Equity proceedings in the Court of Exchequer by dfsiopmhy6


									Guide reference: Legal Records Information 19
Last updated: 28 June 2004
Online version: http://www.nationalarchives.gov.uk > Records > In-depth research guides >
Equity proceedings in the Court of Exchequer

Equity proceedings in the Court of Exchequer


  1.   Introduction
  2.   Working through a case
  3.   The records
  4.   Further reading

1. Introduction
By the mid-sixteenth century, the Exchequer was developing an equity jurisdiction, which ran
alongside the ancient common law Exchequer of Pleas. The records of the equity side of the Court
of Exchequer contain much that is of value to family, local, economic, and social historians. Its
business included disputes over titles of land, manorial rights, tithes, mineral rights, ex-monastic
land, debts, wills, etc. In 1841, the Exchequer lost its equity side, and its outstanding business was
transferred to the court of Chancery.

Many people will access the Exchequer equity records in the first place by discovering an interesting
description with the reference starting E 134, in the course of a keyword search on the online
catalogue. On looking at the document, they will find that they are in the middle of a case. This is
because the depositions in E 134 were the only Exchequer equity records to be listed in some
detail in the 19 th century, giving plaintiffs, defendants and subjects in dispute. Most of these
descriptions have been incorporated into The National Archives' online Catalogue.

Using E 134 for an initial search can be an easy way into exploring the records: but be warned - E
134 only includes depositions taken in the country, the catalogue contains detailed descriptions for
cases before 1773 only, and the catalogue does not include the names of the deponents. If
depositions were taken in London only, or if the case did not involve depositions, you will have to
try tracing the case from other series of records. These have not been listed at anything like the
same level of detail, and need to be accessed by contemporary 'indexes' available only at The
National Archives. There is no union index of names. Few of the contemporary indexes are in strict
alphabetical order.

2. Working through a case
Documents relating to cases heard in the Exchequer fall into many different categories, each filed
separately. Almost all are in English. Each series has a detailed series description, or Series
Description, given in brief in the online catalogue, and available in fuller form in the paper catalogue
at The National Archives.

If you know that an equity dispute was heard in the Exchequer, try a keyword search (using variant
spellings) in E 134. If nothing turns up this way (or if something does and you want to find out
more!), then look at the pleadings (see E 112 below) and proceed logically through the case as
indicated in 1 (b), below. The most important documents are the pleadings, the depositions, and
the decree, if any.
For named people. A speculative search is difficult. The Bill Books, which are the original filing
registers for the pleadings in E 112, are subdivided by county and are not alphabetically arranged,
although the full names of the plaintiffs and defendants are given. Many defendants are recorded in
the appearance books (E 107): these are chronologically arranged, but are not indexed. However,
the Bernau index (at the Society of Genealogists) indexes deponents and defendants in Exchequer
Depositions (E 134) but may not be complete. A list of deponents 1559-1695 is available at The
National Archives and at the Society of Genealogists, but is not indexed.

For places/subjects. Try a keyword search restricted to E 134. You may also wish to look through
the paper versions at The National Archives, which are arranged in two sequences, by county and
by date. Read through the Bill Books for the county at The National Archives, to find pleadings
which did not produce depositions in E 134.

Some commissions in the series of Special Commissions (E 178), which are arranged by county in
a chronological sequence, also relate to equity disputes. The list is descriptive, and searchable
online. To find the title of the suit (if any) you will have to read the commission itself (in Latin until
1733) or look for an endorsement or other annotation on the return. The exhibits (E 140) and
exhibits in Clerks' Papers (E 219), although less well listed than the several Chancery series, may
also be worth checking.

3. The records
The records of cases fall into three categories: pleadings, evidence, and court decisions and

Pleadings were statements made by the parties to a suit: these bills, answers, replications and
rejoinders are collectively known, for short, as bills and answers.

Evidence took the form of affidavits (statements on oath); depositions (examinations of witnesses
on lists of questions filed in advance by the parties); surveys (enquiries conducted by
commissioners acting on instructions from the Exchequer); and exhibits.

