Authored by Russell James.
Most of you will have noticed that we released a new record collection this week: Warwickshire Occupational and Quarter Session Records, 1662-1866. I immediately took a special interest in this collection, as not only did I grow up in the Warwickshire town of Rugby, but generations of my mother’s family also hailed from the area, around Wolston and Ryton-Upon-Dunsmore.
My enthusiasm only grew when I took a look through the collection. The records were created by the Quarter Sessions. These are probably best known as legal courts, but they also had a vital role in local government, overseeing various parts of public life. It’s these brushes with ‘ordinary’ people that brought about our new records.
Many of the documents cover occupations. There are licences for gamekeepers and boat owners, and notes of rewards paid to farmers who grew flax. But the records that really caught my eye were the letters from printing press owners to the Clerk of the Peace. As a journalist and writer myself, it was fascinating to look back at the beginnings of the publishing industry in my home county.
In the 18th and 19th centuries, anyone who wanted to do any sort of printing had to write and seek permission. If they were deemed right and proper, the Clerk issued a certificate. If you were caught publishing any printed material without a certificate, you were fined the princely sum of 20 pounds!
So, any wannabe publishers were keen to remain on the right side of the Clerk. In our modern era of press scandals and controversy, it’s incredible to read these subservient, almost groveling letters.
Were your ancestors among the publishers, farmers, gamekeepers or boat owners in this collection?