Family History Federation

Dartmoor Convicts Inquests – 1869-1880

This booklet was compiled by members of the Devon Family History Society in co-operation with the Devon Records Office. The booklet provides an extract of some information and further details may be obtained from the Devon Records Office. These papers date from Robert Fulford’s time as coroner. A few inquest papers have survived for the deaths of local people, but the majority of the papers are for convicts who died at Dartmoor prison, which came under the jurisdiction of the coroner for Okehampton district. The prisoners were known as convicts because they had been sentenced to penal servitude, meaning a term of imprisonment with hard labour. Records of inquests survive from August 1869 to September 1886, although the years 1871 and 1872 are missing. The files for 1878 to 1886 are the most complete. In most cases, there is a document giving particulars of the convict including his marital status, trade, date and place of conviction, his crime and sentence, previous convictions, previous places of confinement and the name and address of the next-of-kin. If the convict died in the prison hospital after an illness, there is also a document called a ‘Bed-head diet ticket’ listing the food and drink given to him while he was sick, and if he died through an accident or in a failed attempt to escape, there are witness statements. Sometimes there is a copy of the ‘Inquisition’ which is a printed form completed after the inquest to record the verdict and which was signed by the members of the jury and the coroner. This index book does not list all the details about a convict listed in the original documents but it does indicate if more information is available. Photocopies of documents may be obtained on application to the Devon Record Office, but please note that, as blue paper was used to record the proceedings of inquests, the legibility of copies may not be very good.


SKU : D085

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