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Trinity College Dublin

The Irish Chancery Rolls Project
Directors: Dr Katharine Simms e-mail
Deputy Directors: Dr David Ditchburn e-mail

The Irish Chancery Project is an IRCHSS-funded thematic project that seeks to advance our understanding of the ‘making of Ireland’ between the high Middle Ages and the dawn of the modern era – one of the most formative periods in Ireland’s past – by publishing on the web and in print an English calendar of the rolls of the medieval Irish chancery, entitled A Calendar of Irish Chancery Letters, c.1244-1509. The project was originally the brainchild of the late Jocelyn Otway-Ruthven, Lecky Professor of History at Trinity College, Dublin (1951–1980). The current lead researcher and deputy director of the project is Dr Peter Crooks.

The Irish chancery and its records
The Irish chancery was a key organ of English government in medieval Ireland. Despite its importance, access to its records has hitherto been severely restricted. The original rolls of chancery suffered a series of calamities from the late thirteenth century onwards, culminating in 1922 with an explosion in the Public Record Office of Ireland at the Four Courts, Dublin. At the time 123 medieval chancery rolls were deposited in the Record Treasury of the PROI. Not one of these rolls survived the blaze. A century before this disaster, a calendar of the medieval chancery rolls had been published under the auspices of the Irish Record Commission [Edward Tresham (ed.), Rotulorum litterarum patentium et clausorum cancellariae Hiberniae calendarium (Dublin, 1828)]. This edition is valuable, but sadly no substitute for the original chancery rolls as the records have been significantly abbreviated. Moreover, the volume lacks an adequate critical apparatus, offers no English translations and the text is printed in ‘record type’, making it difficult to use for anyone other than a specialist.

A Calendar of Irish Chancery Letters, c.1244-1509
CIRCLE logoThe new Calendar of Irish Chancery Letters [known as CIRCLE] seeks to remedy the deficiencies of the Irish Record Commission’s work. CIRCLE is being created by collating all known transcripts and calendars of Irish chancery letters ranging in date from the fourteenth to nineteenth centuries. These records are located in various archival repositories in Ireland and the United Kingdom. In June 2011 the internet-version of CIRCLE will ‘go live’ online. This web-based resource will include diplomatic editions (in Latin) of illustrative documents as well as sample digitized images from archival sources. In addition, CIRCLE will be ‘linked’ to a digitized version of the old Record Commission calendar of 1828. It is hoped that CIRCLE will also be published in a multi-volume printed edition.

Workshop (2010) and conference (2011)
In June 2010, a workshop will be held at Trinity College, Dublin, at which professional historians, students, genealogists, archivists, librarians and interested members of the general public will be asked to experiment with a trial version of CIRCLE and offer feed-back. Those interested in participating are welcome to contact the project team at the following address: The launch of CIRCLE in June 2011 will be marked by a major international symposium to be hosted by the Otway-Ruthven Centre for Medieval History, Trinity College, Dublin, on the theme of ‘Imperialism and Bureaucracy’. Details of this conference will be announced early in 2010.

Editorial Board: A Calendar of the Irish Chancery Rolls, c.1216–1509

a rare facsimile of an Irish patent roll (early 14th cent.)
rare facsimile of an Irish patent roll
The image is of one of the earliest rolls of the Irish chancery to have survived into the modern times. The roll was destroyed in 1922. This facsimile appears in J.T. Gilbert (ed.), Facsimiles of national manuscripts of Ireland […], 4 pts in 5 vols (Dublin, 1874¬–84), iii, plate 2

Contact: Dr Peter Crooks Last updated: Mar 24 2010.