The Exchequer, around Michaelmas 1261

Richard Cassidy writes…

Frustratingly, it is at this point that we become unable to keep track of how much cash was coming into the Treasury. The receipt roll for Easter term 1261 shows that the Treasury received £6,158 between the beginning of May and the end of July, and only £18 between 30 July and 29 September. But there is then a two-year gap in the surviving sequence of receipt rolls, so that we do not know what resources Henry had available as he re-asserted his authority.

We do know that Michaelmas term 1261 began fairly well. The mayor and citizens of London came to the Exchequer, as was traditional at the beginning of the Exchequer’s year, to present the new sheriffs of London and Middlesex. The annual cycle of auditing the sheriffs’ accounts began on 30 September with the accounts of Somerset and Dorset for 1260-61. It is notable that the county accounts were presented by Philip de Cerne, who had been appointed sheriff by the barons in 1259, and replaced by the royalist Philip Basset in July 1261.

The Adventus of the sheriffs was a partial success. It is striking that all of the sheriffs attended or were represented, even those from the most distant counties. Even in normal times, one or two sheriffs, out of a possible 24, might not appear, and these were far from normal times. The list in the memoranda roll is unusual in giving the names of several of the sheriffs – Alan la Zuche in Northamptonshire, Matthias Bezill in Gloucestershire, Robert Walerand in Kent, for example. These are the sheriffs who had been appointed in July 1261, and the Adventus list may be making the point that these royal appointees are the sheriffs, not any baronial rivals.

But while the Adventus was a success in terms of the number attending, the sheriffs brought less cash than in past years – £791, compared to £918 at Michaelmas 1260, and £1,246 in 1259. The towns and cities which paid their dues directly to the Exchequer (rather than through the sheriff) were also well-represented, and paid £795, which was only slightly below the amounts paid at the same time in the past two years (£815 and £866). Unfortunately, without the receipt roll, there is no way of knowing how much of the total of £1,586 was actually received in the Treasury at this time. We also do not know whether the lower amount recorded at the Adventus was due to the difficulties the new royalist sheriffs might be having in imposing their authority, or to them spending more of the money they were collecting. Henry was about to send orders to several sheriffs, instructing them to lay in provisions in key castles because of the disturbed state of the realm. It may be that they were using cash locally on such preparations, rather than sending it to London.

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