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Alienation Office

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Date: 1576-1835
History: In 1576 Elizabeth I leased the farm of fines for alienation to Robert Dudley, Earl of Leicester (together with those payable in the Chancery for writs of covenant leading to alienation by final concord) on condition that he made a valuation of the lands comprised in any alienation and compounded for the sums due. This led to the creation of an Office of Compositions for Alienations, afterwards known as the Alienation Office. On the lessee's death in 1588, the Crown appears to have taken over the management of the Office for a short time, but in 1590, by the first of a succession of leases for years, the business was vested in the Lord Treasurer and the Under Treasurer of the Exchequer, certain rents being reserved to the Hanaper of Chancery. The Office was briefly abolished (1653-54) during the Commonwealth, but reinstated when its revenue value was realised. From May 1689 the Commissioners of the Treasury derived their powers of management of the Office from a series of letters under the Privy Seal, granted 'during pleasure'. In 1660 one of the principal sources of the revenues of the Office was removed by the statute abolishing feudal tenures and, with them, fines and pardons for alienation. In 1759 the collection of post-Fines or King's Silver was transferred from the sheriffs to the Alienation Office by 32 Geo. II c.14. In 1798 a House of Commons select committee on finance examined the Alienation Office's accounts and investigated staff functions and responsibilities. After the abolition of fines and recoveries as a form of conveyancing in 1834, the Alienation Office was left without a discernable function and it was abolished by the Officers in Court of Chancery Act 1835 (5&6 William IV, c.82), and its records were transferred to the Court of Common Pleas.
  • London
Sources of authority: Guide to the contents of the Public Record Office, 1963, p. 139.
Functions, occupations and activities: Government (central) > Alienation Office
History Links: Information about the location of the Alienation Office and Robert Dudley, Earl of Leicester's connections with the Inner Temple.
Genealogy: The structure of the Alienation Office had been defined by the early 17th century and consisted of three Commissioners for Alienations, an Extraordinary Master in Chancery assigned to take the oaths as to the value of the lands, a Receiver General, and three clerks. The annual accounts of the Receiver General of the Alienation Fines were examined in the Exchequer by the Auditors of the Land Revenues and are now preserved at the National Archives in class E101. The identified Receivers General of the Alienation Office are: Sir Arthur Atys c1603-1604; Thomas Bond c1639-1640; Thomas Fauconbridge c1643-44; Edward Nicholas 1660-1691; Edward Nicholas (the younger) 1691-1699; Charles Boyle, later Earl of Orrery 1699-1717; William Jessop 1717-1735; William Ashburton 1735-1755; Thomas Steele 1755; Elfred Staples 1755-1761; Thomas Steele 1761-1763; Stephen Digby 1763-1765; Thomas Steele 1767-1775; John St. John 1775-1793; Thomas Steele 1793-1797; George Canning 1797-1827; Charles Dodd 1827-1832 In 1576 the Earl of Leicester established the Alienation Office on a site in the Inner Temple which was granted to him for the purpose. The original Alienation Office building was destroyed in 1666 by the Great Fire of London, but the seventeenth century building standing on the site, now known as 3 North King's Bench Walk, bears an inscription and a plaque to commemorate its predecessor.
Historical context: From 1327, for every alienation of land held of the Crown in chief, or pardon for such alienation without licence, a fine was payable in Chancery.
Name authority reference: GB/NNAF/C203676
Number Description Held by Reference Further information
1558-1858: Records
The National Archives