Quarter-sessions were local courts usually held four times a year, which generally sat in the seat of the county or county borough. Trials were held before a justice of the peace, judge or recorder.

Quarter-sessions dealt with a range of crimes which were too serious to be dealt with summarily at the petty sessions but were usually less serious crimes than those tried at the Assize Courts. They also had civil jurisdiction to deal with matters such as licensing, supervision of highways, and offences against the poor laws.

The records relating to the quarter-sessions are extensive and can include many different types of document, such as

  • indictments (formal accusations)
  • calendars of prisoners
  • punishment orders
  • depositions and examinations (witness statements usually required for felony cases – the survival of these documents is very uneven)
  • recognizances (bonds to keep the peace or similar)
  • sessions court rolls or books.

These records can contain a great deal of personal information on individuals (including both victims and witnesses of crimes). For example, information may include:

  • name
  • date of crime
  • county
  • parish
  • occupation
  • offence
  • name of presiding magistrates
  • names of witnesses
  • outcome (whether found guilty or acquitted)
  • sentence.

Latest Updates on Twitter

Our own Prof Shore (@ourcriminalpast), is in this month's @HistoryExtra talking about the idea of the Victorian underworld:

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A must read for anyone interested in the "underworld" from a very thoughtful and astute historian. Before we imagined professional crime as #organizedcrime, we thought of it as an underworld - and some still do #twitterstorians. https://t.co/JTu4J8gAae

An everyday tale of death from caressing a mad cat. #history #1820s #research #newspapers #hydrophobia #death

Out this week!! Heather Shore challenges misconceptions about 19th century crime in BBC History magazine @HistoryExtra @becketthistory @ourcriminalpast @BBC

#Transcribe the prison record of Ah Koon imprisoned for burglary in 1895 #twitterstorians https://t.co/WxHSti0MRT

Stumbled on this very familiar trial from @OldBaileyOnline today https://t.co/SRF2n3ROLB -case resulting from infamous 1885 Maiden Tribute of Modern Babylon. Found myself wondering, not for the first time, what became of little Eliza Armstrong when it was all over? #ESRCvictims

I feel inspired to research some women but there were no female police detectives in 19th century England, so I’m investigating the lives of detectives’ wives, as they were generally overlooked. I’m starting with Amelia Caminada. #womenshistory

An 1861 survey named all the 14,000+ adult workhouse inmates in England & Wales who had been resident for 5+ years. Now all listed via links under the 'Inmates' section on each union's web page on https://t.co/hunTf5jT7y