Justices of the Peace (JPs) in the Tudor Age

The role of JPs was a varied one. They:

  • organised road and bridge repairs
  • checked weights and measures in shops
  • gave ale houses licences
  • supervised poor relief
  • acted as magistrates in petty and quarter sessions
  • arrested and interrogated suspects
  • organised the Constables and Watchmen

How effective were JPs in the Tudor Age?

JPs in the Tudor Age were unpaid, but this probably did not reduce their effectiveness as most were rich landowners who did the job for prestige and status rather than financial reward. Most did the job in a serious and professional manner.

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As the post was appointed annually, most JPs tried to do a good job to ensure they were selected again. They were generally effective at organising the Constables and Watchmen.

JPs had a key role in arresting and punishing offenders. Their powers increased in 1554, after which time they could arrest a suspect on suspicion of a crime and interrogate them for three days. This made them more effective.

As JPs were landowners with status in their local communities, most could rely on the respect of the people, who respected their decisions.

However, their role and workload increased in the period, especially due to the rise in vagrancy. Some JPs began to be corrupt and abuse their position, especially during the 17th century.