Duchy of Lancaster: Coroners' Inquests and Returns
This series consists of the surviving nineteenth-century returns and inquests of coroners appointed by the Duchy of Lancaster for its liberties in the counties of Essex, Norfolk, Middlesex and Surrey, and the honors of Halton (Cheshire) and Pontefract (Yorkshire).
The main record of the inquest is the indented inquisition. This is a brief summary of the proceedings, with a note of the verdict, signed and sealed by the coroner and the jury. Also found are the coroner's warrants to parish constables to assemble a jury, to which are often attached a list of named jurors. Occasionally addresses and occupations are listed as well. Witness lists and statements are often found too.
Also included are returns or summaries of inquests held. These simply list the inquests in a given year, with the name of the deceased, date and place of inquest and the verdict. On some of the returns a note of the coroner's expenses will also be found.
Within the Duchy the office of coroner was usually held with other offices such as feodary or bailiff, which may themselves have been held for a number of liberties.
Coroners were usually elected in counties by virtue of royal writ. There were, however, liberties whose owners, like the Duchy of Lancaster, appointed their own 'franchise' coroners by long held custom. This led to a conflict with county coroners entering Duchy liberties to hold inquests. While the law relating to coroners was rationalised by the Coroners Act of 1887 and the Local Government Act of 1888, the franchise holders were still able to appoint coroners until the Coroners (Amendment) Act of 1926.
The main duty of the coroner by the nineteenth century was to hold an inquest into all cases of sudden, violent and mysterious death, and this is reflected in the records of this series. Each inquest gave rise gave rise to a number of documents, bundled together for each case, which were returned to the clerk of the Duchy council by the coroner.
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