The History and Antiquities of London, Westminster, Southwark, and Parts Adjacent, vol. 4

Allen, Thomas


The liberty of the Rolls.


The master of the Rollis, , lord of of the pleasantest domains within London. It is a liberty of itself, exempt from the power of the sheriff of Middlesex, and of every other officer, except with leave of the master. Here he has a splendid house to reside in, from which he can pass into the court where he officiates, as from room into another; and behind it there is a large garden, where, in the midst of a crowded city, he may enjoy something of the pleasures of rural retirement. Here also he has a chapel of his own, the minister of which is of his own nomination.

The Liberty of the Rolls is situated between and , in the midst of a rural and pleasant area, partly formed by the neighbouring gardens of Clifford's-inn. On this site Henry III. founded an hospital, or convent, for the reception of converted Jews; himself forgetting the probability that many Israelites might deceive him and his priests, allured as they must have been by the easy and idle life offered to their acceptance in the , with the enjoyment of the revenues of per annum, and large forfeited possessions. However, whether their motives were sincere or otherwise, it is certain that the place was soon crowded with converts. Edward I. equally blinded by zeal,


gave half the estates of several Jews, who were hanged for chipping the current coin, to this house; and the remainder to the society of Friars Preachers, whose efforts were doubtlessly redoubled, in preaching conversion to the descendants of Israel, by so liberal a donation.

In the year of Edward III. the Jews were universally expelled from the kingdom: in consequence of which bigotted act the house of converts became still more neglected; but they appear to have retained their residence till , when a royal mandate ordained the house a receptacle for valuable records, or rolls of parchment; and hence the present name.

The term Master explains the office of the great law dignitary who presides over the rolls. He besides hears causes in Chancery during vacations in his court, which adjoins the chapel. His officers attend at suitable hours, for the purpose of making searches for those who wish to consult the records. The Master appoints--a preacher, and service is performed at the usual times within the building; which is said to have been designed by Inigo Jones. There are buttresses at each angle, an arched door, and a tall pointed window; and a cornice and pediment, of Grecian architecture, with an angular window in the tympanum.

The interior is neatly fitted up. The altar-screen is of the Ionic order, and the pulpit and reading desk are grouped in the centre aisle around the chapel, and in the galleries are the presses for reserving the records. There are several monuments in this edifice. A handsome monument by Torregiano, is intended for Dr. John Yong, and was inscribed:--

Dominus Firmamentum incum.

Jo. Yong, LL Doctori, Sacror. Scrinior.

Ac hujus Domus Custodi, Decano olim Ebor.

Vita defuncto xxv Aprilis; sui fideles ex executores hoc posuerant



The name of the artist is sufficient to proclaim the excellence of the reclining effigies, which is every thing that could be wished.

There are several other monuments, particularly that of Edward Bruce, baron Kinloss, , and Allingtons, &c.

An act was passed, George II. which empowered the Master of the Rolls, for the time being, to make leases for years, or less, in order to rebuild the old houses belonging to the Rolls office. After the premises were let, the master was restrained from making any new or concurrent lease, until within years of the expiration, or taking less than the rent, nor for a longer term than years. It is singular that none of the leases, granted for years, after the passing this act, by sir Harbottle Grimstone, could be found in .

Sir Joseph Jekyll was appointed Master, . Upon his entering upon the office he found the houses generally in a ruinous condition; in consequence of which he rebuilt , in , after a design of Colin Campbell, esq.; and, a few years after,


other. The cost them between and the about When the plans and elevations of of the were laid before him, he enquired how long houses built according to that estimate, would stand? The Biggs, surveyors, declared they would exceed the lease in duration, or years. Upon which sir Joseph, much to his honour, observed,

He would have them built as strong and as well as, if they were his own inheritance;

and immediately added such means of stability as amounted to each house more than the estimate. The annual rent of the above houses was ; the total amount of the rent of the houses in the liberty of the rolls, as charged to the poor rates in , was .

In the year , the house of commons appointed a committee to examine into the state of the public records at the Rolls chapel. The report informed the house, that they had found many of them greatly injured by damp, by being placed too near the wall; some obliterated, and the whole liable to be lost, by the practice of the clerks taking them home to make extracts. In consequence of this enquiry, every practicable remedy was immediately applied.

The master of the Rolls has the appointment of clerks to the court of Chancery, each of whom has assistants under him, called clerks of court. The office of the clerks is a spacious stone building at the head of , on the west side. Formerly they occupied an inn called Herflet inn, belonging to the priors of Nocton's park, opposite the Rolls chapel. The revenue of these clerks is derived almost entirely from fees for copies of proceedings in the court of Chancery; nor has it been sufficiently attended to, when complaints have been made of the extravagance of these fees, that they were established rather as a mode of payment for most of the business transacted in the office, than as a recompence for the copies themselves. The head clerks receive -eighths of the proceeds, and the remaining -eighthes are divided among the under clerks. For the years, preceding , the average amount of the -eighthes was , which, divided among the clerks, yielded an income to each of little more than

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 Title Page
CHAPTER I: Site, local divisions, and government of the City of Westminster; history of the Abbey; Coronation Ceremonies; and lists of the Abbots and Deans
CHAPTER II: Westminster Abbey, and Description of the Tombs and Monuments
CHAPTER III: History and Topography of St. Margaret's Parish
CHAPTER IV: History and Topography of St. John's Parish, Westminster
CHAPTER V: History and Topography of the parish of St. Martin's in the Fields, Westminster
CHAPTER VI: History and Topogrpahy of the parish of St. James, Westminster
CHAPTER VII: History and Topography of the Parish of St. Anne, Westminster
CHAPTER VIII: History and Topography of the parish of St. Paul, Covent Garden
CHAPTER IX: History and Topography of the Parish of St. Mary-le-strand
CHAPTER X: History and Topogrpahy of the parish of St. Clement Danes
CHAPTER XI: History and Topography of the parish of st. George, Hanover Square
CHAPTER XII: History and Topography of the Precinct of the Savoy
CHAPTER XIII: History and Topography of the Inns of Court
CHAPTER XIV: History and Topography of the Precincts of the Charter-house and Ely Place, and the Liberty of the Rolls
 CHAPTER XV: Historical Notices of the Borough of Southwark
CHAPTER XVI: History and Topography of the Parish of St. Olave, Southwark
CHAPTER XVII: History and Topography of the parish of St. John, Southwark
CHAPTER XVIII: History and Topography of the parish of St. Thomas, Southwark
CHAPTER XIX: History and Topogrpahy of the parish of St. George's, Southwark
CHAPTER XX: History and Topography of St. Saviour's Parish
CHAPTER XXI: History and Topography of the parist of Christ-church in the County of Surrey
 CHAPTER XXII: A List of the Principal Books, &c that have been published in Illustration of the Antiquities, History, Topography, and other subjects treated of in this Work
 Addenda et Corrigienda