Financial records in the English Courts

These records broadly relate to the Dissolution of the Monasteries circa 1540 and the seizure and subsequent administration of their assets by the English Crown. They are held in the Public Record Office and fall into three categories.


Valor Ecclesiasticus


An Act of 1535 instituted an annual tax of one tenth of the net income of all ecclesiastical benefices. As a result a precise valuation of Church income was made. A copy has has been published in 6 volumes.


Court of Augmentations records


This Court was set up in 1536 to administer the seized assets of the religous houses. The records (held at the National Archives under references E315 and E321 and also on microfilm series SC6) include detailed accounts of the Abbey Lands from their seizure in 1540 to 1553. They also record the assets of the houses at the time of their seizure. The Court of Augmentations was amalgamated with the Court of the Exchequer in 1554.


A detailed analysis of the Abbey records was conducted by the late Jim Roscow (building on work by Talbot c1890) and is described in a recent monograph (see references). This includes extensive transcriptions.


Court of the Exchequer records


These documents (also held by the National Archives) should contain later records of seized Manx lands. I have not comprehensively examined the relevant records and am unaware of anyone else doing so.


Details of the Court of Augmentation accounts


The following is a summary of the Accounts for the 1540-1541 financial year. It is based both on Jim Roscow's transcription (described above) and my examination of the records on microfilm (SC6/Hen VIII/5877). They are written in latin.


Separate accounts were produced by Robert Calcott (apparently the then Governor of the Isle) for each of the religous houses then seized by the Crown. These were (in order) the monastery of Douglas, the monastery of Bymaken and the Priory of Douglas.


Each set of accounts begins with a list of the rental income. Each tenant's name, rent and property type is given. They are grouped in freeform paragraphs according to parish, preceded by a similar section for the demense tenants.


Some of the religous houses had also ownership of part of all of the benefices intended to support certain parishes. The income from these (often derived from the rent paid by a leasee) is recorded under the heading spiritualities.


The abbeys each had expenditure, mostly consisting of fees paid to the officers who administered their Courts and estates. A summary of these fees form another paragraph. This concludes the itemisation of the income and expenditure.


The individual accounts are followed by the balance sheet of the King's Receiver. This lists the net income from each of the religous houses, together with one additional item of expenditure. This was the annual pensions paid to the various monks and nuns who had been displaced by the Dissolution. The name of each pensionee is recorded along with their associated payment.


An Example of a Court of Exchequer record


The details of an Inquisition as to the Bangor and Saball lands was conducted in the 24th year of Elizabeth I (c1572) and are held at reference E178/3185 in the National Archives. They are written in english (as opposed to latin). The investigation was into the lands (and other assets) of the said religous houses and as to who had benefitted from them (and under whose authority) since the dissolution. It includes various accounts (by named witnesses, apparently including tenants) as to these.