Document referenceQAW
TitleRecords of weights and measures : North Riding Quarter Sessions
DescriptionThis sub-fonds consists of the administrative records of the North Riding Quarter Sessions. It consists of records relating to weights and measures, including:

- handbills relating to the provisions of the Act of 1698-1699 regulating ale-measures

Returns, correspondence, papers:
-returns of weights and measures in use [1789]

- papers relating to the supply of standard weights [1795-1796]

- returns of fines and convictions (at Petty Sessions) for defective weights [1797-1832]

- returns by Chief Constables relating to the inspectors of mills with prices for grinding and weights and measures used [1800]

- correspondence, bills and papers relating to standard weights and inspections and Indentures of verification of standard weights at the Exchequer [1826-1878]

- inspectors' recognizances [1834-1850]
Catalogue statusCatalogued
Administrative historyThe Justices of the Peace became concerned with the administration of weights and measures following an Act of 1795 (35 George III cap. 102). Under this Quarter Sessions were required to appoint examiners of weights and balances and to provide standard weights and measures. There had been earlier legislation concerning false weights and measures requiring administration by the Justices, such as the Acts of 1511 (3 Henry VIII cap. 8), of 1670 (22 & 23 Charles II c. 12 regulating the measures of corn, salt etc), and of 1698 (11 William III cap. 15 prohibiting the sale of ale and beer in unstamped vessels). The Justices, it seems, had the power to prosecute offenders under these Acts, a function which was really part of their judicial duties. False weights and measures were apparently considered a type of "nuisance" offence and were dealt with as such. For example, under the Act of 1698-9 the Justices were to be the prosecuting authority and to help the plaintiff to recover half the penalty to which by law he was entitled.

The duties of the Justices were increased by further legislation. An Act of 1797 (37 George III cap. 143) empowered the appointment of inspectors by Justices in Petty Sessions, while the Act of 1824 (5 George IV cap. 74) "for ascertaining and establishing uniformity of weights and measures" required counties to purchase copies of model standard weights deposited in the Exchequer. Inspectors of weights and measures were required under the Acts of 1834 (4 & 5 William IV cap. 49) and the repealing Act of 1835 (5 & 6 William IV cap. 63) to enter into legal security for the due performance of their duty and the safe custody of standard weights. The Act of 1835 gave Quarter Sessions the power to create inspectors' districts each with a separate or distinct mark.

The North Riding Justices were concerned before the end of the 18th century with a number of prosecutions for false weights and measures presumably under the legislation of the 16th and 17th centuries. In 1795 and 1796 they became concerned with fulfilling their obligations under the Act of 1794-5. The Justices ordered in October 1795 that the Clerk of the Peace should provide standard weights for the use of the Riding to be kept at the Court House in Northallerton while in April 1796 inspectors for the various wapentakes were appointed. These in some cases were the Chief Constables (of the wapentakes). Quarter Sessions had been concerned with this question before the Act of 1794-5 and the Clerk of the Peace had in 1789 sent out a circular requesting returns of weights used and replies are preserved with the records in this series. It is not very clear how the North Riding Justices exercised their powers under the 1797 Act which was adoptive. No appointment of inspectors at Quarter Sessions are recorded for the period 1798-1802 but are found again after that date. It is possible that Quarter Sessions resumed their appointments of inspectors in 1801 or that they had kept the power all the time and not appointed any during this period.

Following the Act of 1824, the North Riding Justices ordered the procurement of a set of weights and measures according to the Exchequer standard. These were to be deposited with the Clerk of the Peace for the use of the Riding. An inspector was to be appointed to deal with weights brought in for comparison with the standards. In the following years, the Justices seemed to have bought further sets of weights for the use of divisional inspectors. In 1834 and 1835 further orders relating to weights and measures following the Acts of those years were made. The Clerk of the Peace was ordered at Michaelmas Sessions 1834 to take steps to put the 1834 Act into effect and in January 1835 arrangements for the inspection of weights and measures in the various divisions were made. The existing examiners of weights and measures were to be designated inspectors under the Act and to enter into recognizances before taking up their duties. At Michaelmas Sessions 1835 an order was made continuing the existing rules and regulations for inspection. The arrangements were not entirely satisfactory and a report of the Finance COmmittee to Easter Sessions 1837 noted the great expense incurred by the Riding since the Acts of 1834 and 1835 and recommended improvements in the system. The Finance Committee from the end of 1844 onwards were again considering the duties of inspectors of weights and measures. This was apparently a difficult subject and the Committee did not actually report on the matter until January 1847. The report was printed and circulated in the Riding and further changes in the system were again made. This subject continued to be the concern of the Finance Committee. They were, for example, required in 1850 to investigate whether any of the standard weights needed adjustment. At Michaelmas Sessions 1851 the Justices established a committee to consider the duties of Chief Constables (of wapentakes) and inspectors of weights and measures. The Committee recommended at the next Sessions that the duties of inspection should be undertaken by the police officers of several divisions (presumably the Chief Constables, as there was as yet no police force). The functions of this committee were in 1852 transferred to the newly created Police Committee and nothing came of this proposal. At Easter Sessions 1858 the Finance Committee reported favourably on the project of appointing the police as inspectors. The same report stated that the Court had long been dissatisfied with the existing system. The Justices ordered that this should take place and at Michaelmas Sessions 1858 "superior" police officers were appointed as inspectors. The police continued to fulfil these duties until 1889
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