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The farm and terre date

The farm, the annual amount which each sheriff had to pay as farmer of his county or pair of counties, became a fixed sum in the 1150s. Early pipe rolls did not actually specify the size of the farm (although it can be deduced from other information in the rolls); it was presumably considered unnecessary to state the sum which the sheriff had agreed to pay. From 1197, the pipe rolls recorded the amount of the farm at the beginning of each county account. The basis for this amount is unclear; it evidently related to the revenues expected from royal property in the county, the demesne, plus traditional revenues from such sources as county courts, varying from county to county. Apparently, the sums making up the farm were originally recorded on the exactory roll, but this no longer exists.

Over the years, much of the royal demesne was either granted away or leased to tenants, often royal favourites or favoured institutions such as monasteries. This meant that the revenues were no longer collected by the sheriffs, and could not be counted towards the county farm. More and more of the demesne was removed from the sheriffs' hands, until the 1230s, when nearly all of the remaining demesne estates were first taken under the control of central government, then leased out. From about 1240, very little royal property was administered by the sheriffs, and the demesne contributed little to the revenue they collected. The pipe rolls dealt with this, not by restating the farm, but by listing the deductions which had to be made for each property that had been removed. The amounts allowed as deductions did not alter, even if the amount actually received from an estate increased; the deductions simply represented the nominal values originally assigned for each property when the county farm was first established. This list of deductions, known as the terre date, follows the statement of the total farm in each county's account.

The nominal nature of these sums is shown by the fact that, in counties such as Berkshire and Worcestershire, the deductions for the terre date were actually larger than the original farm. The removal of the demesne also raises the question of the source of the sums which sheriffs still had to find to make up the farm; this is usually quite opaque, and is only illuminated in the special circumstances of custodian sheriffs, explained below.

At the end of the list of terre date, there is another statement showing the net amount which the sheriff owes after these deductions. This net amount, the fixed farm minus the listed deductions, was known as the corpus comitatus, the basic figure which the sheriff had to produce each year.The roll then records the amount which the sheriff has paid towards this net farm, and any amount still owing, or any amount which is to be set against the sheriff's debt, to take account of his authorized expenditure.