Court decisions are recorded in several overlapping series of decree and order books, and in
reports by the officers of the court.

3.1. Pleadings and bill books

A bill of complaint submitted by the plaintiff initiated a suit, by setting out the case against the
defendant. (E 111, E 112 below). It conventionally included a statement that the parties were
'Debtors and accountants to his/her Majesty'. This was to imply that if the wrong was not righted
the revenues of the crown would be affected, either directly, or indirectly, because the plaintiff
would then be less able to pay his own debts or dues to the crown. There is a possibility that fairly
lowly tenants of crown manors were likely to use this court, but in many cases the status as a
crown debtor was fictional.

The bills and answers usually give much circumstantial detail. In addition to the plaintiffs' and
defendants' names, the pleadings give their occupation, rank, and address. When brought by the
Attorney General the bill was known as an 'Information'.

The defendant replied to the bill with his answer; the plaintiff might respond with a replication, and
the defendant with a rejoinder, and so on. A purely legal objection given by way of reply was called
a demurrer. Because both bills and answers are ex parte, each party setting out his case at length,
and in the most favourable light, they may include a wealth of background detail: but may not
necessarily be true or accurate representations of the facts.

Bills, answers, etc. in each suit were strung together in a single file, and given a reference number,
which is entered on the top left hand corner of the bill. The bills and answers are in two record
             Exchequer, Bills and Answers, Early. (Henry VII - Elizabeth I)
             Most of these are NOT Exchequer documents but strays from the records
(a) E 111
             of other courts, such as the Court of Requests. The list is descriptive
             and easily searchable online.
             Exchequer, K. R., Bills and Answers (Elizabeth I - Victoria)
             These are arranged by reign, subdivided by county. They are not
             searchable online. To find individual pleadings, you must, at The
             National Archives,
(b) E 112
             order up the Bill Books described below
             get a suit number and county
             key this up in the E 112 list to find the modern number of the portfolio.
             use the suit number to find the right papers in the portfolio.

Bill books (Elizabeth I-Victoria)

These are the original, and still the best, means of access to the bills. They still serve as the main
'index'. The bills were entered by the Exchequer clerks under different sections for each county.
They are indexed by plaintiff, and give the full names of the parties. Before 1700, and sometimes
after, they give the subject. Entries up to 1733 are usually in Latin. Some of the very early ones
are faded, and need to be seen under ultra violet light. Bedford, Buckingham, Cambridge, Cheshire,
Cornwall, Cumberland, Devon, Essex, Hampshire, Hereford, Hertford, Huntingdon, Kent,
Lancashire, Lincoln, Middlesex and all Welsh counties

          Monarch                  Date range                Catalogue reference
Elizabeth I                     1558-1603              IND 1/16820
James I                         1603-1625              IND 1/16822
Charles I                       1625-1649              IND 1/16824
Commonwealth                    1649-1660              IND 1/16826
Charles II                      1660-1674              IND 1/16828
                                1669-1685              IND 1/16830
James II                        1685-1688              IND 1/16832
William and Mary                1688-1694              IND 1/16834
William III                     1694-1702              IND 1/16836
Anne                            1702-1714              IND 1/16836
George I                        1714-1727              IND 1/16838
George II                       1727-1760              IND 1/16840
George III                      1760-1801              IND 1/16842
                                1776-1820              IND 1/16844
                                1779-1820              IND 1/16846
George IV                       1820-1830              IND 1/16848
William IV                      1830-1837              IND 1/16850
Victoria                        1837-1841              IND 1/16852

Berkshire, Derby, Dorset, Durham, Leicester, Monmouth, Norfolk, Northampton, Northumberland,
Nottingham, Oxford, Rutland, Shropshire, Somerset, Stafford, Suffolk, Surrey, Sussex, Warwick,
Westmorland, Wiltshire, Worcester, York

