Catalogue description Court of Chancery: Six Clerks Office: Early Pleadings and Proceedings, Richard II to Philip and Mary

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Details of C 1
Reference: C 1
Title: Court of Chancery: Six Clerks Office: Early Pleadings and Proceedings, Richard II to Philip and Mary

Pleadings, interrogatories, depositions and exhibits relating to equity causes initiated in the court of Chancery up to 1558.

The records consist solely of bills of complaint until the mid-fifteenth century, but subsequently there are also answers, interrogatories and depositions.

Please be aware that the full range of documents (if pleadings proceeded so far) are not always filed together: you may need to search further within C 1 and C 4 using variant spellings of names and places to find related pleadings brought into court slightly later and not filed with the bill.

Some bills are endorsed with decrees or orders, the only source of information about the outcome of cases before 1534.

After about 1534, it is worth looking in the separate series of depositions in C 21 and C 24, which are catalogued by the short title. After 1544, try the decree and order books in C 33.

The matters in dispute are extremely varied because, unlike in the common law courts, there were no fixed actions.

Digital images of some of the records in this series are available through the Anglo-American Legal Tradition website. Please note that The National Archives is not responsible for this website or its content.

Date: c1386-c1558

The records are no longer in their original arrangement and may have been brought together from at least four overlapping series.

The documents are now arranged in chronological order by chancellor as far as possible, and within that by the first letter of the first plaintiff's surname.

The data here is taken from the published listings, which vary in how they numbered the records. Some run consecutively, with one number covering a whole [small] file of records in a single suit. Others use a numbering system where every record received a number, even if strung on a file, but only the first number was used in creating the listing. This can give the impression that not all suits have been catalogued. So, if a single suit comprised 3 membranes, it will be listed against, for example, no 1, and the next case will be listed against no 4, with membranes 2 and 3 being silently included in the description for 1. Many of these now [from 2013] have the number of dcouments included in the description, to indicate that there is no gap. Another of the numbering systems in use for C 1 would treat a similar case by numbering it 1-3.

The listing was reworked in 2012 to provide a short title for each cause and to improve searchability by extending abbreviations and replacing a wide variety of markings for lacunae with [unknown].

In addition, the opportunity was taken to add four codes to help researchers identify causes brought by different types of litigant, as follows:

  • By gender: SFP for sole female plaintiff, and JFP for joint female plaintiffs - where the bill was filed in the name of females only. [Sole here does not imply femme sole, although many female litigants were widows or spinsters]. This is not completely to be trusted, as it omits a widow acting for infant sons but includes a widow acting for infant daughters. It also omits abbesses etc, who are treated as the heads of corporate bodies [see below under RHP] unless they are acting in their own personal interest.
  • By corporate body: CBP brings up colleges, London companies etc.
  • By unincorporate body - a group acting in a joint interest: UBP will produce churchwardens, parishioners, copyholders, manorial tenants, inhabitants etc.
  • By monastic house: RHP will bring up abbots, abbesses, priors and prioresses acting on behalf of their community.

These codes can of course be used with other search terms.

Separated material:

Detached pleadings may perhaps be found in C 4

Held by: The National Archives, Kew
Legal status: Public Record(s)
Language: English, French and Latin
Physical description: 1522 file(s)
Access conditions: Open
Custodial history: The records were housed in the Tower of London for some time before 1827, probably following transfer from the Six Clerks Office.
Publication note:

A small sample is printed in Calendars of the Proceedings in Chancery in the reign of Queen Elizabeth to which are prefixed examples of earlier proceedings in that court, namely from the reign of Richard the Second to that of Queen Elizabeth inclusive from the originals in the Tower (2 vols, Record Commission, 1827-1830); Select Cases in Chancery, A.D. 1364-1471, ed W P Baildon (Selden Society, 1896).

Unpublished finding aids:

A typescript index covering persons and places, 1515-1529, is available.

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