Henry Cole.

Fifty years of public work of Sir Henry Cole, K. C. B., accounted for in his deeds, speeches and writings online

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subject of its public records now appears, we believe, for the first wriraun"'
time in a work like the present. The amount of public care given ™ °°'
to this subject during the last forty years, is shown by the appoint-
ment of successive commissions and parliamentary committees of
inquiry, by a cost in one shape or another amounting to little less
than a million of pounds sterling, and by the passing of an Act of
Parliament designed to effect a thorough change in the system of
keeping and using the public records.

V. By far the greater part of records are kept as rolls written
on skins of parchment and vellum, averaging from nine to fourteen
inches wide,' and about three feet in length. Two modes of
fastening the skins or membranes were employed, that of attach-
ing all the tops of the membranes together book-wise, as is em-
ployed in the exchequer and courts of common law, whilst that of
sewing each membrane consecutively, like the rolls of the Jews,
was adopted in the chancery and wardrobe.

VI. The solution of the reasons for employing two different £j.f"f"
' The rolls of the Great Wardrobe exceed eighteen inches in width. ^°"^-



A.D. 184X.
Part II.

modes has been thought difficult by writers on the subject. It
appears to have been simply a matter of convenience in both cases.
The difference in the circumstances under which these rolls were
formed, accounts, we think, satisfactorily for the variation of make.
In the first case, each enrolment was often begun at one time and
completed at another. Space for the completion of the entry must
have been left at hazard. Besides, several scribes were certainly
engaged in enrolling the proceedings of the courts, and the roll

Forms of

was liable to be unbound, and to receive additional membranes
after it had been once made up. In the other case, the business
of the chancery being simply registration, the scribe could register
the documents before him, with certainty that nothing in future
would at all affect their length, and he was enabled to fill every
membrane, and perfect the roll as he proceeded.

VII. In the volumina, or scapi, of the ancients, the writing was
carried in equal columns, as in the pages of a book, along the


length of the skin, whilst the enrolment in both sorts of our rolls public
was written across the width of the membrane. Both these kinds ,^^°^Zi.
of rolls are still used. The rolls of the common law, after the time Pa" n.


of Henry VIII., contain so many skins that they cease to be rolls,
but become simply oblong books, and, unlike the early rolls of
the same series, are exceedingly ill-adapted for preservation and
inconvenient for use. There are many of these miscalled rolls of
the reign of Charles II., which in shape, size, and weight resemble
the largest of Cheshire cheeses, often requiring two men to lift
them from the rack. Membranes may be fastened together after
the chancery fashion in any numbers, and yet remain a legitimate
roll, though imposing much bodily labour in the consultation.
The Land-tax Commissioners' Act of i Geo. IV. extends, it is
said, 900 feet when unrolled, and employs a man three hours to
unroll the volume. Other records have the shape of books.
Doomsday Book, called both " Rotulus " and " Liber," the oldest
and most precious of our records, counting eight centuries as its
age, and still in the finest order, is a book ; and as occasions pre-
sented themselves for adopting this shape without infringing on
ancient precedent, the far more accessible shape which we now
call a "book" seems to have been employed. A considerable
part of the records of the courts of surveyor-general and augmen-
tations, in the reign of Henry VIIL, of wards and liveries, and
requests, are made up as books. Other documents, those relating
to Fines, the " Pedes Finium, or Finales Concordise," the writs of
"Dedimus Potestatem," and acknowledgments and certificates,
writs of the several courts and returns, writs of summons and
returns to parliament, inquisitiones post mortem, &c., &c., by
tens and hundreds of thousands are filed, that is, each document
is pierced through with a string or gut, and thus fastened together
in a bundle.

VIII. The material on which the record is written is generally Parchment
parchment, which, until the reign of Elizabeth, is extremely clear ™ ''^''"'
and well prepared. From that period until the present, the parch-
ment gradually deteriorates, and the worst specimens are furnished
in the reigns of George IV. and William IV. The earliest record
written on paper, known to the writer, is of the time of Edward II.
It is one of a series entitled " Papirus magistri Johannis Guicardi
contra-rotulatoris Magnae Costumae in Castro Burdegaliae, anno



A.D. 184X.
Part II.