          Monarch                  Date range                Catalogue reference
Elizabeth I                     1558-1603              IND 1/16821
James I                         1603-1625              IND 1/16823
Charles I                       1625-1649              IND 1/16825
Commonwealth                    1649-1660              IND 1/16827
Charles II                      1660-1674              IND 1/16829
                                1669-1685              IND 1/16831
James II                        1685-1688              IND 1/16833
William and Mary                1688-1694              IND 1/16835
William III                     1694-1702              IND 1/16837
Anne                            1702-1714              IND 1/16837
George I                        1714-1727              IND 1/16839
George II                       1727-1760             IND 1/16841
George III                      1760-1801             IND 1/16843
                                1776-1820             IND 1/16845
                                1779-1820             IND 1/16847
George IV                       1820-1830             IND 1/16849
William IV                      1830-1837             IND 1/16851
Victoria                        1837-1841             IND 1/16853

Other means of reference:
           Elizabeth I, cos. Bedford - Kent: MS Calendar.
           Elizabeth I - Victoria: Miscellaneous Bundles. MS Index of both plaintiffs
           and defendants.
           Replications and Rejoinders (Elizabeth I - Victoria) Prior to about 1700
           the replications and rejoinders in this series appear to be strays from
           the series of Bills and Answers (E 112). Those dated before 1660 are
           mostly substantive, adding details on the alleged facts of the case.
           After that date, they are formulaic, although a few exceptions and
           demurrers have also been preserved here. By the eighteenth century
           (and frequently before then) the filing of replications and rejoinders was
(c) E 193
           a mere formality, and they now form a separate series (E 193). Such
           documents merely state that the preceding bill/answer was true in all
           respects, and the opposing claims untrue. They use a standard form of
           words, and add nothing material to our knowledge of the case. They are
           listed by date: there is a partial index in OBS 1/752, which has to be
           keyed with the modern series list. It relates only to suits post 1700, and
           omits many cases.
           The appearance in court of the defendant, whether in person or, as was
           usual, by his attorney, was noted in the appearance books (E 107). Prior
           to 1815 the books record the names of defendants both in cases on the
           Memoranda Rolls (E 159) "Per Rec'"; and in equity disputes "Per Bill'
           Anglican'" or, where the Attorney-General was the plaintiff, "Per
           Informac'". The early books sometimes enter subsequent proceedings
           under the first entry. Since the defendant's name is given first, the order
           of the parties should be reversed to obtain the title of the suit, if this is
           not already known. The principal means of securing the appearance of
           the defendant in court was the writ known as the sub poena; only one
           sub poena book has survived, giving the names of the parties (E
           222/1). Sub poenas which failed to secure the desired effect may be
           found with an accompanying affidavit among the affidavits (E 207, E
           103, E 218: see 3.2(b), below).
  E 107 Appearance Books (Elizabeth I - Victoria). Not indexed.
  E 222 Sub Poena Book (c. 1667 - 1670). Not indexed.

3.2 Evidence

(a) Depositions When the pleadings were finished, and no more counter-replies remained to be
filed, the court commissioned certain persons to examine witnesses. Both sides drew up a list of
simple questions, called interrogatories, to be put to the witnesses. Each question was given a
number, and was subject to vetting by the court (see E 194 - E 195, below 3.3(b)). The answers
to these questions, called depositions, provide information about the case, and often about the
parties involved in the dispute, which may not be included in the pleadings. The answers can be fully
understood only by reference to the numbered questions of the interrogatories; and separate sets
of depositions were taken to answer each party's interrogatories. The deponent's name, address,
age and occupation are set out at the head of his deposition. The depositions fall into two groups:
depositions taken before the barons of the Exchequer at Westminster, and depositions taken in the
country by commissioners appointed by the court. In a few cases, especially those in which the
crown had an interest, the court appointed commissioners to conduct an inquiry into the facts of
the case such as, for example, the boundaries of a manor. The parties might themselves request
such a survey after filing an affidavit (E 103, for which, see 3.2(b) below). The records are
arranged in the following series:-

