This series contains the Exchequer Pipe Office, Pipe Rolls.
Until the late thirteenth century, the basis of the Pipe Rolls was accounts of the farm of the county, the fixed sum that the sheriff paid to the King for the income from the King's lands and other rights in the county, also known as the corpus comitatus (the body of the county). From 1311 the corpus comitatus was removed to a separate roll. Details are given of charges allowed against the farm for crown lands which had been assigned to individuals or annual sums given to religious orders as alms. There are also records of expenses which could be set against the farm. Details are also recorded of other small farms, such as those of cities, towns and manors, or woods and fisheries, which were held and accounted for separately.
There are also details of debts still owing, but old and unpaid debts were removed from the rolls from 1270. There are also 'Nova Oblata' (new offerings), financial offerings for the King's favour. The latter parts of the early accounts often also include the records of financial penalties imposed by the King's justices in eyre, or assizes. The other significant amounts of new material near the ends of the accounts are records of taxes, such as tallages, scutages and aids, which the sheriff was responsible for collecting.
The early Pipe Rolls contained a large numbers of foreign accounts, the name given to accounts 'foreign' to the ordinary county accounts. They included such accounts as those for temporalities of vacant bishoprics, abbeys or honours in the king's hands, and they occurred in the Pipe Rolls in the later twelfth century. They became far more numerous, and generally lengthier, during the early thirteenth century, and from 10 Henry III they came to form a separate 'rotulus compotorum' section at the end of the roll. In addition to the types of account already mentioned, they included among other things accounts of the King's household, for expenditure on the king's troops, ships, castles, houses and horses, and accounts of profits from the forests, forfeited goods, escheats and mints.
During the later thirteenth and early fourteenth centuries some categories of enrolled accounts were removed from the Pipe Rolls to separate rolls, and in 1368 all the foreign accounts which remained in the Pipe Rolls were removed to a separate series of rolls of foreign accounts.
New kinds of material continued to appear in the accounts with the continuing development of government and justice, including fines imposed by new tribunals like the Court of Star Chamber. During the late fourteenth and fifteenth centuries, there are frequent entries of payments made by sheriffs to the justices under the authority of the statute to the justices for their attendance at Quarter Sesions. The eleven rolls for the period from 1581 to 1591 include the accounts of fines and forfeitures of lands collected under the recusancy acts. From 1592 they were transferred to a separate series of recusant rolls. In the seventeenth century, the Pipe Rolls list those in arrears for Ship Money.
The granting of county status to some large provincial cities created some additional sheriffs' accounts for inclusion in the rolls. In the reign of Henry VIII Monmouthshire was added to the list of counties whose sheriff rendered account at the Exchequer, and was treated like an English county, but the sheriffs of the other Welsh counties appear only in a 'Wales' account which appears in some rolls, with marginal references to the individual counties.
The development of a new system of auditing by declared accounts from 1560 led to a decline in the number of accounts which were recorded in the Pipe Rolls, and by the eighteenth century there were sometimes no entries under 'New Matters' other than the judicial penalties imposed by the courts.
Digital images of some of the records in this series are available through the Anglo-American Legal Tradition website. Please note that The National Archives is not responsible for this website or its content.