The records of this court are a rich source of information, not only about the development of the common law and the legal process on which it depended, the judges and court officials who practised in it, and the local officials who enforced its writs, but also the lives of innumerable individual litigants who used it, especially their trespasses, criminal acts and financial dealings. Its records are, especially in the earlier period, rich in information about rural gentry, their tenants and officials and the villages in which they lived; and their illegal or semi-legal activities, often apparently arising from local feuds. It was also, later in the period, heavily used by urban mercantile classes and local tradesmen, so providing material about the growth of trade and commerce and the cities and towns where it principally took place. It is most useful for the development of London, because of its first-instance jurisdiction in Middlesex.
There are frequent transcripts of proceedings in local courts, mainly of counties and hundreds, whose own records rarely survive. The records of appointments of attorneys by litigants give extensive information about their careers and clientele, often mostly limited to a few particular counties, and can be indicative of local social networks. The distribution of the attorneys' client bases are now beginning to be mapped.
No account of an individual person or place between the 13th and 17th centuries can be regarded as complete unless these and other common law records are extensively used. The scale of the dated and contextualised references to individuals that they contain dwarf any other source before the advent of parish registers, even the tax records. Their bulk and the relative paucity of finding-aids to their contents, and the fact that some of them are as yet incompletely sorted or catalogued, added to the fact that they are written in abbreviated Latin, can make their use a formidable undertaking. This research guide attempts to facilitate the most effective use of them under current circumstances.
2. The Court and its jurisdiction
The jurisdiction of the court first referred to as the court Coram Rege, later King's Bench (first so called in 1245), was founded on the principle of pleas heard regularly and formally within the king's immediate purview, even if not always in his actual presence, rather than before the Exchequer, the Common Bench (in existence by 1196), or the justices in eyre. In 1178 five justices were appointed to carry out this purpose, but this may have been only a temporary arrangement, and the court can only first be shown as having a distinct existence in 1200, when a plea roll survives. Inevitably suspended from 1215 to 1234, during a civil war and then the minority of Henry III, it thereafter had a continuous existence. It was eventually subordinate only to parliament, which developed from the 1230s as the highest court of all in England.
During the period after 1234 the court was barred by chapter 11 of Magna Carta 1225 from hearing common pleas, which were not to follow the court but had to be held in a fixed place, so it came to specialise in pleas of special interest and concern to the king, such as those which involved his own property interests, or breach of his peace, or an error of judgment by another royal court. The distinction of its business from that of the Common Bench was not so marked in the 13th century as it later became, with the Common Bench hearing cases of trespass and even appeals of felony, later exclusively appropriated by King's Bench; the differentiation of their relative spheres of activity came about only gradually. It advanced most markedly in the first half of the 14th century, when a series of developments between 1318 and 1337 led to its recognition as the central court for the criminal law. Following its adoption after 1305 of oyer and terminer powers, previously only exercised by commissioned itinerant justices, it held numerous and extensive provincial sessions in many counties between 1323 and 1398, with revivals in 1414 and 1421, after which it settled permanently at Westminster. Its smaller share of the quantity of civil business vis a vis the Common Pleas nevertheless continued until the 17th century, and there was a temporary resurgence of trespass cases in the Common Bench in the 15th century.
By 1640, however, the King's Bench had succeeded in attracting to itself most debt business, at the expense of the Common Pleas, following the development from the mid-15th century of the procedural device of the bill of Middlesex, which enabled the court to bring in cases from all counties in England by creative use of its first instance jurisdiction in Middlesex, where it sat. It also obtained a share of business in 'trespass on the case', which originated in the Common Bench, in which a generalised initial allegation of trespass was supplemented by a 'declaration' of the plaintiff's particular case; the court extended it to debt litigation. Similarly, in the 1560s the court adapted the new trespass device devised for leases, ejectment, into an effective means for the recovery of land, so making inroads also into the property business of Common Pleas. The growing conflict between the two courts over their respective shares of civil litigation, which became serious in the later 16th century, was only settled in the decades after 1660. The King's Bench, because it was more closely associated with the king, was nevertheless superior to the Common Bench throughout, taking from it cases where error was alleged. The most usual mechanism for bringing cases from local inferior courts to King's Bench was by means of a writ of certiorari obtained by an unsuccessful defendant.
