Please note that records which were created less than 100 years ago will be subject to restricted access under the Data Protection Act. Dorset History Centre holds some court, prison and police records, but some are held elsewhere by other organisations.

Court records

The History Centre holds records of court proceedings and verdicts for the Petty Sessions (later magistrates courts) and Quarter Sessions, as well as some of the County Courts.

Most Petty Sessions and magistrates court records are listed on our online catalogue. For Quarter Sessions records there is an outline of the collection on our online catalogue, otherwise please contact us for advice on what we hold.

In some cases in may be worth looking through local newspapers, as court cases were often reported in detail.

The most serious crimes were tried at the Assizes, records of this court are held at The National Archives.

Police records

We hold a small quantity of historical records for the Dorset police force, but these are currently not catalogued. Most historical records are held at the Dorset police headquarters at Winfrith. Please contact us for advice on what we hold.

We also have an index of Dorset police officers 1856-1888 which can be consulted in our searchroom.

Prison records

We hold records for Dorchester prison from the 1780s to the 1980s: see our online catalogue.

Portland prison was a national, rather than local, prison, so surviving records are held at The National Archives.