Custos rotulorum

Custos rotulorum (plural: custodes rotulorum; Latin for "keeper of the rolls") is a civic post which is recognised in the United Kingdom (except Scotland) and in Jamaica.

England, Wales and Northern Ireland

The custos rotulorum is the keeper of an English, Welsh and Northern Irish county's records and, by virtue of that office, the highest civil officer in the county. The position is now largely ceremonial.

The appointment until 1545, lay with the Lord Chancellor, but is now exercised by the Crown, under the Royal sign-manual, and was usually held by a person of rank. The appointment has been united with that of the lord-lieutenancy of the county throughout England since 1836. The custos rotulorum of Lancashire was formerly appointed by the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster, and that of County Durham vested in the Bishop of Durham until the abolition of its palatine rights. Traditionally, he was one of the justices of the peace.

In practice, the records were in the custody of the clerk of the peace. This latter official was, until 1888, appointed by the custos rotulorum, but following the passing of the Local Government Act of that year, the appointment was made by the standing joint-committee of the county council. The post of clerk of the peace was abolished by the Courts Act 1971.

Lambarde described the custos rotulorum as a man chosen either for his wisdom, countenance or credit.


The role of custos rotulorum was also adopted in the Kingdom of Ireland, usually abbreviated as the post-nominal "CoRo". From 1831 the title passed to the pre-existing Lord Lieutenant of every county as office-holder, and from then the List of Lords Lieutenant of County Dublin corresponded with the Custos Rotulorum of Dublin. Custodes rotulorum were abolished by the Local Government (Ireland) Act 1898. In 1922 the creation of the Irish Free State resulted in the abolition of the by then largely honorific posts, but Lord Lieutenantcies are still retained in Northern Ireland.



The Office of the Custos evolved in Jamaica from its colonial past. It can be traced back to fourteenth-century England when in 1391 King Richard II issued the Grand Commission appointing Custodes and Justices of the Peace to assist in maintaining law and order in the counties.

In Jamaica the first mention of the office appears in Legislative Council Minutes of 28 July 1668 in an ordinance dealing with the 'Orderly Proceedings of the Courts' within the island. The holder of the Office of Custos was described as the first citizen of the parish appointed by the Governor as his representative to assist in the maintenance of good order and discipline in the parish, and upholding the rule of law. The first Custos mentioned by name was Henry Morgan as the Custos of Port Royal during the Governorship of the Earl of Carlisle in 1680.

The Custos Rotulorum or Keeper of the Roll of the Justices of the Peace must be a Justice of the Peace and have dealt with such minor criminal charges as are within his jurisdiction. The duties and powers of the Custos at various times have included:

Appointment and duties

Ministry Paper Numbered 2, Appendix I, approved by Parliament on the 5th day of July, 1959 and gazetted on the 5th day of February, 1963 outlined that there shall be a Custos Rotulorum for every parish in Jamaica. The Custos shall be appointed by the Governor-General acting on the advice of the Prime Minister and shall be a resident of the parish to which he is appointed, save in the case of the Corporate Area.

That document also specied the functions and duties of the Custos as:

In addition to the above, Custodes in recent times have served as:


The Custos is entitled to the following:

See also


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