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Tuesday, 22 November 2011

Welcome to Paths to Crime

Thanks to an award from the National Cataloguing Grant Programme for Archives and donations from the Bedfordshire Family History Society, present and former High Sheriffs of Bedfordshire, and the Rotary Club of Sandy, the Quarter Session Rolls for Bedfordshire from 1831 to 1900 are now being catalogued.


Work began in March 2011 when a team of volunteers began to sort, flatten, clean and repackage the documents. In July Kathryn and Sharon, two cataloguers paid for by the award, started work on a two year project to add the contents to the Bedfordshire and Luton Archives Service Online Catalogue where they become instantly available for use by the public. The aim is to produce detailed catalogue entries which include not only summaries of the main points of each case heard at the Quarter Sessions but as much ancillary detail as we can in order to give a real insight into the social and economic history of Victorian Bedfordshire.

Four months in, we are still constantly amazed by the richness of the information contained in the Quarter Sessions Rolls. Working closely with the project we are able to see the way the documents reflect changes in both the procedures of the Quarter Sessions and changes in Victorian England as a whole. This fascinating period in history sees events such as the arrival of the railways, changes to the Poor Law, the agricultural depression of the "hungry forties", the end of transportation overseas, the introduction of Reformatory schools for juvenile offenders, the introduction of County Councils, and the growth of large scale industry. All these are reflected in the documents contained in the Quarter Sessions Rolls. We also see more local events such as the opening of a new House of Correction in Bedford and the visit of Queen Victoria to Woburn Abbey in 1841, and are given a unique perspective on the intimate detail of individual lives

The aim of this blog is to help you to make use of the catalogue and the documents and to fill you in on some of the highlights we come across during the cataloguing of the Quarter Sessions Rolls. We intend to start with a few introductory posts explaining what the Quarter Session Rolls are, how the catalogue is being structured, the type of information it contains, and how it can be used. As the project progresses we will also be sharing some of the fascinating cases and characters we find in the records, and flagging up any interesting changes or topics we encounter. We hope you will enjoy our blog and look forward to hearing your feedback.

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