The Right to Remain Silent
In 2011 the former Devon Record Office (now Devon Heritage Services) was awarded a grant of £32,000 by the National Archives Cataloguing Grants Programme. This award is funding a project - entitled The Right to Remain Silent? - to catalogue, digitize and index a significant portion of the records of the Devon County Quarter Sessions courts.
The Devon Quarter sessions records form a complete and unbroken series which dates from 1592 until the courts were abolished in 1971, and is the earliest uninterrupted series of such records in the country. The cataloguing grant is enabling the sessions rolls dating from 1734 to 1804 to be catalogued.
The records contain the raw material of the business transacted at the sessions. There are writs, bills and depositions relating to criminal cases, papers concerning the removal of vagrants, petitions from bankrupts, coroners’ bills and reports on roads and bridges needing repair. In addition, the 19th century rolls contain reports on lunatic asylums in the county, crime statistics and lists of county police constables and officers.
Bob Bennett has been employed as project archivist, and is currently cataloguing the sessions records. Several volunteers are assisting him by cleaning, sorting and packaging the records. Digitizing and indexing will follow.
- Read Bob’s report on the project’s progress (115KB - pdf help)
- Weekly updates on items of interest that have been found in the records can be seen on Bob’s project blog
Once the project is complete it will complement work done by the National Archives in making criminal records available online. It will also link in with projects already carried out in other counties to catalogue sessions records, thus enabling students to have a wider overview of topics of national relevance, such as the implementation of the poor laws and the treatment of criminals.
For further information about the project and how to participate as a volunteer, please contact Irene Andrews, Access and Service Development Manager, on 01392 384318 or email her on Irene.email@example.com