Glen Innes History: Colourful families hold court in New England

First Glen Innes clerk of petty sessions: Alexander (Alick) Octave Wyatt.

First Glen Innes clerk of petty sessions: Alexander (Alick) Octave Wyatt.

One of the more colourful family trees in the Glen Innes collection is that dating from the 14th century – the pedigree of the Wyatt family of Horsted Keynes, Sussex – complete with sketches of the coats of arms.

Alexander (Alick) Octave Wyatt, born in 1821 in Versailles, became the first clerk of petty sessions in Glen Innes.

His parents were Captain William Wyatt Captain of HM 32nd Foot and Countess Marie Antoinette Hortense De Vivefay (she was the daughter of a lady-in-waiting to Queen Marie Antoinette). His brother was Brigadier-General A H L Wyatt in India.

Alick Wyatt had been appointed to the court at Wellingrove in 1854 to succeed Captain Frederick Dunbar and when the “Seat of Justice” moved to Glen Innes in 1858, he took on the position there.

John Fetcher was the first pound keeper and with much of the area still unfenced in 1855, he didn’t lack for work.

Whan Brothers built the first courthouse and police lockup that year so the first Glen Innes police officer, Irishman Chief Constable John Proctor who had also moved from Wellingrove, would now have somewhere secure to detain miscreants.

In 1832, the powers of the Courts of Petty Sessions and magistrates had been formalised: “….Judges can convict people on charges of theft, drunkenness, disobedience of orders, neglect or running away from work, abusive language to a master or other disorderly  or dishonest conduct.”

John Fetcher was the first pound keeper and with much of the area still unfenced in 1855, he didn’t lack for work.

J.M. Bennet in In Witness Thereof: Lawyers and the Law Society in New England & the Liverpool Plains mentions that the job of CPS was often not happy one: “The tasks of clerks of petty sessions especially in the outer settlements, in attempting to placate angry parties, who travelled long distances to court but found no magistrates in attendance, can readily be imagined….

“The clerk of petty sessions at Glen Innes by agreement with the government goes to Inverell once a month and officiates at both places; and as the Inverell Magistrate seldom goes to Glen Innes or the Glen Innes Magistrate to Inverell (so as to form a bench of two) there is seldom any business done at either place…”

Wyatt also held the positions of crown land agent,  registrar of court of requests at Inverell, enumerator for the Census, mining registrar, owned land and registered a horse brand.

The present courthouse and police buildings were opened in 1874.