Latin and
French used.

domini M°. ccc°. viii." These records are in the office of the
queen's remembrancer of the exchequer. Tallies were records of

IX. The handwriting of the courts, commonly called court-hand,
which had reached its perfection about the reign of our second
Edward, differs materially from that employed in chartularies and
monastic writings. As printing extended, it relaxed into all the
opposites of uniformity, clearness, legibiUty, and beauty which it
once possessed. The ink, too, lost its ancient indelibility ; and,
like the parchment, both handwriting and ink are the lowest in
character in the latest times : with equal care venerable Doomsday
will outlive its degenerate descendants.

X. All the great series of our records, except those of parliament,
are written in Latin, the spelling of which is much abbreviated, and
in contractions, there can be little doubt, derived from Latin
manuscripts. The reader who desires to be further informed on
the subject may consult the collection which Mr. Hardy (afterwards
Sir Thomas) has inserted in the preface to his " Close Rolls of
King John," and Mr. Hunter, in his preface to the " Fines of
Richard I. and John." During the Commonwealth, English was
substituted ; but soon after the Restoration, Latin was restored, and
the records of the courts continued to be kept in Latin until
abolished by act of parliament in the reign of George II. In
certain branches of the Exchequer, Latin continued in use until the
abolition of the offices in very recent times. Many of our statutes
from Edward I. to Henry V., and the principal part of the rolls of
parliament, are written in Norman French. Petitions to parlia-
ment continued to be presented in Norman French until the reign
of Richard II., whose renunciation of the crown is said to have
been read before the estates of the realm at Westminster, first in
Latin and then in English. After this period we find English,
which had doubtless always remained in use among the lower
classes, often used in transactions between the people and govern-
ment — a sure sign that the distinctions of Norman origin were
nearly absorbed among the people at large.

XI. Sir Francis Palgrave's edition of the "Calendars and
Inventories of the Treasury of the Exchequer," some of which
were compiled as early as the fourteenth century, are extremely
interesting in exhibiting the ancient modes in which records were



preserved. Whilst reading them we may imagine ourselves
groping in the dark and damp vaults of the "treasury" of the
Exchequer, among the coffers, chests, boxes, and hampers filled
with records, and the walls around us covered with small bags
and pouches. No uniform system of arrangement seems to have
been employed, but a different expedient was used for the preserva-
tion of nearly every separate document. Great numbers, judging
from the quantity found in arranging the miscellaneous records of
the king's remembrancer of
the Exchequer, were kept in
pouches or bags of leather,
canvas, cordovan, and buck-
ram, a mode which is still
used in this department of the
Exchequer. These pouches,
which fasten like modern reti-
cules, are described by Agarde,
who was keeper of the treasury
of the Exchequer, "as hang-
ing against the walls.'' The
above drawing represents a
leathern pouch containing the
tallies and the account of the
bailiff of the manor of Graves-
end in the 37 and 38 of
Edward III.

XII. When they have es-
caped damp, they have pre-
served their parchment con-
tents for centuries in all their

pristine freshness and cleanliness. Chests, coffers, coffins, and
" forcers " bound with iron and painted of different colours, cases,
or " scrinia," ^ " skippets," or small turned boxes, and hanapers, or
" hampers of twyggys," were also used.

These several illustrations are about one-third of the size of the
originals, which remain in the " treasury " of the Exchequer.

Bag or Pouch.


A.D. 184Z.

Part II.
Kept in bags
boxes, and

Bag or

' The Romans kept their records in
" Scrinia," respectively distinguished
as "Scrinia Viatoria ; Scrinia Stataria;

Scrinia Falatii ; Scrinia Sacra ; Scrinia



A.D. 1841.
Part II.
A Skippet.

XIII. Inscriptions on labels, letters, and " signs " furnished
the means of reference. These signs in most cases bear some

A Skippet.

A Hamper.

analogy to the subject of the documents which they are intended
to mark.

The rolls of the justices of the forest were marked by the sapling
oak (No. i). Papal bulls, by the triple crown. Four canvas

Hanaper or Hamper.

pouches holding rolls and tallies of certain payments made for the
church of Westminster were marked by the church (3). The head
in a cowl (4) marked an indenture respecting the jewels found in
the house of the Fratres Minores in Salop. The scales (5), the



assay of the mint in Dublin. The Briton having one foot shod public

and the other bare, with the lance and sword (6), marked the f n'^°8°j'

wooden " coffin " holding the acquittance of receipts from Llewellin, Part ii.

