How to look for records of... Crown, church and royalist lands 1642-1660

How can I view the records covered in this guide?

How many are online?

  • None

1. Why use this guide?

Use this guide to find the principal primary and published/secondary sources for the major confiscations of Crown and royalist lands during the Civil War and Interregnum (1642-1660). It can be difficult to identify the most useful records as the descriptions in our catalogue do not contain sufficient details. This guide will highlight the most useful record series .

In some cases records have not survived.

No detailed analysis of the confiscations and sales of Crown, church and royalist lands has been published.

2. How do I search these records?

You will either need to use calendars and indexes to identify relevant records or, if the record references to documents are not supplied in this guide, you will need to browse.

Use Discovery, our catalogue to ‘browse by reference’ through the suggested record series and identify relevant record references.

3. Church lands

Almost all the original records of the trustees and contractors to whom the lands of bishops, deans and chapters were committed and sold have been lost.

Surviving records can be found in the following original sources:

  • The deeds of purchase enrolled on the Close Rolls in C 54 – précis in IND 1/17355 and indexed in IND 1/17356
  • treasurers’ declared accounts of revenue (1646-1660) in E 351/453 and AO 1/367/1-4
  • trustees’ accounts and papers (1646-1648) in SP 28/289
  • Vouchers of receivers’ accounts for Canterbury in SP 28/291
  • lists of revenues of St Paul’s Cathedral, London (1644-1646) in SP 28/355/1 and of Rochester Cathedral (1644-1646) in SP 28/355/3

4. Crown goods and lands

Sales of the lands of Charles I, Queen Henrietta Maria and Prince Charles were governed by an Act of 16 July 1649. See Acts and Ordinances of the Interregnum, ii (1911), pp. 168-91. The lands were vested in trustees and the profits from them were used to pay off army arrears.

Contractors were nominated to conclude agreements with the purchasers, and treasurers to receive the money and settle any administrative expenses.

A registrar and deputy registrar kept the records, enrolled the transactions, and gave the purchasers their deeds of title. The trustees appointed surveyors for the lands, and the Act named a surveyor general.

4.1 Original sources

Surviving records can be found in the following original sources:

  • the parliamentary surveys of crown lands in E 317; see the eleven-volume typescript calendar available in The National Archive’s Library; duplicates of parliamentary surveys can be found in DL 32 and LR 2
  • the entry book of orders and minutes of the contractors (1649-1659) in E 315/314
  • particulars for the sale of estates of Charles I in E 320 and an index of places by county is available in the Map and Large Document Room at The National Archives
  • the close rolls in C 54 include enrolments of the deeds of sale; use the calendar in IND 1/17353, and the index IND 1/17354
  • the inventory of the personal possessions of Charles I in LR 2/124
  • papers of the trustees for sale of the King’s goods, 1649-1658 in SP 28/282
  • orders and correspondence from the Committee for sale of the King’s lands in SP 28/286
  • certificates of sale in E 121, E 308/7 pt I, SP 28/286, folios 425-55 and SP 28/289
  • contracts 1650-1659 in SP 26/1-4
  • entry books of contracts 1649-1653 in E 315/173-174
  • correspondence between trustees and contractors in SP 46/109, SP 46/128, SP 28/286 and E 315/481. Only a small portion survives. See also State papers domestic 1642-1660
  • original warrants to the treasurers 1649-1659 in SP 28/271-277 and SP 28/330
  • treasurers’ accounts 1649-1659 in SP 28/350/8
  • declared accounts 1649-1656 in E 351/602-4
  • acquittance books 1651-1659 in SP 28/330
  • orders to regional sequestrators in SP 23/18. See also LR 2/81-83 and E 367

4.2 Published sources

Read The Domesday of Crown Lands by S J Madge, (1938), for a useful analysis of the Parliamentary surveys.

