Court of Common Pleas, General Eyres and Court of King's Bench: Feet of Fines Files, Richard I - Henry VII

Details of CP 25/1
Reference:CP 25/1
Title:
Court of Common Pleas, General Eyres and Court of King's Bench: Feet of Fines Files, Richard I - Henry VII
Description:

Files containing the court's copies or 'feet' of normally tripartite indentures recording agreements called final concords, or 'fines' for short. They were separately recorded agreements to terminate disputes about property brought before the king's court. In the earlier part of the period such agreements were often recorded on the plea rolls as an alternative.

The practice of keeping feet of fines in the records of the king's court began in 1195; the series includes a few earlier final concords made there before feet of fines began to be kept. The earliest of them dates from 1182, and many come from the archives of religious houses, some of whose records came to be included among the public records after the Dissolution.

The bulk of the feet of fines were made in the Bench or Common Bench, later the Court of Common Pleas, by an official called the chirographer, but until about 1272 the majority were made in general eyres held in the counties, while a few were made before justices of assize until about 1240, and before the court coram rege, later the court of King's Bench, until about 1271.

Note: Abstracts of feet of fines are searchable in the Medieval Genealogy website.

Date: 1195-1509
Arrangement:

The present arrangement in files mainly by county in chronological order, is modern; there were several earlier arrangements. In the early fourteenth century the existing fines were refiled by county, but still in distinct Bench and eyre files. That arrangement survived until about 1689, when the county series for Bench and eyres were amalgamated by Peter Le Neve, deputy chamberlain of the Exchequer from 1684 to 1713.

The files were again rearranged in the late nineteenth century, by counties as far as possible and within counties in rough chronological order. They were bound into modern files with red covers in blocks of 25 or 50, a number of files then being stored in specially-made metal cases secured by clasps, and were given reference numbers to reflect that physical arrangement.

Those from 1509 onwards are, as a result of an artificial division made then, in CP 25/2. The cases were destroyed and the files reboxed in 1977, but the order in which they were filed and the numerical references were retained.

The county arrangement does not account for all of the feet of fines down to 1509. Some relate to more than one county, and so were arranged into 'Divers Counties' files. In other instances the correct county was unknown, because the chirographer failed to write the county name at the bottom of the foot, as was his normal practice; or because they were not feet of fines at all but chirographs given to litigants, which seem to have been abstracted from the archives of religious houses or from the archives of escheated lay estates.

They were grouped by date in 'Unknown Counties' files; many of the counties are in fact relatively easy to identify. 'Various Counties' files contain feet of fines each of which relates to a known single county but which seems to have been omitted from the county arrangement when it was made, in some cases certainly because it puzzled the arranger. These three types of file are arranged together at the end of the series, in CP 25/1/282-294. To find all the fines relating to a particular county, it is necessary to search them as well as those in the main county sequence.

Related Material: Indexes to and calendars of the feet of fines were being made as early as the seventeenth century, as their interest for genealogical and topographical purposes was realised. A number were compiled by or for Le Neve or his predecessor Arthur Agard, and are now in IND 1/17106 , 17111, 17120, 17135, 17139-17148, 17150 and 17152. They can be useful for some counties, but they are far from comprehensive and do not give modern references.
Separated Material: Other final concords prior to 1195 are known from outside the public records, mainly from copies in cartularies, and are still being discovered.
Held by: The National Archives, Kew
Legal status: Public Record
Language: Latin
Physical description: 3264 file(s)
Publication note: There is no comprehensive finding aid to the medieval feet of fines. Most of those made before the death of King John in 1216 have been printed in record type or full modern transcript, either by the Record Commission or by the Pipe Roll Society, which was established in the Public Record Office in 1883. Those for a few counties, mostly in the midlands, remain unpublished. Calendars of feet of fines made after 1216 have also been published for many counties, mainly by county record societies, but for only a few counties do they cover all or nearly all of the period down to 1509. A detailed list of these county volumes is available. An analysis of the earlier feet of fines, to the death of King John in 1216, is in Selden Society, volume LXXXIII (1967 for 1966), although it does not give modern references; it also includes references to many of the pre-1195 final concords. On feet of fines in eyres, see Records of the General Eyre, PRO Handbooks, no 20, 1982
Unpublished finding aids: An unpublished analysis of Bench fines, by term, for the reign of Henry III (1218-1272), made by C A F Meekings, is available on request.
Administrative / biographical background:

The Bench had a chirographer, responsible for the writing of the final concords, before the end of John's reign; later he was appointed regularly by letters patent. He and his assistants also apparently wrote the eyre fines, going on circuit with the justices when the Bench was not sitting. The court coram rege never had a chirographer.

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