Catalogue description Court of Common Pleas: Rex Rolls

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Details of CP 23
Reference: CP 23
Title: Court of Common Pleas: Rex Rolls

The 'Rex' rolls for the reigns of Edward III, Richard II and Henry IV, being plea rolls kept on the king's behalf, by the keeper of writs and rolls of the Court of Common Pleas, who was appointed by the king.

The word 'Rex' appears at the heads of most of the individual rotuli, and some rolls are labelled 'the king's roll'. After 1345 the rolls usually lack headings, so the dates of some of them are known only approximately. Many of them bear the names of the successive keepers of the writs and rolls, from Peter de Luddington to Robert Mansfield.

A few of the earlier rolls, to 1337 only, include appointments of attorneys as well as pleas. They contain only a small and decreasing fraction of the number of entries which appear in the main series of plea rolls, and do not include posteas recording subsequent proceedings, as the plea roll entries do. They may have been kept as a check that the rights of the crown were being maintained, but that is difficult to confirm from the contents of individual entries and the reason for their compilation is not really known. They probably came to be regarded as unnecessary and ceased to be made up about 1409.

Date: 1327-1409

When they were examined at Carlton Ride in the 1840s, the rolls were said to be 'transcripts of parts' of the appropriate De Banco or plea roll, and they subsequently came to be described as 'extract rolls'. During the later nineteenth century there was also a separate series of King's Bench 'extract rolls', which were in fact some of the Common Pleas series of 'Rex' rolls. Their true nature was only discovered by L O Pike in 1900 when working on the year books of Edward III's reign for the Rolls Series. As a result of his discovery the present arrangement of the series was made, but the pre-1327 rolls were left in KB 26 and CP 40, where they still remain, as do two Edward III rolls (CP 40/268, 289). Portions of some plea rolls are misplaced here; they are identified either by the appearance of the name of a justice at the head of the rotuli instead of 'Rex', or alternatively by bearing the much larger rotulus numbers characteristic of plea rolls.

Until 1992 the dates of CP 23/137-162 were not known, and they were listed as 'undated'. A few have now been precisely dated following further examination. The dates and where possible the terms of the others have been worked out by the use of internal evidence, especially the dates of the alleged incidents which provided the occasion for the issue of a writ of trespass. These give a fairly close terminus post quem; the exact dates could be ascertained by laborious checking of the cross-references to the rotuli of the plea rolls for the same terms.

Related material:

The rolls continue for the reigns of Edward I and Edward II in CP 40

The series may have begun in 1253; the earliest surviving rolls, for the later years of the reign of Henry III from 1261 onwards, are in KB 26

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

Court of Common Pleas, 1194-1875

Physical description: 163 roll(s)

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