3. Records of the court
The format of the records of the court, until the later 17th century, is basically very simple. It follows the same pattern which had originally developed in the Common Bench, although King's Bench's distinct Plea side and Crown side business made their structure more complex than that of the other court. The records of hearings on both the Plea and Crown sides, and minor business such as the casting of essoins and the appointment of attorneys, were written into a long series of plea rolls (KB 27), which run from 1200 to 1702 before being split into separate Crown and plea series (KB 28 and KB 122). The related writ material and the returns associated with the writs were kept in files, after 1300 nearly all of them relating to one side of the court or the other.
The process behind the material in the plea rolls is recorded in the various series of files, which consist of writs strung together on thongs mainly of twisted parchment. These documents were not so well cared for over the centuries, and were also more vulnerable to damage, especially where their thongs broke, although the development of stronger file covers made of thick parchment, a process completed by the late 14th century, gave them far more protection than they had previously had. File survival was nowhere as near complete as that of the plea rolls, but it improved markedly in the later 14th century and again in the 16th. Only isolated examples survive from the period before 1272, but later there are far more, especially after about 1330-1340.
4. Plea rolls and subsidiary rolls
The plea rolls, traditionally called the Coram Rege rolls (KB 27), contain the record of proceedings in each case before the court in a given term, in formulaic Latin with much abbreviation of stock procedural phrases. From the time in which they settle into their final form, during the first half of the 14th century, each roll incorporates a pleas side roll, a roll of fines and forfeitures (first seen in 1304, regular after 1323), a 'Rex' roll for crown pleas, and a roll of warrants of attorney, filed up together in that order. Rotuli for essoins are in some rolls down to 1290, but a separate series of essoin rolls starts about 1256. During the 14th century the fines and forfeitures become noticeably longer during sessions away from Westminster, when the issues of JPs and other county officials were entered. When the court visited a county during these provincial sessions between 1323 and 1421, it also delivered the gaols there, and the records of the deliveries are filed in the rolls. The rolls for the reigns of Richard I, John and Henry III are in KB 26; there is a detailed and indexed list of the Henry III rolls in Various Common Law Records (see Bibliography).
4.1 Essoin rolls KB 121
These rolls record the essoins, allowable excuses for non-attendance, and begin as separate rolls about 1256, the examples before 1272 being now in KB 26. The earlier rolls are the most substantial, most covering only a term, but in the 14th century they gradually get smaller in line with the decline of the King's Bench share of civil business initiated by writ. The recovery and then the rapid growth of that share in the 15th and 16th centuries was based on litigation by bill, in which essoins were not allowed, so they continued to decline. After 1390 there are only two rolls, one for the whole reign of Henry V and another, except for one membrane for 1487-8, covering the period from 1600 to 1800. For a detailed account of these rolls, see Various Common Law Records.
4.2 Controlment rolls KB 29
These were annual memoranda rolls kept for the clerk of the crown to give him a ready means of checking on the crown cases before the court with which he was concerned. They were at the core of his reference system, as indicated by cross-references to them from other documents. They begin to survive in 1329, although they may have been begun some years earlier, and they continue into the 1840s. In their fully developed form (in existence in essentials by the reign of Henry VIII) they have three main sections for each term. These were: the Bag Roll, which contains a memorandum of every suit or prosecution begun in that term; Roll of Entries (the controlment roll proper), containing a memorandum of all the proceedings in each case in each term, from appearance to judgment and after; and the Special Writ Roll, in which all special writs, such as mandamus, scire facias, etc. were enrolled in full, with their returns if any were made.
4.3 Accounts of isses
A few estreats of King's Bench fines, sent to the Exchequer, from 1317 to 1738, are in E 101, bundles 108-110, 614-17, 667, 681-82, various sub-numbers.
