Tally Sticks, c 1440.
© Science Museum / Science & Society Picture Library
Tally sticks were a method of acounting for loans and payments used by the Treasury. Each stick contains notches to show the amount deposited, the name of the lender, the county, the time of year when the money can be repaid, and the year. The Exchequer held the other half of the split stick which contained the same information. When the debt was due to be paid, the two halves were matched to see if they 'tallied'. If they did not, this was evidence of fraud. Tallies were used by the exechequer until 1826. In 1834, a fire burning old tally sticks got out of control, causing serious damage to the Houses of Parliament.