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.