Catalogue description Records of the King's Remembrancer

Details of Division within E
Reference: Division within E
Title: Records of the King's Remembrancer

Records of the King's Remembrancer (or Queen's Remembrancer), one of the two major Exchequer officials concerned with the accounting and audit procedures and also in the wider administrative functions of the Court of Exchequer from the twelfth century to the nineteenth. The records are therefore extensive and diverse.

The main formal records of the King's Remembrancer's business are the Memoranda Rolls and Books in E 159, with subsidiary material in E 160

The principal series of accounts presented to the Crown for payment is in E 101, with related documents in E 102

The main records relating to taxation are the particulars of accounts of lay and clerical taxation in E 179; other relevant records include certificates of residence of some taxable persons in E 115, receivers' accounts in E 181, and land tax accounts in E 182-E 184

Records relating to customs accounts are in E 122, with port books in E 190; those of excise accounts are in E 139, with extents relating to excise debtors in E 145. Coast bonds are in E 209

Escheators' accounts are in E 136, and escheators' files are in E 153; sheriffs' accounts are in E 199. Estreats from various courts and judicial commissions are in E 137

Records relating to feudal tenures and distraint of knighthood are in E 198. Inquisitions post mortem and inquisitions ad quod damnum on potential Crown dues are to be found in E 149, E 150, E 151, and E 152. Records of outlawries are in E 172 and E 173. Records of some special commissions of inquiry are in E 178

Writs in Exchequer cases, or on other Exchequer business, are in E 202, with related documents in E 203 and E 204. Bille files are in E 207; files of barons' writs brevia baronibus are in E 208; other writs are in E 226 and E 227

Affidavits in legal cases (both equity and revenue) are in E 103 and E 218; depositions are in E 133 and E 134; exhibits are in E 140; bills and answers are in E 112 and E 113, with replications and rejoinders in E 193 and E 223; petitions are in E 185, with other petitions in E 186 and E 188; reports are in E 194 and E 195; appearance books are in E 107. Informations in revenue cases are in E 148; cases stated in E 201. Entry books of decrees and orders are in E 123, E 124, E 125, E 126, and E 127, with files in E 128, E 130, and E 131, and accounts in E 225; ordnance decrees are in E 171, some order books in revenue cases, formerly in E 170 and not subsequently destroyed, are in E 170. Minute books are in E 161 and E 162. Notice of trial books are in E 168. Miscellaneous equity proceedings are in E 111. Proceedings in error are in E 228. Account books of funds in court are in E 217. Warrants for the issue of process are in E 220 and E 224, with other warrants in E 229 and E 230, and registers of process are in E 221 and E 222

Extents of alien priories are in E 106; inventories of church goods are in E 117; conventual leases are in E 118. Miscellaneous ecclesiastical documents are in E 135

Records relating to forfeited lands are in E 142, with extents of various estates and properties falling within the purview of the Exchequer for assorted reasons in E 143 and E 144; some inventories of goods and chattels are in E 154. Returns of papists' estates are in E 174. Vintners' fines are in E 176; recognizances of victuallers and ale-house keepers are in E 180. Petitions relating to licensed premises are in E 187. Receivers' accounts in Crown cases are in E 158. Records relating to Crown lands are in E 121. Particulars for grants are in E 147. Records relating to the administration of the revenues of the Duchy of Cornwall are in E 119 and E 120. Records relating to Wey Navigation claims are in E 177. A wide range of forest records is in E 146. The Exmoor Forest enclosure award is in E 141

Deeds relating to Chatham fortifications are in E 116. Transcripts of numerous deeds and charters are in E 132; large numbers of original deeds are in E 210, E 211, E 212, E 213, and E 214

Some original letters patent are in E 156. Registers of licences to pass overseas are in E 157

Some records of ancient ceremonies include those relating the Trial of the Pyx in E 189 and presentation rolls relating to the Mayor and sheriffs of London in E 191

Records relating to the administration of the Court of Exchequer include the licensing of clerks and solicitors and of attorneys in E 108 and E 109, and bonds of accountants, lessees, and other Crown debtors in E 114. Papers of the clerk to the Deputy Remembrancer are in E 167, and working papers of other clerks are in E 219. Seal Office records are in E 197. Records of commissions on fees, James I and Charles I, are in E 215

