Records of the High Court of Delegates
Details of DEL
Records of the High Court of Delegates
Records of the High Court of Delegates and its successor, the Judicial Committee of the Privy Council, and other civil law courts relating to the hearing of appeals from church courts, the High Court of Admiralty in instance causes and the Court of Chivalry and the Courts of the Chancellors of Oxford and Cambridge Universities.
Records of the High Court of Delegates are in the following classes:
The court's records are in English from 1651 to 1660 and from 1733. Outside these periods, Latin is used for formal records; depositions, personal answers, exhibits and extracts from documents are in their original language.
Re-arrangement of DEL records in 1974:
In 1974, DEL 2 and DEL 8 were thoroughly examined and their contents re-arranged and re-listed. DEL 2, in particular, was subject to a complete overhaul, as it was extremely difficult to use and was not complete, cause papers being split between DEL 2 and DEL 8. This exercise resulted in a number of internal transfers between DEL series and some renumbering of pieces, the main changes being:
DEL 1/737-740 were transferred into the series from pieces in the range that formerly bore the numbers DEL 2/98-119.
DEL 1/741-742 were transferred into the series from DEL 8/74-87.
DEL 2, which had originally been numbered 1-119 was renumbered 1-170. [There is not necessarily any correlation between the old and new piece numbers. A conspectus of old and new numbers does not appear to have been compiled at the time; it was thought that published references to old numbers could be traced using the cause titles].
DEL 3/24 was transferred from DEL 2 (former location unclear).
DEL 4/27-29 were transferred into the series from pieces in the range that formerly bore the numbers DEL 2/98-119.
DEL 5/36 was transferred from the same source.
DEL 8/64 had some items added from DEL 2 (original location unclear).
DEL 8/88-96 were transferred into the series from pieces in the range that formerly bore the number DEL 2/98-119.
Other records of the registrar of the High Court of Delegates are in:
Supreme Court of Judicature, High Court of Justice, Probate, Divorce and Admiralty Division, 1873-1970
The court's records were in the charge of a registrar. From 1698-1833 the registrarships of both the High Court of Delegates and the High Court of Admiralty were held by the same person. In 1833 when the High Court of Delegates was abolished, the court records remained in the custody of the court's final registrar. After 1833 the registrar of the High Court of Admiralty became the registrar of ecclesiastical and Admiralty causes of the newly created Judicial Committee of the Privy Council, and therefore continued to be responsible for the same types of appeal business until the latter office was abolished in 1904. The close relationship between the High Court of Admiralty and the High Court of Delegates and its successors, through shared registrars, explains why records appear to have 'strayed' or include business of the successor body.
See also G I O Duncan, The High Court of Delegates (Cambridge, 1971). 'The Genealogist' new series XI and XII provides an index to grants of probate and administration issued by the High Court of Delegates and the Judicial Committee. A full account of the Judicial Committee of the Privy Council is in P A Howell, The Judicial Committee of the Privy Council, 1833-1876 (Cambridge, 1979).
Unpublished finding aids:
Finding aids to DEL classes: Rothery's Return. An overall means of reference to the court's records is provided by Return of all appeals in causes of doctrine or discipline made to the High Court of Delegates from its creation until its abolition. The Return lists all causes relating to ecclesiastical doctrine and discipline heard before the Court. DEL 11/11 is a copy of the return. Another copy is available in the reading rooms at The National Archives, Kew.
Administrative / biographical background:
In the middle ages, appeals from the High Court of Admiralty were made to the King in Chancery who appointed judges delegate to hear them. When Henry VIII broke with the Pope a similar system was introduced under the Submission of Clergy Act 1533, following the Ecclesiastical Appeals Act 1532, in place of the practice whereby final appeals from the ecclesiastical courts, principally in matrimonial and testamentary causes and matters of church discipline, had gone to Rome. As a consequence of these acts there emerged a High Court of Delegates, which was constituted on the occasion of each appeal by a special commission, under the Great Seal, directed to judges delegate appointed by the Lord Chancellor.
In addition to dealing with appeals from the church courts, such as the Prerogative Court of Canterbury, the High Court of Delegates also heard appeals from judgments of the High Court of Admiralty in instance causes. It also exercised an appellate jurisdiction from the Court of Chivalry and the Courts of the Chancellors of Oxford and Cambridge Universities.
Notwithstanding the Judgment of Delegates Act 1566, which provided that definitive judgments and sentences of the Delegates in civil and maritime causes should be final, commission of review were occasionally granted on petition to the King in Council.
In February 1833 by the Privy Council Appeals Act 1832, the jurisdiction of the High Court of Delegates passed to the King in Council and, later in the same year, under the Judicial Committee Act 1833, to the Judicial Committee of the Privy Council. Under the latter act the jurisdiction of the High Court of Appeals for Prizes was also transferred to the Judicial Committee.
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