Extract from the 1194 pipe roll
The original pipe rolls can be found in The National Archives (UK), E372
The Publications of the Pipe Roll Society. London : Pipe Roll Society, 1884-Ongoing.
From at least as early as 1130 A.D., the public treasury of England (the Exchequer) began to keep extensive financial records. These records, known as "The Great Rolls of the Pipe" from the rolled up parchments on which they were originally written, continue in a nearly unbroken series from the mid-12th century up until the year 1833 A.D. They contain both debts owed to the Crown as well as expenditures for a given year, taken from audits usually performed around Michaelmas (September 29th). In addition, the rolls also describe the movement of prisoners, name custodians of royal lands, and provide details of local governance. The identities and operations of royal officials and the royal bureaucracy are also discernible by and through the Pipe Rolls.
While debate continues over when exactly the Exchequer began operating, it is clear that the Norman kings had a great interest in administration and centralization. More specifically, the Rolls begin to date in a continuous series from 1155-56, the start of the reign of Henry II. They are some of the earliest financial and bureaucratic records available from the Middle Ages, and vastly outstrip contemporary Continental archives. Not only do the Pipe Rolls allow historians access to an unparalleled wealth of data from all levels of English medieval society and governance, the existence and activities of the Exchequer had vast consequences on the social and political development of medieval England as a whole. The monarchy could extend its power down through magnates and communities to individuals themselves; in turn individuals had a more direct sense of involvement in the affairs of state. The rapid rise of documentation in the royal court and bureaucracy in turn stimulated use and familiarity with the written word in the lower levels and regions of England.
Bartlett, R., England Under the Norman and Angevin Kings: 1075–1225. Oxford, UK: Clarendon Press, 2000.
Chrimes, S. B., An Introduction to the Administrative History of Mediaeval England. Oxford, UK: Basil Blackwell, 1966.
Clanchy, M. T., From Memory to Written Record : England, 1066-1307. London : Edward Arnold, 1979.
Warren, W.L., The Governance of Norman and Angevin England 1086–1272. London: Edward Arnold, 1987.