One comment in Richard Brooks’s book THE KNIGHT WHO SAVED ENGLAND piqued my interest. He referred to the use of new chequered cloths from the calculation of taxes, and that this was the derivation of the word ‘exchequer’.

I did a bit of research and discovered that the cloths were used to cover a special table that had raised sides so that things could not fall off. The stripes that made up the chequer pattern were about the width of a hand, and counters were placed at the top of the down stripes (or columns) to indicate whether the column contained pounds, shilling, or pence. The chequered cloth was then used to calculate and tally the taxes that were collected … almost like an analogue version of a modern computer spreadsheet! When everything was complete, the cloth was cleared and the calculations were ex-chequer (i.e. off the chequered cloth).

An interesting and inconsequential little bit of historical information that I hope amused my regular blog readers.


12 Comments on “Exchequer”

  1. Jim Duncan says:

    A fascinating piece of information, of absolutely no use whatsoever, but fascinating all the same.

    Good find Bob!

  2. Tim Gow says:

    A table with raised sides? Sounds like a sand table. Was Billy M an early wargamer? I think we should be told.

  3. Jim Duncan,

    Totally useless information … but you never know if it will crop up in a pub quiz, do you?

    All the best,


  4. Tim Gow,

    Raised sides AND a grid! A sand table designed by Richard Books, I think.

    I must admit that the Marshal would probably have been a good wargamer … but the concept of 'trial by combat' to decide the correct interpretation of the rules sounds a bit much, even for WD members.

    All the best,


  5. Nigel Drury says:

    To resolve melees by such physical methods would be a bit like chess boxing – a 'sport' that does actually exist!

  6. Nigel Drury,

    Sounds like an interesting sport. I hope to see it at the Olympics soon.

    All the best,


  7. Never heard that before! Brilliant!

  8. Fitz-Badger says:

    I do enjoy little tidbits like that. And I had similar thoughts, that it sounded like it could be used for gridded “portable” wargames, when the accounting was not in progress.
    hmmm, I wonder if something could be done with rows and columns in a gridded wargame… (maybe something as simple as random terrain and/or placement of other things, like events, previously hidden enemy, etc…)

  9. Legatus Hedlius,

    It is the sort of odd knowledge that I find interesting … and I am pleased to read that you do too!

    All the best,


  10. Fitz-Badger,

    I would love to find a 12th or 13th century illustration of an Exchequer table and cloth in use as I suspect that it might look like a group of wargamers in costume standing around a wargames table!

    Using the columns and rows to generate terrain etc? Now that is an interesting idea that I will file away for future use.

    All the best,


  11. Rogerbw,

    It may be 15th century but it is extremely relevant! Thank you very much for such a helpful and informative link.

    All the best,


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