Prince of Wales. Three herrings (7), the "forcer" of leather °" ^

signs of

Signs of Reference.

bound with iron, containing documents relating to Yarmouth, &c.
The lancer (8), documents relating to Aragon. The united hands
(9), the marriage between Henry, Prince of Wales, and Philippa,
daughter of Henry IV. The galley (10), the recognizance of mer-
chants of the three galleys of Venice. The hand and book (11),




A.D. Z841.

Part II.





Offices of

Record :



*' Curia




fealty to Kings John and Henry. The charter or cyrograph (12),
treaties and truces between England and Scotland. The hooded
monk (13), advowsons of Irish churches. And the castle with a
banner of the Clare arms (14), records relating to the possessions
of the Earl of Gloucester in Wales.

XIV. Out ancestors before the Norman conquest pursued no
system of public registration, though there are numerous charters of
the Anglo-Saxon kings and deeds between private individuals still
existing, and historical events are found chronicled in monastic
chartularies. The Anglo-Saxons, whose judicial proceedings were
conducted orally, had no records except the " land-bocs " or
charters. The transactions of the folk-moots were not registered
or recorded, and in the administration of justice no reference was
made to written precedents. In such a state of society, though
the actual possession of land constituted one of the best titles to
real property, still the " land-boc " furnished evidence of it also.
And so important were these " land-bocs " considered, that when
the monks of Ely purchased seven hydes and a half of land, they
gave three hydes besides thirty " aurei " to recover the charter or
" cyrograph " of the title. Duplicates and triplicates of these
" land-bocs " were made, and " one part " was delivered into the
custody of the Burthegn, or chamberlain, to be preserved in the
" horde " or royal treasury.

XV. When a written account is made of any act, it is clear that
it is made not for the exclusive benefit of one party only. In the
Domesday-book of the Norman conqueror, we see evidence that
his power was far from absolute. The financial registrations
(Rotuli Pipae) of Henry I., in whose reign the earliest example is
found — the records of the judicial proceedings of the "Curia
Regis,'' which begin with Richard I. — and the special acts of the
monarch himself enrolled on the " close," " patent," and " charter "
rolls commencing in the reign of John — are all so many irresistible
proofs how gradually public interests were trenching on the will of
the king, who formally recognized no other power than his own, in
the government of the kingdom. The judicial records of the
King's Bench and Common Pleas, and the parliamentary records
beginning with Edward I., are further evidence of the increasing
influence of the nobles and commonalty of the realm. The king
was legally considered as possessing the sovereign power. His


peace was broken when the subject fell by the hand of the mur- public
derer ; his parliament was to be summoned ; his honour to be a.d!°84i!
vindicated ; and his army to be levied. It was the king's exchequer, Pan 11.
the king's wardrobe, the king's court, and essentially the king's
chancery ; for the chancellor's functions were originally those of a
private secretary, combining duties both spiritual and temporal.
Holding the keepership of the king's conscience, the chancellor
was necessarily of the clerical body, and the chief of the king's
chapel. The great seal was in his custody, and the scope of his
secretarial duties embraced all those of modem times performed
by our secretaries of state for the home and foreign departments ;
and of all the business transacted, a systematic and orderly regi-
stration was preserved in the several enrolments called " patent,"
" close," " charter," &c. All records of these several departments
formed part of the king's treasure ; and, like the practice of the King's
ancient Persians five hundred years before the Christian era, when
Darius caused a search for the decree of Cyrus to be " made in
the house of the rolls, where the treasures were laid up in Baby-
lon " {Ezra, vi. 6), were deposited in the king's " treasuries." '
The mutual interests of all parties naturally made the preservation
of the records an object of general solicitude ; to the king, as they
furnished indisputable precedents for his calls of military service
and taxation ; to the nobles, in protecting them in their feudal
rights and various privileges ; and to the commons most of all, in
limiting the power both of king and nobles, sheltering them from
capricious extortion, and securing to them a certain amount of
consistency in the administration of justice.

