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A counting house, or compting house is the building, room, office or suite in which a business firm carries on operations, particularly accounting. By a synecdoche, it has come to mean the accounting operations of a firm, however housed. The term is British in origin and is primarily used in the context of the 19th century or earlier periods.
The term occurs in the well-known English nursery rhyme "Sing a Song of Sixpence". It also appears in Christopher Marlowe's The Jew of Malta, in A Christmas Carol, Great Expectations, David Copperfield and American Notes by Charles Dickens, and Deadeye Dick, by Kurt Vonnegut. Counting House is also the name given to early businesses which safely stored public and private money and lent money.
The royal Counting House in the time of Henry VIII of England is described in the Eltham Ordinance of 1526 and could be constructed wherever the king was. A green cloth was to be laid daily over a table or board, and at this at least one clerk of the green cloth and the clerks' comptroller were to sit for at least one hour every morning from 8am. The Cofferer of the Household was also to sit at the table and to lay on it his Journal and Memoranda. Clerks were to record each claim approved by the clerks' comptroller in the parchment docket, called the "Main Docquet", and record payments of wages, pensions, expenses, or debentures in a ledger. The comptroller was to ensure that amounts claimed or paid tallied with approved rates, and the Cofferer was supervisor and controlled the coffer from which payments were made. Clerks and comptrollers were to go out into the household, check the quality of supplied goods, and ensure that no unauthorised person was making use of household supplies. The Lord Steward of the household, Treasurer of the Household, and Comptroller of the Household were to attend at the Counting House when convenient and could summon the Cofferer and other household officers before them to agree the appointment of purveyors, and regulations and instructions regarding household supplies. Counting House officials were later known as the Board of Green Cloth.