Heritage Lottery Fund Estates Records Project>College archives | King's College, Cambridge

College archives

Illumination from the Founder's Charter

Illumination from the Founder's Charter upon Act of Parliament, 16 March 1446. The Lords and Commons petition Henry VI, who prays for his College. The Virgin and St Nicholas, the patron saints of the College are shown above.
Larger image

Illumination from the Founder's Charter upon Act of Parliament, 16 March 1446: the Lords and Commons petition Henry VI, who prays for his College. The Virgin and St Nicholas, the patron saints of the College are shown above. You can click on the photo for a larger version.

Administrative history and contents

Henry VI's grand plan for the layout and buildings of his new College envisaged a Muniment Tower, originally on four stories, for the keeping of records. The Founder's architectural designs went unfulfilled, however, and for several centuries the archives occupied five of the Chapel's southern side chapels. It is only since the middle of this century that they have enjoyed purpose-built accommodation and since 1993 that they have been housed in the Library proper.

An unavoidable consequence of shifting exile has been comparative ignorance of the contents of the College Archives among the scholarly community and their under-use as a research tool. Efforts are now underway to reverse that situation. The tour of the College archives shows selected documents from the College archives, focusing on four broad areas: biography, religion, buildings, and estates. The Librarian and Archivist wrote about the moves afoot to uncover the College's written memory in Summer 1998.

Publications and lists

  • List of the Provosts and Vice-Provosts of the College
  • List of the Bursars of the College
  • King's College Estates Records. Images of selected documents, links to the online estates catalogue, copies of the estate catalogues organised by manor or county. A Heritage Lottery Fund project
  • Indexes to Probate Records . Between 1449 and 1794 King's College, Cambridge, was permitted to exercise Probate Jurisdiction within the precincts of the College. The wills of members of the College, servants, tradesmen and tenants were proved in its court, which also granted, where appropriate, Letters of Administration. The College retains transcripts of the relevant archives in a series of Ledger Books, which have been examined by Nesta Evans in her capacity as General Editor of the British Records Society (BRS) ‘Series of Indexes to Probate Records’. Provided by kind permission of the BRS.
  • Dining at King's College in the 15th century. Research funded by the Cookson Trust in 2006.

Further images of documents within the King's College Archive can be seen as part of 'English handwriting 1500-1700, an online course', a CERES COPIA project. The project has been designed for those whose research will embrace original English manuscript sources in this period. Documents 1 to 11 come from King's College.

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Project supported by the Heritage Lottery Fund

[Charter relating to an exchange of land in St James Priory, Exeter. Late 12th century.]An artificial memory (unlike the natural memory of man) is neither personal nor mortal; if properly cared for it is undying, and can be transferred again and again from the dead to the living. Therefore when King’s College assumed the archive-maker’s responsibility in a score of institutions all over the country – manors, rectories and priories – it became, not only the compiler of an official memory in respect of each one of them, but as the legitimate successor to deceased lords, impropriated rectors and suppressed monks, legitimate inheritor of a score of institutional memories. As an educational institution at Cambridge our memory runs back to 1441; as English landlords, our inherited memories extend almost to the Norman Conquest.

[John Saltmarsh "The muniments of King's College" Proceedings of the Cambridge Antiquarian Society Vol. 33
(1931-1932), pp. 83 – 97.]

Welcome to the King's College estates records project website. From here you can see images of selected documents from the collections, follow links to the searchable estates catalogue provided online by the JANUS webserver, or view and download copies of the estate catalogues organised by manor or county in Microsoft Word format.

Please note that the catalogues are being constantly updated. The Janus links will take you to the most currently published catalogues, but over time the Word versions will become less current.  This particularly applies to Ruislip and London properties. If you have any queries please contact archivist@kings.cam.ac.uk.

Click on the links below to explore the site.

