This series consists mainly of estreats of fines, issues, amercements and recognisances forfeited at sessions of the peace, and in King's Bench, Common Pleas, and Star Chamber.
Also included are estreats from the Commissioners for Ecclesiastical Causes, the Marshalsea of the Household, commissions of sewers, commissions of gaol delivery, the several assize circuits, the Clerk of the Market, and from some forest and judicial eyres. Other estreats stem from particular enquiries, or from Welsh sessions after the shiring of 1536.
Estreats were the means by which the various courts certified the Exchequer of the forfeitures imposed by them. They usually indicated which sums had already been paid: either into court, or to the sheriff or his officers. These were then annotated in the Exchequer with the date of their delivery and registered. After registration, the estreats were handed over to the Clerk of the Estreats for further process.
Many estreats were indented: one part was delivered to the Exchequer, the other was given to the sheriff to proceed with the collection of sums due. Both portions of the indenture may be found in this series, annotated with comments relating to the collection process or the audit of the Exchequer.
Estreats name the active justices, the Clerk of the Peace, and the date and place of sitting: as such they are a major, under-used source for documenting the careers of named justices of the peace and justices for other purposes.
For most counties the series of estreats begins in imperfect sequence with the reigns of Richard II (1377-1399) or Henry VI (1422-1461), although there are a few estreats from sessions dating from the reign of Edward III (1327-1377). Estreats earlier than this date are from eyres, including forest eyres, assizes, commissions of oyer and terminer and other judicial commissions which operated from time to time on a specific county basis. The series includes material which would otherwise be found amongst the records of the Courts of Star Chamber (STAC).