London Lives Coroners' Inquests

London Lives includes three series of coroners' inquests records: Middlesex; City and Southwark; Westminster. So far (June 2018), I have compiled a catalogue of the Westminster inquests as a finding aid and added plain text files of the formal inquisitions. I plan to do the same work for the other two series.

Westminster Coroners' Inquests, 1760-1799

Inquests were usually held within a few days of a sudden, violent, accidental or unexplained death, at a local alehouse, parish workhouse or the location of the death itself. Deaths of prisoners in custody were subject to an automatic inquest. Most coroners came from a legal or medical background, and in Westminster they were appointed by the Dean and Chapter of Westminster Abbey.

The inquests produced a range of documents, usually bundled into a single set which uses the formal inquisition as its wrapper. The majority of Westminster inquests include depositions as well as the inquisition (the formal record of the inquest, its findings and verdict), warrants, jury lists and verdicts and other more miscellaneous papers. For example, sometimes there are letters or notes written to the coroner to inform him of a death, and suicide cases may include material written by the deceased.

I have been greatly aided in creating this dataset by the catalogue for the inquests 1760-1771 created by Tim Hitchcock, and some of the information from that dataset has been incorporated into this new data. I was also able to use the manually-compiled catalogue as a benchmark to test the semi-automated methods for identifying individual inquests in the London Lives XML data.

As a result, although I haven't individually read most of the cases, I am confident that I have correctly identified virtually all inquests, the identity of their subjects, and the inquest verdicts. This was also aided by the original organisation of the Westminster inquests, and the fact that inquisitions were both highly regular in format (many are pre-printed forms, with gaps to fill in details of a case) and carefully written; as a result the transcriptions are more accurate than for many more informal London Lives documents.

The information provided about causes of deaths is less reliable and should only be used as a guide. The data on causes of death was partly incorporated from Tim Hitchcock's catalogue of the inquests for 1760-1771.

The dataset contains 2894 inquests, giving dates, places, names of the deceased, verdicts and causes of death, and indicates inquests for children, prisoners in custody, and multiple deceased.. It does not include details of the various documents in each inquest, though it does note where depositions are present.

Get the data

The data with more detailed documentation can be found here.

The dataset and all accompanying documentation are licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 4.0 International License.

Acknowledgments

The data has been created using the transcriptions of the Inquests published at London Lives. I am deeply grateful to Tim Hitchcock and Bob Shoemaker, the London Lives project directors, for agreeing to share the data.

I also used a catalogue of the Westminster inquests for 1760-1771 previously created by Tim Hitchcock in the course of compiling this data, and with his consent have incorporated some of that data (particularly causes of death). I am also appreciative of his willingness to share his knowledge of the inquest documents.

The original documents are held at the Westminster Abbey Muniment Room.

The London Lives project (under the name Plebeian Lives) was funded by the Economic and Social Research Council between 2006-2010.

Page last updated on 18 August 2018

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