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Commissary's Court archives, 1562 - 1855

Reference Code: GBR/0265/UA/Comm.Ct.

Scope and Contents

The archives comprise act and deposition books, exhibita files and bonds. They include records of courts at Sturbridge and Barnwell Fairs.


  • Creation: 1562 - 1855


Conditions Governing Access

From the Management Group:

The University Archives are generally freely available to the holder of a reader's ticket for the Manuscripts Reading Room at Cambridge University Library, West Road, Cambridge CB3 9DR. Restrictions on access are imposed on certain categories of sensitive record: financial, governmental and personal, by order of the originating body or under data protection legislation. Access information, including opening hours and how to obtain a reader's ticket, appears as part of the Library's web site (

Biographical / Historical

First recorded in 1293, the Commissary was a judicial officer appointed by the Chancellor to act as his deputy. In the early modern period he presided over a court, sitting at least weekly, with jurisdiction over members of the University below the degree of MA and also conducting much of the business which might otherwise have swamped the Vice-Chancellor’s Court. Causes included personal actions for breach of contract or covenant, injury, debt, falsification, trespass, and prosecution by the Proctors. His duties extended to holding courts at the annual Sturbridge and Barnwell Fairs.


10 linear metre(s) : paper and parchment

Language of Materials




For background information on the remit and operation of the court at different times, see:

Charles Henry Cooper, Annals of Cambridge volume II (Cambridge, 1843), pp. 608-10

Jacqueline Cox, ‘Trials and tribulations: the Cambridge University Courts, 1540-1660', Transactions of the Cambridge Bibliographical Society Vol. XV, No. 4 (2015), pp. 595-623

Alexandra Shepard, Meanings of manhood in early modern England, with special reference to Cambridge, c. 1560-1640 (Cambridge, 1998), Cambridge University Library, PhD.22076

Ibid., Meanings of manhood in early modern England (Oxford, 2003)

Ibid., ‘Litigation and locality: the Cambridge university courts, 1560-1640', Urban History 31.1 (May 2004), pp. 5-28

Ibid., 'Legal learning and the Cambridge University courts, c. 1560-1640', Journal of Legal History 19.1 (1998), pp. 62-74.


Commissary's Court

Repository Details

Part of the Cambridge University Library Repository

Cambridge University Library
West Road
Cambridge CB3 9DR United Kingdom