The Assizes was a regional court circuit held twice-yearly at Lent (March/April) and Trinity (July/August). They could also be held in winter if there were a large number of cases.

On the whole, Assizes dealt with the more serious offences such as murder, rape, infanticide, felonies, highway robbery, coining, forgery, vagrancy and witchcraft. However, just like the Quarter Sessions, they were also places where civil actions, often relating to issues around land or money, were heard.

Most of the counties of England were grouped together into six Assizes circuits, which included Home, Midland, Norfolk, Northern, Oxford and Western. The exceptions were London and Middlesex, where trials were held at the Old Bailey or Middlesex Sessions House, and Cheshire, Durham and Lancashire, who did not join the Assizes circuit until the 19th century.

While this system remained unchanged in England for hundreds of years, there was a reorganisation of the Assizes in the 19th century with some counties forming a new North-Eastern circuit (Yorkshire, Durham and Northumberland) and some circuits, including Home and Norfolk, combined to create the South Eastern.

Wales also became part of the Assizes system in 1830, eventually separated into North Wales and South Wales circuits. Prior to 1830, cases were held at the Court of Great Sessions.

Judges who presided over cases heard at the Assizes were state-appointed, selected from 12 prominent central court judges who travelled the Assizes circuit.

When they were in town, the local dignitaries would treat the judges to the best hospitality they could provide. The grand rituals and processions associated with the Assizes were a visual manifestation of the power of the law.

The seriousness of many of the cases held at these courts could mean that the accused could be held in prison for a significant amount of time if their case was referred there.

The National Archives holds most of the records relating to Assizes in England and Wales. They have produced a detailed guide to finding and using these records, which provide different levels of information relating to cases heard at the courts, such as name of the accused, their address, the charges against them, and the verdicts and sentences.

The nature of the cases held at the Assizes often generated a great deal of interest among the general public and, of course, the local and national press. This means that it may also be possible to track down details of a particular case or individual by searching through old editions of the relevant newspapers.

The British Library Newspaper Archive has now digitised many regional and local newspapers and these can be accessed via a subscription fee or through local libraries and archives. Some of these archives may also hold microfilm versions of their local newspapers.

Assizes, along with the Quarter Sessions, were abolished by the Courts Act of 1971 and were replaced by a single Crown Court.

Latest Updates on Twitter

Over on our Research Exchange blog, @janetlweston has been reflecting on the limits of thinking about HIV/AIDs as a matter of human rights in the 1990s, and the place of this within the dynamic history of prisons.

https://t.co/Oe0qHWm1dy

I’m (Heather) off to the @BritishAcademy_ to talk to @thehistoryguy and 300 young people from schools and colleges about Victorian youth/street crime.

We are delighted to confirm that @lizzieevens won the SHS Poster Prize at #SHS2019. You can find a copy of the winning poster in our official announcement #twitterstorians #phdchat

https://t.co/AP0A2Ar8XQ

In 1909 @leicspolice Boro PC John Mason was presented with a silver tipped walking cane by Leicester Boro Police Band. In 1960 his family loaned the cane to Leicester City Police as part of an exhibition, and was never seen again.

3

Just in case you missed it earlier we have launched our 1893 Special Edition #Saltaire map today. Prices start at just Β£10. Further details can be found at our website: https://t.co/Z8axm687wX Please ReTweet πŸ˜ƒ
#localhistory #familyhistory #genealogy #ancestry #maps #Yorkshire

4

A little obsessed with prison plans at the moment...here’s a sketch by George Dance of the new Newgate (c.1770s) held at @LdnMetArchives that I wish I could use in my thesis but probably won’t as I need the more detailed, final version (sob)

Late to the party but, in Ep.2 #GentlemanJackHBO Ann Lister asks a magistrate 'is it not the constable's job to gather evidence?' It wasn't actually in 1832. They undoubtedly did, but no legal requirement. Otherwise v. good. #pedant #pettyconstables

Help transcribe prison record of Mary Portus, occupation listed as home duties #crime #history #FamilyHistory https://t.co/R0vuIYWOhK