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Assizes in United Kingdom

Assizes History

Courts sitting at regular intervals in each county of England and Wales to administer the civil and criminal law. In 1972 the civil jurisdiction of assizes was moved to the High Court and the criminal jurisdiction to the Crown Court.

As early as 1179,

This issue under the Ruling of King Henry I of England

I inaugurated the grand assize, which enabled certain civil cases to be settled by jury rather than by battle. All the writs issued to persons permitting them to obtain jury trial were recorded on rolls kept in the chancery.

The assizes were very closely associated with the King’s Bench, employing the same judges and process, and dealing with similar cases. The assize commissions could try common pleas in the counties by a process of nisi prius, and in this role they heard primarily possessory actions touching land. They also came to hold commissions of oyer and terminer (to deal with treasons, felonies and trespasses) and cases of gaol delivery. This enabled them to hear pleas of the crown.

Many of the extant records of the assizes are published by local historical societies. (Source: the University of South Caroline Gould School of Law)

Assizes and Medieval Law

Assizes and Legal History

Bibliographies of English Law History

  • Maxwell, William H. A Legal Bibliography of the British Commonwealth of Nations. Volume 1: English Law to 1800. London: Sweet and Maxwell, 1955-
  • Beale, Joseph H. A Bibliography of Early English Law Books. Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 1926.
  • Winfield, Percy H. The Chief Sources of English Legal History. Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 1925.


See Also

  • Conversion (in this legal Encyclopedia)
  • Magna Carta (in this legal Encyclopedia)
  • Attainder (in this legal Encyclopedia)
  • Usury (in this legal Encyclopedia)
  • Medieval Church Law (in this legal Encyclopedia)

The Assizes


The Assizes is the standarized name of one of the UK Historic Courts (see the entries in this legal Encyclopedia about court rules and procedural law for more information on some aspects of the Assizes in the UK court legal history).

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Schema Summary

  • Article Name: Assizes
  • Author: Asa Briggs
  • Description: Assizes History Courts sitting at regular intervals in each county of England and Wales to administer the civil and [...]

This entry was last updated: March 8, 2020


British History


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