XVI. The chamberlain of the exchequer was called " une grand Chamberkin
office, car il gardera le treasour del roy, s. les recordes." In chequer.
Henry III.'s reign there were treasuries in the Tower of London
and the New Temple. From the latter place, in the 20th of
Edward I., out of a chest secured by nine keys, certain records of
the Chancery were taken by the king's orders. {Rot. Claus., 20
Edward I., m. 13 d.) The Tower had certainly become a perma-

' Certain records of the Chancery them, Edward I., by writ, tested the

followed the king in his migrations 4th July, in the twenty-eighth year of

over the kingdom as late as Richard II. his reign, commanded the abbot of

Religious houses were called upon to Furness to provide a strong horse to

provide horses for the conveyance of carry the Chancery Rolls to York,



A.D. 1841.
Part II.


nent treasury for records in the 33rd of Edward I., when a trans-
fer to it was directed to be made of all the papal privileges
touching the crown or kingdom, from the treasury of the exche-
quer at Westminster. (Rot. Glaus., 33 Edward I., m. 3.) Another
" treasury " is described by certain " memoranda," made 19 Ed-
ward III., as within the cloister of Westminster Abbey near the
Chapter-House (thesauraria Regis infra Claustrum Abbatiae West-
monasterii juxta Capitulum). This " treasury " still remains.
A single pillar supports the vaulted chamber, which is yet to be
seen, with its double oak doors grated and barred with iron and
locked with three keys, and its drawers and "tills" labelled by
Arthur Agarde, who was custos of the records it contained. In
his " Compendium of the Records in the Treasury," compiled
1 6 10, he says that " the recordes of the kinge's majesties threasury
at Westminster, under the custodie of the lord-threasurer and the
two chamberlaines, were lay'd up for their better preservacion in
fower severall threasauries under three severall kayes, kept by three
sondry officers, distinct the one kay from another, and uppon each
dore three lockes. The iirst in the Court of Receipt ; the seacond
in the Newe Pallace at Westminster, over the Little Gatehouse
there ; the third in the late dissolved abbey of Westminster, in
the Old Chapter-House ; the fourth in the cloister of the sayd

XVII. The contents of several " treasuries " at various periods
seem to have been consolidated in the Chapter-House of West-
minster Abbey, which was fitted up in its present state for the re-
ception of records by Sir Christopher Wren.^ The only existing
depositories of records besides the Chapter-House, which preserve
the appellation of " treasury," are the rooms in the Rolls-House,
being the " treasury " of the King's Bench Records, and a portion
of the Carlton Riding-House as the " treasury " of the Common
Pleas Records. The demolition of the old " treasuries " adjoining
Westminster Hall, scattered their contents in all quarters of the

' Written in 1841. Now, 1881,
the Chapter-House has been entirely
cleared of Sir Christopher Wren's fit-
tings by Sir Gilbert Scott, R. A. A new
roof, giving the form of the supposed
original groining, has been erected;
also a buttress on the outside, and the

whole put into repair ; the original
tiled pavement is exhibited, and the
early paintings on the walls are ex-
posed, but should be glazed. For fur-
ther details of the Chapter-House, see
Summerly's "Handbook to West-
minster Abbey."


metropolis. Thus the records of the king's remembrancer, of the Public
Exchequer, and the Common Pleas, migrated from Westminster ^.d. 1841!
Hall to the late Mews at Charing Cross : and thence, to make ?"' ^}-

° ' ' Selections.

room for the National Gallery, to Carlton Riding-School. The
records of the late lord-treasurer's remembrancer and Pipe-Office,
are entombed two stories deep in the vaults of Somerset House.
Those of the King's Bench for a time rested opposite St. Margaret's
Church, but were shifted to the Rolls House in Chancery Lane to
make room for the present Rolls Court at Westminster.