4.4 Feet of fines CP 25/1
Few final concords were made in the King's Bench, only 119 in all during the reign of Henry III, the latest known being from 1271. Most are in two modern files with the reference CP 25/1/284/18-9, which represent the bulk of an original file. They are briefly calendared in King's Bench and Common Bench in the Reign of Henry III, referred to below.
5. King's Bench files
The court's files of writs and returns survive in great bulk down to 1660. The number of file series grew, at first slowly but after 1549 very rapidly, reaching their peak about 1630, when there were 184 files per year in 14 different series. There are huge gaps, for varying periods, in most series after 1630-1, while great majority of the files for the last two centuries of the court's existence were destroyed in the earlier 19th century. Under statute documents created before 1660 cannot now legally be destroyed. Many of those that have survived and have been identified are only partial, and what remains is sometimes badly damaged. However, where file material does survive in a reasonable condition, the user can identify whether the sequence of writs for the county he or she wants exists, by looking at the entry in Discovery, our catalogue, and with reference to the established filing order.
Finding file material for a case can add much rich detail to that which can be obtained from the rolls, because the files contain lists of pledges for parties to the cases (which can be very informative about social networks if something is known about them from other sources), lists of jurors, sworn or unsworn, and records of proceedings in inferior courts, especially county, hundred and borough courts, in cases which were brought into the court on writs of recordare facias.
6. Crown Side files: criminal business
6.1 Brevia Regis files, later Brevia files KB 37
This series emerged around 1300 to carry the process documents relating to the growing Crown Side business, and developed in parallel with the 'Rex' sections of the plea rolls. The files took away material previously held in the older series of Brevia files (KB 136), which then became the equivalent file for the Plea Side of the court. The Brevia Regis files accumulated more matter as a result of the steady growth in Crown Side business which resulted in the creation of the Indictments files, but they were always term files, arranged in county order like KB 136 and the equivalent Common Bench Brevia files (CP 52). Internally they used the established county order used in both those other series, but did not adopt the revised order in which the others were arranged during the 15th century, although the nature of their own rearrangement, within return days, has not yet been ascertained. The first surviving file is from 1324 and the last from 1692, and they are listed using the same numeration scheme as the King's Bench and Common Bench Brevia. It is not known when the series was begun or ended. In 1598 the files were confusingly re-titled simply 'Brevia', in the 1650s translated as 'A File of Writtes'. They ceased to be kept at an uncertain date after 1692.
6.2 Indictments files KB 9
These files emerged sometime between 1361 and 1385 to hold the main documents generated by the development of the court's higher criminal jurisdiction, by then fully-formed and exercised both by the court itself at its provincial sessions using trailbaston powers, and by commissioned justices sitting locally who then sent in their files. Earlier the same material was collected in the 'Middlesex bag' or filed in the Recorda files. The first surviving term indictments file is from 1385, with survival very good from 1391 onwards. The series continues in the same termly form until 1675, when it was separated into two separate series for London and Middlesex and for out-counties (KB 10, KB 11). There are also some separate files containing the indictments and related material arising from the court's oyer and terminer jurisdiction exercised during its provincial sessions. The series also contains another type of oyer and terminer files, resulting from special commissions issued on various occasions between 1351 and 1539 to justices who subsequently returned them to King's Bench, where they were kept separately from the ordinary term files. Some smaller oyer and terminer files of that kind were, especially after 1430, filed in one of the term files.
These files are a major source for the study of disorder and related problems during the 14th and 15th centuries. By the end of the latter it had been established that indictments had to include: the name and occupation of the accused; the date and place of the offence; the name of the victim; details of the goods stolen or the weapon; and the nature of the offence. The other documents in a file consisted of process relating to the indictments, including jury panels. There are also some medieval coroners rolls collected by the court during its travels, although the great majority have now been removed to JUST 2.
The Controlment rolls provide cross-references to the files in the 'Bag' roll, which can sometimes be used as a form of index to the Indictments files, but usually the only practical method of searching is to work systematically through the files.
