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Patent Rolls (Medieval) (Courts)

Nature of Source


Records known as Letters Patent which were held at the Court of Chancery. Letters Patent were issued 'open' with the Great Seal pendant attached at the foot. The Letters dealt with many aspects of the economic, social and political business of government and the church. The issues dealt with included charters for founding schools, charters of incorporation, grants of liberties, privileges, trading licences, wardships, land rights, appointments to royal offices and pardons for criminals. Pardons will usually provide considerable detail of the offence.

The papers also detail private property transactions involving tenants in chief. Wardships dealt with the estate of a tenant in chief who had died leaving the land to an underaged heir. The state assumed control over the estate until the heir came of age.

Grants or leases of lands from the Crown form an important collection for genealogists. These papers name the past and present tenants and might give a brief description of the property. Much of the property formerly belonged to religious orders, debtors and felons.

The documents are usually written in Latin up to 1733 and are difficult to use without indexes and calendars. The distinction between Letters Patent and Letters Close had disappeared by Henry VII. One of the differences between them was that a Letter Patent was an open document whilst a Letter Close was issued sealed and folded. Court of Chancery records were also kept on Charter Rolls, Fine Rolls and Close Rolls. Before 1844, denization was recorded in the Patent Rolls.

Letters Patent were also used as a mechanism for registering inventions, hence the later exclusive association with the registering and protecting an invention.

The University of Reading is leading a project to calendar further rolls.

Also see
Charter Rolls
Close Rolls
Court of Chancery
Fine Rolls

Where Found

The National Archives (C 66, Chancery and Supreme Court of Judicature: Patent Rolls; C 67, Chancery: Supplementary Patent Rolls)
County Record Offices
List and Index Society (Published calendars of patent rolls, many with name indexes. The Society publishes records found in The National Archives, the British Museum, Scottish Record Office and others. The published records includes calendars of TNA's holdings of Lay Subsidy Rolls, calendars of Patent Rolls, Tithe Award Records. Publications in yellow binders or covers relate to TNA records whilst those in red relate to records from other sources)
Her Majesty's Stationery Office (Published calendars of patent rolls, many with name indexes)

Period Covered

1199 - 1946

Genealogical Value

Names, addresses, family relationships, land owned

Further References

Astle, Thomas & Caley, John (eds). Calendarium Rotulorum Patentium in Turri Londinensi [Calendar of patent rolls in the Tower of London]: Record Commissioners, 1802


Chambers, Paul. Medieval Genealogy: How to Find Your Medieval Ancestors: The History Press, 2005


Hardy, Thomas Duffus, Sir. (ed.). Rotuli Litterarum Patentium in Turri Londinensi asservati, 1201-1216: Record Commission, 1835


Patent rolls of the reign of Henry III preserved in the Public Record Office 1216-1225: HMSO, 1901
(Further volumes extend the series. Search Bibliography of British and Irish History for other volumes and series)


TNA Research Guide: Royal Grants: Letters Patent and Charters from 1199

Websites (Completing the Calendar of Patent Rolls: University of Reading research project to publish Elizabethan Patent Rolls)
Bibliography of British and Irish History (Catalogue subscription site describing books and articles about British and Irish history produced by a partnership between the Royal Historical Society, the Institute of Historical Research and Brepols Publishers. The catalogue includes the Guide to Record Societies and their Publications (Texts and Calendars) published by the Royal Historical Society which is a guide to transcriptions, calendars and indexes published by the individual participating record societies. A list of participating societies is available here) (Medieval English Genealogy: Patent Rolls) (Patent Rolls: Introduction, Cardiff Records: volume 1 1898) (Links to online access to published calendars of Charter, Close, Fine and Patent rolls) (Letters Patent guide) (Medieval Glossary) (Foundation for Medieval Genealogy : The Foundation was established in 2001 by a group of British genealogists and historians with a special interest in the medieval period. The Library Catalogue provides a bibliographic catalogue of secondary source material for medieval genealogy and heraldry) (The Middle English Compendium. The site offers access to and interconnectivity between three major Middle English electronic resources: an electronic version of the Middle English Dictionary, a HyperBibliography of Middle English prose and verse, based on the MED bibliographies, and a Corpus of Middle English Prose and Verse, as well as links to an associated network of electronic resources) (Medieval and Early Modern Sources Online [MEMSO]: The database contains a large repository of state papers, chronicles, accounts and correspondence from the archives of Britain, Ireland and continental Europe)

Online Databases

The Prosopography of Anglo-Saxon England (PASE) (An online database that aims to register every recorded individual who lived in Anglo-Saxon England from late sixth to the end of the eleventh century. The database is a collaboration between King's College, London and the University of Cambridge and include sources such as chronicles, saints' lives, charters, inscriptions and coins)
Ancient Petitions, Henry III - James I (Details of petitions contained in TNA series SC 8 pursuing grievances which could not be resolved at common law, or requests for a grant of favour. Searches can be made directly in the TNA Discovery Catalogue with the reference for the petition or a general search within the series) (University of Iowa: Browse or search calendars from 1216-1452)
British History Online (Calendars of Close Rolls, Patent Rolls, Fine Rolls. The site consists of a digital library of British historical sources developed by Institute of Historical Research and the History of Parliament Trust. The site is free to use with a search facility linking users to full transcripts of various sources. The contents of British History Online can also be searched at Connected Histories together with a number of other databases) (University of Sheffield: Lands of the Normans in England, 1204-1244: The database contains details of over 2,000 individual documents collected from over 100 historical sources. Nearly 3,000 different people and places appear in the database, and there are over 13,500 links describing the relationships between these people and places including. For a full list of historical sources see here) (Letters and Papers, Foreign and Domestic, Henry VIII, Patent Rolls of Henry VIII) (Patent Rolls: 1488-1616, Cardiff Records: volume 1,1898)

CD Roms

Archive CD Books (Charters and other Writs of the Royal Burgh of Aberdeen 1171-1804)