Catalogue description Chancery and Supreme Court of Judicature, Chancery Division: Six Clerks Office and successors: Decree Rolls

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Details of C 78
Reference: C 78
Title: Chancery and Supreme Court of Judicature, Chancery Division: Six Clerks Office and successors: Decree Rolls

These records contain decrees, orders and dimissions (cases dismissed, often to another court) which were enrolled to provide a permanent and authoritative record of final judgements of the court of Chancery.

It is certain that some of the cases recorded were collusive, the decree roll being used as a means of registering agreements.

Most of the decrees relate to land disputes, although the whole gamut of Chancery cases is represented. Until 1833 the pleadings of the parties and the court's proceedings are sometimes summarised in the rolls as well.

Orders confirming orders of English ecclesiastical courts directing the payment of sums of money, or of the court of Chancery of Ireland, or of the Incumbered Estates Court of Ireland, might also be enrolled.

Digital images of some of the records in this series 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: 1534-1903

The decree rolls in this series are arranged in rough chronological order from the reign of Henry VIII to that of Mary, and thereafter in eight divisions which do not follow any strict chronological pattern.

The first six divisions may correspond to each of the six clerks. The seventh division contains miscellaneous seventeenth- and eighteenth-century rolls that were only brought together in 1866. Finally, the eighth division includes decrees from the period after 1842, when the Six Clerks Office was abolished.

Related material:

A more comprehensive record of decrees and orders will be found in the entry books in C 33

Held by: The National Archives, Kew
Legal status: Public Record(s)
Language: English and Latin
Physical description: 2257 roll(s)
Publication note:

Work undertaken to calendar the rolls in this series is described in M W Beresford, 'The decree rolls of Chancery as a source for economic history 1547-c1700', Economic History Review, 2nd series, 32 (1979), pp 1-10.

Unpublished finding aids:

Parts of this series have been calendared and indexed as a result of projects undertaken by Professor Beresford (1974-76) and Professor R W Hoyle (1992). There are also a number of contemporary indexes, arranged in alphabetical order by the first letter of the name of the parties in the dispute.

Administrative / biographical background:

After the passage of the Supreme Court of Judicature Act 1875, enrolment of decrees and orders became unnecessary, except for such railway scheme orders as were required to be confirmed by order of Chancery under the Railway Companies Act of 1867, and orders confirming the orders of other courts. There are therefore only a few enrolled decrees dated after 1876.

Decrees enrolled represent only a small part of the total number of Chancery cases for which proceedings were begun. However, in 1597 Lord Keeper Egerton pronounced that an order for a decree was not binding if it was only entered in the entry books (C 33) and not drawn up and enrolled. Once a decree was enrolled, it was more difficult and more expensive to reopen a case, a bill of review then being necessary.

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