Palatinate of Lancaster: Court of Common Pleas: Plea Rolls
This series consists of rolls maintained by the Prothonotary of the Palatinate court of Common Pleas on which were recorded progress in common pleas (mainly trespass, debt and land) including pleadings, judgments, writs of process, recognizances, essoins and warrants of attorney; common recoveries; some private conveyances; and judges' commissions. Before 1587 some details of fines and final concords were also enrolled, as well as licences to agree and payment of the King's silver; thereafter details of fines were enrolled separately.
The main sequence runs from 1441 to 1848, with two earlier rolls of 1401 and 1429. The series is very incomplete until 1462, after which gaps are few and only small. No subsequent regnal year is entirely un-represented, and after 1660 there are very few gaps indeed; there are apparently none at all after 1760.
Until 1501 the rolls record Crown business (which included the possessory assizes and nuisance) as well as common pleas. Initially all entries were in a single sequence; later, Crown business appeared at the end of the roll.
Two sessions a year were normally held, one in Lent and one in late July, August or early September. The rolls are identified in the catalogue by the feast day mentioned in their headings, not the precise days on which the sessions were held. Lent of course lasted nearly six weeks, but the summer session days were always close to the feast days cited, the main ones being St Peter ad Vincula (1 August), St Lawrence (10 August), Assumption of the Virgin Mary (15 August), St Bartholomew (24 August) and the Nativity of the Virgin Mary (8 September). The feast days are entirely replaced by months after 1605, immediately after the Gunpowder Plot.
For the years 1-14 and 20-30 Henry VI 'memoranda negociorum' (PL 25/1-2) act as a means of reference to Crown business in PL 15/2, 4-18.
When the rolls were arranged in the present numerical order, those for the Lent sessions of particular regnal years were usually placed before those for the August sessions for the same regnal years. In the reigns of a number of monarchs whose regnal years began in the spring or early summer, the August session for that regnal year took place before the Lent one; that fact was ignored when arranging them in order, with the result that many neighbouring rolls are in fact in reverse chronological order. For example, the session recorded in PL 15/58 began on 29 March 1484, that in PL 15/59 was earlier, beginning on 18 August 1483; PL 15/586 records a session beginning on 4 March 1758, PL 15/587 the one commencing on 24 August 1757. A few of the rolls of the 1650s, when the rolls were dated by old-style calendar years, have also been put in the wrong order in cases where the Lent session began before 25 March and no allowance was made for the alteration of the beginning of the calendar year to 1 January.
Records of the Duchy of Lancaster DL 35
Records of eyres and assizes kept at Westminster JUST 1
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