6.3 Informationes files KB 9
These files contain informations, bills of accusation brought by individuals suing both on their own behalf and for the crown, which were restricted to use only in cases of trespass against penal statute law. By the 15th century, statutes took account of informations by prescribing a specific financial penalty of half to anyone successfully suing on behalf of the crown, and from the 16th onwards this became increasingly common. There was an increase in informations filings on the term Indictments files during 1616-18, apparently leading to the temporary creation of a separate series of Informations files about 1617. It did not continue long after the last surviving file at the end of 1623, and informations are subsequently found in the main files once more.
6.4 The Baga de Secretis KB 8
A series of files relating to 'state trials', between the late 15th and early 19th centuries, particularly for treason but also for particularly serious felonies, which were kept in a 'bag of secrets' stored in a locked closet with three keys. They consisted both of enrolments of the proceedings and related process documentation. The defendants concerned included Sir Thomas More, Queens Anne Boleyn and Katherine Howard, Protector Somerset, Lady Jane Grey, Archbishop Cranmer, Guy Fawkes, the Regicides of 1649 and the Jacobite rebels of 1715 and 1745-6. The courts which tried them were mainly special ones, most with commissions of oyer and terminer, but 17 took place in the court of the lord high steward. On the other hand, some of the 18th century ones took place on ordinary indictments in King's Bench, and eight of the earlier files in the series, between 1477 and 1555, are ordinary King's Bench indictments files. The presence of these files in the Baga de Secretis leaves gaps in the main series. They were clearly moved to the bag because of the importance of the individual trials recorded in them, but they also include all the ordinary Crown Side indictments business for the term in question, and in some cases it is difficult to be sure which case was thought important enough to justify their transfer to the Baga de Secretis. A detailed calendar of the series was printed in three parts in appendices to the reports of the 3rd-5th reports of the Deputy Keeper for 1842 to 1844, appendix II, pp. 214-68, 213-97 respectively. It is still the fullest means of reference to these files.
7. Plea Side writ files: litigation by Chancery original writs
The main Plea Side file series is the Brevia files (KB 136), which began in the reign of Henry III, with a few surviving examples in KB 136/1/3 from 1257 onwards. The modern numbering of these files reflects the structure of the series, arranged by reign, year, term and return-day. Their survival is patchy, so there are gaps in the sequence of reference-numbers which may later be filled by the many discoveries which will in future be made in the remaining hundreds of unsorted loose writ sacks. The reference KB 136/3/4/1/7, for example, is of a file from the reign of Edward II (represented by 3); from the 4th regnal year (4); from the first term of that year, which in this reign is Michaelmas (1); for the seventh return day of that term, the Octave of Martinmas (7). Because the amount of business in King's Bench was lighter than that of the Common Bench, there are never two files for a single return day as there often are in the Common Bench from the reign of Edward II onwards. From about 1368 onwards one file often sufficed for up to four return days, and soon single return day files disappeared. From 1607 there are term files, usually two for each term, reducing to one per term in 1642, where it remained until the end of the series in 1760.
The catalogue descriptions indicate how much of a file survives and has so far been identified. In the thirteenth and fourteenth centuries the files are arranged in a fixed county order, developed originally in the Common Bench in the 1260s, which then underwent some modification in the fifteenth century. In the overwhelming majority of cases where the filing order has not been disturbed, therefore, it is usually possible to indicate in our catalogue which counties are included and which are not. The original filing order was: Norfolk, Suffolk, Essex, Hertfordshire, Cambridgeshire, Huntingdonshire, Middlesex, London, Kent, Surrey, Sussex, Hampshire, Wiltshire, Somerset, Dorset, Devon, Cornwall, Herefordshire, Worcestershire, Gloucestershire, Oxfordshire, Berkshire, Buckinghamshire, Bedfordshire, Northamptonshire, Rutland, Shropshire, Staffordshire, Warwickshire, Leicestershire, Nottinghamshire, Derbyshire, Lincolnshire, Yorkshire, Northumberland, Cumberland, Westmorland and Lancashire; although as a palatinate Lancaster disappeared from 1351-61 and then permanently after 1377. The fifteenth century modifications were: Norfolk, Suffolk, Cambridgeshire, Huntingdonshire, Surrey, Sussex, Essex, Hertfordshire, Middlesex ... Nottinghamshire, Derbyshire, Northumberland, Cumberland, Westmorland, and (in any order) Yorkshire, Lincolnshire and Lincoln. This arrangement means that they are readily searchable by county.
