Fonds - Northern District Court, Trinity fonds

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Title proper

Northern District Court, Trinity fonds

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  • Textual record

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  • Source of title proper: Supplied title based on content

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Dates of creation area


  • 1753-1962 (Creation)
    Northern District Court, Trinity

Physical description area

Physical description

66.5 cm of textual records

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Administrative history

During the early migratory fishery Trinity was governed by Fishing Admirals, who were empowered to settle disputes among fishermen according to local customs and traditions. In 1729, by royal proclamation, the commander of the naval convoy in Newfoundland, became the governor of the colony. As the crown’s representative in Newfoundland, Governors appointed winter magistrates, Justices of the Peace, to maintain law and order outside the fishing season. The first magistrates at Trinity were Jacob Taverner and Francis Squibb, appointed in 1729. Initially the magistrates’ authority was challenged by the migratory fishermen, but as prominent merchants received appointments as Justices, the system gradually became respected, even though it had very little basis in law. By 1753 the magistrates presided over General Quarter Sessions to deal with civil disputes and from 1766 onwards, more serious complaints were heard annually in Surrogate Court, presided over by Naval Officers who were sent by the Naval Governors. By 1775 a local gaol was built at Trinity.

In 1791, a Court of Civil Jurisdiction was established in Newfoundland by an act of British Parliament, and John Clinch was appointed as a stipendiary magistrate at Trinity. By 1809 this Court had become permanent and was legally described as the Supreme Court of Newfoundland. The Court at Trinity was part of the Northern District Circuit. The stipendiary magistrates had both ministerial and judicial authority. They were able to receive information and complaints for indictable offences which could only be tried in Supreme Court; and as well they presided at the Court of Quarter Sessions, which tried offenders in summary criminal and civil cases. The Supreme Court held regular sessions to handle cases which came under its jurisdiction. There was a resident magistrate at Trinity until the late 1930s, after which time the magistrate at Bonavista held Court at Trinity as necessary. Nehemiah Short was the last magistrate with an office in Trinity.

In the 1970s, Provincial Court Judges replaced the former magistrates, and the Court for this area was centralized at Clarenville. Judge Coulton continued to preside over the Provincial Court at Trinity until the late 1980s. The last regular sitting of the Supreme Court at Trinity was held on September 5, 1947.

Custodial history

The files that make up this fonds were located in the Court House at Trinity (built 1903). They were transferred to the home of Mr. Rupert Morris, former president of the Trinity Historical Society. Mr. Morris may have arranged the material in its present order.

Scope and content

The records in this fonds originated in the offices of the court of the Northern District Court at Trinity. The material represents almost 200 years of the administration of justice in the district. Included with the original material is a series of early court proceedings, 1753-1774, copied from the original records held at the Provincial Archives of Newfoundland and Labrador (PANL). The fonds includes records of the Trinity Magistrates' Office from 1830-1909; commissions and appointments of Justices of the Peace, 1849-1930; wills and land transfers, 1798-1924; appointment calendars for the magistrates office at Trinity, 1907-1931; Acts of Parliament and Orders in Council, 1833-1904; and voters' lists for 1836, 1865 and 1962. The records have been arranged in series following form and function.

Notes area

Physical condition

Immediate source of acquisition

The original records were transferred to the Trinity Historical Society Archives from the home of Mr. Rupert Morris in 1996. The photocopied material was collected and donated to the archives by Walter G.C. White, before 1976.


Language of material

  • English

Script of material

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    Restrictions on access

    Some of these records are sensitive in nature and may be restricted.

    Terms governing use, reproduction, and publication

    Material in this fonds may be protected by copyright. It is the responsibility of the researcher to obtain copyright clearance, when appropriate.

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    No finding aid available.

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    Dates of creation, revision and deletion

    Created - May 8, 2013

    Language of description

    • English

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