in Turri Londinensi

"The Patent Rolls"

Introduction edited from the Georgian Series edition
Published by:
His Majesty's Stationary Office

The Patent Rolls in the Tower of London commence in the third year of the reign of King John Lackland, and end in the twenty-third year of that of Edward the Fourth.

They are described by Thomas Astle, Keeper of the Records there, in his return, printed in the reports from the Select Committee appointed to inquire into the state of the Public Records of the Kingdom, &c. page 53, thus:

"They contain Grants of Offices and Lands- Restitutions of temporalties to Bishops, Abbots and other Ecclestiastical persons- Confirmations of grants made to Bodies Corporate as well Ecclesiastical as Civil- grants in Fee Farm- Special Liveries- grants of Offices special and general- Patents of creations of Peers and Licences of all kinds which pass the Great Seal; and on the backs of these Rolls are Commissions to Justices of the Peace, of Sewers, and all Commissions (indeed) which pass the Great Seal."

The Georgian publication of these Rolls was printed from four manuscripts procured in 1775 by Mr. Astle for public use, from the executors of Henry Rooke's estate, and was collated with two other manuscripts in the Cottonian Library in the British Museum, marked Titus C. II. & III.

Many omissions and deficiencies in the Tower copy were supplied by that in the Museum, which seems to have been compiled in the Reign of James I, from the records themselves, by some experienced clerk, who selected from them what appeared to him most useful and interesting.

Additional Note on the Patent Rolls
by Dr. Rose Hayes
Curatorial Officer
Royal Commission on Historical Manuscripts
AD 2000

(In spite of the fact that most historians refer to copies only, being the published Calendars, rather than the actual Rolls themselves)... the actual Patent Rolls do indeed still exist. Some 5590 rolls dating from 1201 to 1998 are in the care of the Public Record Office (PRO), Ruskin Avenue, Kew, Richmond TW9 4DU. Their class reference is C 66. The Calendars of Patent Rolls contain very full calendars of most of the medieval and Tudor rolls. Because they are so full, historians tend to use them rather than the original rolls, although these are examined for particular research purposes. This will explain the plethora of references to the Calendars rather than the original records. The following description of the Calendars is an extract from the Public Record Office's online catalogue. This catalogue can be accessed via the PRO's website which is to be found at

Publication Note The Calendar of Patent Rolls (HMSO, commencing in 1901) covers the period for I Hen III to 24 Eliz I and is extended for 27 to 31 Eliz I in List and Index Society Volumes 241-243, 247 and 255. Indexes of grantees for 23 to 36 Eliz I are published in List and Index Society Volumes 141 and 167. Printed Calendars of Patent Rolls, commencing in 1901, exist for the years 1 Henry III to 24 Elizabeth I. The first two volumes (1-16 Henry III) are full transcripts in Latin. The calendars to the end of Henry VII's reign exclude appointments of commissioners of gaol delivery and justices to take assizes of novel disseisin; from 1399 commissions of the peace form an appendix. Patent Rolls for the reign of Henry VIII are included among the classes of records calendared in Letters and Papers, Foreign and Domestic, Henry VIII(1864-1932). They are calendared at the end of each month, and a key to their arrangement is available. A Latin transcript was published by the Record Commissioners to the Patent Rolls for the rolls of John, entitled Rotuli Litterarum Patentium in Turri Londinensi asservati, 1201-1216, (1835). Also published by the Record Commission was an indexed Latin calendar of Patent Rolls housed in the Tower of London (John to Edward IV). Further calendars for 5 and 6 Edward I, including the commissions on the dorses, appear in Deputy Keeper's Reports, XLVI, appendix II, item 2 (1884); XLVI, appendix II, item 2 (1884); XLVII (1885), appendix 7.

(Accidental fires over the centuries, such as the Cottonian library fire two centuries ago and the incineration of Windsor Castle ten years ago, and the fires of War, in particular the great destructions of the English Civil War, resulted in the total loss of many once abundant treasured public objects and records.)

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