Powys Digital History Project

The Judge's Lodging

Judge's Lodging,
Broad Street
(far right)

A new life for the Shire HallThe former Shire Hall,Broad Street
In 1542 Presteigne was chosen as a safer venue for the Court of the King’s Great Sessions, in preference to Rhayader, where a judge had been murdered in the 1530’s. Presteigne was thus set to become the legal seat of Radnorshire for more than 400 years.

By the early 1800’s Presteigne was thriving, having the status of county town as well as its long established legal role. It housed the Great Sessions (called Assizes after 1830) and the Quarter Sessions, where magistrates met to try minor offences and to carry out administrative duties similar to those of a modern County Council. (Examples of Quarter Sessions cases from various dates can be seen on the Crime and Punishment and Care of the Poor sections of this website).

The building
Broad Street
There was aBroad Street,Presteigne Shire Hall for the trials and hearings, a lodging house for the Judges, and a gaol. Both the old Shire Hall and the gaol, however, were in a very poor state of repair. The state of the Shire Hall gave rise to many complaints from the magistrates, and many prisoners managed to escape from the insecure gaol.
The prison was the first building to be replaced, with a new building on the edge of the town. A new Shire Hall, Court of Justice and accommodation for the Judges was ordered in 1825, to be built on the site of the old gaol in Broad Street, Presteigne.
  The new building pictured on this page was not fully completed and furnished until 1829. The first case of the Great Sessions in its new surroundings took place on 24 August 1829, when a horse thief was sentenced to death, though this was later to be reduced to transportation for life.
Radnorshire juries gained a reputation around this time for being reluctant to convict, not least because they often knew the people who were being tried. In 1834 a Quarter Sessions jury at Presteigne was fined for tossing a coin to decide upon a verdict !


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