Glossop Heritage Trust

Theo Walter Ellison's Glossop Dale Reminiscences.

The Administration of Justice (published 29 March 1935).


This is a topic of absorbing interest to those associated with the Courts, and there are many aspects from which the administration of justice may be viewed, comprehending the Judiciary, the administrative staffs, suitors, prosecutors and accused, civil and criminal, according to the particular Court in which the business is transacted. A brief survey of the various Courts will suffice.

The business of the Courts is primarily of two kinds, civil for recovery of debts, damages and the like; and criminal for prosecution and punishment of offenders. The Courts at Glossop are held in the Town Hall.

There is also the Coroner’s Court for inquests. My father was the Deputy Coroner in 1853. Later Charles Davis, R.C. Knowles and G.H. Wilson have been Deputy Coroners. The Coroner, Mr S. Taylor is at Buxton.

The Civil Court is the County Court, over which the County Court Judge presides. There was a hundred years ago a Court of Request in Glossop, and a Court for speedy recovery of small debts for the Town and Manor of Glossop, established under a special Act of Parliament, but these were superseded by the County Court.

His Honour Judge Thomas Ellison was the first Judge of the Glossop County Court, whom I remember. He resided at Barbot Hall, Masborough, Rotherham, his circuit comprising Sheffield, Rotherham and Glossop. He married Anne Dalton, sister of the late John Dalton, and used often to spend his week-end at Rose Bank, Hollingworth. By general acceptance he was a sound lawyer, and his decisions equitable and just.

Judge Ellison held office for thirty-three years and died in 1896, and since his death there have been seven Judges. His Honour Judge Waddy, K.C. who was in advanced years and became very enfeebled; followed by Judge Mansel Jones, also in advanced years; then Judge Benson Elliott, Judge Lias (who was transferred to Cornwall); Judge Green, who not enjoying good health resigned, and has since died; and now His Honour Judge Frankland.

Mr John Hibbert, of Hyde, was the Registrar for many years, and was succeeded by my father in 1893; on his death by Chas. Davis in 1896; then by F.W. Moran in 1901; and on the appointment of the latter as High Bailiff at Sheffield, P.E. Ireland, the present Registrar.

The Criminal Court, known as the Magistrates or Police Court, is the Court in which the Justices of the Peace, more commonly called Magistrates, hear and decide prosecutions of offenders and deal out punishment, or in the case of more serious offences, commit the accused for trial at the County Quarter Sessions, of the Assizes, according to the gravity of the offence charged, and in accordance with provisions contained in a multitude of Acts of Parliament.

Justices are appointed by the Lord Chancellor, their names being placed on the ‘Commission of the Peace’. Separate Commissions are kept for every County, and also for every Borough which has its own Justices. Names are submitted from various quarters political and otherwise, or from the Justices themselves, or by the Town Council; enquiries are made, and an Advisory Committee considers the recommendations, and submits the results of the enquiries to the Lord Chancellor, who, after consideration, makes such appointments as he thinks proper. Every Justice when appointed, has to take an Oath of Allegiance, and a Judicial Oath of service to the King, and that he will do right to all manner of people after the laws and usages of the Realm, without fear or favour, affection, or ill will. A knowledge of the world and freedom from bias or extreme opinions, is a desirable qualification.

In this Court the Police are coadjutors, that is to say, they are the servants of the Justices, whose legal orders they must obey, but they are also the prosecutors for the majority of offences. There are also private prosecutions, for assaults, threats, malicious injury to property, and other matters; also Affiliation orders; also a very important class of case, married women’s complaints and order for maintenance following desertion or persistent cruelty. Special Courts are held for juvenile offenders. The Justices also have cognisance of some civil matters, as for example claims between Master and Servant and Landlord and Tenant, recovery of rates in arrear, and so on; in addition, the Justices are the Licensing authority for licensing houses for sale of intoxicating liquors, and music and singing and dancing licences.

