Catalogue description Records of the Exchequer, and its related bodies, with those of the Office of First Fruits and Tenths, and the Court of Augmentations

Details of E
Reference: E
Title: Records of the Exchequer, and its related bodies, with those of the Office of First Fruits and Tenths, and the Court of Augmentations

Records of the Exchequer, the main financial department of the medieval and early modern English state, responsible for the accounting and audit of Crown (and therefore government) revenue; its predecessor the Receipt; and records of the Office of First Fruits and Tenths and the Courts of General Surveyors and Augmentations (held in the Augmentation Office), departments set up to deal with additional Crown revenues following the Reformation.

Exchequer records comprise those of the following offices:

  • Pipe Office
  • Exchequer of Pleas
  • King's Remembrancer
  • Lord Treasurer's Remembrancer
  • Exchequer of Receipt
  • Treasury of the Receipt

The following series number were assigned but have not used: E 6; E 10; E 49 - E 100, E 110, E 138, E 231 - E 275; E 277 - E 297; E 348 - E 350; E 390 - E 400; E 410 - E 450.

Date: 1086-1994
Separated material:

Records missing from Exchequer series are almost all due to their loss through damp, pests or theft, the latter occurring mainly during the several moves of the records between 1800 and 1838.

Held by: The National Archives, Kew
Legal status: Public Record(s)
Language: English, French and Latin

Exchequer, 1109-1880

Physical description: 501 series
Access conditions: Subject to 30 year closure unless otherwise stated
Custodial history: Before the Conquest, the Crown had used religious houses as places for the deposit of important documents, but the centralised and bureaucratised Anglo-Norman monarchy rapidly acquired more permanent archival requirements. Domesday Book, effectively the first 'public record', in the sense of an administrative document retained permanently for reference, was compiled in 1086-1087 and kept at Winchester. More significantly, perhaps, William Rufus was using it routinely for administrative purposes, and referred others to it. But other records were rapidly accumulating to join it; the pipe rolls were required each year for reference, and by 1117 one royal clerk was known as Simon of the Rolls, suggesting the existence of a records management function by that early date. Throughout the twelfth century, management of the Exchequer records included, as with the treasure, transportation; the 'arks' or document chests of the Treasury were used to take Domesday Book, the pipe rolls, and a corpus of subsidiary documentation and evidences to whatever venue the King required. The sheer bulk of accumulating records inevitably made this system increasingly unworkable; by 1200 the treasury premises at Westminster, the Tower of London, and elsewhere locally had become the normal location for the Exchequer archive, and John was the last king to insist on frequent migrations of the records, although occasional excursions occurred under his successors. The volume of Exchequer records, and the problems of preservation, arrangement, and access, were sufficient to demand radical action by the beginning of the fourteenth century, and the Temple became unavailable after the expulsion of the Templars in 1312. Stapledon, appointed treasurer in 1320, ordered a comprehensive overhaul of the whole system ('Stapledon's Array'). The entire archive was taken to the Tower of London, sorted, listed, and then redistributed - part remaining at the Tower, and part returning to Westminster. From this period onwards the deputy chamberlains, as custodians of a vast amount of readily accessible government information, emerged with an acknowledged archival and records management role which they retained until their abolition, with many practices largely and consciously unchanged; in 1708 one deputy chamberlain insisted on a minor precedent from the reign of Henry II. Although Stapledon's schemes did not endure in their entirety (some departments of the Exchequer tended to keep their own records, since there was no formal system for transfer of custody, and made their own unsatisfactory arrangements for non-current material), the Treasury of the Receipt at Westminster became the pre-eminent Exchequer repository. In Arthur Agarde's time as deputy chamberlain (1570-1616) there were four repositories there, each with its defined bodies of records: the treasury within the Exchequer of Receipt, the gatehouse of Westminster Palace, the chapter house of Westminster Abbey, and the Chapel of the Pyx. These repositories underwent substantial renovations specifically for archival purposes in the 1570s, and the chapter house was rebuilt as a record office in the 1750s. By this time the various satellite repositories, especially the Tower of London, had their own record keepers, and separate provisions for storing Exchequer records. However, the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries were generally a period of neglect and the condition of the records had deteriorated alarmingly by the time parliamentary commissioners began, from 1800 onwards, to report regularly on their state. Many extant records show signs of damage by damp, rot or vermin which occurred before they were transferred to the Public Record Office between 1857 and 1860.
Publication note:

The classic text on the Exchequer is still T Madox, The History and Antiquities of the Exchequer ... (London, 1711). For contemporary treatises on Exchequer practice, see Dialogus de Scaccario, ed C Johnson, F E L Carter and D E Greenway (Oxford, 1983);C Vernon, Considerations for regulating the Exchequer (1641);T Fanshawe, Practice of the Exchequer (1658). For the custodial history of the records, and parliament's attempts to remedy the situation, see V H Galbraith, 'The Tower as an Exchequer record office in the reign of Edward II', Essays in Medieval History presented to T F Tout, ed A G Little and F M Powicke (Manchester, 1925), pp 231-247; Reports from the select committee appointed to inquire into the state of the public records of the kingdom etc (London, 1800), pp 7, 9-10, 127-236; General report... of the board of commissioners on the public records (London, 1837) pp 145-211; Report of the select committee appointed to inquire into the management and affairs of the Records Commission (Reports from Committees, vol xvi, 1836), pp xii-xiii, 427.Lists of the holders of many Exchequer offices are in J C Sainty, Officers of the Exchequer, List & Index Society, Special Series 18 (1983).

Administrative / biographical background:

The administration of Crown revenues was sophisticated even before the Norman Conquest and conducted through the royal treasuries - peripatetic with the king, or sometimes deposited in religious houses - administered by clerks of the royal household, although there is no pre-Conquest evidence of any specialised financial staff or department. Possibly as early as 1085, and certainly by the early years of Henry I, however, the Treasury emerged as a separate department within the royal household, but gradually detaching from it; a household official held a separate appointment as treasurer c1100-1105, if not before, and this post becomes increasingly discernible in the course of the twelfth century. Physically, the Treasury had long been located at Winchester (where financial staff were based), with some other lesser depositories, but migrating at need to London or elsewhere; the bulk of deposits came, however, during Henry II's reign, to be located permanently at Westminster and the Tower of London.

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