The Sheffield Hundred Rolls Project

The Hundred Rolls are a series of four inquisitions spanning the period 1255 to 1280. The circumstances of commission vary, but they each in their own way mark milestones in the development of thirteenth-century government in England. The inquest of 1255 is the first general survey of the royal fisc, affording a vivid insight into the income of the crown from the royal demesne, and the workings of local government and the forest at a time of political tension when Henry III was forced to 'live of his own'. As such it was a central element in a policy that led to the crisis of 1258 and the Reform Movement that followed. The two inquisitions of January and October 1274 came in the wake of the civil war that ensued. Both again surveyed royal rights, but the second broke new ground in inquiring into the deeds of bailiffs of all kinds in the localities to provide an unparalleled picture of seigneurial and shrieval administration in the 1260s and 1270s. Finally, the inquest of 1279 is the most ambitious survey ever undertaken by an English monarch, and, had it been carried through to completion, would have amounted to a comprehensive land register and customary for the whole of England. For the dozen or so shires for which records survive it provides a volume of social and economic data which has rarely been equalled. Taken together the records of the four inquests constitute the greatest body of coherent evidence for the history of England in the High Middle Ages.

The then known corpus of Hundred Rolls was edited by the Record Commission between 1812 and 1818. Since then further rolls have come to light, but only a handful have been published. Despite the manifest importance of the source, the corpus as a whole has received relatively little scholarly attention. In consequence, the Sheffield Hundred Rolls Project has been established under the direction of Professor Edmund King and Dr David Roffe to reassess the source. Its aims are to:

  1. edit the unpublished rolls.

  2. prepare a facsimile edition of the Record Commission volumes

  3. index the corpus to modern standards.

  4. elucidate the circumstances that produced the rolls.

  5. analyse the corpus as sources.

  6. assess their importance in the development of government in the thirteenth century and beyond.

The unpublished rolls have now been transcribed and are in an advanced state of preparation for publication. The analysis of the corpus is all but complete and the results of the study have been presented in a monograph and various papers. An extensive introduction to the texts, which is in preparation, will provide an overview of the material. The form of publication has yet to be decided.

For a translation of one of the Stamford rolls of 1275, click here.