Catalogue description Office of the Clerk of the Recognizances: Rolls and Entry Books of Recognizances on Statute Staple

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Details of LC 4
Reference: LC 4
Title: Office of the Clerk of the Recognizances: Rolls and Entry Books of Recognizances on Statute Staple

The rolls and entry books in this series belonged to the office of the Clerk of the Recognizances.

The series comprises rolls; indexes to the rolls; entry books; and indexes to the entry books.

Date: 1532-1774
Related material:

Extents for debt are in C 131

Proceedings on statute staple, Petty Bag Office, are in C 228

Certificates of statute staple and merchant are in C 241

Other recognizances of statute staple are in C 152

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

Office of the Clerk of the Recognizances, 1532-1775

Physical description: 219 rolls and volumes
Immediate source of acquisition:

In 1858 Lord Chamberlain's Department

Custodial history: They had come into the Lord Chamberlain's Department's possession early in Queen Victoria's reign as part of a collection of books from the department of the Great Wardrobe on the disbanding of the same.
Administrative / biographical background:

There were two methods of recovering debt by distraint of the goods of a debtor. The first, under common law, is reflected in those recognizances (formal acknowledgment of debt or other obligation) enrolled on the dorse of the close rolls. The second, under law merchant was established by the Statute of the Staple of 1353 (27 Edw III). A staple was a privileged market with a monopoly for the sale of certain goods, particularly wool. By the statute, the mayor and constables of the staple, were empowered to take and seal recognizances. These recognizances were often called 'statutes staple' or simply 'statutes'. On failure to pay, the mayor might imprison the debtor and attach his goods, to be afterwards sold for the satisfaction of the creditor. If the debtor was not to be found within the limits of the staple, the recognizance was to be certified into Chancery, for process to issue therefrom.

Gradually such recognizances came to be used by persons who were not local free merchants. Henry VIII, therefore, established a central registry for non-mercantile staple recognizances, by the Recognizances for Debt Act of 1532 (23 Hen VIII, c 6). The Fraudulent Conveyances Act of 1584 (27 Eliz I, c 4 s 5) provided for all recognizances to be entered in the Office of the Clerk of the Recognizances within six months. Debts between non-merchants were henceforth to be acknowledged by a 'Recognizance in the nature of a Statute Staple' if enrolled as a result of this act. Statutes merchant appear to have been enrolled separately, but the rolls do not survive.

Recognizances were entered before either of the two chief justices, of Common Pleas or King's Bench, or in their absence, before the mayor of the staple at Westminster and the recorder of London. The recognizance itself, was drawn up by a clerk of the recognizances, who also made two enrolments of the document, for himself and for the chief justice or mayor. A creditor wishing to proceed against a debtor whose term for repayment had expired informed the clerk of the recognizances who confirmed the facts and made out a certificate. The creditor took recognizance and certificate to the clerk of the crown in Chancery who made out a writ of extent (order to value lands or goods), noting this in an entry book. The writ was acted on by the sheriff of the county in which the debtor's lands lay, and the resultant inquisition was returned into Chancery. On production of the original recognizance and certificate to the clerks of the Petty Bag, a writ of liberate (order for delivery of possession) might be awarded to the creditor for the debtor's estate.

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