Bankruptcy

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This is a backup of the West Yorkshire Archive Service's "Off the Record" wiki from 2015. The live went offline in 2016 and remains unavailable.

The following source list was originally available only on paper in one of the West Yorkshire Archive Service offices. It may have been compiled many years ago and could be out of date. It was designed to act as a signpost to records of interest on a particular historical subject, but may relate only to one West Yorkshire district, or be an incomplete list of sources available. Please feel free to add or update with any additional information.


The UK does not have a singular bankruptcy law; different laws apply to England and Wales, Scotland and Ireland. In England and Wales bankruptcy can only be applied for by individuals or partnerships. Insolvent companies and other legal entities instead go through a process of liquidisation.

An individual is declared bankrupt following a petition made in court. The petition can be made by either the insolvent individual or by their creditors. Bankruptcy cases could be heard in either the county court or the cental Court of Bankruptcy (records of which are held at Chancery Lane).

Local newspapers are often a good source of finding out the basic details of a bankruptcy case.


Records held by WYAS:

  • Under Acts of 1670 and 1677 a debtor in gaol could petition a Justice of the Peace for a discharge if his estate was worth less then £10 per annum and if his creditors made no objections. These petitions and any related correspondence were filed by the Clerk of the Peace (ref. QD1/219-223). This practise continued until 1824.
  • County courts dealt with debtors and bankruptcy from 1846. Very few records survive from these courts. WYAS: Wakefield holds Insolvency registers from Keighley Court 1847-1871 (ref. CC1/5/1-3) and Pontefract County Court minute books including default summonses and actions from 1920-1952 (ref. CC2/1/2-5).
  • A Wakefield Prison admission registers dealing soley with debtors in the House of Correction 1847-1849 (ref. C118/101). General prison admission registers and calendar of prisoners will cover all prisoners.