There was a century ago in Glossop an Association for prosecution of felons, and it is recorded that Thomas Ellison, the Clerk to the Court, offered £5.5s reward for apprehension of the thief who stole fat sheep from a field at Cowbrook.

The Magistrates in the old days were now and again called upon to quell riots and seek the aid of the military forces when necessary, and we learn that in 1831 silver plate was presented to John White,Esq., J.P., John William Newton and Thomas Ellison, by the Gentry of the District for their services in connection with ‘the suppression of the 4/2 or the Swing turn out’, whatever that might be.

A long and continuous experience of thirty years in two Courts, fourteen as Assistant, and twenty-six as Clerk to the Justices, and as Advocate in several other Courts, enables me to say unhesitatingly, that the general body of Justices perform the diverse duties and exercise the powers entrusted to them, with satisfaction to the community, and without remuneration of any kind – hence the appellation ‘the great unpaid’. They have the assistance of trained legal advisers known as Clerk to the Justices.

During a very long period, so far as I remember, there has been only one decision of Glossop Borough and Glossop County Justices reversed, and that related to the appointment of an Assistant Overseer David Massey, which on a case stated went to the High Court. The late Mr Asquith appeared for the Justices concerned, but the Judges took a different view on a legal point to that taken by the Justices. My father was the Clerk to the Borough and County Justices and was succeeded by myself on his death in 1896, and the present Clerk, P.E. Ireland, appointed on my retirement in 1918 and 1920.

Sometimes it happens that when Justices do not perform their duties to the satisfaction of the parties, a mandamus is applied for to compel them. It has not been found necessary in Glossop to resort to that procedure, which is distasteful to Justices, but it became necessary in reference to the Derbyshire Quarter Sessions concerning the diversion of the footpath through the fields at the southerly end of the Wren Nest Mills, which was required for an extension and improvements there. The Justices at Quarter Sessions, on a technical legal point, as advised, declined jurisdiction to make the order applied for. So on behalf of the Glossop Corporation, at the request and expense of Francis Sumner and Co. Ltd, I obtained through Counsel, a Writ of Mandamus, which was heard by three Judges, who directed the Justices of Derbyshire at Quarter Sessions, to hear the application for the order – which they did, and then made the order required. The case is reported in the legal Reports.

Our Borough Courts were always held in the afternoon at 2.30p.m., and in the days of the Ashton Harriers, if my father could snatch the morning for a few hours with the hounds and be back in time for the Court, he could not resist the temptation. On one occasion a London Solicitor who was appearing for the Actors Association, was astonished to see the Justices’ Clerk enter in hunting costume, splashed with mud, and proceed with the examination of witnesses, meanwhile munching on a hard biscuit and cheese for his lunch. After the Court the Solicitor remarked to some company at the Hotel, that when he told his friends in London, they would scarcely believe him. He was assured that no one thought anything of it, my father’s hunting proclivities being so well known.

Here is a good after dinner story :- After I had resigned my position as Clerk to the Justices, I had occasion to be in the Borough Court, anent a famous smoky chimney, and the late Sir William Cobbett, who was engaged in some application to the Court, sat by my side at the solicitors’ table. He had not recognised me, and I remarked “It is a long time since we saw you in this Court Sir William”. “Yes”, he said, “It is a very long time – the last time I was here old Ellison sat there”, pointing to the Clerk’s seat. I said “you mean my father”. He turned to look at me and quickly replied “Of course, you used to sit there too”. Then making amends for the pardonable oversight, he said I know your father well – we often were against each other in Court, and we hunted together with the Cheshire. Your father once told me a story that he was up early one summer morning looking through his bedroom window at Ryecroft House, when he saw a local night wanderer gathering strawberries in his garden and not only gathering them, but plucking the best if you like. Your father knocked at the window and the man, seeing his face, ran like a hare.

My father had been dead thirty years when Sir William re-called this story, which he repeated with much relish.

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