Catalogue description Exchequer of Pleas: Plea Rolls

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Details of E 13
Reference: E 13
Title: Exchequer of Pleas: Plea Rolls

Much of the business recorded in the Exchequer plea rolls concerned debts owed by or to Exchequer or local officials and accountants to the Crown.

In addition, some foreign merchants were granted the privilege of suing at the Exchequer by Edward I, whilst in later centuries the use of the writ quominus and later subpoena enabled a wide variety of private litigants to sue in the court.

At an early date the rolls ceased to record entries where the defendant failed to appear, which helped to keep the rolls small but does not reflect the larger number of suits which were brought, and which can only be identified where the files of bills and writs (E 5) survive. Moreover, the later rolls seem only to include enrolments of cases which reached judgement.

The rolls also include memoranda and, in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, a few enclosure awards. A special roll is devoted to the recovery of debts owing to Walter de Langton, bishop of Coventry and Lichfield and treasurer of Edward I, who was put on trial in 1307.

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: 1236-1875

The plea rolls mainly cover a year until 1547, and thereafter mainly a term. For 1323-1326 there are separate rolls for the north and the south of England.

Related material:

Repertories from 1412 to 1499, 1559 to 1669, and 1822 to 1830 are in E 14

Held by: The National Archives, Kew
Legal status: Public Record(s)
Language: English and Latin
Physical description: 1502 roll(s)
Unpublished finding aids:

Selective calendars in two sequences, alphabetical and chronological, to 1820 are available in the public areas.

Administrative / biographical background:

The earliest recorded pleas at the Exchequer, related to matters arising directly from the payment of debts due to the Crown, were recorded on the memoranda rolls. But from 1236 the volume of cases in the Exchequer warranted a separate series of plea rolls, which continued (supported from 1260 by bills and writs) as the principal record of the court until its abolition in 1875.

In the course of the thirteenth century the plea rolls came to contain enrolments primarily of cases between private litigants; process and issue in revenue and other Exchequer cases continued, for the most part, to be enrolled on the memoranda rolls. There is, however, no evidence of differences in procedure underlying this division of business.

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