The exchequer, one of the earliest government departments, developed out of the
king's chamber, the branch of the royal household which oversaw the royal finances.
The chief financial officer was the king's great chamberlain. It was not a permanent
body, meeting only to audit the accounts of the sheriffs and other collectors
of royal revenues. |
James I reformed the exchequer in the 1420s. Its functions
were divided between the Comptroller (or Receiver General) and the Treasurer.
The Comptroller handled the revenue from crown lands, burghs and customs which
was spent on the royal household. The Treasurer received the feudal services and
casualties (occasional payments to a superior of lands), the proceeds of taxation
and the lucrative profits of justice. From these revenues he met the king's personal
expenses (including military and naval expenses, liveries, stables, repair of
palaces, alms). The first recorded mention of whisky can be found in an early
exchequer roll of 1494.
James VI to the Union In 1584 the exchequer was made a separate
court of law. It settled permanently in Edinburgh and was staffed by judges from
the Court of Session. James VI's reign also saw growth in its administrative functions.
Faced with declining crown lands and revenues, the monarchy exploited customs
and imposed import duties for the first time in 1597. Taxation became more frequent.
In the reign of Charles I new taxes were imposed on a variety of consumer goods
and investments and the land tax was increased.
During the 1640s and 1650s
Scotland was heavily taxed to pay for the covenanting armies and the English occupation.
The exchequer reverted to the management of the crown's traditional sources of
revenue while taxation, excise and customs came under parliamentary control under
the general direction of the Committee of Estates. During the period of the English
occupation (1552-1660) management of Scottish revenues was placed under a new
Court of Exchequer staffed by English judges. With Charles II's return in 1660
the exchequer was restored to its pre 1638 form.
records, 1263-1707The exchequer records provide the largest body of evidence
for the pre-union administration of Scotland and are a rich source for all aspects
of royal administration. Very few survive from before the reign of Robert I [1306-29].
Listed below are the major series of exchequer records. The majority of the records,
apart from those which have been published, are unindexed. The administrative
history of the pre-union exchequer and a detailed guide to its records is given
in The Guide to
the National Archives of Scotland (Stationery Office, 1996).
and judicial records
registers of 'signatures' (document authorising the making of a royal grant) and
and accounts of royal revenue||1263-1708||The
accounts and rentals of the officials responsible for the collection of the royal
revenue - the sheriffs, custumars and magistrates of the royal burghs and the
chamberlains. The income consisted largely of revenues received in kind (mainly
crops and food) rather than in money.|
and comptrollery accounts
on the royal household, wardrobe, castles and palaces. The accounts provide a
vivid insight into the day-to-day life of the kings and queens of Scotland. The
series also contains inventories of the royal furnishings including jewels and
clothes owned by Mary Queen of Scots, published in 'The Accounts of the Lord High
Treasurer of Scotland, 1473-1580' and 'Accounts of the Masters of Works for building
and repairing royal palaces and castles, 1529-1649'.|
from church benefices (church livings) and bishoprics||1561-1718||Revenues
from church lands after the reformation and the records of 'bishops' rents' falling
to the crown after the abolition of episcopacy in the late 17th century.|
and forfeited estates||1663-1707||Forfeited
estates papers, 1687-1707, including fines and forfeitures, 1666-1693. Imposed
for 'ecclesiastical disorders' or the rebellions against Charles II and James
VII and estates of leading Jacobites taken into the management of the crown.|
Including hearth and poll tax records. Further information is available in our
guide to taxation records.
and excise records||1498-1710||Including
customs books, 1498-1696 and accounts, 1605-1707 and excise accounts and papers,
1644-1710 with details of goods exported and imported to and from overseas. Further
information is available in our guide to customs and excise records.|
and Navy accounts and papers||1557- 1755 ||Including
army muster rolls, 1641-1707. Further information is available in our guide to
mint papers||1555-1809|| |
information is available in our guide to valuation rolls.|
'The Exchequer Rolls of Scotland, 1326-1600', 23 vols.
'The Accounts of the Lord High Treasurer of Scotland, 1473-1580',
13 vols (1877-1978)
'Accounts of the Masters of Works for building and
repairing royal palaces and castles, 1529-1649', 2 vols (1957, 1982).
of the Collectors of Thirds of Benefices, Scottish History Society, (1949)
Kirk, 'The Books of Assumption of the Thirds of Benefices', (1995)
'The Old Scots Navy', Navy Records Society, (1914)
C Dalton, 'The Scots
Army', 1660-1688 (Edinburgh, 1909)
R W Cochran Patrick, 'Records of the
Coinage of Scotland' (1876)
The post-Union ExchequerUnder the
Exchequer Court (Scotland) Act of 1707 the Scottish exchequer was reorganised
on English lines under the Barons of Exchequer. The Treasury was abolished in
1708. The barons acted in both a judicial capacity, dealing with revenue cases,
debts to the crown, seizure of smuggled goods and prosecutions for illicit brewing
and distilling, and in an administrative capacity, mainly auditing accounts.
separate Scottish Customs Board established at the union was abolished in 1823
and from the 1830s the powers of the barons were gradually reduced. The auditing
of customs and excise accounts was transferred to Westminster. Under the Public
Revenues (Scotland) Act of 1833, most of the remaining administrative functions
reverted to the United Kingdom Treasury. In 1856 with the abolition of the exchequer,
its judicial functions went to the Court of Session. The Exchequer Office (Scotland)
continued until its final abolition in 1981 when its remaining functions were
transferred to the Crown Office.
Because of its central place in the administration,
the exchequer generated more records than any other Scottish government body in
the century and a half after the Union. Many records were lost in a fire in 1811
but losses were partly made up by the number of duplicate or overlapping series.
Most of the following records are un-indexed.
crown rents, customs, salt duty, excise and taxes.|
establishment records||from 1708||Listing
salaries to central government officials. Indexed.|
accounts||1812-1847 || |
Canal papers||1802-1844 || |
minutes, decrees and processes including revenue cases but primarily disputes
customs collectors' accounts detailing imports and exports, payments of whale
and herring bounties and information on customs officers.|
names of proprietors and owners of distilleries (but not workers) granted an allowance
of 1 shilling for every gallon of whisky produced from malt.|
E701-788||Forfeited estate papers||1716-1824||The
records of the management of the major Jacobite estates forfeited after the risings
of 1715 and 1745, showing attempts to improve agriculture, industry and communications
in the Highland. They include rentals (rent rolls) and accounts and a series of
Haeres records||from 1709||Records
of the crown as the 'last heir' of those dying without a known heir. The modern
records are closed for 30 years.|
publications'Records of the Forfeited Estates Commission' (Public Record
Office Handbook No 12, 1968)
'A Selection of Scottish Forfeited Estates Papers'
(Scottish History Society, 1909)
A M Smith, 'Jacobite Estates of the Forty-five'
V Wills, 'Reports on the Annexed Estates, 1755-6' (1973)
of the Annexed Estates' (1973)
I H Adams, 'Descriptive List of Plans in
the Scottish Record Office, vol.3' (1974)
National Records of Scotland