Custos rotulorum
Custos rotulorum is the keeper of an English
England is a country that is part of the United Kingdom. It shares land borders with Scotland to the north and Wales to the west; the Irish Sea is to the north west, the Celtic Sea to the south west, with the North Sea to the east and the English Channel to the south separating it from continental...

 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
Lord Chancellor
The Lord High Chancellor of Great Britain, or Lord Chancellor, is a senior and important functionary in the government of the United Kingdom. He is the second highest ranking of the Great Officers of State, ranking only after the Lord High Steward. The Lord Chancellor is appointed by the Sovereign...

, but is now exercised by the Crown
The Crown
The Crown is a corporation sole that in the Commonwealth realms and any provincial or state sub-divisions thereof represents the legal embodiment of governance, whether executive, legislative, or judicial...

, under the Royal sign-manual
Royal sign-manual
The royal sign manual is the formal name given in the Commonwealth realms to the autograph signature of the sovereign, by the affixing of which the monarch expresses his or her pleasure either by order, commission, or warrant. A sign-manual warrant may be either an executive actfor example, an...

, and is usually held by a person of rank, most frequently the Lord Lieutenant
Lord Lieutenant
The title Lord Lieutenant is given to the British monarch's personal representatives in the United Kingdom, usually in a county or similar circumscription, with varying tasks throughout history. Usually a retired local notable, senior military officer, peer or business person is given the post...

 of the county. (The appointment has been united with that of the lord-lieutenancy throughout England since 1836.) The custos rotulorum of Lancashire
Lancashire is a non-metropolitan county of historic origin in the North West of England. It takes its name from the city of Lancaster, and is sometimes known as the County of Lancaster. Although Lancaster is still considered to be the county town, Lancashire County Council is based in Preston...

 was formerly appointed by the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster
Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster
The Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster is, in modern times, a ministerial office in the government of the United Kingdom that includes as part of its duties, the administration of the estates and rents of the Duchy of Lancaster...

, and that of Durham
Durham is a city in north east England. It is within the County Durham local government district, and is the county town of the larger ceremonial county...

 vested in the Bishop of Durham until the abolition of its palatine
County palatine
A county palatine or palatinate is an area ruled by an hereditary nobleman possessing special authority and autonomy from the rest of a kingdom or empire. The name derives from the Latin adjective palatinus, "relating to the palace", from the noun palatium, "palace"...

 rights. Traditionally he was one of the justices of the peace
Justice of the Peace
A justice of the peace is a puisne judicial officer elected or appointed by means of a commission to keep the peace. Depending on the jurisdiction, they might dispense summary justice or merely deal with local administrative applications in common law jurisdictions...


In practice the records were in the custody of the clerk of the peace
Clerk of the Peace
A clerk of the peace held an office in England and Wales whose responsibility was the records of the Quarter Sessions and the framing of presentments and indictments. They had legal training, so that they could advise justices of the peace.-England and Wales:...

. This latter official was, until 1888, appointed by the custos rotulorum, but following the passing of the Local Government Act
Local Government Act 1888
The Local Government Act 1888 was an Act of the Parliament of the United Kingdom, which established county councils and county borough councils in England and Wales...

 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
Courts Act 1971
The Courts Act 1971 is an Act of the Parliament of the United Kingdom the purpose of which was to reform and modernise the courts system of England and Wales....


William Lambarde
William Lambarde was an antiquarian and writer on legal subjects.-Life:Lambarde was born in London. His father was a draper , an alderman and a sheriff of London. In 1556, he was admitted to Lincoln's Inn...

 described the custos rotulorum as a man for the most part especially picked out either for wisdom, countenance or credit.



The Office of the Custos evolved from Jamaica's colonial past and can be traced back to the fourteenth century England when in 1391 King Richard II
Richard II
-People:*Richard II of England , King of England.*Richard II of Normandy , Duke of Normandy*Richard II of Aquila *Richard II of Capua *A nickname for Richard M...

 issued the Grand Commission
Commission may refer to:* Commission , a form of payment to an agent for services rendered* Commission , a document given to commissioned officers....

 appointing Custodes and Justices of the Peace to assist in maintaining law and order in the counties.

The office subsequently merged into that of the Lord Lieutenancy of each county. Appointments to this position were made by Royal Commission under the Reserve Forces Act, 1980. Each Lord Lieutenant
Lord Lieutenant
The title Lord Lieutenant is given to the British monarch's personal representatives in the United Kingdom, usually in a county or similar circumscription, with varying tasks throughout history. Usually a retired local notable, senior military officer, peer or business person is given the post...

 was also appointed by the Lord Chancellor
Lord Chancellor
The Lord High Chancellor of Great Britain, or Lord Chancellor, is a senior and important functionary in the government of the United Kingdom. He is the second highest ranking of the Great Officers of State, ranking only after the Lord High Steward. The Lord Chancellor is appointed by the Sovereign...

 as the Custos Rotulorum or Keeper of the Rolls.

In Jamaica, the first mention of the office appears in the Legislative Council
Legislative Council
A Legislative Council is the name given to the legislatures, or one of the chambers of the legislature of many nations and colonies.A Member of the Legislative Council is commonly referred to as an MLC.- Unicameral legislatures :...

 Minutes of the 28th day of July, 1668 in an Ordinance dealing with the Orderly Proceedings of the Courts within the island.

