The Worcester Court of Common Pleas

  • 19 Feb 2023
  • Crime and Legal
  • Back

The Worcester Court of Common Pleas had its origin as long ago as 1554. The original charter of Philip and Mary gave the Court cognizance of all pleas whatsoever, and constituted a Court of Record to be held weekly. Also, a charter of James 1 provided for 'all manner of pleas', actions, suits and demands, as well real as personal and mixt' to be heard before the Mayor, Recorder and Aldermen. Considerable use was made of the Court until comparatively recent times (1919).

The first check to the usefulness of the Court of Common Pleas was the passing of the Act of Constitution in the County Court, for in 1856 the County Court was given, and the Court of Common Pleas was denied. It was not in use after 1865, the last trial being 1855 - but it was revived in 1897, but by then remembrance of ancient methods had gone. In the air of uncertainty, it was decided to ignore the former custom of the Sergeant at Mace to charge the Jury thus; 'Good men and true, stand together and hear your record'.

In olden times the Court of Record had to be held at least four times a year, with no greater interval than four months between two successive courts - but in Worcester there was a special provision for a weekly court, but it was usually a formal opening and shutting, every Monday. The User began:

                                            'Oyez, Oyez, Oyez. All persons having any business in the Court of Common Pleas draw near and                                               give your attendance. Any business in the Court of Pleas?'

The Magistrate's Clerk returned gravely: 'No business'.

The User then said: 'All persons may depart hence, and give their attendance on Monday next, at 12 0'clock. God save the Queen'.

And thus everyone departed