THE NEW COURTS AND THE NEW JUDGES
The government moved to implement the Small Debts Act with unexpected speed and thoroughness. Instead of the gradual and piecemeal creation of courts which opponents claimed the Act envisaged, the Lord Chancellor instructed Drinkwater Bethune to draw up a nationwide scheme for immediate operation and within months it was ready to be put into place.
There were to be sixty districts and no fewer than 491 courts. Even in a rural county like Suffolk no-one would be far from a county court town, since they included Beccles, Bury St Edmunds, Eye, Framlingham, Halesworth, Haverhill, Ipswich, Lowestoft, Mildenhall, Stowmarket, Sudbury and Woodbridge.
In contrast to the courts of requests, each of which had its own part-time judge, the county courts were to share a judge who was appointed for the whole district and who would arrange his own pattern of work, sitting in each of his courts at least once a month; in the metropolitan area and in Liverpool, however, the judge had only a single court in his district and would sit there as often as he felt necessary.
Restrictions on the judges' outside activities were originally confined to those which might put into question their impartiality, but the spectacle of a metropolitan judge practising at Westminster Hall and the announcement that another intended to stand for Parliament soon obliged the government to extend them. Even so, for some years judges could supplement their income by arbitrations and were allowed to retain recorderships.