There, the holder of this office 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
Henry Morgan
Admiral Sir Henry Morgan was an Admiral of the Royal Navy, a privateer, and a pirate who made a name for himself during activities in the Caribbean, primarily raiding Spanish settlements...

 as the Custos of Port Royal
Port Royal
Port Royal was a city located at the end of the Palisadoes at the mouth of the Kingston Harbour, in southeastern Jamaica. Founded in 1518, it was the centre of shipping commerce in the Caribbean Sea during the latter half of the 17th century...

 during the Governorship of the Earl of Carlisle
Earl of Carlisle
Earl of Carlisle is a title that has been created three times in the Peerage of England. The first creation came in 1322 when the soldier Andrew Harclay, 1st Baron Harclay was made Earl of Carlisle. He had already been summoned to Parliament as Lord Harclay in 1321...

 in 1680. Then and thereafter the duties and powers at various times included:

Custos Rotulorum or Keeper of the Roll of the Justices of the Peace who preside at Petty Sessions Court and being the Chief Magistrate
A magistrate is an officer of the state; in modern usage the term usually refers to a judge or prosecutor. This was not always the case; in ancient Rome, a magistratus was one of the highest government officers and possessed both judicial and executive powers. Today, in common law systems, a...

 for the parish.

To receive the Sovereign, any representative of the royal family, His Excellency The Governor
A governor is a governing official, usually the executive of a non-sovereign level of government, ranking under the head of state...

 as representing the sovereign when within the precincts of the parish.

To recommend to the Governor from time to time ‘gentlemen' for commission as Justices as the parish required.

As a prerequisite, the holder [the Custos] must be a Justice of the Peace and have dealt with such minor criminal charges as are within his jurisdiction.

An ex-officio member of the Parochial Board and in this capacity could exercise very beneficial influence. He was required to attend the meetings of the Board as often as possible.

Required from time to time to visit the hospitals, poorhouses and other institutions including every prison in the parish and to discover any abuse therein and report the same to the Governor. This was aimed at ensuring that the affairs of these institutions were conducted properly.

Except in the parish of Kingston, to appoint one or more polling places at all elections and one or more persons to keep the poll at the elections of the Vestrymen (now Parish Councillors) and the Church Wardens (that is the Church of England
Church of England
The Church of England is the officially established Christian church in England and the Mother Church of the worldwide Anglican Communion. The church considers itself within the tradition of Western Christianity and dates its formal establishment principally to the mission to England by St...

 or Anglican denomination).

Be the chairman of the Board of Highways and Bridges in the parish.


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 the following new procedures regarding the appointment and functions of the Custos:

There shall be a Custos Rotulorum for every parish in Jamaica. The Custos shall be appointed by the Governor-General
A Governor-General, is a vice-regal person of a monarch in an independent realm or a major colonial circonscription. Depending on the political arrangement of the territory, a Governor General can be a governor of high rank, or a principal governor ranking above "ordinary" governors.- Current uses...

 acting on the advice of the Prime Minister. He shall be a resident of the parish to which he is appointed save in the case of the Corporate Area.

A Custos shall hold office during the Governor-General's pleasure and shall in any event vacate his office on transferring his residence from the parish (or the Corporate Area in the case of Kingston and St. Andrew) or on attaining the age of seventy-five years, unless specially requested to continue in office, provided that the age limit shall not apply to Custodes who were appointed prior to 1958.

The Custos of the parish is the representative of the Governor-General within the parish. It is his duty, in the absence of the Governor-General, to receive the Sovereign, any member of the royal family, the Prime Minister on an official visit, or any important personage commended by the Governor-General who arrives within the precincts of the parish. It is his duty to receive the Governor-General when he pays official visits to the parish.

The Custos is the Chief Magistrate of the parish, and it is his duty to prepare a roster of the Justices of the Peace within the parish so that there are sufficient JPs at each meeting of the Petty Sessions Court and in the various districts to carry out the work.

The Custos is chairman of the committee in each parish which is responsible for making recommendations to the Minister of Home Affairs in regard to suitable persons for appointment as Justices of the Peace.

The Custos on behalf of the Governor-General, will interest himself in the work of all voluntary organisations in the parish, and will ensure that their activities receive suitable recognition on public occasions.

The Custos will meet the Judge of the Circuit Court
Circuit court
Circuit court is the name of court systems in several common law jurisdictions.-History:King Henry II instituted the custom of having judges ride around the countryside each year to hear appeals, rather than forcing everyone to bring their appeals to London...

 at the Court House at the opening session.
In addition of the above, Custodes in recent times have served as:

Chairman of the Governor-General's Achievement Awards Committee

Chairman of the Parish Advisory Committee on Local Government Reform

Chairman of the Community Consultative Committee for the parish

Co-Chairman, along with the Mayor, of the Labour Day Committee

Chairman of the Prime Minister's Values and Attitudes Committee for the parish

Chairman of the parish Disaster Preparedness Committee

President of the Lay Magistrates Association


The Custos is entitled to the following:

To be referred to as "Honourable" both during his tenure of office and after retirement.

To affix a pair of official "C R" (Custos Rotulorum) plates to his motor vehicle.

To be conferred with a National Honour of no less a rank than that of Order of Distinction
Order of distinction
The Order of Distinction in Jamaica is the fifth in order of precedence of the Orders of Societies of Honour, which were instituted by an Act of Parliament – The National Honours and Awards Act.The Motto of the Order is "Distinction Through Service"....

(Commander Class) upon his appointment or soon thereafter.
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