Oath rolls are in E 169 and E 200; sacrament certificates are in E 196

Some Parliament and Council proceedings are in E 175

Records relating to the audit of the Alienation Office are in E 104 and E 105

Miscellaneous records of very varying types, relevance, and importance are in E 163, E 164, E 165, E 166, and E 216, with private papers and exhibits in E 192

A number of these series also include records relating to the functions of the King's (or Queen's) Remembrancer as an officer of the Supreme Court of Judicature, after the abolition of the Exchequer: E 103, E 114, E 148, E 159, E 161, E 165, E 171, E 186, E 187, E 188, E 189, E 191, E 201, E 203, E 204, and E 205

Some original finding-aids are in E 501

Date: c1154-1994
Related material:

See also Division within E

Judgements in revenue cases formerly in E 155

and not subsequently destroyed are in J 89

Legal status: Public Record(s)
Language: English

Exchequer, Kings Remembrancer, 1150-1875

Supreme Court of Judicature, Central Office, Queens Remembrancer, 1875-1880

Supreme Court of Judicature, High Court of Justice, Queens Bench Division, Queens Remembrancer, 1881-

Physical description: 128 series
Custodial history: The records of the King's Remembrancer were kept in the King's Remembrancer's Office adjacent to Westminster Hall until the beginning of the nineteenth century. In 1800 the select committee on the state of the public records reported that the records were in serious danger due to the disrepair of the storage areas and the hazard of fire. In 1822, in order to make way for building work, the records were moved into a 'dark, damp and pestilential' makeshift shed inside the Hall itself. It was later reported that during the move 'large quantities of parchments were purloined by the labourers employed and sold to glue manufacturers', while the builders working on the new fabric to the palace claimed they had in their possession charters, seals and other records taken from the old offices. The records were described as 'literally covered in filth' with 'dry rot among them'. In 1831, the records were moved to the royal mews at Charing Cross (a process which took five months) and then on to Carlton Ride, the former royal stables, in 1835. This saved them from the devastating fire which broke out at Westminster Palace in 1834, but their condition remained extremely poor. Henry Cole reported in 1836 that the 5000 bundles which made up the Exchequer miscellanea were stored at Carlton Ride in two giant sheds 4136 cubic feet in size. The records were very damp, some coagulated beyond repair, with others stuck permanently to the shed walls. Seven mummified rats and a dead cat were found among the records when they were sorted. The records were full of the bones of dead vermin, and a dog regularly searched the sheds for living rats and their nests. On packing the records in 1836, it took three labourers three weeks to transfer the records from the shed into sacks, relying on strong drink to overcome the 'putrid filth, stench, dirt and decomposition' of their working conditions. Five hundred sacks of records were filled, and 24 bushels of dust and dirt were discarded. The conditions of the records of the King's Remembrancer were some of the worst discovered by the select committee, whose report eventually led to the creation of the Public Record Office in 1838.
Publication note:

On the early history of the remembrancers, see D Crook, 'The early remembrancers of the Exchequer', Bulletin of the Institute of Historical Research LIII (1980), pp 11-23.

Administrative / biographical background:

The origins of the Remembrancers of the Exchequer is unclear, although from the earliest perceptible period, in the twelfth century, both the Crown and the Treasurer had senior clerks to assist in the functions of audit and receipt. Essentially, they were officers charged with recording and pursuing debts and other matters outstanding from the process of audit in the Upper Exchequer. This meant initiating proceedings against defaulting accountants, conducting inquiries into unresolved problems, unverified claims, and inadequately documented sums outstanding, and maintaining records of all such procedures in order to report back to the Exchequer at the next session.

The two roles were well established in the course of the thirteenth century, and from the end of Henry III's reign onwards their functions diverged increasingly; when the Exchequer ordinances of 1323 laid down firm distinctions between the work of the King's Remembrancer and the work of the Treasurer's Remembrancer, it reflected and consolidated an existing division of duties. The King's Remembrancer became responsible for collecting and recording Crown revenue from various and occasional sources, rather than the ancient and fixed revenues, such as feudal reliefs, and (despite some inevitable variations due to bureaucratic evolution and the addition of duties by statute) these responsibilities were recognisably the same at the end of the eighteenth century as they were at the beginning of the fourteenth.

The King's Remembrancer was, accordingly, the recipient and custodian of great numbers of writs addressed to the barons of the Exchequer (brevia baronibus) authorising expenditures over the entire range of routine and current Crown business, and for issuing Exchequer writs authorising consequential expenditures or allowances to sheriffs, escheators, and other accountants. He was also the custodian of a wide variety of documents sent into the Exchequer for action or record. Thus deeds, recognisances, and other valid or negotiable instruments rendered in support of debts to the Crown - or, indeed, rendered as part of the documentation of complex financial relationships of which a Crown debt might only be one part - were deposited with, and often enrolled by, him and his clerks.

