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Honorary Recorder

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History of the Honorary Recorder

In 1662 King Charles II granted a charter which made provision for the appointment of a recorder (the Judge of the Town) and for the manner of his appointment.

According to the charter the person nominated to the office of recorder 'shall solicit and obtain confirmation in the office from the King, his heirs and successors'. In other words the appointment to the office had, historically, rested with Preston Town Council, subject to confirmation from the monarch. This was a unique right because in all other instances, the appointments were made by the appropriate Officer of the Crown (in modern times the Home Secretary).

An incident which happened in 1935 tested the validity of ancient rights when the recorder died in office. In accordance with the powers granted by King Charles II, Preston selected its new recorder and informed the monarch accordingly, at the same time seeking his confirmation. The Home Secretary having heard the death of the recorder and exercising powers which he held in respect of all other towns, appointed his own nominee. An impasse was reached, neither side being disposed to retreat. In due course the Home Secretary, recognising the right granted to the town in 1662, withdrew his nominee.

The duties of Recorder of Preston

The duties of Recorder of Preston differed materially from those of recorders who were Chairmen of Borough Courts of Quarter Sessions as there was no such court in the Borough of Preston, the Quarter Sessions jurisdiction being exercised by County Justices.

The recorder was the Judge of the Preston Borough Court of Pleas which had civil jurisdiction within the borough similar to that of the High Court of Justice. According to our records the Borough Court of Pleas was practically defunct during the 1950s. The conditions of appointment of recorder were therefore different from a normal recorder who presides over a Borough court of Quarter Sessions. As the judicial duties of the recorder were exceedingly light and no case had been heard in the court for many years past the recorder was expected to play a big part in the ceremonial affairs of the corporate life of the town. The recorder's salary was historically 105 guineas but is now £105.

Between the years of 1685 and 1971, Preston was honoured by successive monarchs with the appointment of a member of the judiciary to the post of recorder of the city. The first recorder, John Warren, was appointed by Charles ll in 1685.

Change in legislation

Changes in legislation in the Administration of Justice, including the absolution of the Courts of Quarter Sessions, meant that the post of recorder ceased in 1971. Since that date, the Administration of Justice has been under the charge of the Crown Court and the functions of recorder have been discharged by Judges of the High Court of Justice.

The Council of the City of Preston recognised the importance played by the judiciary in the Administration of Justice within the city and its environs, so it continued into the post of Honorary Recorder of the City of Preston, thereby maintaining the honourable and significant traditions of the position.

The Honorary Recorder today attends and supports civic ceremonial occasions such as Mayors Incoming/Outgoing Service and Remembrance Sunday. His Honour, John Robert Carr Altham, was appointed as Honorary Recorder by Resolution of Council on 20 August 2020.

Recorders of Preston

Charter of Charles II appoints "John Warren as one of our Justices of our County of Chester and North Wales to be the first and present Recorder." - 1685

Nicholas Starkie, H.M., Attorney General for County of Lancaster - 1706

Thomas Whitehead, Preston - 1735

Nicholas Fazackerley, M.P. - 1742

John Aspinall, Serg't-at-Law - 1771

Robert Moss - 1784

James Allen Park, Vice-Chancellor of County Palatine of Lancaster (afterwards Sir J. A. Park, Kt) one of the Justices of H.M. Court of Common Pleas - 1792

Thos. Batty Addison - 1832

John Addison - 1874

Wm. Housman Higgin, Q.C. Chairman of Preston and Salford Quarter Sessions - 1890

Hy. W. Worsley-Taylor, Q.C. - 1893

F. H. Mellor, K.C. - 1889

Ernest W. Wingate-Saul, K.C. - 1921

John Edward Singleton, K.C. - 1928

Francis Henry Birkett Hodgson - 1935

Henry Percy Glover, K.C. - 1935

John Catterrall Jolly, K.C. - 1938

Arthur Edgar Jalland, K.C. - 1950

William Harrison Openshaw - 1958

Honorary Recorders

On 6 October 1971 the Finance and General Purposes Committee of the County Borough of Preston Resolved: That in pursuance of Section 54 of the Courts Act 1971 and with effect from the 1 January 1972, the present recorder, His Honour Judge W H Openshaw be appointed Honorary Recorder for the Borough of Preston and Judge to the Borough Court of Pleas.

Anthony Jolly - 1989

Judge Lockett - 1996

Peter Openshaw QC - 1999

Anthony Patrick Russell QC - 2006

Laurence Frederick Mark Brown - 2016 

John Robert Carr Altham - 2020

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