AskDefine | Define exchequer

Dictionary Definition

exchequer n : the funds of a government or institution or individual [syn: treasury]

User Contributed Dictionary

see Exchequer



  • /ˈˈɛks.ˈʧɛ.kɚ/


  1. a treasury
  2. an available fund of money, especially one for a specific purpose

Extensive Definition

The Exchequer was (and in some cases still is) a part of the governments of England (latterly to include Wales), Scotland, and Northern Ireland that was responsible for the management and collection of revenues. The various Exchequers have also developed a judicial role.

History of the Exchequer in England and Wales

At an early stage in England (certainly by 1190), the Exchequer was split into two components: the purely administrative Exchequer of Receipt, which collected revenue, and the judicial Exchequer of Pleas, a court concerned with the King's revenue.
Originally the Exchequer referred to the cloth laid over a large table, by 5, on which counters were placed representing various values. According to the Dialogue concerning the Exchequer, an early Medieval work describing the practice of the Exchequer, the name referred to the resemblance of the table with a chess board.
The term "Exchequer" then came to refer to the twice yearly meetings held at Easter and Michaelmas, at which government financial business was transacted and an audit held of sheriff's returns.
Under Henry I, the procedure adopted for the audit would involve the Treasurer drawing up a summons which would be sent to each Sheriff, which they would be required to answer. The Treasurer would call on each Sheriff to give account of Royal income in their Shire. The Chancellor of the Exchequer would then question them concerning debts owed by private individuals. The results of the audit were recorded in a series of records known as the Pipe Rolls.

After the Union

The Exchequer became unnecessary as a revenue collecting department as a result of William Pitt's reforms. It was abolished in 1834. Those government departments collecting revenue paid it directly to the Bank of England.
By extension, "exchequer" has come to mean the Treasury and, colloquially, pecuniary possessions in general; as in "the company's exchequer is low".

History of the Exchequer in Scotland

The Scottish Exchequer dates back to around 1200 and had a similar role of auditing and deciding on royal revenues as in England. The Scottish exchequer was slower to develop a separate judicial role, and it was not until 1584 that it became a court of law, separate from the King's council. Even then, the judicial and administrative roles never became completely separated into two bodies, as with the English Exchequer.
The term Court of the Exchequer was only used of the Exchequer department during the Scottish administration of Oliver Cromwell, between 1655 and 1659.
In 1707, the Exchequer Court (Scotland) Act (6 Ann. c. 53) reconstituted the Exchequer into a court on the English model with a Lord Chief Baron and 4 Barons. The court adopted English forms of procedure and had further powers added to it.
From 1832 no new Barons were appointed, and their role was increasingly taken over by judges of the Court of Session. By the Exchequer Court (Scotland) Act 1856 (19 & 20 Vict. c. 56) the Exchequer became a part of the Court of Session. One of the Lords Ordinary acts as a judge in Exchequer causes. The English forms of process ceased to be used in 1947.


Further reading

exchequer in Spanish: Tesoro público
exchequer in Norwegian: Exchequer
exchequer in Japanese: 財務省 (イギリス)
exchequer in Swedish: Exchequer
exchequer in Russian: Палата шахматной доски

Synonyms, Antonyms and Related Words

Fort Knox, Swiss bank account, archives, armory, arsenal, assets, attic, balance, bank, bank account, basement, bay, bin, bonded warehouse, bookcase, bottom dollar, box, budget, bunker, bursary, buttery, cargo dock, cash register, cash reserves, cashbox, cellar, checking account, chest, closet, coffer, coin box, command of money, conservatory, crate, crib, cupboard, depository, depot, dock, drawer, dump, finances, fisc, fund, funds, glory hole, godown, gold depository, hold, hutch, kitty, library, life savings, locker, lumber room, lumberyard, magasin, magazine, means, money chest, moneys, nest egg, pecuniary resources, penny bank, piggy bank, pocket, pool, pork barrel, public crib, public till, public treasury, public trough, purse, rack, repertory, repository, reserves, reservoir, resources, rick, safe, safe-deposit box, savings, savings account, shelf, stack, stack room, stock room, storage, store, storehouse, storeroom, strong room, strongbox, substance, subtreasury, supply base, supply depot, tank, till, treasure, treasure house, treasure room, treasure-house, treasury, unregistered bank account, vat, vault, warehouse, wherewithal, wine cellar
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