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Courtrooms in the East Riding, Hull and York

Most of the courtrooms in which crimes committed in the East Riding were tried can still be visited today.

Beverley Guildhall

The East Riding quarter sessions were held in the county town, Beverley, across the period of transportation. From about 1703 until 1810, quarter sessions were held in the Beverley Guildhall. The Guildhall is today owned by the East Riding Council and is opened as a museum. The beautiful 18th century courtroom has been restored to its appearance when the justices of the peace sentenced criminals to transportation in this room in the 18th and early 19th centuries. A small selection of convicts who were sentenced in the Guildhall to transportation to Australia include:  John Best of Beverley, a labourer, sentenced in January 1788 and transported on the Third Fleet in 1790-91; John Raper of Beverley, at the Christmas Quarter Sessions in 1796; John Smith, sentenced to transportation at the Michaelmas Quarter Sessions 1790.

Sessions House, Beverley

From 1810, the East Riding quarter sessions were held in Sessions House, New Walk, Beverley. This was a purpose-built courthouse, designed by Watson and Pritchett of York, and stood adjacent to a new East Riding house of correction built at the same time. Prisoners sentenced to transportation in the courtroom here included: Luke Dales, sentenced to transportation at the East Riding quarter sessions on 31 December 1844; Sarah Ann Sharpe, sentenced to seven years’ transportation at the midsummer East Riding quarter sessions on 27 June 1837; Maria Fay, convicted of theft at the East Riding quarter sessions on 8 April 1851.

Hull court houses

In the 18th century the Hull quarter sessions were held in one of two Guildhall buildings in the town, one medieval and one 17th century, both situated close together at the southern end of the Market Place. These buildings can be seen in an 18th century paintings by Benjamin Gale c. 1780 in Wilberforce House, Hull, and in T. T. Wildridge Old and New Hull. Both buildings were demolished in c.1805. From this time, the Sessions were held in the Mayor Jarratt’s house on Lowgate, which he rented out for this purpose. The house was purchased and altered to provide purpose-built accommodation for the town corporation and the quarter sessions in the 1820s. This building was eventually demolished in the early 20th century to make way for the present Guildhall, built on the same site.  

York Assizes

Justices of the peace sitting in the quarter sessions could not pass down a sentence of death, and people accused of more serious crimes in the East Riding and Hull were tried at the York assizes, presided over by professional judges. The York assizes were held in a courtroom built in the early 1770s on the York Castle site. This courtroom today houses the York Crown Court.


Trial in the Guildhall courtroom
Artist's reconstruction of a trial under way in the Guildhall courtroom
Sessions House, Beverley
The East Riding quarter sessions were held in this building, now a health spa, from 1810.
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Plan of ER House of Correction 1853
Ordnance Survey map showing the interior of the East Riding House of Correction. Reproduced in Victoria County History volume 6
View of Hull from the south east
South east view of Hull – the old Guildhall is visible here. Image from Gott Collection, A1.91 9/21.
York Crown Court
York Crown Court. Photo by James Denham. Licensed under CC BY-SA 2.0 via Wikimedia Commons.