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Grand Jury Collection

Waterford County was established by the writ of John, King of England and Wales and Lord of Ireland in the thirteenth century.

In the medieval period a Sheriff, appointed by royal authority, administered the county. The Sheriff was responsible for the collection of taxes, repair of castles, gaols, arrangements for court sessions, the policing of the county, the election of a Coroner and the construction of roads and other public works. The King’s Judges visited twice yearly to hold Assizes with the assistance of the Grand Jury. The members of the Grand Jury were chosen by the Sheriff from among the largest landowners in the county.

From the seventeenth century the Grand Jury began to acquire functions beyond the administration of justice and became involved in the provision of roads and bridges and the collection of county cess, the tax levied to pay for these works. A limited franchise was also introduced and elections were carried out for membership of the Grand Jury. Details of the franchise legislation can be found in the collection. (GJ/30) Gradually they accumulated further functions.

By the beginning of the nineteenth century they were responsible for a wide range of works and services including roads and bridges, lunatic asylums, county infirmaries and fever hospitals, dispensaries, courthouses and gaols. It is this period, the nineteenth century, which the collection details.

  • The Query Books (GJ/1-8) provide information regarding the maintenance of roads and bridges and of works such as the construction of piers and the development of the railway in Waterford County.
  • The Contract Books (GJ/15-18) and the Assize Presentment Books (GJ/9-14) detail the contracts for the building of roads and the other construction work undertaken in the county.
  • The Account Books (GJ/21-23) provide evidence of the county cess paid by individuals and the manner in which these funds were expended.
  • Click here to see the Grand Jury Descriptive Lists.

The administrative powers and duties of the grand juries were transferred to County Councils and Rural District Councils by the Local Government (Ireland) Act, 1898.

The archives of the grand jury are a valuable resource as they provide evidence of the beginning of the county infrastructure, as we know it today. Many of the roads, bridges and piers still in use today were originally built under the aegis of the grand jury. These records also provide evidence of the building of railway lines in the county, many of which are no longer in use or existence. The accounts of the grand jury (GJ/21-25) also contain a glimpse at the social conditions of the time with entries such as payments made for the maintenance and transport of prisoners.

Due to the small size of the collection, little arrangement has been carried out. It has simply been arranged with the ‘Query Books’ and ‘Contract Books’ followed by the ‘Account Books’ in order to show, first, the work carried out by the grand jury and then the cost of carrying out these works and services.

Similar records can be found among the archives of other County Councils in Ireland.