How complete is the database?
The series of Assize calendars is very incomplete at first. It starts with a few isolated calendars for prisoners held at Warwick Gaol (Summer 1801; Lent 1809; Lent 1829; Lent 1839; Lent 1841), but from 1849 to 1857, 1869 to 1871, 1874 to 1881 and 1888 to 1900 most calendars survive and have been indexed.
The calendars of Quarter Sessions prisoners are practically complete from 1800 to 1900, but the index does not at present cover the years 1840 to 1846 or 1879 to 1884 (with the exception of Epiphany 1879 and Midsummer 1883).
The Courts of Assize were presided over by royal justices, and were arranged in circuits covering England and Wales: Warwick was part of the Midland Circuit. The Assize courts tried cases of serious crimes, and were the highest courts held locally. They were held four times a year, at the Spring (or Lent), Summer, Autumn and Winter Assizes.
Quarter Sessions courts
The Quarter Sessions courts were presided over by the Justices of the Peace for the county, and tried non-capital crimes (that is, crimes that were not punishable by the death penalty). They were also held four times a year, at the Epiphany (around January), Easter (March/April), Midsummer (June/July), and Michaelmas sessions (September/October).
Some individuals assumed one or more different surnames (with or without different forenames). These are recorded in the database in a separate field, but a search for a particular surname will find an alias as well.
The sentence passed by the court is represented by a series of abbreviations. Please note that the abbreviations may not always have been entered consistently, and examples not fitting the explanations given below may be encountered.
In most cases the sentence is to a term of imprisonment, and this is abbreviated to a number followed by a lower-case letter (indicating day, week, month or year) and upper-case letters indicating the type of imprisonment.
1mHC – One month in the House of Correction
2yG – Two years in Gaol
3yPS – Three years Penal Servitude
14yT – Fourteen years Transportation
6mHL – Six months Hard Labour
An exception to this pattern are life sentences, indicted by “Life”, or “LifeT” for transportation for life.
Sentences other than imprisonment are indicted by the following abbreviations:
Acq – Acquitted
AcqA – Acquitted by reason of insanity, and committed to an Asylum
Asylm – Committed to an Asylum or to Gaol as insane
Death – Sentenced to death (often reduced to a lesser punishment)
Fine – Fined
NoBil – Not a true Bill (jury found that there was no case to answer)
Rmand – Remanded to prison for trial at a later date
Resp – Trial respited or postponed to a later date or to another court
W – Whipping
In many cases several of these abbreviations are used together, for example:
3mGHL – Three months Hard Labour in Gaol
3mHLW – Three months Hard Labour and Whipping
WDisc – Whipping and discharged
In some cases a plus sign (+) has been used after an abbreviation: this indicates that there was an additional element to the sentence that is not recorded here. A question mark (?) indicates there is an uncertainty about the precise form of the sentence.
In cases where the reference gives a bundle number, it is important to note the year and law term as well, as the Record Office will need this information to find the particular Calendar.
The date given in the main views is the year of the trial. The detailed information on individual cases will often give the year of the crime and the precise date of the trial.
Ordering a copy of an entry
You can order a copy of an entry from the Calendars of Prisoners, which is a printout from a microfilm of the entry.
Please see our copying services page for details of how to order a reader printer copy. Please include details of the case you are ordering. An order from the Calendars of Prisoners microfilm usually needs two pages of copying.