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.

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