Appendix Three: Pipe Rolls of the Exchequer

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Ireland Gotoarrow.png Brief Catalog of the Contents of the Index to the Reports of the Deputy Keeper of Records of Ireland


Pipe Rolls of the Exchequer are accounts of royal income arranged by county for each financial year. These are the earliest surviving series public records and are essentially continuous from 1155 onwards until the 19th Century.

A copy of each pipe roll - known as the Chancellor's Roll - was sent to the Chancery.  (The unusual name - officially it started out as the 'Great Rolls of the Exchequer'[1] and comes from the distinctive way in which the membranes were sewn together, which made them look like pieces of piping when rolled up)

The sheriff's accounts form the core of the early pipe rolls.  The sheriff was the king's representative in the county, and was responsible for collecting revenues from the royal estate and other sources.  The rolls also record some items of expenditure by the sheriff and include lists of lands formerly part of royal estate, which had been given to private individuals.  In addition, there are payment of feudal dues and taxes, 'offerings' to the king in connection with legal disputes, record of penalties (amercements) imposed by the itinerant justices, and miscellaneous items such as enrolled charters.  As time went on and the volume of administration increased, some of these categories were removed into separate series of records (including in the 14th Century, the accounts of royal estates).

The early pipe rolls provide a useful source of information from a period when few other records are available.  Those from the late 12th and early 13th Century have been published with indexes, mainly by the Pipe Rolls Society.  It is therefore fairly straightforward to search the early pipe rolls for entries relating to particular names.  However, interpreting the names may be more difficult.  Nearly all the printed texts are in Latin, and many of the earlier volumes use 'record type' to reproduce the highly abbreviated style of the originals.  Beyond this, while the significance of many entries may be fairly clear, interpreting others may require some knowledge of the administrative procedures.[2]

At the on line British National Archives site, the Pipe Rolls are identified in Series E:  Records of the Exchequer 1086-1994.  The Pipe Rolls themselves show as dating from 1129 through 1832.  In the National Archives of the United Kingdom, the web site shows that the Pipe Rolls are in Record Groups E401; E371; E372/129; E364 and E352.

Wikipedia provides some additional information:

The Pipe Rolls began in 1130 and lasting, mostly complete until 1833.   The Pipe Roll Society was founded by the PRO in 1883 and has published Pipe Rolls up to the year 1222.  Pipe Rolls were written in Latin until 1733.

Another web site for the Pipe Roll Society is:

Pipe Roll years ran from 29 September to 29 September (Michaelmas to Michaelmas)

When the words "pipe Rolls Ireland" are entered in a keyboard search on the Family History Library Catalog, the following pulls up:

      Pipe Rolls of England -

      No. 6 -                            FHL475631   

      No. 7 -                            FHL1696603 Item 10
      Vol. 18 to p. 109             FHL1483378 Item 6

      Vol. 20 -                          FHL1559446 Item 3

      Vol. 43 -                          FHL1483378 Item 4

      Vol. 47 -                          FHL924081 Item 2

  1. Exchequer refers to what we might understand to be a Treasury Department in government.
  2. See PRO webpage "Introduction to the Study of Pipe Rolls."