Catalogue description Records of the Exchequer of Receipt and successors

Details of Division within E
Reference: Division within E
Title: Records of the Exchequer of Receipt and successors

The records of the Exchequer of Receipt detailing all payments in and out of the counting-house of the Exchequer, and later, those of the Comptroller General of the Exchequer.

Records of money paid in are: receipt rolls and registers in E 401, original receipts in E 402 and related records in E 405

Records of money paid out are the issue rolls in E 403, the warrants for issues in E 404, with related records in E 405

Assignments and Exchequer Bills in E 406 account for much revenue which did not pass directly through the normal processes of account.

Miscellaneous records are in E 407, and a pair of cupboard doors from the premises are E 409

These records were superseded, in theory but not always in practice, by those of the Comptroller General of the Exchequer in E 408

Date: c1150-1901
Legal status: Public Record(s)
Language: English

Comptroller General of the Exchequer, 1834-1866

Exchequer, Exchequer of Receipt, 1100-1834

Physical description: 9 series
Access conditions: Open
Custodial history: Most of these records were kept in the Pell Office on the eastern side of Westminster Hall until the beginning of the nineteenth century (with some early ones in the Chapter House), in damp conditions, where the wooden partitions of the storage and the many hearths in the office laid them at risk from fire. By 1820 they were said to be dry and well-aired, though extremely dirty, but they were confined to a room too small to hold them and were piled up on the floor. They were probably transferred to the attic storage in Somerset House in 1822, and 'heaped in some places up to the ceiling and in an exceedingly dirty state'. Retrieved in 1840 to undergo cleaning and bundling at the Comptroller of the Exchequer's Office in Whitehall Yard, they were removed to racks in Rolls House in 1841 to await listing and labelling prior to their transfer to the new Public Record Office in Chancery Lane.
Administrative / biographical background:

The Exchequer of Receipt (sometimes called the Lower Exchequer) was not at first a permanent institution, but existed only when the Exchequer was in session at Easter and Michaelmas. In its twelfth-century form described in the Dialogus de Scaccario, it was administered by the Treasurer and the two chamberlains of the Exchequer, who, being themselves mainly engaged at the time in the Upper Exchequer, were represented in the Exchequer of Receipt by deputies: the Treasurer by a clerk, and the Chamberlains by 'knights'. The duties of the Treasurer's clerk soon devolved upon two principal officers, the Clerk of the Pells and the Writer of the Tallies. The Treasurer also appointed the tellers. The two knights carried the keys of the chests, weighed the money, cut the tallies, and, in conjunction with the clerk, made all payments out of the royal treasure by authority of the King's writ or by order of the barons of the Exchequer. The chamberlains were also served by another knight called the weigher (pesour), who was responsible for the assay of silver, and by the melter (fusour) who performed the actual assay. At this date the staff were supported by an usher and a watchman, although it must be assumed that the chambers holding the treasure were subject to outside security as well.

Payments or 'issues' from the Exchequer were made in earlier times by a writ of liberate or other mandate from the King. A statement of all moneys issued was entered by the Clerk of the Pells on the issue roll. The importance of the pells records was acknowledged when the unreliable 'declarations of the state of the Treasury' were discontinued in 1552 in favour of declarations made by the Clerk of the Pells, which from 1597 onwards were based on the issue rolls. Furthermore, from the beginning of Elizabeth I's reign accurate views of account were compiled half-yearly by the tellers, direct from records of receipts and issues. This, given the continued use of archaic accounting techniques, appears to have enhanced the importance of the Clerk of the Tallies, since the only method by which the issues of the Exchequer could now be controlled was by his comparison of the tellers' accounts with their vouchers; the tellers' bills were described, in Edward VI's time, as the 'foundation of all this building', so important were they to the audit trail, and by 1572 the Clerk of the Tallies acquired, with some justification, the title of 'auditor of the receipt', although officially he was still known as the scriptor talliarum.

By the end of the sixteenth century, issues were made by one of the tellers upon an order from the auditor, acting upon an order or warrant from the Treasurer, whose own authority was conferred by the Crown by sign manual warrant, letters patent, or privy seal. In and after the reign of Charles II, an additional type of authority or 'letter of direction' was issued by the Treasurer to the auditor, describing the particular funds from which the money was to be paid.

By the Receipt of the Exchequer Act 1783 c82 the offices of the chamberlains, tally-cutter, and usher were abolished with effect from the deaths or departures from office of the current incumbents. Tallies were then replaced by indented cheque receipts, made out by the officer of the auditor attending in the tally court, and by the officer of the Clerk of the Pells. Upon the death of the last chamberlain in 1826 the duties were transferred to the auditor and tallies were discontinued. Thereafter a memorandum of the teller's bill sent into the tally court, called the 'bill of the day', was made by the Clerk of the Introitus, which was sent to the principal office to enable the clerk of the cash book to charge the tellers at the close of each day. An account of each head of the revenue was also entered in the daily receipt book, the moneys received by each teller being kept distinct; at the end of every week a total was made of each branch of revenue. A general receipt book was also kept, which gave a classified total of revenue received during the week, separating the revenue of England from that of Scotland.

In the course of the eighteenth century, the payment of cash into the Exchequer was superseded, in practice but not in theory, by different arrangements. Revenue was now paid direct into the Bank of England, and disbursements paid out similarly. The fiction of an active Exchequer of Receipt was maintained by the attendance of a Bank of England clerk at the Exchequer to receive cancelled bank notes from the receivers general of the principal revenue departments (all of which banked at the Bank), and to give each receiver general credit for these notes with the tellers. Eventually the Exchequer of Receipt in its traditional form was abolished by the Receipt of the Exchequer Act 1834 c15, and its functions transferred to a Comptroller General of the Exchequer. This office was itself combined with the Audit Office in 1867 to form the Exchequer and Audit Department.

Have you found an error with this catalogue description?

Help with your research