Criminal court and prisoner indexes

Returns of prisoners to the Surrey Quarter Sessions and Assizes 1912-1918

SHC ref QS3/4/25-26

The Returns of Prisoners for the Quarter Sessions and the Assize Courts for the period up to and during the First World War contain a surprising amount of useful information.

These indexes relate to Quarter Sessions Courts for Surrey, Croydon and Guildford Boroughs and the Surrey Assize Courts. They contain the name of the prisoner, age, occupation and the date of the court sitting (which could be an adjourned sitting which may occasion duplicate entries). However, the actual records can contain much more and make fascinating reading.

Most of the Quarter Sessions courts are filled with petty misdemeanours but the assize records relate to more serious cases. One fascinating aspect is that they often show details of the crime, the name of both the victim and offender, and if found guilty, which prison the unfortunate person was sent to. They can also provide other clues.

For example, one case shows a woman aged 21 who was tried in March 1916 for stealing two dresses and other articles. She was also charged with receiving and stealing two watches and various bits and pieces belonging to another victim. The first entry shows that she was tried at Oxted Petty Sessions, which gives us a pretty good idea of where she was at the time. However, the information also includes a list of previous convictions at Exmouth Petty Sessions in 1915 and Ottery St Mary Petty Sessions in the same year. This suggests to me that she had also been living in Devon for a period of time. Her case was remanded but later in May 1916 she received nine months hard labour in Royal Holloway for both the Surrey and Devon convictions.

More seasoned criminals had many, many previous convictions listed. One man, a clerk aged 71, was tried on 16 May 1916 and had a string of convictions dating back to 1903. These included forgery and stealing a variety of jewellery – mainly in London and Berkshire. He received three years in Wandsworth Prison. Incidentally, surviving prison records can usually be found at The National Archives. The record for previous convictions stands at 17, ranging from fraud and theft to false pretences and five aliases. His offences ranged from Kent, Surrey, East Sussex, Hampshire and Manchester before returning once again to Surrey (Kingston to be precise).

We have included the aliases in this list (one person had 15) but do remember that people often gave false names and the spellings can be a little varied.

If you find one of your ancestors listed in these indexes, do contact us. You can either visit to see the records or, if that is not possible, talk to us about our Research Service and digital copying service.

Returns of prisoners to the Quarter Sessions and Assizes stretch back to the middle of the 19th century. Calendars of prisoners whose cases were heard at Surrey Quarter Sessions and Assizes 1848-1902 are available to search and view online on

Read more about Quarter Sessions and Assize records here.

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