Collection GJ1 - Records of King's County Grand Jury

Identity area

Reference code



Records of King's County Grand Jury


  • 1830 - 1885 (Creation)

Level of description


Extent and medium

16 Presentment Books
2 Coroner's Report Books
27 lists of jurors

Context area

Name of creator


Administrative history

The grand juries were among the most important organs of local administration at county level until the passing of the Local Government Act of 1898. Although originating in Norman times, the first mention of grand juries on Irish Statute books is in 1634. King’s County, which was shired in 1556, and like all other counties was used as a unit for the administration of justice, although over time, its administrative function increased and it became responsible for public works such as road construction and later for construction of infirmaries, bridewells and other institutions of local governance.

The jurors originally comprised ten in number but this was raised to twenty-three. Members of the grand jury were selected by the high sheriff from the leading property owners in the county, the order in which the jurors stood on the list being an indication of their social standing. The sheriff’s discretion in the nomination of the grand jury was total. The sheriff was a political appointment and it frequently happened that he filled the list with his friends and supporters. Catholics were prohibited from serving on grand juries until 1793 but even after this date, jury lists were predominately Protestant due to the concentration of property in Protestant hands.

Over time the administrative function increased. The 1634 and subsequent acts authorized the justices of the assizes with the consent of the grand jury to levy the costs of roads and bridges on the county or barony. This rate was called the county cess. By 1705 the grand juries were authorised to make presentments or propose works.

The grand juries met twice yearly at the Spring (or Lent) Assizes and the Summer Assizes. The King’s County Grand Jury held its assizes at Philipstown (Daingean) until 1835 when the administration of the county moved to Tullamore. The presentment sessions dealt with the expenses of each barony and then for the county-at-large. They were conducted by the justices of the peace and from 1833 included five to twelve cess payers.

The Local Government Act of 1898 abolished the administrative functions of the grand juries, these functions transferring to the newly formed county councils in 1899. The judicial functions ceased in 1924.

Name of creator


Biographical history

James Franck Rolleston , D. L., J. P., Franckford Castle, Dunkerrin, Co. Offaly, was a member of King's County Grand Jury, serving as Sheriff. He was also a chairman of the Roscrea Board of Guardians.

Name of creator


Biographical history

Henry Trench was the second son of William and Sarah Trench of Cangort Park, Shinrone, Co. Offaly. He married Georgina Mary Amelia Bloomfield on 22 October 1836 and had 8 children. By the 1870s Trench owned 4,707 acres in county Tipperary, 2,113 acres in county Offaly, 1,926 acres in county Limerick, 1,581 acres in county Galway, 704 acres in county Clare and 432 acres in county Roscommon.

Archival history

Collection of King's County Grand Jury material, its provenance deriving from individual sets of presentment books purchased at auction and other donated or salvaged material. In June 1922, Tullamore Courthouse, including the offices of the Crown and Peace, was burnt by retreating anti-Treaty forces in the Civil War resulting in the destruction of many records.

Content and structure area

Scope and content

Presentment or 'Jobs' Books for the years 1830-1878 from two sets of bound volumes originally belonging to James Franck Rolleston, Franckfort Castle, Dunkerrin, and Henry Trench, Cangort Park, Shinrone, respectively, with some crossover. Also includes two coroner's inquest report books of James Dillon, King's County Coroner, and 27 printed general lists of jurors from the baronies of Ballyboy, Ballycowan, Garrycastle, Geashill, Kilcoursey, Moycashel, Lower Philipstown and Upper Philipstown.

Appraisal, destruction and scheduling


System of arrangement

GJ1 is arranged as follows:
GJ1/1/1-10: Presentment books (James Franck Rolleston)
GJ1/2/1-6: Presentment books (Henry Trench)
GJ1/3/1-2: Coroner's Report books
GJ1/4/1-27: General Lists of Jurors

Conditions of access and use area

Conditions governing access

By appointment only. Contact Offaly Archives at [email protected]

Conditions governing reproduction

May be reproduced in accordance with provisions of the Copyright and Related Rights Act (2000). No reproduction online, in print or broadcast without express permission of copyright holder.

Language of material

  • English

Script of material

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Physical characteristics and technical requirements

Finding aids

Michael Murphy, Anne Coughlan and Gráinne Doran, 'Grand Jury to Áras An Chontae: local government in Offaly', (Jetprint: Tullamore, 2003). Superseded by this catalogue.

Allied materials area

Existence and location of originals

The following item is available in University of Cambridge:
1) King's County Summer Assizes, 1821 (Ref Bradshaw Collection Hib.4.821.1)

The following related material is held in the National Archives of Ireland -
1) Abstracts – summer 1891
2) Summer 1892
3) Spring 1895
4) Summer 1895
5) Summer 1896
6) Abstracts – summer 1896
7) Lent 1897
8) Presentment papers and lists, 1922 - 1934

The following related material is held in the National Library of Ireland:
1) Abstracts of presentments granted....for King's County, 1863-1865 (Ref: 16A 2994)

The following information transcribed in 1890 from Grand Jury books not now extant can be found in John Wright's 'King's County Directory', pp 252-262':
1) Secretaries to the Grand Jury (1817-1880)
2) Official Gleanings (1787-1885)
3) County prisons (1820-1886)
4) Police notes (1823-1886)
5) List of High Sheriffs (1815-1889)

Existence and location of copies

Related units of description

Publication note

Michael Murphy, Anne Coughlan and Gráinne Doran, 'Grand Jury to Áras An Chontae: local government in Offaly', (Jetprint: Tullamore, 2003).

Publication note

Lisa Shortall, ‘Instances of death in infancy and childhood in the inquest casebooks of James Dillon, King’s County Coroner, 1836–1859’, Offaly Heritage 10 (2018), pp 134–67.

Publication note

Michael Byrne, 'Legal Offaly: the county courthouse at Tullamore and the legal profession in County Offaly from the 1820s to the present day', (Esker Press, Tullamore, 2008)

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Dates of creation revision deletion

June 2019, Erin Sears
Revised November 2020, Lisa Shortall




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