Virtual Record Treasury of Ireland
Gold Seam

Manuscript Gallery

Follow the money traces the movements of records, cash and personnel between Ireland and England in the middle ages. It is these movements that allow us to reconstruct so much of the documentation of the medieval exchequer in this gold seam.

Red Book Exchequer
The Exchequer in Action
A facsimile reproduction from the ‘Red Book of the Irish Exchequer’, destroyed in the blaze of 1922. This early fifteenth-century illustration depicts the exchequer in action and shows the various exchequer records in use, including tally sticks, rolls, writs and, lying on the chequered cloth of the exchequer table, the Red Book of the exchequer itself (Facsimiles of Irish Manuscripts, volume III, plate xxxvii).
Proof of Payment
13th-century tally sticks. Wooden sticks, split in half and notched, record receipt of money (differently cut notches represent pounds, shillings and pence). Very few original tallies survive - thousands were deliberately burnt in 1834, causing the destruction of the old UK Houses of Parliament (TNA, E 402/347).
The Daily Record
Memoranda Roll of the Irish Exchequer, 1319–20. This was the record of daily proceedings in the exchequer and of the various types of document received and produced there. The image shows the physical format of the roll. Each individual rotulet of parchment was stitched head-to-head at the top, and the whole sheaf was rolled up when it was in storage (NAI, EX 1/2).
The Irish Axeman
Royal clerks often used images (often cartoons) as instantly recognisable common reference markers. Other examples include pointing fingers, heads and faces, animals or, for the Welsh in the same volume, of an archer wearing just one shoe. Liber A, Hibernia (TNA, E 36/274).
Keeping the Books
White leather pouch containing documents relating to the account of Nicholas de Clere, treasurer of Ireland, from 1290-2. The pouch makes a flexible, robust receptacle and was used widely for transit and storage of records in government across the lordships of the English king. This is another example of the materiality of medieval records and their importance to us in telling the story of government and finance in Ireland (TNA, E 101/232/1).
Paying the Bills
Roll of issues in the Irish exchequer between 1278 and 1285. This long parchment roll — made up of animal skins called ‘membranes’, sewn at the head and foot and then rolled up — records payments authorised by the king or his senior officials in Ireland for everyday necessities like parchment, ink and wax, and gifts to those in royal favour from across Ireland (TNA, E 101/230/13).
Order of the Day
Writ (13 July 1420) witnessed by the earl of Ormond, lieutenant of Henry V, ordering the treasurer of Ireland to pay to Stephen Bray, chief justice of pleas in Ireland, the £487 12s. 2d. In arrears to him of his fee since 28 September 1413. This order follows a search of the records of the exchequer. It demonstrates the grip the exchequer had on the information at its disposal (TNA, E 101/247/14).
The Big Picture
Pipe Roll of the English exchequer. Large rotulets of parchment sewn at the head and rolled up for storage like a pipe record the accounts of English sheriffs after full audit and, during the thirteenth and early fourteenth centuries accounts of other royal officials. This account, summarising the receipts and issues recorded in the officer’s account rolls, is that of Thomas de Burgh, treasurer of Ireland, for the period from 1331 to 1334 (TNA, E 372/179).
From Dublin to Westminster
White leather pouch for a receipt roll, that is a parchment roll recording revenue received by the Irish exchequer for the years 29 and 30 Edward III (1355–7). It was carried to the English exchequer at Westminster as part of the process of audit. This and other bags would have conveyed associated writs and receipts - like the tally sticks (TNA, E 101/243/11).
Fire in the Roll
This exchequer roll on a wooden dowel shows the fire damage sustained by these Irish exchequer materials in the Four Courts blaze of 1922 (NAI, EX 1/15).