7.1 Recorda files KB 145
These files carry the record of court proceedings before inferior jurisdictions in cases which were subsequently transferred to the court at the request of one of the parties through the issue of a writ of certiorari facias. The earliest such file so far identified is from 1327. The files included both Plea Side and Crown Side recorda, but the latter eventually came to predominate and it became a Crown Side file, but not until 1677. Many of the filings which came from broken Recorda files attracted the interest of archivists from the 17th to mid-20th centuries, who arranged them in artificial collections (such as KB 138 and C 47) without realising their provenance. For the period between about 1320 and 1420, the Recorda files each had a smaller file called Precepta Recordum, attached to its parent by a linking thong, to hold smaller process documents which might have been difficult to find among the larger filing in the main file. Only three tethered examples have survived, but many of the separated Precepta files survive and are also in KB 145.
7.2 Panella files KB 146
These begin to survive in 1318. They were created mainly to hold the records of nisi prius sessions, whereby juries were increasingly empanelled in the counties before assize justices to decide cases begun at Westminster and returned their verdicts in the form of a Postea, together with the jury panel which gave the files their name. As litigation began to grow at the expense of pleading by original writ, during the 15th century, the bills themselves were kept in these files, which sometimes had 'Bille Finite' added to their title. Between 1519 and 1522 the Posteas were removed and arranged in county packets tied with a broad wisp of parchment and labelled. Later the contents of the packets mostly became dispersed, and lie unsorted in over 1100 boxes, with only a small proportion in their original arrangements.
8. Plea side files: litigation by bill
After 1500, and especially during the years between 1549 and 1607, much of the documentation for litigation by bill, principally initiated by what became known as a bill of Middlesex, followed by a writ of latitat, had out-grown the Panella files in which they had been preserved during the gradual and then rapid growth of bill litigation during the previous century or so. The Panella file had become large and unwieldy, and its now varied contents were hived off into several separate series of files (now KB 147-160) for convenience. From that period it is necessary to examine an increasing number of files to trace fully the documentation of a particular case. From the point of view of the general research value of the material, the Declarations, the Bille and the Panella are much the most important of these series.
In about 1503 the common bills (of Middlesex) and their related precepts were removed from the Panella files to a new series of Bille Commune files (KB 148). Then, about 1519-21, the Panella files lost all their remaining bill material, mainly real Middlesex actions, to another new series of Bille files (KB 147). These files also took over the filing of general orders about the court's sessions from the Panella files, which, stripped of nearly all their content, carried on until about 1598 before ceasing to be kept. The Bille files also, between about 1520 and 1548, took over latitats returned endorsed 'non sunt inventi' or 'cepi corpora'; the declared bills, containing the true cause of the action; and final process writs and returns. They also took writs of 'habeas corpus cum die et causa' and their returns, probably from the Recorda files. The Bille Commune series itself underwent many changes because of the gradual hiving off of many of its contents to new dedicated file series, and ended in about 1605, presumably because the remaining entirely formal and purely fictional nature of the remaining contents were considered to be no longer worth keeping.
