Catalogue description Records of the Duchy of Lancaster

Details of DL
Reference: DL
Title: Records of the Duchy of Lancaster

Records of the Chancellor and Council of the Duchy of Lancaster, concerned principally with the administration of the Duchy estate throughout England and Wales throughout England and Wales and the safeguarding of Duchy privileges and rights.

Also, records of the Court of Duchy Chamber, consisting mainly of equity proceedings.

The following series numbers have not been used: DL 2, DL 11, DL 18, DL 19, DL 22, DL 33.

Date: 11th century-1953
Related material:

For records relating to crown lands outside the Duchy of Lancaster see also:



For the records of the Palatinate of Lancaster see PL

Separated material:

Although the bulk of the Duchy archive was deposited at the Public Record Office in 1868, the Duchy continues to produce records. Some of these have subsequently been transferred to the Public Record Office. Others remain at the Duchy office in Lancaster Place which thus possesses its own distinct and growing archive.Other records relating to local estates are held in county archives. Lancashire County Archives are a particularly useful source of records relating to the County Palatine.

Held by: The National Archives, Kew
Legal status: Not Public Record(s)
Language: English

Duchy of Lancaster, 1399-

Palatinate of Lancaster, 1377-1875

Physical description: 51 series
Immediate source of acquisition:

Duchy of Lancaster , from 1868

Custodial history: In early times, some of the Duchy's records were kept locally by estate officers who needed them for reference; others were kept at the duke's various castles. Some central administrative records were kept at the Savoy Palace, London, which was destroyed by fire in the Peasants' Revolt of 1381. Thereafter Duchy records were stored at provincial sites. By the early 16th century the Duchy's central administration had returned to the Savoy and the provincially-kept records were gradually transferred there. Another Duchy office at Gray's Inn was established in 1593, to which most of the records were moved by the end of the 17th century. In 1789 the Duchy office moved from Gray's Inn to Somerset House. In 1821 the archive was temporarily moved to Great George Street; then in 1823 the records were transferred to the new Duchy office in Lancaster Place, off Waterloo Bridge, before most of them were deposited at the Public Record Office in 1868.
Publication note:

Work on the Duchy of Lancaster has been dominated by Robert Somerville, a former Clerk of the Council and Keeper of the Records of the Duchy, author of the following books and articles: The Duchy of Lancaster (London, 1946); 'Duchy of Lancaster records', Transactions of the Royal Historical Society, 4th series, xxix (1947), pp 1-17; 'Duchy and County Palatine of Lancaster', Transactions of the Historic Society of Lancashire and Cheshire, ciii (1951), pp 59-67; History of the Duchy of Lancaster (2 vols, London, 1953 and 1970); Office-Holders in the Duchy and County Palatine of Lancaster from 1603 (Chichester, 1972); 'Ordinances for the Duchy of Lancaster', Camden Miscellany vol xxvi, Camden 4th series, xiv (1975), pp 1-29.

Administrative / biographical background:

The origins of the Duchy of Lancaster lay in the desire of Henry III (1216-1272) to establish his youngest son, Edmund Crouchback, as a territorial magnate in England, following his failure to secure for him the Sicilian throne in 1258. Thus, in the aftermath of the Barons' War, Edmund was endowed with the extensive estates of the defeated leader of the baronial rebellion, Simon de Montfort, Earl of Leicester (d1265). Then in 1267 he was created Earl of Lancaster and granted all the royal demesnes in the county of Lancashire.

Edmund was succeeded by his son, Thomas of Lancaster, who increased the inheritance by marriage, and from whom the estate passed to Thomas's brother Henry, third Earl of Lancaster, in 1322. Henry's son, also called Henry (of Grosmont), was created the first Duke of Lancaster in 1351. Henry was succeeded, in 1361, by his daughter Blanche and her husband, John of Gaunt. They in turn were succeeded by their son, Henry Bolingbroke, whose accession as King Henry IV in 1399 brought the Lancaster inheritance into the possession of the crown.

However, Henry did not allow the inheritance to be merged into the crown's other lands, and it retained its separate identity as the Duchy of Lancaster. It continued, and continues today, to be administered separately from the other crown estates.

On the accession of Henry IV in 1399, the term Duchy came to refer to the whole of the Lancaster estate rather than just the County Palatine as had been the case before. The county of Lancashire was raised to palatine status in 1351, which gave to the duke sovereign rights in the county in the spheres of justice and administration.

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