Chancery: Fine Rolls
A series of rolls which were begun in order to record offerings made to the king or his justiciar for royal favour in such matters as the disposal of lands and offices, succession to fiefs and liberties, or simply to assuage the king's anger.
Miscellaneous material sometimes appears on the dorse of the membranes, such as details of a tallage in 1246, but the main contents of the fine rolls from the mid to late thirteenth century onwards are enrolments of instruments issued as letters patent or close under the great seal and relating to matters in which the Crown had a direct or indirect financial interest.
They include writs of diem clausit extremum to escheators, when a tenant-in-chief died; writs of livery of seisin in favour of heirs after they had given homage; writs ordering the livery of goods to executors for the administration of wills; to sheriffs and others concerning lands in the king's hands for various reasons; to the Exchequer to assign terms for the payment of Crown debts, and to cause fines to be taken from prisoners for their release; grants of wardships and marriages; assignments of dower; licences to marry; commitments of royal demesne lands to keepers; and appointments of sheriffs, escheators, castellans, customers, collectors of subsidies and others who would be liable to account at the Exchequer for the issues of their offices.
In the reigns of Henry III and Edward I in particular the rolls include many short entries noting the issue of standard common law writs to litigants; thereafter these kinds of entries become far less numerous. In and after 1300 the rolls also include separate lists of fines called 'grossi fines', which consist almost entirely of fines made for licences and pardons for the alienation and acquisition of land, for commissions of oyer and terminer, and for charters and confirmations of charters.
The fine rolls for Henry III's reign, 1216-72 (pieces C 60/8 - C 60/69) will become available as facsimile images and as a searchable English translation as part of a free resource made available by King's College, London. Please use this link for further information: Henry III Fine Rolls Project
The fine rolls were among the earliest series of Chancery rolls to be established. They certainly existed by 1195, and possibly as early as 1174-75. Their origins probably derive from the appearance in the pipe rolls of nova oblata or nova promissa in the early 1190s; certainly throughout that decade, 'there were reaching the exchequer, sometimes from the king, sometimes from the justiciar, rolls of fines, some miscellaneous, some of a specialised character. There may have been one roll which was regarded as the principal Fine roll'.
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