Bradford Court Records

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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 It may have been compiled many years ago and could be out of date.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.


From the sixteenth century onwards a three tiered judicial system operated in England. The three tiers consisted of Petty Sessions, Quarter Sessions and Assizes Courts.

Petty sessions

These were the lowest tier in the English court system, now known as magistrates courts. The Petty Sessions courts dealt with minor offences. The cases heard in these courts were tried without a jury. For more information on Petty session records see here.

Quarter sessions

Since 1361 Quarter Sessions Courts were held four times a year at Epiphany, Easter, Midsummer and Michaelmas. These courts sat with a jury. One or more Justices of the Peace presided over the court sessions and had the authority to deal with riot, theft, assault and poaching. There was usually one Quarter Sessions court for each County or County Borough. Up until the establishment of County Councils in 1888 Quarter Sessions also had the authority to carry out administrative tasks including the repair of roads and bridges, highway diversions, supervising the county militia and the police. For more information on Quarter Session records see here.


Assizes courts heard the most serious crimes, those which could be punished by capital punishment. Records for Assizes courts are held at The National Archives.

Petty Sessions for Bradford, Keighley and Bingley up to 1974

The original Petty Session divisions in the West Riding were based on an ancient administrative area called the wapentake. An Act of 1828, however, allowed the divisions to be altered. In the 1840s and 1850s, new divisions were created based on Dewsbury, Keighley, Kirby Malzeard, Otley, Saddleworth and Wetherby. The Post Office trade directory of ## shows that Bradford came under the East Division of Morley, but no early records for this division appear to survive. By 1885 Bradford had its own Petty Sessions Court. Please see the list below for the location of Bradford, Keighley and Bingley Petty Session records:

Court Division Description of Document Date Catalogue Reference Location
West Riding Petty Sessions: Keighley Division (Bingley Court)
  • Court Registers
  • Juvenile Court Registers
  • Alehouse Registers
  • 1847-1973
  • 1948-1974
  • 1872-1964
  • P2/3
  • P2/4
  • P2/5
West Yorks Archive Service:Wakefield
Keighley Borough Magistrates Court
  • Court Registers
  • Juvenile Court Registers
  • 1935-1974
  • 1944-1974
  • P4/1
  • P4/2
West Yorks Archive Service:Wakefield
Bradford Magistrates Court
  • Court Registers
  • Juvenile Court Registers
  • 1885-1987
  • 1929-1986
  • P16/2
  • P16/4
West Yorks Archive Service: Wakefield

For further information about Petty Session records for the West Riding please contact West Yorkshire Archive Service: Wakefield

Quarter Sessions for the West Riding and Bradford Borough

Some towns such as Bradford who had obtained Borough Status were entitled to hold their own Quarter Sessions separate from the main county court. Bradford Borough Quarter Sessions were instituted by Royal Warrant in July 1877. Up until that date all Quarter Session court cases for Bradford were heard by the West Riding Quarter Sessions Court. Quarter Sessions were abolished by the Courts Act of 1971 and replaced by the Crown Court.

(The different county and borough courts can cause some confusion. For example, a reference in a newspaper report to a trial at "Bradford Quarter Sessions" may mean either the Borough of Bradford Quarter Sessions or the West Riding Quarter Sessions held at Bradford.) It is also worth noting that Bradford Borough initially only covered the main town and only later gained jurisdiction over outlying suburbs. The following Quarter Session records are held by West Yorkshire Archive Service:

Court Division Description of Document Date Catalogue Reference Location
Bradford Borough Quarter Sessions
  • Record of the Quarter Sessions
  • Memorandum Books
  • Calendars of Prisoners
  • 1903-1956
  • 1955-1971
  • 1925-1965
  • QB2/1-7
  • QB1A/1-103
  • QB3/1-14

West Yorks Archive Service: Bradford

West Riding Quarter Sessions

session rolls

Oct 1706-Jun 1910


WYAS: Wakefield