Plymouth and South West Devon Coroner’s records


Bundles of handwritten documents tied with tape, laid on a book with Coroners Daily Record written on itIn 1440 the Borough of Plymouth was granted a charter, with the power to elect a coroner. The Plymouth area has been historically served by three coroners, one for each of the three towns of Plymouth, Devonport and East Stonehouse. The towns were merged in 1914, however the Plymouth district and Devonport district coroners operated in tandem until the mid-1950s. Areas beyond the city of Plymouth were later added to the coroners’ area of responsibility and the office is now known as the Plymouth and South West Devon Coroner.

The records

Photograph showing handwritten folded documents laid over a book which reads Coroners Daily RecordWe hold Coroners’ papers from 1892 to the early 21st century. There are three main types of records:

  • Coroners’ daily record books, which record all deaths notified to the coroner.
  • Post mortem reports, undertaken to establish cause of death.
  • Inquests, which are held in the coroner’s court, if a further investigation into the death is justified.

Inquests and post mortem information in the archives [PDF]

Post mortem reports in the archives [PDF]

Access and terms of use

Coroners’ papers are available to view if they are over 75 years old. More recent material can only be viewed and/or copied with the written permission of the Plymouth and South West Devon Coroner. Their address is 1 Derriford Park, Derriford Business Park, Derriford, Plymouth, PL6 5QZ. We can also advise on access conditions, email us at [email protected]

History of Plymouth’s Coroners

Appointments to the post of Coroner for Plymouth

  • Petition of Plymouth men concerning coroner, 14th century.
  • Charter of 1440 gave the Borough of Plymouth powers to elect inter alia a coroner.
  • George Baron, mentioned in document 591/2, Mayor of Plymouth in 1599 and buried at St Andrew’s Church, Plymouth, 12 June 1600.
  • John Buckham, circa 1663-1666.
  • Thomas Payne, mentioned 1668-1697, appointed by second charter of Charles II, 1684.
  • Andrew Phillips, from circa1699-22 September 1712.
  • Matthew Roe of Plymouth, gentleman, appointed 22 September 1712, mentioned 1724.
  • Tristram Doidge, gentleman, appointed 19 September 1726, and served until 1752.
  • Lampen Harris, gentleman, appointed 19 February 1752, mentioned 13 March 1764
  • John Fry, appointed 31 March 1764. Died April 1765.
  • George Woodward Mallett, gentleman, appointed 2 May 1765, died 1788.
  • Richard Rosdew, appointed 30 March 1791, resigned 24 September 1791, re-elected 2 November 1791 and resigned 1792.
  • George Eastlake (he was frequently absent and a number of ad hoc appointments were made, including Henry Woollcombe). Appointed 26 September 1795, mentioned 1815.
  • Richard Jago Squire (Plymouth) 1827-1838 (see document 1609/676), appointed 29 September 1821, renewed 10 May 1836.
  • John Edmonds (Plymouth), mentioned 1848, resigned 12 February 1868.
  • Thomas Cadwallader Brian, appointed 21 February 1868 and served until 1889.
  • A S Clark, 1889 to 1892.
  • Richard B Johns 1892 to 1914. Based in Princess Square, Plymouth.

Appointments to the post of Coroner for Devonport

  • Alan Belfield Bone, was appointed by the newly incorporated Borough of Devonport in 1837 and served until his resignation on 15 December 1875.
  • James Vaughan, appointed 23 December 1875. Based at 27 St Aubyn Street, Devonport.
  • James A Pearse, 1895 to 1914

Appointments to the post of Coroner for Stoke Damerel District

  • Richard Robinson Rodd served from circa 1880 to 1914. Based at 87 Durnford Street, East Stonehouse.
  • C. George Brian served as Deputy Coroner from circa 1901 to 1914.

There was no Coroner in East Stonehouse from 1914.

The post was later revived under Devon County Council and the following gentlemen were appointed.

  • Arthur Kenneth Griffith Johnstone from circa 1935 to circa 1950. Based in Tavistock.
  • Ernest Howard served as Deputy Coroner from circa 1935 to circa 1950. Based in Plympton.
  • G. G. Pearce from circa 1951. Based in Tavistock.
  • J. Baker served as Deputy Coroner from 1951. Also based in Tavistock.

Appointments to the post of Coroner for Plymouth Corporation later Plymouth and South West Devon

  • Richard B Johns (Plymouth Area Coroner), 1914 to 1927
  • James A Pearse (Devonport Area Coroner), 1914 to to 1927, then Coroner from 1927 to at least 1933. He then served as Deputy Coroner until circa 1937.
  • William E J Major, Deputy Coroner from circa 1928 to circa 1935, then Coroner until at least 1955. Based at 8 Queen Anne Terrace, Plymouth.
  • David Bishop
  • Nigel Meadows, 1999 to 2006.
  • Ian Arrow, 2007 to present.