This series relates to criminal proceedings at the Western Circuit assizes, with the exception of Bristol minutes the minutes are complete from 1812 until the abolition of assizes by the Courts Act 1971. Before 1812 the rate of survival is erratic but it improves in the course of the eighteenth century.
No minutes for Bristol are extant in this series until those for the summer of 1865, after which assizes they appear in all minute books. Separate assizes were held for the county of Devon and the city of Exeter.
The crown minute books have gaol calendars and record various recognizances taken by the court, including recognizances to appear, to answer, and to prosecute and give evidence. In the course of the eighteenth century the crown minute books become fuller and eventually take over the functions formerly exercised by the gaol books in recording trials. Accordingly from the early nineteenth century the crown minute books generally give the name of the accused, the charge, the plea, the verdict and, where relevant, the sentence, and details of any reprieve or pardon. The names of jurors, both grand and petty, are given with increasing regularity from the final decades of the eighteenth century. In the twentieth century the names of lawyers appearing for the crown and for the defence are provided.