This series consists of surviving plea rolls of common law courts in the Palatinate of Durham, whether for the bishop's (to 1636) or the crown assizes, or for the bishop's Court of Pleas. The items of earliest date record pleas heard before the bishop's justices of assize, with occasional enrolments of pleas heard under commissions of oyer and terminer or of the peace. By 1494 there is a roll for a commission of gaol delivery, beginning a sequence of criminal records which continued, with civil pleas and felonies sharing a roll, from 1505 to 1584. Thereafter, the rolls record only civil pleas heard before the justices of the Palatinate at Assize Sessions or at the intervening sessions of the Court of Pleas. In addition, they record recoveries suffered in the Court of Pleas, and from 1578 onwards some private deeds are enrolled. This series was formerly referred to as the Judgement Rolls, a title acquired before it contained any gaol delivery rolls.
Among the information displayed by these rolls is the degree of interplay between the jurisdictions. The actions for debt, detinue, account, trespass, entry and formedon were by the mid fourteenth century not only 'according to the law and custom of england', but also 'of the liberty of Durham'. Examples are contained of documents dated both by episcopal year and by regnal year.
The eighteenth century rolls are straightforward, reciting each plea and the process of judgement, and sometimes enrolling substitutions of attorney and commissions. The nineteenth century rolls, the most voluminous, sometimes contain jury panels, and have marginal notices of the date of judgement, and an end mote of the date of entry on the rolls, signed by the Chancellor of the Palatinate.