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Records of councils and boroughs

Finding and using borough and district authority records at Shropshire Archives

Shropshire Archives holds records of the ancient boroughs of

  • Shrewsbury
  • Bridgnorth
  • Ludlow
  • Much Wenlock.

These collections hold some of our very earliest records and document the development of these towns from the medieval period onwards. Lists for these collections are on our online catalogue. Some records have been copied onto microfiche but for the majority of documents, you’ll need to use our Search Room. Please book a microfiche reader or your place in the Search Room in advance.

By the 1830s, it was evident that some Boroughs were in need of reform and this was enforced in the Municipal Corporations Act of 1835. After this date records relating to the reformed boroughs are listed with records of the new Urban and Rural District Authorities – in the District Authorities series (ref DA). All records with a prefix DA are all held offsite, so you need to book into the Search Room and request them a week in advance.

All the Borough and District Authority Records are listed online.

For Shrewsbury Borough, there are also copies of reports of committees, 1894-1928 and minutes of the council and reports of committees, 1928-1994 in our local studies collection ref qD46.5. You don’t need to register to view these.

If records relate to people who are still living then Data Protection may apply.

Finding and using Quarter Sessions and County Council records at Shropshire Archives

Shropshire County Council was created in 1888. Most pre 1974 records are at Shropshire Archives. A summary printed list is available but please do ask staff for help as records are being reclassified. Please book a space in the Search Room to view these records.

Before 1888, local administration at county level was largely in the hands of the Justices of the Peace, or under their supervision. The office of Justice of the Peace came into being during the 13th and 14th centuries. The Justices could use their powers individually (so far as they were allowed) or jointly with one or more colleagues in local meetings later called Petty Sessions, although the most important functions were exercised at the General Sessions of the Peace which were held four times a year – hence the name Quarter Sessions.

The Justices were given certain administrative functions in addition to their purely judicial work as early as the 14th century. These administrative functions grew in close association with their judicial work and became very extensive. So you’ll find records relating to all sorts of subjects, from crime and punishment, maintenance of bridges and highways, poor relief, coroners, the House of Correction and lunatic asylum within the records of the Quarter Sessions.

There is one series of Quarter Sessions for the County of Shropshire and the list for this collection is online. Please visit our crime and punishment page for more about the judicial responsibilities of the Quarter Sessions.

The Boroughs of Shrewsbury, Ludlow, Much Wenlock and Bridgnorth could also hold their own Quarter Sessions.

Most of the records are original so you’ll need to view them in the Search Room. If records relate to people who are still living then Data Protection may apply.

Find out more

The Victoria County History of Shropshire volumes are useful, in particular the Victoria County History of Shropshire Vol II which has a useful list of district authorities.  Cox, David C Shropshire County Council; a centenary history ref C 42 on the open shelves in our Reading Room is an excellent history of the functions of the County Council.

Information in other places

Oswestry and Bishop’s Castle also held their own Quarter Sessions, but records are held by: