This series contains documents submitted or generated in the course of judicial proceedings, mostly in equity, heard before the king's Council at Westminster, and anachronistically known as the Court of Star Chamber.
The series is incomplete, and although nominally of the reign of Henry VIII only, also includes proceedings from both earlier and later periods, as well as proceedings heard and determined before Chancery (otherwise in C); the Court of Wards (otherwise in WARD); and the Court of Requests (otherwise in REQ 3).
The records in this series comprise about 5,000 suits. The court dealt with both civil and criminal business, and tried questions of title. Despite the prominence of riot, rout and unlawful assembly in plaintiffs' allegations, unlawful force was the real subject of only a minority of disputes, and cases in which it was alleged often prove, on examination, to concern title to property. The application of main force was widely understood to be a wrong bringing civil matter within the council's jurisidiction and for this reason the allegations of riot are largely formulaic and often fictional. A few suits, small in number but of significant concern to the council itself, were cases alleging perversion of justice, abuse of legal procedure, or crimes unpunished, often because of corruption, at common law. Cases include maintenance, corrupt jury verdicts, perjury, and embracery. Malfeasance by officers of the Crown furnishes a particular category of complaint. Whilst title to land predominates in civil actions, other grounds of litigation include debt, fraud, breach of contract, disputes over easements and leases, enclosures, and testamentary and tithe disputes. Municipal and trade disputes continued to be an important, and appropriate, area for conciliar justice. The series also includes a number of actions brought by the King's almoner for the goods of suicides.
Of all the documents in this series, depositions are perhaps of most use to family and local historians, containing biographical information about the witnesses, and often circumstantial and incidental evidence thought relevant to the questions asked.