Your page description goes in here.

Sheriffs' expenditure

In most county accounts, the net farm is followed by a list of payments that the sheriff has made in the course of the year. Sheriffs were the all-purpose local representatives of government, and could be given a wide range of responsibilities, carrying out the orders of central government. It obviously made more sense for payments for building works at Winchester castle, for instance, to be made out of the cash held by the sheriff of Hampshire, rather than the sheriff collecting taxes, sending bags of coins to Westminster, and then the Treasury sending coins back again to pay the builders. Such payments by the sheriff would have to be checked, and eventually recorded in the pipe rolls.

Some of these payments are fixed and recurrent: in most counties, for example, the sheriff pays "fixed alms" (elemosina constituta) of 1 mark a year to the knights of the Temple. There are numerous similar small payments for chaplains, hospitals, retired servants and other religious and charitable causes, which did not need to be specifically authorized each year, once they had been established. Sheriffs also incurred expenditure in their judicial role, paying for gaols and fetters, for the maintenance of informers (known as approvers, paid 1d. a day), and for "doing justice" - hangings.

Less routine expenditure had to be specifically instructed by royal writ (which in principle was recorded in the liberate rolls), and is itemized in the pipe rolls, providing an insight into sheriffs' miscellaneous responsibilities, and the costs of government activities. There are numerous payments for building works in royal castles and so on, generally noted as having been supported by the view and testimony of expert witnesses. Sheriffs were often given the task of providing supplies for royal feasts, and of sending wine, fish and deer to the king, at Westminster or other residences. So far as the Exchequer was concerned, the important point was that such expenditure had been properly authorized, and then proved by the production of witnesses, itemized particulars, or receipts in the form of tally sticks, before the sheriff was allowed to set it against the debts he owed.