Catalogue description Chancery: Fine Rolls

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Details of C 60
Reference: C 60
Title: Chancery: Fine Rolls

A series of rolls which were begun in order to record offerings made to the king or his justiciar for royal favour in such matters as the disposal of lands and offices, succession to fiefs and liberties, or simply to assuage the king's anger.

Miscellaneous material sometimes appears on the dorse of the membranes, such as details of a tallage in 1246, but the main contents of the fine rolls from the mid to late thirteenth century onwards are enrolments of instruments issued as letters patent or close under the great seal and relating to matters in which the Crown had a direct or indirect financial interest.

They include writs of diem clausit extremum to escheators, when a tenant-in-chief died; writs of livery of seisin in favour of heirs after they had given homage; writs ordering the livery of goods to executors for the administration of wills; to sheriffs and others concerning lands in the king's hands for various reasons; to the Exchequer to assign terms for the payment of Crown debts, and to cause fines to be taken from prisoners for their release; grants of wardships and marriages; assignments of dower; licences to marry; commitments of royal demesne lands to keepers; and appointments of sheriffs, escheators, castellans, customers, collectors of subsidies and others who would be liable to account at the Exchequer for the issues of their offices.

In the reigns of Henry III and Edward I in particular the rolls include many short entries noting the issue of standard common law writs to litigants; thereafter these kinds of entries become far less numerous. In and after 1300 the rolls also include separate lists of fines called 'grossi fines', which consist almost entirely of fines made for licences and pardons for the alienation and acquisition of land, for commissions of oyer and terminer, and for charters and confirmations of charters.

The fine rolls for Henry III's reign, 1216-72 (pieces C 60/8 - C 60/69) will become available as facsimile images and as a searchable English translation as part of a free resource made available by King's College, London. Please use this link for further information: Henry III Fine Rolls Project

Digital images of some of the records in this series for the reigns of Henry VIII to Elizabeth I are available through the Anglo-American Legal Tradition website. Please note that The National Archives is not responsible for this website or its content.

Date: 1199-1648
Related material:

The originalia rolls are in: E 371

See also the Special Collections, Ancient Petitions, in: SC 8

See also RW 17

Held by: The National Archives, Kew
Legal status: Public Record(s)
Language: English and Latin
Physical description: 568 roll(s)
Access conditions: Open
Custodial history: Some rolls now wanting are known to have been lost for many years. Those for 21, 22 and 24 Henry III were already missing in 1381, when they were omitted from a list of fine rolls handed over from one keeper of the rolls of Chancery to another. Two previously missing rolls for the reign of James I were found in the Rolls Chapel at Chancery Lane in 1887.
Publication note:

The fine rolls earlier than the reign of Henry III are printed in Rotuli de Oblatis et Finibus, ed T D Hardy (Record Commission, 1835). Selected entries from the rolls of the reign of Henry III are printed in Excerpta e Rotulis Finium in Turri Londinensi Asservatis, ed C Roberts (2 vols, Record Commission, 1835-36). An English calendar of the rolls from 1272 to 1509 are published as Calendar of the Fine Rolls (22 vols, HMSO, 1911-62).

Unpublished finding aids:

There is a manuscript calendar covering the reigns of Richard III to Philip and Mary, arranged alphabetically by the names of persons and some subjects, with an index of places. For the period from Elizabeth I to Charles I there is also a chronological calendar (IND 1/17351) with an accompanying index of persons and places (IND 1/17352). Note that IND 1/17352 is an index to IND 1/17351 not to the Fine Rolls themselves, and the two should be used in conjunction.

Administrative / biographical background:

The fine rolls were among the earliest series of Chancery rolls to be established. They certainly existed by 1195, and possibly as early as 1174-75. Their origins probably derive from the appearance in the pipe rolls of nova oblata or nova promissa in the early 1190s; certainly throughout that decade, 'there were reaching the exchequer, sometimes from the king, sometimes from the justiciar, rolls of fines, some miscellaneous, some of a specialised character. There may have been one roll which was regarded as the principal Fine roll'.

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