XVIII. Thus from time to time have repositories, as well un- oid reposi-
dignified with the ancient title of " king's treasury " as deficient in
that careful superintendence which originally accompanied the
title, arisen in all parts of London; and in 1837 a committee of
the House of Commons reported that it had seen the Public Re-
cords, the most precious part of the king's " treasure," deposited
at the Tower over a gunpowder-magazine, and contiguous to a
steam-engine in daily operation ; at the Rolls, in a chapel where
divine service is performed ; in vaults, two stories underground at
Somerset House ; in dark and humid cellars at Westminster Hall ;
in the stables of the late Carlton Ride ; in the Chapter-House of
Westminster Abbey ; in offices surrounded by and subject to all
the accidents of private dwellings, as the Augmentation Office and
First Fruits. At the present time (1841), besides the offices for
modem records attached to each court, we may enumerate the
following repositories, with their different localities, as containing
the public records : —

The Tower, in Thames Street. Chapter-House, Westminster
Abbey. Rolls Chapel, Chancery Lane. Rolls House, Chancery
Lane. Duchy of Lancaster, Lancaster Place, Strand. Duchy of
Cornwall, Somerset House. Common Pleas, Carlton Ride and
Whitehall Yard. Queen's Remembrancer's Records, in Carlton
Ride and Tower of Westminster Hall. Augmentation-Office,
Palace Yard, Westminster. Pipe-Office, Somerset House. Lord-
Treasurer's Remembrancer, Somerset House. Land Revenue,
Carlton Ride. Pell-Office, i, Whitehall Yard. Exchequer of
Pleas, 3, Whitehall Yard. First-Fruits Office, Temple.

It would seem that as early as the commencement of the four-
teenth century, the officers charged with the custody of the records
were found to be either insufficient or neglectful of the perfor-



A.D. 1841.
Part II.

Master of
the Rolls.

Record In-
quiries and

mance of their duties. Since the time of Edward II., scarcely a
reign has passed without a special temporary agency being ap-
pointed to restore the public records to good order. The neces-
sity probably arose from the functions of the officer charged with
the care of the records, being altogether changed, as in the instance
of the Master of the Rolls, who was the bond, fide " gardien des
roules " in early times.

XIX. In the 14th Ed. II., the barons of the exchequer were
directed to employ competent clerks to methodize the records,
which were " not then so properly arranged for the king's and the
public weal as they ought to be.'' Again in the 19th year of Ed.
II., certain commissioners were appointed for a similar purpose.
In Edward III.'s reign, at least three like commissions were
issued {Rot. Claus., Annis 34 and 36 ; and Hot. Pari., Anno 46).
Statutes for the protection of records from falsification, erasure,
and embezzlement were passed — 8 Rich. II., c. 4, and 11 Hen.
IV., c. 3. Other measures were taken by Henry VI., Henry VII.,
and Henry VIII. Inquiries into the state of the Parliamentary,
the Chancery, and Exchequer records, were prosecuted in Queen
Elizabeth's reign. James I. proposed " an office of general Re-
membrance for all matters of record," and a State Paper Office,
which Charles II. established. Nor were the reigns of Anne and
the two first Georges, wanting in investigations into the subject.
Committees of both Houses of Parliament from time to time
visited the several repositories, and the fire of the Cottonian
Library in 1731 produced a report which describes the condition
of most of the public repositories at that period. But the fullest
examination into the state of the public records which has been
made in recent times, was effected by a Committee of the House
of Commons, in 1800, conducted by Lord Colchester, then Mr.
Abbot, and the report of that Committee presents by far the most
perfect and comprehensive account which has yet appeared of our
public records, to which a period of forty years has added very
little. This report originated a commission for carrying on the
work which its authors had begun. The Record Commission was
renewed six several times between the years 1800 and 1831, and
altogether suspended at the accession of the present Queen. All
the several record commissions during thirty years, recited, one
after another, that " the public records of the kingdom were in


many offices unarranged, undescribed, and unascertained j " that Public
they were exposed " to erasure, alteration, and embezzlement," and a_d. 184^.
"were lodged in buildings incommodious and insecure." The ?Y'"'
commissioners were directed to cause the records to be " metho-
dized, regulated, and digested," bound, and secured; to cause
" calendars and indexes to be made," and " original papers " to be
printed. The present state of the Record Offices affords abundant
evidence that the Record Commissioners interpreted their direc-
tions in an inverse order ; expending the funds entrusted to them
rather in printing records than in arranging or calendaring them.
And it is an undoubted fact that notwithstanding these commis-

Online LibraryHenry ColeFifty years of public work of Sir Henry Cole, K. C. B., accounted for in his deeds, speeches and writings → online text (page 5 of 40)