhill sworn in as Hayward.
William Bell stole Mr Halton’s turnips, fined £1.7.0d (one month in default)

1838 Lent Assizes
Charles Barrat broke into John Pettitt’s house at Astwood on 5 February 1838, stole a pair of shoes, a handkerchief and a book.
Sentence: ten years transportation.

The Probation Service and the Discharged Prisoners’ Aid Society in Bucks.

The beginning of the Probation Service goes back to the Probation of Offenders Act of 1907. The service was called on in the Act “to advise, assist and befriend” those placed in its care.

In the County Archive there is a book in excellent condition called Payment to Prisoners on Discharge from gaol of house of correction in Aylesbury. The first entry was 1707.

Regular offences include the following -

Lewd woman give 1/- to get home
Leaving his service give 2/-
Snaring hares give 1/- to get home
Stealing turnips give 1/- to get home
Bastardy give 1/- to get home
Neglect of work give 1/- to get home
Murder of bastard child give 1/- to get home
Neglect of family
give 1/- to get home

The book ends in 1826.

John Howard’s “Gate Mission” as it was known - meeting the prisoner at the Gate and getting him to sign the pledge was in effect the beginning of “after care”.
The Discharged Prisoners’ Act of 1862 marked the beginning of a partnership between state and private benevolence
Court Missionaries‘, as they were called at the turn of the century, were warm hearted and generous minded men and women - many of whom did excellent work despite a lack of training.
They were often motivated by a strong religious conviction and often believed in temperance.
There were Annual reports of the Northamptonshire Police Court Mission, which was established in 1883, and of the Slough and District Police Court Mission, established in 1911.
One of the Courts visited by the Northampton Police Court Mission was Stony Stratford,
Money, was raised through flag days, subscriptions etc, and this work was carefully itemised and included a note of: “16 pledges, I met a gaol, 34 employers visited”.
The Missionaries received a small salary and worked to a committee.
In 1935 part of the salary of the paid missionary, who now received the title of Probation Officer, was paid by the Buckinghamshire County Council. Committee Meetings at the time began with prayers.
In 1946 it was still the practice that if a prisoner wished to apply for aid on discharge, he had to face the whole committee, standing at attention, and give a full account of his future requirements and plans.

The Juvenile Court.

The Juvenile Court as it is still administered today has evolved from the old common law and must be seen against that background.
For those who eventually enter the Juvenile Court now, the policy embodied in the 1982 Criminal Justice Act unequivocally states that the adversarial nature of the proceedings is the most appropriate method whereby to adjudicate and sentence the case.
However, although the special Juvenile Court was not established until the passing of the Children’s Act of 1908, there was something sometimes called a “Children’s Charter”. It’s development sprang from a much wider movement towards reform of the penal system which was growing in the nineteenth century.
Experiments by Voluntary Societies took place in the Reformatory Institutions for Young Offenders, and a separate prison was set up at Parkhurst for these persons
In 1881 the Industrial Schools Act came into being and this enabled the Courts to send children they found wandering destitute or without parental control to school.
Later the distinction between Industrial Schools and Reformatories became blurred and both became Approved Schools in the 1933 Act.
Until 1847 children charged with indictable offences were tried at the Assizes or Quarter Sessions in the same manner as adult offenders and they received harsh sentences. It was stated that Queen Victoria “was not interested in youthful criminals, she would like to whip them, but it seems that cannot be done“.

The North Bucks Times of 10th January 1922 stated that Miss Gardner, Matron of the North Bucks Rescue Home was appointed Probation Officer for girls, whilst Captain Rumens, who was in charge of the Church Army Centre was appointed for boys.

In the same paper of 14th April 1944 reads “Bad boys birched”, Sir Herbert Leon was the Chairman flanked by Lady Leon, Mr Bramley, Mr Wilson and Mr Hobman. Mr Tankery sometime Clerk acted.

In the Fenny Stratford Court Register of 30th March 1822 it was recorded that seven boys between the ages of 7 and 12 damaged Mr Ramsbotham’s bulbs whilst they were growing, value £3. All the boys were bound over for one year and ordered to pay 5/6d costs each, one lads costs were remitted on the grounds of hardship.

