Series VPRS 407
Fire Inquest Deposition Files
About this Series Related Series Accessing the records in this Series
Date Range: Series 1858 - ? 1959
  Series in Custody 1858 - 1940
  Contents 1858 - 1940
Public Access: Open
Location: North Melbourne
Format of Records: Physical
 
Agency which created this SeriesAgency which created this Series
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Date Range Agency Title Agency Number
1858 - 1873 Registrar-General's Department VA 2889
1873 - 1959 Office of the Registrar-General and the Office of Titles, (known as Land Victoria 2001 to 2014; Land Use Victoria 2014 - ct.) VA 862
Agency currently responsible for this SeriesAgency currently responsible for this Series
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Date Range Agency Title Agency Number
1986 - cont State Coroner's Office VA 2807
Description of this SeriesDescription of this Series
  • How to use the Records
    A detailed listing of the records is available under "Accessing the Records". To locate items of interest, browse this listing or use "Search in a series" and a single word from the name of a person, company or the name of the place in which the fire occurred.

    Note for items listed as "To Crown Solicitor" and / or "file cover only" - see the instructions at the end of this text, under "Recordkeeping Sysytem", in relation to inquests giving rise to criminal charges.

  • Function / Content
    This series consists of files relating to inquests conducted into the causes of fires by coroners courts throughout the state. The files were registered by the Office of the Registrar General. Some of the files in this series were at some stage prior to their transfer to archives part of VPRS 24 Inquest Deposition Files.

    Section 4 of the Act for Preventing the Careless Use of Fire 1858 established that irrespective of whether a death occurred, the damage to or destruction of any building, ship, merchandise or growing crop could be investigated by means of an inquest provided that a Coroner was notified of the request in writing and a specified payment (initially 5 guineas) was made. Coroners could also decide to investigate fires of suspicious origin provided that the fire occurred within their area of jurisdiction. Fire inquests were conducted according to the same rules and procedures as those concerning the cause of death. (Inquest files for persons who died in a fire will be found in VPRS 24.)

    The number of inquests held under this initial legislation was significantly reduced by an 1869 amendment to the Coroners Statute (1865) which had incorporated the original provisions. This amendment significantly increased the fee payable and also provided that inquests on fires of a suspicious origin required an order from the Attorney-General. Under these new provisions it was not unusual for no inquests to be held during a year.

    The files in this series are generally more complete than those in VPRS 24 Inquest Deposition Files for the same period. All files contain at a minimum level, an inquisition form, a number of depositions and a cover sheet noting the subject, date and place of the inquest. Many files also variously include items of documentary evidence and exhibits, Victoria Police reports, the original written request or order and the receipt for payment of the fire inquest fee. Files relating to inquests giving rise to criminal charges (i.e. arson) will also contain copies of recognizances bonding witnesses to appear at the resultant trial and a statement by the accused, if that person(s) chose to make one.

    The `inquisition form' is the official record of the inquest. It records the subject of the inquest as well as the verdict and if applicable, the names of accused persons committed for trial. It should also include the names and signatures of the Coroner and, if applicable, jury members. Depositions are the record of evidence of each witness appearing at the inquest. They are in handwritten or typed prose form in the first person although evidence is given on the basis of a question and answer format. The witness involved and the Coroner must sign them as being a true and accurate record.

  • Recordkeeping System
    The files in this series are arranged according to a single number sequence allocated initially by staff at the Law Department and later the Office of the Registrar General. No index to this series has yet been located and identified. Files were not arranged in strict chronological order until about 1866, indicating that this numbering sequence was imposed on a number of files at that time and continued on a chronological basis thereafter.

    Some of the files in this series have been top numbered. The original number reflects the file's original placement within the sequence of VPRS 24. References to these top numbered inquests are not found in most of the indexes to the inquest deposition files (VPRS 23). References are found in the four duplicate volumes of the original transfer of VPRS 23 (Units 41 -44) and VPRS 138 Registers of Inquest Depositions, which may once have been part of the same series. These registers record the original inquest deposition file number allocated prior to the creation of a number of consolidated indexes which span the years 1840 - 1903. No fire inquest references are found in any of the post 1903 indexes. Some top numbered files after this date, however, are still found in this series. As the relevant inquest number in VPRS 23 and 24 in all cases has been reallocated, it appears that such numbers were allocated accidentally.

    In 1991 several fire inquest deposition files which had been listed as part of VPRS 24 special cases were incorporated into VPRS 407.

    An important exception to the series arrangement lies in relation to inquests giving rise to criminal charges (i.e. arson). These files are not found in this series. As the files were required in the preparation of the prosecution brief, they were forwarded to the Crown Solicitors Office and are thus found in VPRS 30 Criminal Trial Briefs. As the briefs in that series are retrieved through the name of the accused person, his or her identity needs to be known for the file to be accessed. In addition, an access closure of 75 years is operative on VPRS 30 so some files will be unavailable for public inspection.

    From 1959, fire inquest deposition files were no longer sent to the office of the Registrar General but were placed within the relevant Coroners Court body card file (VPRS 10010). Files for the period 1940 to 1958 are yet to be located.

More research resourcesMore research resources
    PROVguide071 Inquest Records
Indexes and RegistersIndexes and Registers
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Controlled SeriesControlled Series
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Previous SeriesPrevious Series
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Transfer Date Series Title Series Number
Subsequent SeriesSubsequent Series
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Transfer Date Series Title Series Number
- 1959 Body Cards VPRS 10010
List/s of records in this seriesList/s of records in this series
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Consignment Number Contents Date Range Public Access No. of Units
P0000 1858 - 1940 Open 21
Indexes and RegistersIndexes and Registers
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Date Range Series Title Series Number
More research resourcesMore research resources
    PROVguide071 Inquest Records