Chancery: Reports and Certificates
These are the original reports made to the court by the masters in Chancery on the matters referred to them for their investigation and opinion.
The series also contains the certificates confirming that certain actions could appropriately be carried out by the court.
Reports might be lengthy and include detailed material from the pleadings and other papers being examined by the master. Certificates were generally short, since they dealt with relatively simple matters, and the masters did not record the details of any arguments put to them by counsel seeking to obtain the certificates.
Many of the reports and certificates derive from disputes concerning the administration of the estates of deceased persons, and relate to such matters as enquiries into receivers' accounts, certificates concerning the results of property sales, infant wards of court, lunatics, and schemes for the administration of charities.
Reports are sometimes accompanied by supporting documents, such as receivers' accounts, advertisements of property sales, and plans. Certificates could also be about such matters as authorising the delivery of monies out of court, certifying the need for the issue of a commission to examine witnesses, or the need for a retrial.
The reports and certificates are arranged in bound volumes, chronologically by date of filing within sequences by the first letter of plaintiffs' names.
The emergence of these reports and certificates reflects the development of the work of the Chancery masters from mainly administrative to quasi-judicial work which was taking place in the sixteenth century. In many cases the court wholly accepted their recommendations, so they were in effect making judgements, although not in form.
Matters referred to the masters for their report by order of the court were of three main kinds. Firstly, they were to determine the adequacy or suitability of bills, answers, interrogatories, etc. Secondly, they were to examine motions for injunctions. Thirdly, they were to consider the merits of cases, by reference to its documentation, witnesses and counsel.
Masters also sometimes acted as umpires when arbitration of cases was being undertaken by commissioners appointed by the court, and could themselves be appointed by the court as arbitrators. The reports by the masters formed the basis for the decrees settling the actions.
After the abolition of the Chancery masters in 1852, the chief clerks continued to issue certificates, together with the taxing masters, appointed in 1842 specifically for the taxation of bills of costs.
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