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Jury Qualification
Freeholders Books
Research Areas
Description of the Documents
Editorial Method

Transcripts of Documents
Name Index
Parishes A-K
Parishes L-Z


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By Simon Dixon1

The absence of comprehensive lists of inhabitants is a well-known hindrance for the study of Devon society during the eighteenth century. In addition to the 1723 oath of allegiance rolls and later eighteenth century land tax assessments the survival of a series of freeholders books are a valuable source of information. The books were compiled for the purposes of identifying inhabitants of the county who were eligible to serve on juries. With certain exceptions, the qualification from 1692 until 1730 was to own freehold or copyhold land with an annual value of £10 or more. After 1730, tenants of land worth £20 per year held on long leases were also eligible. Eligibility was restricted to men between the ages of 21 and 70.2 Therefore, the lists contain the names of the more substantial property owning inhabitants of Devon parishes during the century. Freeholders books survive in the records of the Devon quarter sessions from 1711 until approximately 1816.3 61 volumes are extant up to and including 1800. These webpages contain transcripts of one book for each decade until the end of the eighteenth century. The longest of the published lists is that for 1733, containing 3,723 names, and shortest is that for 1711, with 1,162 names. In addition to the names of inhabitants, the books provide information regarding the status or trade of some of those listed.

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  1. I am grateful to all those who responded to an enquiry posted on the H-Albion discussion list concerning jury composition during the eighteenth century.[back]
  2. Douglas Hay, 'The Class Composition of the Palladium of Liberty: Trial Jurors in the Eighteenth Century' in J.S. Cockburn and Thomas A. Green, Twelve Good Men and True: The Criminal Trial Jury in England, 1200-1800 (Princeton, 1988), 311-313.[back]
  3. DRO, QS7/1-64. Volume 64 is undated, but the year 1816 has been written in the DRO catalogue. [back]