The receipt rolls recorded details, in triplicate, of all money paid into the Lower Exchequer, or Exchequer of Receipt, and are thus a very valuable source of information about Exchequer revenue.
There are some very early receipt rolls from the reign of Henry II (1154-89), and significant numbers from the early years of Henry III (1216-72), but the series is imperfect; however, from 1272 until 1782, when the receipt rolls were discontinued, the series is almost complete. Receipt books are available from 1559 to fill in any gaps in the series of rolls. After 1782, the books are the only record of receipts. A new set of rolls was begun for each Exchequer term, at Michaelmas and Easter; thus six receipt rolls were produced each year.
Beside the main series of receipt rolls, E 401 also contains the Jewish receipt rolls, which record the income from tallages, fines and amercements levied on the Jewish community between 14 John and run to 23 Edward I (Easter 1213-Michaelmas 1285). There are too some special rolls of receipts from lay and clerical taxes, mostly tenths and fifteenths, raised between 1290 and 1318.
The receipt rolls developed to ensure that the Treasurer and chamberlains of the Exchequer of Receipt had easily accessible information about payments into the Exchequer for which tallies had been struck and tellers' bills written. Entries on the rolls give the name of the person paying in money, the amount, the date and the reason for the payment. Marginal entries on the left give the name of the county concerned. The series also contains rolls of tallie innovate, which recorded the issue of a new tally when one had been lost. Until the receipt and issue sides of the Exchequer developed, issues (or payments) were initially recorded on the receipt rolls as well, and some of the earliest rolls in E 401 also contain enrolments of writs of liberate (orders to pay sums of money out of the Exchequer).
In addition to the receipt rolls and books, E 401 contains abbreviates of receipts, which were abridged versions of entries in the receipt books, 1562-1642; auditors' receipt books, which record payments into the Exchequer under the names of the tellers who received them, mainly 1570-1642; auditors' bills of the day, which record daily income of the Exchequer, 1801-66; weekly, quarterly and annual accounts of revenue compiled for the Treasury, 1786-1834; and entry books of receipts recorded in the Tally Court, 1833-4. There are also a number of documents relating to government loans: auditors' account books; loans on privy seals; registers of subscribers to loans and annuities; registers of beneficiaries in a lottery (1712); consolidated fund books; statistical tables relating to the funded debt; and papers relating to the consolidated fund.