John Caley's Augmentation Office Indexes

Scope and Content

The collection comprises a series of indexes to grants made in the Augmentation Office during the reigns of Henry VIII, Edward VI, Philip and Mary and Elizabeth.

Administrative / Biographical History

John Caley (baptized 1760, died 1834), was a keen antiquarian from an early age. He met Thomas Astle, keeper of the records, who obtained for him a place in the record office in the Tower. In 1787 he received from Lord William Bentinck, as clerk of the pipe, the keepership of the records in the augmentation office; and in 1818, on the death of George Rose, he was appointed keeper of the records in the ancient treasury at Westminster. When the first Record Commission was nominated in 1801, Caley was appointed secretary, an office which he continued to hold until the dissolution of the Commission in March 1831. A special office, that of subcommissioner, to superintend the arranging, repairing, and binding of records, was subsequently created for him.

To Caley's influence were attributed many of the scandals which brought the commission into such disrepute. Much was left to his discretion, a situation which he turned to his own benefit. Sir Henry Cole, William Illingworth and others testified that, owing to Caley's systematic neglect of duty, records were poorly arranged and bound, with frequent errors in lettering and dates. Applicants for historical documents had to apply at Caley's house, to which papers were brought in bags by his footman. As a subcommissioner Caley became a joint editor of fourteen of the works undertaken by the Commission. He also printed, at the request of Thomas Burgess, the bishop of the diocese, several copies of the Ecclesiastical Survey of the Possessions, of the Bishop of St. David's (1812). Caley was elected a fellow of the Society of Antiquaries of London in March 1786, and contributed several papers to Archaeologia, notably On the origin of the Jews in England. He was also a fellow of the Royal Society and the Linnean Society, and a member of the Society of Arts. Caley died at his house in Spa Fields, on 28 April 1834.

Source: Gordon Goodwin, 'Caley, John (bap. 1760, d. 1834)', rev. Bernard Nurse, Oxford Dictionary of National Biography, Oxford University Press, 2004. By permission of Oxford University Press -

Following the dissolution of the monasteries, the Court of Augmentations and the Augmentation Office were set up to administer the revenues from the newly acquired lands. The Court of Augmentations was abolished in 1554, having already been amalgamated with the Court of General Surveyors in 1546. These two courts were amalgamated in 1547, under the new name Court of Augmentations and Revenues of the King's Crown, and were then absorbed into the Exchequer in 1553. Some records remained in the Augmentation Office, others passed on to the Auditors of Land Revenue.

Access Information

The collection is available for consultation by any accredited reader.

Acquisition Information

The collection was purchased by the John Rylands Library from the London bookseller Bernard Quaritch in June 1919.


Description compiled by Henry Sullivan and Jo Klett, project archivists, with reference to the Oxford Dictionary of National Biography article on John Caley.

Other Finding Aids

Catalogued in the Hand-List of the Collection of English Manuscripts in the John Rylands Library, 1928 (English MSS 208-212).

Related Material

John Caley's papers are widely dispersed: see the National Register of Archives. The major collection is at the British Library, Manuscript Collections: official correspondence, indexes, notes and papers, c.1777-1832 (ref.: Add MSS 21316-28, 21344-45, 24692, 24711, 24723-34, 35335, 44938, Add Ch 70861).

Corporate Names