Chorley Historical and Archaeological Society

News and Views

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Jan 2011 Feb 2011 Mar 2011 Apr 2011 May 2011 Jun 2011
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Mar 2011

Fri  11 Mar 2011
Annual Dinner

As the years keep flashing by, we once again arrive at our Annual Meal. A very enjoyable affair once again. Well supported by 38 of our members. We all enjoyed an excellent meal at the Sea View, Whittle-le-Woods and the atmosphere was 'alive' with chat. 3 people actually shared the same birthday, on the 10th March. Rosemary, happy birthday!, and Julie and Paul who both celebrated their respective 60th birthdays, on that same day also, which involved a 'little' celebration before our meal. Here's to next year !!


Julie and Paul celebrating.

Tue 08 Mar 2011
Who Wants to be a Magistrate – and More!

A different evening was expected on Tuesday and it did not disappoint. Firstly, the scheduled speaker, Jeanne Kenyon gave word that she could not make it but 3 of her colleagues did. The 3 in question, Mike Emery, Andrea Kenyon and David Cole, are magistrates from HM Courts Service (HMCS) and are based at Chorley Magistrates Court.

Mike led the talk but made it clear that he welcomed questions from members from the start and that his 2 colleagues would assist him. He started by explaining that magistrates had been around since the reign of Edward III in the mid 14th century. Then as now they were unpaid but generally accepted they were people of influence within the community. In the Middle Ages they were more than likely to be knights. Also, then as now, a problem to be dealt with could be drunks on a Saturday night and a magistrate would bind someone over to keep the peace.

David Cole, Mike Emery & Andrea Kenyon.

Other responsibilities magistrates would have had then but not now would be for turnpikes, bridges and felons in prison before facing the Quarter Assize. Courts were held in many places. Around Chorley there is evidence of courts being held where the Swan with 2 Necks pub is, St Laurence’s Church, the site of the present Central Library, Union Street and the Old Royal Oak pub. There were, of course, stocks where the police station is on what was the town green.

Mike then went to explain that in modern Britain magistrates deal with about 95% of all criminal cases. Magistrates are chosen from people aged 18 to 70 and there are around 60 magistrates in Chorley. The youngest is in their early twenties. There is always a bench of 3 magistrates that sit in court and it is the chair that sits in the centre. This was as it was on the night with Mike sat in the middle and Andrea and David on either side of him. The term bench comes from when the only person who sat in court was the magistrate. They are expected to attend a minimum of 26 sittings a year.

Although unpaid, until the 1890’s magistrates had to own an amount of land. It was customary too that the mayor of a town or city was an honorary magistrate. It was, also, a totally male domain until there was a Mayoress of Stalybridge appointed on the 31 December 1919. It is now a 50/50 split of males/females on the bench.

Magistrates require no legal training but in court there is a Legal Assistant that sits in front of them. They would advise on points of law and are paid for these duties. Also paid is the Court Usher, who Mike described of having the appearance of a teacher from bygone days.

Those present on the evening took every opportunity to put their questions to Mike, Andrea and David, which covered many aspects of magistrates, what they do, stories of interesting cases and how to apply to become one. It was a different evening from the norm, not least because of its debate format but no less interesting.

P Robinson