This process was long and complex. About 1550 the latitats returned endorsed 'Non est inventi', cases that were leading nowhere, were taken out of the Bille files to a new series of Non Sunt Inventi files (KB 153). They became defunct about 1590, probably because these writs were not worth keeping, and they are of little interest unless they happen to mention a person of whom no other record survives. The continuing Bille files continued to carry supporting process relating to bills, and were soon called Brevia Billarum files (KB 151). They included the jury panels, which made the files increasingly large, and in 1571 they were removed to a new series of Panella Billarum files (KB 154). The cases that the juries were impanelled to decide normally went to nisi prius sessions at the Lent and summer assizes, so the preceding Hilary and Trinity files became huge. These two were reorganised in 1591 into 38 coverless files, one for each county, labelled with county and term, and wrapped around with thongs to group counties with the same initial letter with separate groupings for the less-used letters, 10 in all. The files for Easter and Michaelmas terms remained as before but were labelled 'Venire Facias'. The files with panels are important as a source for the study of juries, because they give neat collections of juries for a particular county for a short and defined period.
In 1574 'habeas corpora' writs of various kinds, such bringing litigants into court for prosecuting or answering suits or making satisfaction, were also removed, to a series of terminal Habeas Corpora files (KB 155). Then in 1589 latitats or other writs and precepts returned endorsed 'cepi corpora' by the sheriff were removed to Cepi Corpora files (KB 156). This left the Brevia Billarum files shorn of all their mesne process, leaving only post-judgment writs and returns, so they were renamed Brevia Judicialia files, in effect 'judgment writs'. In 1607 they lost the writs of Capias ad Satisfaciendum to yet another new file series of that name (KB 157).
The Bille files, having thus become the main file for bill business, then became subdivided itself. This development may have come about as a result of the appointment of a former filazer, Richard Haywode, as joint chief clerk in 1549. In that year the most important documents in the Bille files, the real bills themselves, were removed into a separate files, which soon came to be known as the Declarationes files (KB 152). These are the most important of all the new series, because they 'declare' the true cause of the action and are the equivalent of the earlier original writs. The individual bills in them are undated until 1569, but then they became dated; by 1581 they were even numbered. By 1591 the number of declarations had become so great (8-9,000 a year) that there could be ten files for a single year, so it was decided to file them by the first letter of the plaintiff's name. Smaller letters were grouped, so a pattern of 17 files a term developed.
There are also four series of auxiliary files for litigation by bill. Cedule files (KB 149) consist of notes ('cedule') of commitments to bail, and survive from 1514 onwards. At that point, many cases leading to bail were still initiated by writ and the bail notes are in an already established form. By 30 years later bill cases overwhelmingly predominated, and the formula 'per recognicionem' distinguishes real from fictitious bail, while the membranes have altered to a pentagonal or hexagonal shape. Afterwards, as common bail in bill cases became very frequent, the files became too large to have covers and vulnerable to splitting into chunks and loose membranes. By 1607 the files were re-named Baillia communia files . The individual bails are returnable on precise dates, enabling the construction of tables of working dates during term. Within dates, the bails are filed in alphabetical order of attorneys. From 1588 to 1614 docket rolls called Ballia Communia (KB 162) recorded the issue of bails. In 1572 special (i.e. non-fictitious) bails, sometimes and later universally signed by justices and far fewer than common bails, were removed to a new series of Cedule per Recogniciones files (KB 158). Docket rolls for special bails were kept between 1589 and 1602 (KB 163), but files from 1661 onwards were destroyed under schedule.
Commititur files (KB 159) from 1610 carry the record of committal to the marshal's custody for the execution of court judgments, while Satisfacciones files (KB 160) contain the plaintiff's acknowledgement that the defendant has satisfied him for the adjudged debt and damages. Both series were destroyed under schedule from 1661. The Warranta Attornata Recepta files (KB 150) are separate filings for warrants of attorney, not filed at the beginning of Brevia files as they were in the Common Bench. The earliest example is from 1463, the latest 1610, and the files add further detailed information about attorneys.
9. Searching roles and files
There are no indexes at all to the files, and very few to the rolls after 1250. Down to that date there are full printed transcripts for all the rolls except a few essoin rolls, printed in Curia Regis Rolls, vols. I-XX (1923-2006), which include full indexes of persons and places, and for subjects in all but volumes XVIII-XX. A transcript of the roll for Trinity 1297 (KB 27/151) was published by W P Phillimore and E A Fry as a special volume of the British Record Society in 1898.
