Chancery and Lord Chancellor's Office: Petty Bag Office and Crown Office: Parliamentary Election Writs and Returns

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Details of C 219
Reference:C 219
Chancery and Lord Chancellor's Office: Petty Bag Office and Crown Office: Parliamentary Election Writs and Returns

This series contains nearly all parliamentary writs to secure the election of Members of the House of Commons, and the returns made on them.

The format of writs and returns has evolved over time towards greater simplicity. From 1407 attestation of the return by electors began, in addition to the sheriff or returning officer. By the early eighteenth century there might be as many as 150 signatures, with their seals. In the twentieth century the indentures of return disappear: all that remains is a printed form serving as a writ, and the returning officer's endorsement of receipt and certification of the Member returned.

Returns refer directly to neither contests nor parties. Records of election of Scottish representative peers, 1900-1959, are also included.

Date: 1275-2000
Arrangement: Arrangement The general election returns are usually arranged alphabetically by county. Returns from Wales, Scotland and Ireland, when made, follow those from England. By-elections are usually kept separate in the modern era.
Held by: The National Archives, Kew
Legal status: Public Record
Language: English and Latin
Physical description: 428 bundles, files and volumes
Custodial history: The records for the years 1275 to 1477 were kept in the Tower of London until their transfer to the Public Record Office in 1856. Returns are largely missing for the period 1477-1542; thereafter they were sent to the clerk of the Crown in Chancery who deposited them in the Petty Bag Office. Until 1660 the records were subsequently stored in the Rolls Chapel, from where they were transferred to the Public Record Office in 1858. After 1660 the records were retained by the Petty Bag Office even when the clerk of the Crown had finished with them: from 1696 it was his statutory duty to compile an official return of MPs. In 1859 the returns from 1661 to 1837 were transferred to the Public Record Office, joining the two other collections.
Accruals: Series is accruing
Publication note: The earliest selection of parliamentary writs and returns to be published, for the period up to 1460, was Brevia Parliamentaria rediviva, ed William Prynne (London, 1662). This was followed, for the years 1542 to 1660, by Notitia Parliamentaria, ed Browne Willis (3rd ed, London, 1750). A list of MPs for the century following 1660 was provided in The Succession of Parliaments, ed Charles Whitworth (London, 1764). The records in this series, up to 1399, were also calendared in Parliamentary Writs, ed Francis Palgrave (4 vols, Record Commission, 1827-1834). In 1878 the House of Commons ordered the publication of the Official Return of Members (4 vols, London, 1879-1891), which covered the period from 1213 to 1880. In 1932 the House of Commons recommended the establishment of a History of Parliament to make good the deficiencies in these previous publications. The following volumes have appeared so far, and the series is ongoing: Register of the Ministers and of the Members of both Houses 1439-1509, ed J C Wedgwood (2 vols, HMSO, 1936-1938); The Commons 1754-1790, ed L Namier and J Brooke (3 vols, HMSO, 1964-1989); The Commons 1715-1754, ed R Sedgwick (2 vols, HMSO, 1970); The Commons 1558-1603, ed P W Hasler (3 vols, HMSO, 1981); The Commons 1509-1558, ed S T Bindoff (2 vols, London, 1982); The Commons 1660-1690, ed B D Henning (3 vols, London, 1983); The Commons 1790-1820, ed R G Thorne (5 vols, Stroud, 1986); The Commons 1386-1421, ed J S Roskell, L Clark and C Rawcliffe (4 vols, Stroud, 1992).

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