10. Reform in the 19th century

Reform Dialogue boxAfter the Napoleonic Wars, change was in the air. In 1828 and 1829 legislation permitted Nonconformists and Roman Catholics to become magistrates. From 1834, responsibility for poor relief was transferred from the magistracy to Boards of Guardians. In 1836 gaols came under the control of the Home Office. Justices of the Peace’s administrative functions were increasingly transferred to a range of Boards and other new public bodies.

A Surrey policeman of the 1860s. Courtesy of Surrey Police Museum.

The enforcement of the law was revolutionised by the introduction of police forces. Following the formation of the Metropolitan Police in 1829, Southwark had become part of the Metropolitan Police District, and its constables had authority to act throughout Surrey. A separate county police force, the Surrey Constabulary, was set up in 1851. In 1836 Guildford established its own Borough police force.

Edward Leycester-Penrhyn JP,
first Chairman of Surrey County Council.

Surrey County Council was formed in 1889, and took over most of the civil administration from the magistrates. Its first Chairman was E.H.Leycester-Penrhyn, who had been Chairman of the Surrey Quarter Sessions since 1862. His election ensured continuity with the previous system of local government. The urban parishes around Southwark officially became part of London with the creation of the London County Council, and Croydon became a separate County Borough.

Read more about Surrey in the 19th century.

Find out about the Quarter Sessions and Assize Records held at Surrey History Centre.

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