He was also responsible for the receipt of two main categories of accounts: the particulars of accounts (that is, the expense accounts) rendered by persons incurring expenses on behalf of the Crown and claiming allowance or reimbursement, and the accounts of both the assessment and the collection of lay and clerical taxation. Among sundry duties, the King's Remembrancer was also, specifically under the ordinances of 1323, the Keeper of the Red Book of the Exchequer (a compendium of Exchequer practice, including the Dialogus de Scaccario) and of various other books of record and practice.

The work of audit and recording went hand in hand with the duty to pursue defaulters, and the King's Remembrancer issued writs against Crown debtors, extracted bonds and recognisances and issued process for their realisation or discharge, authorised commissions to establish the resources of non-paying accountants, and initiated inquiries into otherwise untraced or desperate debts; in effect, he was the administrative legal official responsible for the investigation and prosecution of Crown debtors.

By extension from these duties concerning Crown debtors and accountants, the King's Remembrancer acquired a similar legal and administrative jurisdiction in equitable suits in the Exchequer. The Exchequer's equity business (unlike Chancery's, which was widely based on plaints to the Crown as the fount of justice) arose strictly from its financial dealings. Officials of the Exchequer, royal accountants, and debtors to the Crown had, since 1311 by statute and in practice long before, the right to have litigation heard in the Exchequer, on the grounds that the outcome had a bearing on their ability to administer or pay debts to the Crown. Most of this business was common-law litigation heard in the Exchequer of Pleas, but, late in Henry VIII's reign, equity suits by bill began to appear.

At first the practice was sporadic, but by the end of Elizabeth I's reign the King's Remembrancer was dealing with hundreds of cases a year, and, although the Exchequer never challenged the volume of Chancery's business, the numbers of suits continued to grow until the end of the seventeenth century. Until 1649 the flow of cases was regulated by the Exchequer's insistence on the formal requirements of a genuine royal financial interest in each case, but thereafter it was sufficient for a plaintiff to make a generalised claim to be a 'debtor and accountant to the commonwealth [from 1660, 'to his majesty']', a claim which the court refused to investigate or overrule. Thus, from about 1650 onwards, the Exchequer became a general court of equitable jurisdiction, with the King's Remembrancer - most commonly by deputy - acting both as Clerk of the Crown and as a 'master' conducting enquiries and drafting opinions for the advice of the court. This work was transferred, in 1820 (1 George IV, c35) to two masters in the Exchequer, but in 1841 (5 Victoria, c5) the Exchequer's equity jurisdiction (including all cases pending) was transferred to the court of Chancery. The revenue work of the King's Remembrancer was also substantially reorganised in the nineteenth century.

The offices of the Lord Treasurer's Remembrancer and of the Pipe were abolished in 1833, and their duties transferred to the King's Remembrancer, but under the Queen's Remembrancer's Act 1859 c21 the main record-keeping functions of all these Exchequer offices were abolished. Under provisions of the Statute Law Revision 1875 c66, the Queen's Remembrancer was transferred to the Supreme Court of Judicature, and attached to the Central Office of that court in 1879. In 1881, under an order in council, the Exchequer Division of the Supreme Court was abolished and its business passed to the Queen's Bench Division, where the senior master, acting as Queen's Remembrancer, continued to administer Crown revenue cases until reallocations of responsibilities within the Supreme Court in 1950 and 1963.

A few formal duties, mainly of record-keeping and issuing process in traditional ceremonies, remain associated with the post. These include the enrolment of certain deeds on the memoranda rolls; attendance at the Trial of the Pyx, and subsequent enrolment of the trial and verdict; enrolment of Lord Chancellors' oaths of office; issue of writs of assistance to officers of the Board of Customs and Excise granting them search powers; functions relating to sheriffs' accounts, including the acceptance, on behalf of the Crown, of the token rents payable by the Corporation of the City of London at the annual Quit Rents Ceremony; receiving the nomination of sheriffs for England and Wales; swearing in of the Lord Mayor of London before the Lord Chief Justice; keeping safe custody of the seal of the Chancellor of the Exchequer; and the issue of enclosure commissions under the Dean and New Forests Act 1808.

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