Cumbria Archive Service - guides to County Court records

Ancient county courts were part of the Anglo-Saxon framework of local administration of justice they diminished until they became courts only for small civil actions and were largely obsolete.  They were revived by the Recovery of Small Debts Act subsequently known as the County Courts Act 1846 (9 and 10 Vic c95). England and Wales were divided into county court districts with a full-time judge appointed to each district.  The judge sat in different towns regularly, hearing small debt, bankruptcy and other civil cases. 

Courts dealt with cases for the recovery of small debts concerning contracts, trusts, probate and property. Plaint books were kept detailing the actions heard in court. After the Bankruptcy Act 1883 they were given jurisdiction over bankruptcy matters.  Appeals from the county court went to the Court of Appeal. Powers were consolidated in the County Courts Act 1888 (51 and 52 Vic c43). Section 28 now instructed all registrars to keep a record of all plaints, summonses, orders and judgments as 'minutes of proceedings'. Further Acts in 1903 and 1919 and courts jurisdiction grew to include 3rd party liability and with it personal injury cases, matrimonial law, housing and tenant's law and adoption and guardianship. Acts of 1934 and 1959 means that county court jurisdiction covers virtually all civil law proceedings with certain exceptions like libel.

The most important records are the county court registers, containing brief details of parties, claims and findings.

County Court Registers:

Barrow and Ulverston County Courts

Brampton, Carlisle and Wigton County Courts

Whitehaven and Millom County Court

Cockermouth and Workington County Court