The Arrival of the Judge of Assize

  • 19 Feb 2023
  • Crime and Legal
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With the passing of the Courts Act of 1971, a form of justice which had existed for some 800 years, came to an end with the abolition of the Assizes. Usually twice a year, the Queen's Judge's set out from London and took the law to the people of England.

In each county a town was designated as the Assize Town, to which Her Majesty's Judge's would travel, and stay for a week or more trying serious criminal cases, and sometimes, civil cases as well. However, after 1971, all this travelling ceased and the Crown Court system became law, and the dispensation of justice became static. Before the change, England and Wales were divided into severn circuits for Assize purposes, named respectively; Northern, North Eastern, Midland, South Eastern, Western, Wales, Chester and Oxford. Worcester was within the Oxford circuit, and was the second Assize town to be visited after Oxford; the Judge travelled then to Gloucester, Newport, Hereford, Strafford, Shrewsbury and Birmingham. 

The Judge's staff included a Clerk of Assize who was responsible for the overseeing of the Circuit's paper's and equipment, usually carried in large wicker hampers. In very ancient days the Judge travelled on horseback or by coach. As he entered each county the Judge was met by the High Sheriff, who was responsible for his welfare whilst he resided there.

Assize The Judge of Assize arriving at the Guildhall 29 May 1930, as it shows oak boughs marking the Restoration of Charles ll on the Gateway