Criminal cases in Surrey (including those resulting in transportation) could be heard either before the Court of Quarter Sessions or at the Assizes. As a rule more serious cases were heard at the Assizes.
Surrey History Centre holds the records of the Surrey Quarter Sessions (QS).
The Assize records are held at The National Archives.
Kingston and Guildford Boroughs held their own Sessions of the Peace. Surrey History Centre holds the Guildford Borough Sessions records. For details of surviving Kingston Borough records contact Kingston Local History Room and Archives.
The main records of the Court fall into two series: the order books, which survive from 1659, and the Sessions rolls, from 1660. The order books are the central record of the decisions made at the Sessions - the judicial and administrative orders issued by the Court. The rolls are files of documents including lists of justices and county officers, indictments and presentments of criminals and recognizances (financial bonds) to appear at court. Other series of records also survive including minutes books of the court from 1694, and process books (listing all those tried for criminal offences) from 1671. From the early 18th century subsidiary documents from the rolls were stored in separate bundles known as the Sessions papers, which included calendars of prisoners in the county gaols and houses of correction, accounts and bills of county contractors, reports on the state of county bridges, coroner's expenses, examinations and witness statements relating to alleged crimes and papers relating to poor law cases. Other series of records were also stored separately, including indictments in criminal cases from 1759.
Legislation required various activities to be registered at Quarter Sessions. This led to the preservation of records relating to Protestant nonconformist and Roman Catholic meeting houses, printing presses, friendly societies, building societies and licensed victuallers. Under various Acts of Parliament, certain records were ordered to be deposited with the records of Quarter Sessions for local preservation and consultation. These included maps and awards for the enclosure of common land and plans of proposed public undertakings such as canals, railways and later, gas and electricity.
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