Posts Tagged ‘chancery rolls’

Henry III’s Fine Rolls Blog Sunday 23 October to Saturday 29 October 1261

Tuesday, October 25th, 2011

As the kingdom hovered between war and peace, Henry spent another week at the Tower of London. On 28 October, a hopeful sign, he issued a letter of safe conduct, as he had the week before, to the barons coming to Kingston on Thames ‘for the reformation of peace on the contentions which have arisen between us and them’. The conduct was to last for a week, and they were to come without alms. 

The chaotic situation is reflected in the relative paucity of people coming to the Tower to purchase the writs to initiate and further legal actions according to the forms of the common law, although it is difficult to put precise numbers on this.  The purchase of such writs is noted on the fine rolls. Occasionally the entry is dated either on the fine rolls, or on the originalia rolls, the copies of the fine rolls sent to the exchequer. But in the great majority of cases the entries, which often are brought together in long runs,  are not dated at all so one has to judge their approximate dates from the dated entries either side.  Between dated entries on 24 October 1261 and 4 November 1261, some fourteen writs were purchased, hardly a high number for considerably more than a week. Only two writs were purchased from the counties in the south east, one being for Berkshire and one for Essex. 

One thing the chancery clerks had to do in this week was  to begin a new set of rolls on which to record their business. This was because 28 October was the start of the new regnal year, Henry III’s fourty-sixth, and all the rolls ran for regnal years. The clerks, therefore, had to begin new fine rolls, charter rolls, patent rolls, close rolls and liberate rolls. This was less onerous than it seems. One just had to remember to stop writing on the  membranes of the current rolls on 27 October and continue the entries on a new membranes, thus beginning what would become the roll for the new year. It would be interesting to know when the membranes were sewn together to make the rolls, as they now exist. Was that done during the course of the year, or at its end?  Early in Henry’s reign it had sometimes been the practice to write splendid headings in capitals at the start of the first membrane of each new year.  For example, the heading for  the fine rolls of Henry III’s second regnal year. But gradually the clerks could not be bothered, and often, although a space was left usually for a heading, no heading was actually written up. One can see this to be the case for the fine roll of 46 Henry III. However, a  heading, or rather a footer, in large letters proclaiming  its year was written at the end of the roll for 45 Henry III.