5. Sales of fee farm rents

Surviving records can be found in the following original sources:

  • local auditors’ certificates of extant fee-farm rents in E 315/37 (with strays in SP 28/286, SP 28/288-289, E 308/7 pt II and LR 13/16/7)
  • certificates of sale in E 308/7 and E 315/145
  • enrolments of sales on the close rolls in C 54 with an abstract in IND 1/17347
  • particulars of sale in E 308 and among the particulars for leases in E 367
  • regional entry books of particulars for Hertfordshire, Suffolk, Cambridgeshire, Huntingdonshire and Norfolk in LR 10/24
  • requests to purchase in SP 28/286 with counterpart deeds of sale in E 307
  • entry books of contracts 1650-55 in E 308/7 pt I and E 315/141, E 315/144
  • a chronological summary of purchases 1650-58 in SP 28/288
  • an entry book of payments by the treasurers 1650-58 in SP 28/286 ff 401-24 contains warrants from the trustees to the treasurers E 315/143
  • a list of sums offset against fee-farm rents 1651-52 in E 369/121
  • original warrants to treasurers in SP 28/278
  • trustees’ orders (1651) in E 315/139, and parts of their correspondence in SP 46/109, SP 46/128, E 315/481 and SP 28/286
  • a chronological list of sales, March-June 1650 in E 308/7 pt I
  • entry books of agreements to purchase in SP 26/1-4
  • auditors’ entry books of orders for London, Middlesex, Norfolk, Suffolk, Hertfordshire and Essex, 1650-1653, in E 164/53, and for the south-western counties, 1649-1655, in LR 1/308
  • the parliamentary surveys in E 317, LR 2/276-304 and DL 32

6. Forfeited royalist lands

Royalist delinquents’ estates were generally forfeited until they paid a fine to the Committee for Compounding when their lands were returned.

Those who refused or were not permitted to compound had their estates remitted to the treason trustees (or Drury House trustees). The papers from the trustees have largely disappeared.

The names of the new owners were notified to the Committee for Compounding.

The committee’s papers include names of

  • buyers
  • agents representing buyers
  • people who expressed interest but didn’t complete a purchase

Consult surviving records such as:

7. Forests

Surviving records can be found in the following original sources:

8. The Restoration

From 1660 commissioners were appointed to investigate the ‘late pretended [ie, illegal] sales’. Most of their records were lost, but there are some individual commissions of inquiry in:

You could also consult:

  • the constat books of the surveyor-general of Crown lands in CRES 6/1-8 which contains material on restitutions
  • a book of orders to the commissioners and notes of action taken, 1660-1666 in CRES 6/3

Developments at a local level may be traced through the entry books of the regional officers of land revenue in LR 1.

Look under the heading ‘Crown lands’ in the index of the Calendar of treasury books, 1660-1667 (1904) for relevant records from the Treasury.

Further light is shed on the activities of the trustees etc in the directives sent to the auditors and receivers of land revenue and in their accounts and correspondence.


  • auditors’ memoranda in LR 9
  • ministers’ accounts in SC 6
  • a few strays in Exchequer miscellanea (for example E 163/19/4; E 163/19/10; E 163/24/24)
  • the bills and answers against defaulting accountants in E 113 for details of taxes and other assessments. They also include claims connected with tithes and confiscated lands

10. Further reading

The Civil War and interregnum: sources for local historians by Aylmer, Gerald Edward, 1926-; Morrill, John Stephen, 1946. Standing Conference for Local History

J Thirsk, ‘The Sales of Royalist Lands during the Interregnum’, Economic History Review, 2nd series, vol. 5 (1953)

J Thirsk, ‘The Restoration Land Settlement’, Journal of Modern History, vol. 26 (1954)

H E Chesney, ‘The Transference of Lands in England 1640-60’, Transactions of the Royal Historical Society, 4th series, vol. 15, (1932)

H J Habakkuk, ‘Landowners and the Civil War’, Economic History Review, 2nd series, vol. 18 (1965)