Estates catalogues browse View catalogues by estate County search View catalogues by county
Introduction to the project Find out about the project Virtual Tour Take a virtual tour of the College archives
Visit Us Visit the Archive Centre

Introduction to the project

(Read the complete article in Microsoft Word format here)

[Great Seal of King Henry VI, 1448.  Ref: ISL/3]King's College Archive Centre is fortunate enough to have received funding from the Heritage Lottery Fund to improve access to the College's estates records. This fascinating collection documents a vital part of the College's history, including records of estates in England given to the College by Henry VI following its foundation in 1441, many of which were the lands of the so-called alien priories, the dependencies in England of foreign religious houses such as the Norman Abbey of Bec, confiscated by the Crown in 1414. These lands brought their written memory with them in the form of charters and court records, in some cases going back to the 11th century. Researchers investigating early manorial governance, religious houses, farming practices, genealogy, and alterations to land boundaries or properties, will find evidence in such records as court rolls, accounts, maps, tenancy agreements, and leases. There is also an impressive range of royal documents among the records, with a number of fine examples of Great Seals from Stephen through to Victoria.

The estates records cover a total of 189 estates in 30 counties ranging west to St Michael's Mount in Cornwall, east to Toft Monks in Norfolk, north to Allerton Mauleverer in Yorkshire, and south to Hooe in Sussex, all documenting ecclesiastical and secular communities from the Middle Ages to the present day.

[Portrait Illumination from a Letters Patent of King Henry VIII, 1536.  Ref: CAM/49]

The catalogue was drawn up using the index cards and original structure completed by Dr Michael Stansfield in 1987-8. You can see his structured list of the Estates Records here.

The project archivist has now converted the original card index into an ISAD(G)-compliant database, and a searchable on-line version has been launched on Janus, the webserver for online catalogues of Cambridge archival and manuscript collections. There are links to the JANUS catalogue from the county pages and browsable estates list.

The catalogues are also being processed for publication via Access to Archives and the Archives Hub.

Outreach activities have been organised throughout the project, and have included in-house exhibitions for local history groups, articles for history and genealogy society newsletters and journals and a Day School for MA Local History students. A set of display boards has been designed, giving information about the project and exhibiting facsimiles of documents from the Estates Records, and is currently touring relevant county record offices and public libraries as a travelling exhibition. See the exhibition boards on display in King's College Chapel. A hard copy of the relevant volume of the catalogue should also be available in your local County Record Office.

The catalogues for all counties are now complete!

Click on the links to visit the dedicated county pages, where you can view images from the records relating to that county, link through to the JANUS webserver where you can search the catalogue online, or view and download a copy of the printed catalogue in Word format.

The composite estates records section (Section KCAR/6/1) contains records that relate to more than one estate. Many estates have records in this section so a look here can also be worthwhile.

King's College holds records to manors, properties and livings in the following English counties:

Bedfordshire Berkshire Buckinghamshire
Cambridgeshire Cornwall Devon
Dorset Essex Gloucestershire
Hampshire Herefordshire Hertfordshire
Huntingdonshire Kent Lancashire
Leicestershire Lincolnshire Middlesex
Norfolk Northamptonshire Nottinghamshire
Oxfordshire Shropshire Somerset
Suffolk Surrey Sussex
Warwickshire Wiltshire Yorkshire

Click on the links above or on the map below to take you to a dedicated page for each county.
You can also browse the full list of estates.

Huntingdonshire Cornwall Devon Somerset Dorset Wiltshire Gloucestershire Herefordshire Warwickshire Shropshire Lancashire Yorkshire Lincolnshire Nottinghamshire Leicestershire Northamptonshire Hampshire Oxfordshire Berkshire Buckinghamshire Bedfordshire Hertfordshire Middlesex Surrey Sussex Kent Essex Suffolk Norfolk Cambridgeshire
Map of the UK showing county boundaries

Contact the Archive CentreContact Us

[Supported by the Heritage Lottery Fund]