The Palatine Courts

Palatinates existed in England from medieval times, growing in the decades following the Norman conquest, when various earls or bishops were granted palatine power that is they were granted powers usually exercised by the Crown holding their own common law, equity and criminal courts.

Where were the courts?

There were palatinate counties: Chester, Durham and Lancaster. The Palatinate of Chester was a portion of the Earldom of Chester; the Palatinate of Durham was presided over by the Bishop of Durham; and the Duchy of Lancaster was created from the Earldom of Lancaster, when the Earl became Duke in 1351.

Chester

In Chester, the Exchequer court which continued from the 15th century to 1830, was the localised court of Chancery.

Records for the Chester Palatine are held at The National Archives in series CHES. For example:

CHES 29-30 for Plea Rolls

CHES 29-30 for recoveries

CHES 31 for Feet of FInes

CHES 11-16 for Chancery records

CHES 17 for Eyre rolls

Durham

The Durham Palatine also held their own court of Chancery from the 15th to 1971 although all othr jurisdictions ceased in the 19th century. Royal officials could only conduct an eyre in Durham following the death of the bishop before the appointment of his successor.

Again the records are generally held at The National Archives. The few surviving eyre rolls can be found in JUST 1 by searching “Durham”, whilst other records are held in the series DURH. For example:

DURH 13 for Judgement Rolls and enrolled recoveries

DURH 12 for Feet of Fines

DURH 1 -5, 9 & 21 for Chancery records

The University of Durham also holds some records.

Lancaster

In Lancaster the palatine courts were held from the 15th century to 1875 save for Chancery jusridiction which continued until 1971. Its records can be found at The National Archives in series PL.For example:

PL 17 for Feet of Fines

PL 15 for enrolled recoveries

PL 2 for Close Rolls

PL 6, 7, and 9 – 12 for Chancery records

PL 27 for depositions in common law cases

Court of the Duchy of Lancaster

There was also a Court of the Duchy of Lancaster from medieval times when the Duchy of Lancashre was held by the Monarch or a close relative. The Duchy Chamber of Lancashire had equitable jurisdiction over Duchy property and those records are held at The National Archives in series DL between the 13th century and 19th century.

This is the last of my series of blogs on the courts of England and Wales.

Watch out for future blogs on an array of subjects coming soon.

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