The Rule of Law in Market Rasen

"We certainly know of one episode in 1852 when three prisoners escaped by unscrewing the bolts of their cell door!"

The Magistrates’ Court and Police Station in Market Rasen date from 1849 – before they were built all court sessions were held in The White Hart in King Street and petty criminals were ‘housed’ in policeman’s homes, with the policeman’s wife expected to feed them!

When the building opened the stocks were moved from the market place to here, and there were also cells for prisoners – though they weren’t as secure as people expected! We certainly know of one episode in 1852 when three prisoners escaped by unscrewing the bolts of their cell door!

The court heard cases that affected people’s everyday lives in Market Rasen – one of its first cases was a woman named Elizabeth Nursall, an unmarried mother who wanted child support money from her baby’s father, Joseph Mann. The magistrates could hand down severe punishments, including hard labour. Magistrates also had the power to send the accused to Lincoln or Louth Assizes, where they could and were sentenced to be transported, often for life.

From 1787 to 1850, twenty one people from the Market Rasen area were sent to the other side of the world. Their crimes ranged from burglary through to sheep stealing, receiving sheep fleeces, assault, robbery and obtaining money under false pretences. Only one woman was sentenced to be sent to Australia – Elizabeth Drury had stolen linen and other material from a Market Rasen mercer. She was transported in 1787 but didn’t survive the journey aboard the notorious ship The Neptune.

The Market Rasen Magistrates Court eventually closed in 1998. The Old Police Station, as it’s now known, is one of only three complete mid 19th century courtrooms left in England, making it a very important historic Grade II listed building.

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Where Next?

Simply walk past the Magistrates’ Court and into Dear Street until you arrive at No5 – The Old Cottage Hospital.

References for The Rule of Law in Market Rasen

  • – convicts register
  • Lincolnshire convicts to Australia, Bermuda and Gibraltar CL Anderson (L364) Lincolnshire links with Australia 1788-1840 CL Anderson (L364)
  • David Robinson – WEA Justices of the Peace course 2008
  • Lincolnshire Chronicle 19/04/1850
  • Bates & Mountain collection at Lincolnshire Archives – Market Rasen Petty Sessions books and bundles 4-BM/19/
  • An Early Victorian Market Town – WEA Market Rasen branch published 1971
  • Stamford Mercury 16/01/1852
  • Rasen Mail 02/09/1989
  • Rasen Mail 10/11/1995