The office of the Coroner is one of the oldest known to the English system of law dating back to 1194, predated by only the Sheriffs office. In early years the coroner's duties were mainly administrative. The coroner kept the king's records, and collected revenue.
Over the years the role expanded to include investigating deaths. If a person was found dead the coroner was notified and a jury was assembled where the jury examined the body. Evidence was heard and the jury's verdict taken. If a verdict of murder or manslaughter was returned the coroner seized his property for the king.
In NSW the Coroner's jurisdiction has been in place since the foundation of the colony. In his commission of 2 April 1787 Governor Phillip was granted power to 'constitute and appoint Justices of the Peace, Coroners Constable and other necessary officers'. The earliest recorded inquest in New South Wales dates from 1796 in which three magistrates including Samuel Marsden inquired into the death of a convict who had been shot.
From early colony times the Coroner's Court was situated in the Rocks in Sydney, however in 1970 the court moved to the current premises at Glebe.
Approximately 6,000 deaths statewide are reported each year to the Coroner, with about half of those deaths occurring in the Sydney metropolitan area.