The judicial writs on files (those issued by the court itself) each contain a cross-reference to the rotulus of the plea roll on which its issue was authorised, a practice which was well-established by 1300 after beginning in the early 1290s. This enables the files to be used to a limited extent as an index to the plea rolls, especially when it necessary on to check the writs for one or a small number of counties, and can provide real assistance in picking up one of the entries in a case. Otherwise, the only practical way of searching the rolls not covered by these publications, short of looking at every plea roll entry or every writ, is by county and date. In the rolls, county headings are given in the left-hand margin, so going through even a large roll looking for cases for a particular county, especially for a small county or one far from Westminster, can be done quite quickly. Once you have found an entry for a particular case of interest to, it can be systematically followed through the rolls, backwards to its commencement and forwards to its resolution or, more often, its disappearance.
There are quite extensive means of reference to Plea Side entries in the rolls of the court for the later part of the period, created by court officials for their own use. For finding civil pleas there are Docket Rolls from 1390 to 1656 (IND 1/1322-1384), followed by docket books to 1702 (IND 1/6042-6096). The rolls consist of chronological repertories which give a marginal note of the county, the type of entry on the roll, plaintiff and defendant names and the plea roll rotulus on which the entry is written. Some of the rolls also give lists of appearances of attorneys.
The only means of reference to the earlier Rex rolls are the Controlment rolls (KB 29), which indicate term by term the rotulus number on which a case is entered, or indicate the withdrawal or postponement of cases. Later there are also Great Docket Books of Crown cases (IND 1/6652/1-4), but what little remains for the period before 1660 contains material for only six terms of Charles I's reign: Trinity 1631, Hilary 1631, Michaelmas 1639, and Hilary 1646.
There is a typescript list of deeds enrolled in KB 27/1-20, the rolls for 1272-76, and a manuscript one for the period beginning in 1656 and continuing to 1760, in KB 173/1-2, both available in the reading rooms.
10. Further reading
For the institutional history of the court, the best short guide (by J B Post) is section 311 of the PRO Current Guide, part I (final edition 1998, published on microfiche), which is also widely available at The National Archives in hard copy.
King's Bench and Common Bench in the Reign of Henry III, Selden Society Supplementary Series (Selden Society, 2010). Gives a detailed list of sessions, justices and their records term by term throughout that reign.
Various Common Law Records, PRO Lists and Indexes, Supplementary Series, I (Kraus Reprint Co., 1970). Details of all the plea and essoin rolls 1217-72 and lists the court sessions during that period, as well as giving a detailed account of the essoin roll right down to the 18th century.
G O Sayles, Select Cases in the Court of King's Bench, 7 vols., Selden Society 55, 57, 58, 74, 76, 82 and 88 (1936-71). Long and detailed introductions to the records (except the files, which were not then available) and their contents from 1272 to 1422, with much valuable information about the officials of the court.
M Blatcher, The Court of King's Bench 1450-1550: a study in self-help.(Athlone Press, 1978). Useful for the rivalry between the court and the Common Bench over their share of lucrative debt litigation.
The Reports of Sir John Spelman, II, ed. J H Baker, Selden Society, XCIV (1978), pp. 352-67. Contains detailed information about the personnel of the court from 1485 to 1597.
J B Post, 'King's Bench clerks in the reign of Richard II', Bulletin of the Institute of Historical Research, XLVII (1974), pp. 150-63, is a detailed study of the court officials in that reign.
C A F Meekings, 'King's Bench Files', in Legal Records and the Historian, ed. J H Baker (Royal Historical Society, 1978), pp. 97-139. Gives a detailed description of the development of the file series (with an explanatory diagram) as well as detailed information about the research value of each series, their survival ranges, and lists of King's Bench clerks from 1399 to 1547.
R L Storey, The End of the House of Lancaster (Barrie & Rockliffe, 1966) was the first monograph to make extensive use of the King's Bench Indictments files.