Chancery and Supreme Court of Judicature, Chancery Division: Six Clerks Office and successors: Decree Rolls
These records contain decrees, orders and dimissions (cases dismissed) which were enrolled to provide a permanent and authoritative record of final judgements of the court of Chancery.
It is certain that some of the cases recorded were collusive, the decree roll being used as a means of registering agreements.
Most of the decrees relate to land disputes, although the whole gamut of Chancery cases is represented. Until 1833 the pleadings of the parties and the court's proceedings are sometimes summarised in the rolls as well.
Orders confirming orders of English ecclesiastical courts directing the payment of sums of money, or of the court of Chancery of Ireland, or of the Incumbered Estates Court of Ireland, might also be enrolled.
The decree rolls in this series are arranged in rough chronological order from the reign of Henry VIII to that of Mary, and thereafter in eight divisions which do not follow any strict chronological pattern.
The first six divisions may correspond to each of the six clerks. The seventh division contains miscellaneous seventeenth- and eighteenth-century rolls that were only brought together in 1866. Finally, the eighth division includes decrees from the period after 1842, when the Six Clerks Office was abolished.
After the passage of the Supreme Court of Judicature Act 1875, enrolment of decrees and orders became unnecessary, except for such railway scheme orders as were required to be confirmed by order of Chancery under the Railway Companies Act of 1867, and orders confirming the orders of other courts. There are therefore only a few enrolled decrees dated after 1876.
Decrees enrolled represent only a small part of the total number of Chancery cases for which proceedings were begun. However, in 1597 Lord Keeper Egerton pronounced that an order for a decree was not binding if it was only entered in the entry books (C 33) and not drawn up and enrolled. Once a decree was enrolled, it was more difficult and more expensive to reopen a case, a bill of review then being necessary.
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