Our history

Since being founded in 1920, the Magistrates Association has grown from a small group into the national charity it is today


Magistrates have existed for over 650 years and in 1920 a membership association was proposed. The idea came from Alderman Wilkins, a magistrate for Derby, and at the invitation of the Lord Mayor of London Sir James Roll, about 200 magistrates met at the Guildhall in the City of London. This resulted in the first official meeting of the Magistrates Association at Central Hall, Westminster on 28 October 1921, where Viscount Haldane was elected the first President and at which about 500 members were present.

Although in its early years the MA’s membership was fairly small, it included amongst its members some very illustrious justices. The legendary Margery Fry, who was one of the first women to be appointed as a magistrate in 1921, was a driving force in the MA, along with Gertrude Tuckwell and Clara Rackham.

The MA’s original primary function was to provide training to magistrates (at this time training was not delivered by the courts). In 1949 the Royal Commission drew the government’s attention to the training of magistrates and the Justice of the Peace Act 1949 provided that it should be managed by magistrates’ courts committees in accordance with arrangements made by the Lord Chancellor. Magistrates’ training is now the responsibility of the Judicial College, along with all other members of the judiciary, and is provided locally by HM Courts and Tribunal Service.

The MA’s role has changed with the times but still plays an important role in providing training. It has grown to become the only independent voice of the magistracy and represents the vast majority of magistrates in England and Wales, both active and retired.

Find out more about what the MA does today, including influencing key decision-makers, supporting its members and educating the public about the justice system, here.

Coat of Arms

The MA has its own coat of arms, granted in the 1960s.

Heraldic description

Ermine on a Pale Gules of Mace Or and for the crest on a Wreath Ermine and Gules Issuant from Cloude proper and in front of a Sun rising Or a sword point upwards proper suspended from the reverse of the blade a pair of Scales Gold Mantled Gules double Argent as the same are in the margin hereof more plainly depicted.

The arms

The background to the shield is ermine, representing the robes of the Lord Chancellor, symbolic of civic duty and authority. The broad band of red is symbolic of eagerness to serve. Both are the colours of Plantagenet, being the royal livery colours of Edward III.

The crest

The sunburst is the badge of Edward III, who first established the office of the magistracy to administer the law. The sword is connected with St. Paul, the City of London and justice. The scales of justice swing freely, indicating freedom from any executive interference.


‘Ratione et Consilio’ – ‘By reason and sound judgement’