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Archaeologia Cantiana -  Vol. 66 - 1953  page 98

   By Elizabeth Melling, B.A.

AMONG the County Records in the Kent Archives Office, County Hall, Maidstone, is a very large series of account books and papers of insolvent debtors covering the first half of the nineteenth century in date.1 The survival of such a group as this appears to be unique among County Records, and should provide an interesting source of information concerning the small tradesman and businessman of one particular area in the early nineteenth century. The records of large and important businesses with a continuous history have a good chance of survival, but the records of the small tradesman, particularly if unsuccessful, are not so easily found, a fact which adds to the importance of this collection.
   From the end of the seventeenth century Acts of Parliament for the relief of insolvent debtors were passed regularly, the execution of these Acts being carried out by the Courts of Quarter Sessions. In 1820, by an Act of 1 George IV c. 119, a change was made in the system and a new court called "The Court for Relief of Insolvent Debtors" was set up, three commissioners being appointed to preside over it. The court could direct final examinations of debtors to be taken at Quarter Sessions and it is 

probable that much of its work was delegated to the justices in Quarter Sessions. In 1824, however, an amending Act was passed (5 George IV, c. 61), and the jurisdiction of the justices in Quarter Sessions over insolvent debtors was ended. The number of commissioners was increased from three to four and the commissioners were to make circuits separately to hold courts. The clerk of the peace or his deputy was to attend the courts held in his county and to act as clerk to the commissioner. Schedules and books belonging to debtors were to be lodged with the clerk of the peace so that they could be inspected by creditors.
   This Act appears to be the origin of the formation of the collection under consideration and thus these documents and books of insolvent debtors are, strictly speaking, records of the clerk of the peace and not of Quarter Sessions. The bulk of the books and papers were filed with the clerk of the peace between 1830 and 1846, though the outside dates of deposit, as far as can be ascertained are 1825 and 1856. The outside
   1 Ref. Q/CI.

Page 98

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