Catalogue description Court of Chancery: Six Clerks Office: Pleadings, Series I, Elizabeth I to Charles I

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Details of C 2
Reference: C 2
Title: Court of Chancery: Six Clerks Office: Pleadings, Series I, Elizabeth I to Charles I

The records in this series consist of pleadings in equity cases initiated in the court of Chancery.

They comprise bills and answers, often with replications and rejoinders attached, together with writs and sometimes an office copy of the bill. Some bear annotations of process in court.

The series is searchable by name, place, and subject for the reigns of Elizabeth I and James I and VI, but only by short title for the reign of Charles I. We welcome more detailed descriptions.

Four searchable codes have been added to the relevant more detailed descriptions 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.
  • By corporate body: CBP brings up hospitals, colleges, London companies, trading companies etc.
  • By unincorporate body - a group acting in a joint interest: UBP will produce churchwardens, parishioners, copyholders, manorial tenants, inhabitants etc.

These codes (SFP, JFP, CBP, UBP) can of course be used with other search terms.

Some relatively recent records were destroyed in the fire at the Six Clerks' Office in 1621: traces of these may be found in copies held elsewhere, such as the Norfolk Record Office holding PD 209/368, which is copy pleadings and depositions in Crome and other feoffees of the town lands of North Elmham, Norfolk v Thomas Taverner, 1617.

Date: c1558-c1660

The pleadings are no longer in the order imposed by the six clerks, but were sorted into a single sequence in the White Tower in the early 1700s.

The records are not now arranged in date order, except in the broadest of terms, by reign, but in bundles grouped in rough alphabetical order by the name of the first plaintiff.

Separated material:

Detached pleadings may perhaps be found in C 4

Further pleadings from this period may be found in C 3

Held by: The National Archives, Kew
Legal status: Public Record(s)
Language: English and Latin
Physical description: 2240 bundle(s)
Custodial history: These pleadings were originally filed in the Six Clerks Office in Chancery Lane. Some may have been kept in private premises, judging by their survival of the fire which destroyed the Six Clerks Office in 1621. In 1671 122 bundles of pleadings of pre-1660 date were sent to the Tower of London, where they were kept in Caesar's Chapel in the White Tower, above a gunpowder store.
Publication note:

A descriptive list of some of the Elizabethan records is printed in Calendars of the Proceedings in Chancery in the Reign of Queen Elizabeth (3 vols, Record Commission, 1827-1832). For the records of a later period, see Calendar of Chancery Proceedings, Bills and Answers, Charles I, ed W P W Phillimore and E A Fry (4 vols, British Record Society, Index Library, London, 1889-1896).

Unpublished finding aids:

A variety of calendars and indexes covering parts of this series are available. The Bernau Index, a genealogical source formerly held by the Society of Genealogists and now available there on microfilm, contains several million personal name entries, including some of those found in the records of this series.

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