Description: This ornate document is an Act passed by Parliament in 1794 sanctioning the building of a new Shire Hall for the County of Stafford.
Situated in the town of Stafford, the document tells us that the Shire Hall formed the centre of local administration in Staffordshire during the eighteenth century. Assizes and Quarter Sessions were held at the Shire Hall along with ‘other Public Business of the said County and of the Borough of Stafford’.
By 1794 the ‘ancient Building’ of the Shire Hall was ‘in a very ruinous and dangerous State’. The ‘Preamble’ to the Act suggests that the building was insufficient ‘for the Public Purposes of the said County and Borough’ and ought to be ‘taken down and re-built on a larger Plan’.
The Act describes the situation of the New Shire Hall on a site currently occupied by ‘several Messuages or Dwelling Houses, and the Gardens’ situated on ‘the Eastern Side of the present Shire Hall’.
The Mayor and Burgesses of Stafford, as ‘Owners or Proprietors’ of Stafford’s ‘Markets and Fairs’ had agreed to contribute one thousand pounds towards the new Shire Hall. In addition, the Act states that the Mayor and Burgesses had agreed and ‘give up their Right’ to the parts of the street and ‘present Market Place’ in Stafford for the site of the new Shire Hall.
The Mayor and Burgesses were charged with arranging for ‘some convenient Building or Market House’ to be erected elsewhere in the Town to accommodate the Market. This new ‘Building’ was also to have ‘Rooms, Offices, and Accommodations for transacting the Business of the said Borough’, and also for ‘the safe keeping of the Records belonging to the Corporation’.
This fascinating document is full of detail telling us about the civic culture of Stafford and the social and commercial development of the Borough during the late eighteenth century.
The image above shows the first three pages of 'An Act for Building a New Shire Hall for the County of Stafford'.