This collection is unusual in consisting largely of draft documents, mainly from the 1480s and 1490s, but also include a Coroner's Roll for 1297-1301, and a roll of Oxford Mill Court from 1337-1338.
The papers have had a curious history: they came to light among the borough records of Bridgwater, Somerset, which were deposited with Somerset County Record Office in 1975, and were then transferred to Oxfordshire Archives in 1986. Here, they were assigned the Accession Number 2606 (the papers still in Somerset have been catalogued as D/B/bw). While the Oxfordshire papers were still at Bridgwater, they were inspected by H.E. Salter in the 1920s, and he included summaries or transcripts of many of them in his 'Snappe's Formulary and Other Records' (Oxford Historical Society Vol. LXXX, 1924).
In his Introduction, Salter spoke of 'an expert' [Dr Walter de Grey Birch (1842-1924), Assistant in the Manuscript Department of the British Museum] who 'has left a note that the Oxford papers belonged to a notary named Paris, who journeyed repeatedly between Oxford and Bridgwater about the years 1485-1496' (p.216). There is nothing in the papers as they stand to prove or disprove this, but the fact that some papers contain drafts of deeds on both Oxfordshire and Somerset properties would make it highly plausible that they were written by a notary with links to both places.
This would explain the presence of the 15th century documents in Bridgwater, but not that of the Coroner's Roll or the Court Roll of the Mill: it remains a mystery how they ended up here.
Almost all the 15th-century documents are drafts, written on paper; this collection thus comprises the largest collection of medieval paper in the archives. The papers themselves are in condition, probably of Flemish origin, and include several with watermarks. Their contents consist either of title deeds, or papers concerning legal cases heard in Oxford. However there are several instances where an older deed, written on parchment, has been reused, with a draft written on its dorse. There are also several cases where a piece of paper contains two or more drafts.
Ordering this collection therefore provided some problems. The following basic scheme was decided on:
1L-2L: The Coroner's Roll and Court Roll.
3L-6D: Papers relating to Oxford City, including a large collection of papers concerning court cases there (P6/4L).
7L: Papers concerning Oxford University.
8D-10D: Deeds concerning Oxford Colleges.
11D-16D: Deeds concerning monasteries and other institutions.
17D-54D: Deeds concerning individuals.
55D: Documents concerning Somerset, or otherwise of unknown history.
Where an item contains two or more drafts, it was decided to list it according to the first draft it contained. It is hoped that the cross- references in the text will guide searchers to the most important caseswhere a document has thus ended up in a different place.
The catalogue indicates where a document was summarised or transcribed by Salter in 'Snappe's Formulary', and an Appendix provides a concordance between his references and the ones given here.
Catalogued by Eleanor Roberts and Robin Darwall-Smith in August 1996.
A NOTE ON DATES
All dates in the headings to this catalogue are given in the new style (i.e. with the year starting on 1 January).