Getting Started

The main historic records of the criminal justice system can be found in the National Archives and local record offices. The National Archives (TNA) holds the records of the Home Office (HO), Metropolitan Police (MEPO), Assize (ASSI – although local assize records are held at regional record offices) and Prison Commission records (PCOM). Records relating to convict transportation can also be found amongst the Colonial Office (CO) and Admiralty (ADM) records. The National Archives holds a huge range of records available, many of which are also now digitised and available from www.findmypast.co.uk.

The best way to explore what is available at TNA is by using their excellent online guides. For example: Criminals and Convicts, Criminal Trials in the Assize Courts, 1559-1971 and Police. Local Record Offices also hold some criminal justice and policing records. For example, these include local and regional police and constabulary archives, records of the court (Assize, Quarter Sessions, Petty Sessions or Magistrates court), local prison archives and reformatory and industrial school archives.

Survival and access can vary from archive to archive. Many record offices have excellent online information online (for example, the West Yorkshire Archives Service and the East Riding Archives Service). Before you visit an archive make sure you read the guidance on the website. Many allow you to register and even order in advance, so it is worth doing some initial preparation before you go. Archive staff are usually happy to answer questions although you are advised to contact them in advance of your visit, especially for more complicated queries (see the Researching Here section for getting started at TNA).

HMP Holloway: History and Sources

A history of Holloway prison, which was originally built as the New City of London Prison in 1852 and later re-designated to became the first female-only local prison in England.

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Source Guide for Hull and East Riding

Download our Hull and East Riding source guide to researching your criminal past.

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Tracing your police ancestors

Find out more about the sources available for tracing your police ancestors.

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Industrial and Reformatory School Registers

Industrial and Reformatory Schools registers contain a great deal of information about the criminal and destitute children who were sent to these institutions from the mid-nineteenth century until 1933.

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Hull Sessions gates

Quarter Sessions

Find out more about the Quarter sessions, which were local courts usually held four times a year in the seat of the county or county borough.

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Street Scene

Where to find criminal justice system records

The main historic records of the criminal justice system can be found in the National Archives and local record offices. Learn more about these records.

Find out more

Latest Updates on Twitter

London, 1842: Pentonville Prison opens. But how are the inmates to be rehabilitated? Is there anything redemptive about solitary confinement? Can a religious outlook on life help with addiction? One troubled priest seeks to find out....Paperback and Kindle https://t.co/L5mmOeUMgn

The door of the prison where my ancestor James Duckworth was held in Warwick before being hanged for treason in 1773. His crime was coin-clipping, and when he was executed the newspapers reported he was the heaviest man in the county, weighing in at 23 stone.

"A Factory Señorita?" @femalefactoryol blog by @oldparramatta. Directs you to resources on the #OldBailey & #ParramattaFemaleFactory #convict #AdelaideDeLaThoreza inc. Gothic Fantasy 1878 bio & recent research untangling the truth #OzHist #twitterstorians https://t.co/9JhH0WYPFi

A selection of images on the topic of Photographing Prison Life in the Early 20th Century can be found on our website under the 'Explore Further' tab. Just click on the heading 'Digital Collections' and scroll down the page. Also available here: https://t.co/D1Wkv6079X

Great to be at the first meeting of the BSC's new historical criminology network today. Loads of exciting stuff will come out of this! Thanks @dchurchill01 for organising. #crime #criminology #History #twitterstorians

Exciting opportunity to hear Helen Pankhurst, the great-granddaughter of suffragette leader Emmeline Pankhurst, talk about how women’s lives have changed over the last century #Suffrage100 #Vote100 #eveningtalk https://t.co/gaREGnvqVF

Imagine a world in which there is no #art #music #film #drama - what life can exist in such a world? Latest issue of the Prison Service Journal explores the meaning of #arts for #prison @KateHerrity @YvonneJewkes @No1govhmpnotts @HmpStaffordGov @LauraSCaulfield #MusicInPrison

Don't forget to book for our event on 13 December - Suffragettes and the City https://t.co/EShMtZysA3 #londonhistory

#Listen: Ian Hislop and Tom Hockhenhull on dissent through the centuries https://t.co/D6aoywmQEQ #podcast