Brecon and district
Crime and punishment
  The Assize Court  

The beginning of the new Victorian era was marked in Brecon with the building of the grand new Shire Hall in the town. This opened in 1842 and was to be the seat of all those authorities which ran Breconshire on behalf of the crown.
The Quarter Sessions were held there and other important local meetings like the meetings of the Board of Guardians.

There is a larger version of this photograph in our series of old pictures of Brecon.
Click here.
Perhaps the grandest of these occasions were the regular Assize Courts. These were where the serious criminal cases were heard and a High Court Judge would visit the town to hear them. The huge size of the grand building, the high benches of the court room and the official wigs and robes were all meant to impress local people with the power of the law.
When the Assizes were held there would be a procession through the town with the judge in his robes escorted by the Sheriff's javelin men who were local policemen in their best uniforms. (See the photograph left.)
  This picture is a photograph of the reconstruction of the Assize Court in the actual court room which is still in the Shire Hall (now Brecknock Museum).
On the high bench at the top we can see the judge in his long wig and scarlet robes. On the left stands a witness who is taking the oath before being questioned by the lawyer on the bottom right.

If the jury of local men found the defendant guilty then the judge would decide his sentence. In cases of murder this could be hanging, and during Queen Victoria's reign several criminals were hanged in public in front of the county gaol.

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