The enquiry of 1255 into royal rights represented one of a series of measures taken by the crown in an attempt to augment its revenues. Commissioners were appointed on 22 June 1255 for all counties except Cheshire, Cornwall, Durham, Middlesex and Rutland, but original returns or copies survive only for parts of Buckinghamshire, Northamptonshire, Oxfordshire, Shropshire, Somerset, Staffordshire, Wiltshire and Worcestershire. Of the 37 articles of enquiry, 29 deal with a wide range of royal rights, such as royal manors, suit to courts, purprestures, wardships and marriages, the Jews and free warren, and the remaining eight concern royal forests and forest officials.
A commission to enquire into subtracted rights and liberties in the royal demesne in eleven counties, mainly in the south, in the reign of Henry III was issued on 28 January 1274. Returns survive for only Somerset and Hampshire. It was followed with a much more extensive and comprehensive investigation into encroachments on royal rights and official misconduct by sheriffs and bailiffs. The commissioners were appointed on 11 October 1274, and they completed their work by 25 March 1275. They asked a set of 50 questions, similar to the articles of the eyre. Their returns were soon nicknamed the 'ragman' rolls, because of the appearance given to them by the presence of many small seal tags hanging from them with the seals of the jurors attached. By 1280 extracts were being made from the rolls, and by that date some of the original rolls were already missing. The extracts were possibly created to make the information in them easier to use in eyres, where crown attorneys conducted investigations into franchises by using writs of quo warranto against many liberty holders; their campaign went on from 1278 until 1294, when it was abandoned. The original or the extract (and for some counties both) survive for every county in England except Cheshire, Cumberland, Lancashire, Middlesex and Westmorland.
The enquiry of 1279-1280 was in some respects similar to that of 1274-1275, but it was more thorough in its scope, and included questions about landholding and services owed for them which were not included in the earlier enquiry, as well as about franchises. The surviving original returns and information in other documents cover Bedfordshire, Buckinghamshire, Cambridgeshire, Huntingdonshire, Oxfordshire, Middlesex, Norfolk, Leicestershire, Rutland, Warwickshire, Shropshire and Suffolk. The commissioners were appointed on 12 March 1279, and returns were made as late as 7 April 1280.
The Hundred Rolls were used in the eyres of 1278-1289 in which quo warranto proceedings were held. Later they were included in the array of records carried out by Bishop Stapledon in 1320-1322 at the Tower of London.