A guide to the surviving records of the Derbyshire Coroners.
It has been the duty of county coroners since 1194 to investigate the circumstances of unnatural, sudden, or suspicious deaths, and deaths in prison, with additional functions acquired over time.
There are two coroners for Derbyshire:
- Derby and South Derbyshire, based in Derby
- High Peak, Chesterfield and North Derbyshire (Hundred of Scarsdale), based in Chesterfield
Very few coroners’ records survive for Derbyshire until the mid-20th century. Before then researchers are advised to look in local newspapers to discover more about deaths in Derbyshire. The following coroners’ archives survive at Derbyshire Record Office:
From 1752 to 1860, coroners were required to file their inquests at the County Quarter Sessions. Until 1926 all inquests were held before a jury. Only 38 examples of coroners’ inquests survive amongst the Quarter Sessions records. It is believed that all other early inquest reports were pulped during the Second World War, meaning that the principal primary source in this area is the coroners’ expenses returns (see below).
These inquests give: date of inquest; name of deceased; the verdict; date of death; cause of death; name of coroner; names of jurors; and constable’s receipt.
Under the Act 25 Geo II c29 (1752) fees and travelling expenses were payable to coroners. The claims submitted by the coroners usually giving place of inquest, name of victim, mileage and sometimes verdict.
- Derby and South Derbyshire Coroner: Inquest files 1979-1994; post mortem reports 1979-1994; depositions file 1976-1979 (currently held under reference D3346).
- High Peak Coroner: Registers of reported deaths 1954-1983; inquest notebooks 1964-1979; correspondence etc., other miscellaneous papers and files 1940s-1970s (currently held under reference D3682).
- Chesterfield Coroner: Inquests and post mortum reports, 1976-1992; Records of deaths and Inquests, 1995-2000
Amongst a large collection of business papers and client records from Robothams Solicitors are three ledgers of William and William Harvey Whiston who acted as Coroners for County. The detail in the ledgers varies over time, but are similar to those in the Expense Claims that survive in the Quarter Sessions collection.
Due to the highly sensitive information held in the coroners files, the records are not generally available for public consultation. Please contact the relevant coroner directly if there is a specific inquest file that you require access to.
- Jean A Cole and Colin D Rogers (1995) Coroners’ Inquest Records (Historical Association Short Guides to Records No. 46)
- The National Archives guide to Coroners Inquests