It was the Children and Young Persons Act of 1933 that changed the pattern of dealing with young offenders. The Courts were required to sit in different places or at different times from the Adult courts and the hearings to be less formal.

By today’s standard in Milton Keynes the work was of a very minor nature. General offences included “malicious killing of a pigeon” - fine of £1, continuous shouting in the street - dismissed with costs. In 1933 at Fenny Stratford a girl was sent to a detention centre for three years, the offence being larceny - 2/6d to be paid a week by the father - playing football on the highway - dismissed.

The Domestic Court.

This is the one branch of civil jurisdiction which is unlike any other Magistrates duty.

The early minute books of Stony Stratford from 1823-1824 give ample evidence of what today we call domestic work. A typical court list would be as follows:-

On 4.4.1827 at the Cock Inn, before John Mansell, Rev.Loraine Smith, William Selby-Lowndes.

Sarah Evans sworn to Bastardy (after birth). Warrant issued to apprehend Thomas Ball, the reported father.

On this day the rest of the Court list consisted of:-
6 Bastardy Cases
2 Removals (1 under transportation for life)
2 Assaults
1 Wages

On 4th May 1827 before the same Magistrates at the Cock Inn, Stony Stratford, included in the list was the following “neglect to maintain parent”. Decision 1/6d per week to the Board of Guardians.

Frances Power Cobb, 1822-1904 a strong theist and supporter of women’s rights, who published many works including one on “Wife torture”, expressed the view, when she heard the Judges favoured flogging, that the latter would brutalise men even further and lead to even greater violence against their wives. She proposed that Magistrates should be given the power to order the separation of husband and wife. The Matrimonial Causes Act of 1878 did this, it gave Magistrates Courts the power to grant a separation order with maintenance to a wife whose husband had been convicted of an aggravated assault “if satisfied that he safety of the wife was in peril”. The latter proviso was removed in 1895. The concept of separation orders continued until 1978 with the Domestic Proceedings and Magistrates Court Act.
By 1979 Milton Keynes Court had established an efficient Domestic Panel which was held at Stony Stratford.

Other Items of interest.

The Court Minutes held at the Cock Inn on 3rd February 1830 before Rev.Mansell, Loraine Smith and Quartley.

These minutes show numerous applications by poor people complaining of their insufficient wages.

Mr Mansell proposed that Magistrates should resolve upon a recommendation to the farmers to increase the wages of labourers, and that they should start upon a principle of adequate remuneration to single men for their labour and proceed to others in the same way, which resolution was agreed to.

Resolved that the following scale of allowances to labourers be recommended:

For a weeks work, each man of
21 years
18-21 years
16-18 years
14-16 years
12-14 years
10-12 years

For each child where there are more than two, the price of half a loaf of best bread - extra for each child under 10 (in one family)

There is a note pencilled in the margin of the above scale which shows it was altered and published: Nevertheless, the resolution shows that the three Clerical Magistrates acted responsibly.

J K Fowler wrote in Records of Old Times in 1892 he lived near the old Buckinghamshire County Prison in Aylesbury, he recalled that crimes which at the time of writing were considered almost frivolous, but bore that “dreadful sentence”. He remembers men who had been sentenced to death at Assizes or General Gaol Delivery for such crimes as horse stealing, scarcely worth £7, being hanged:

Men were hung for coinage and forgery. They were all agricultural labourers. Never did an assize pass without capital sentence being recorded against 8 or 10 poor fellows for agrarian robberies and other crimes.

Police Records.

In the Buckinghamshire County Constabulary Minutes between 1874 and 1889 it is recorded that in 1881 “the magistrates in Newport Pagnell be authorised to obtain five yards of green baize for covering thee table in their room.

In 1884 the Chief Constable wished it to be known and understood that no member of the Force will be promoted to the rank of Inspector unless he can both ride and drive.

When it is necessary to convey prisoner’s from the Railway Station to prison in a conveyance, constables must have a car and not use a public omnibus.

The birches used for birching offenders under Summary Jurisdiction are not to be used for flogging.

During 1990-1992 the three courts Stony Stratford, Newport Pagnell and Fenny Stratford were amalgamated into one court house in Central Milton Keynes, this was officially opened by the Queen on Friday 13th March 1992