             Depositions before the Barons. (Elizabeth I - Victoria). These are listed,
             without indication of date or subject matter, in three groups. The first is
             listed alphabetically by plaintiff, excluding crown cases; the second is
E 133        crown cases listed alphabetically by defendant; and the third is a list of
             cases in which the plaintiff is not known, plus miscellanea, such as a
             bundle of evidence concerning defective titles (Charles I). Easily
             searchable online for plaitiff or defendant.
             Other means of reference: Elizabeth I (E 133): MS calendar, giving date,
             parties, and subject matter.
             Depositions taken by Commission. These are listed in some detail in
             calendars which give the names of the parties, the date, and a brief
E 134
             description of the nature of the dispute. Easily searchable online to
             Easter Term 1773 (13 George III).
             Elizabeth I - Geo. II. Listed both in a chronological series (Report of the
             Deputy Keeper of Public Records, vols. xxxviii - xlii) and a topographical
             sequence by county, in which cases are then entered in chronological
             order. N.B. A number of depositions listed in the chronological series
             were subsequently transferred to E 178 but such transfers are recorded
             only in the topographical listing.
             George III - Victoria Chronological listing. The counties are noted in the
(ii)         left hand margin of the calendars. No descriptions in TNA's online
             Undated and miscellaneous, Elizabeth I - Victoria. Calendared in
             numerical order. An index of both persons and places refers to this
             calendar. Some 269 out of 2632 miscellaneous depositions have
             descriptions in TNA's online catalogue.
             Supplementary, all pieces in this subseries have online catalogue
             descriptions. Elizabeth I - Victoria. Typescript list. No index.

Other means of reference: the Bernau Index at the Society of Genealogists includes many
deponents and defendants, although the coverage may not be complete. Deponents are listed in a
county arrangement 1559 - 1695 in a typescript list, of which copies are in The National Archives
and at the Society of Genealogists. The National Archives' copy is not indexed, but the Bernau
Index includes references to this list.

In cases of misunderstanding or malpractice, deponents might swear an affidavit in the Exchequer,
sometimes giving additional details about themselves as well as about the case (E 103). Such
affidavits were made only in a minority of cases.

             Special Commissions (Elizabeth I - Victoria). Commissions of enquiry in
             both equity and revenue causes. A few include maps, which are, in
             general, noted in Maps and Plans in the Public Record Office, 1. British
E 178
             Isles (HMSO, 1962) and have been given map references. Descriptive list
             in Public Record Office Lists and Indexes, xxxvii, where commissions are
             listed by county, in date order. Searchable online.
             Commission Books (Elizabeth I - Victoria). These refer to both E 134
E 221        and E 178, and record the return of executed commissions into the
           Exchequer K. R., Miscellaneous Books (1578-84; 1624-30; 1725-45).
           These are Commission Books recording the issue of commissions, writs
           etc. in both revenue and equity proceedings. They therefore include
E 165/43 ,
           commissions to take the answers of defendants, or the depositions of
E 165/44
           witnesses, although the majority of entries relate to proceedings on the
and E
           Memoranda Rolls (E 159) rather than equity disputes between party and
           party. E 165/45 includes the names of the commissioners, identifying
           those appointed at the suggestion of the plaintiff and defendant
           Entry Books of Writs (1725-1842). These continue from E 165/43, E
E 204      165/44 and E 165/45.The detail entered decreases significantly in the
           later volumes. Not indexed.

(b) Affidavits These are sworn statements made before the court or, in the country, before
commissioners of oaths. Most are procedural, and many relate to the service of process, especially
of the sub poena intended to secure the appearance in court of the defendant. They are usually in
common form, but some add considerable circumstantial detail; others enlarge on the status of
individual deponents, on the evidence, or the circumstances of the case. Affidavits in equity causes
and in revenue cases enrolled on the Memoranda Rolls (E 159) are filed in the same bundles. There
are three series:-

             Bille (To 1774). The files contain much other procedural matter. Date
E 207
             list, no index.
             Affidavits (1774-1841). Date list only: the later indexes relate solely to
E 103
             revenue proceedings.
E 218        Exchequer Office, Affidavits (1695-1822). Date list only, no index.

(c) Exhibits Documents produced in court as supporting evidence, but not subsequently reclaimed
by the parties. With the transfer of outstanding business to the Chancery in 1841 one of the
Exchequer clerks became a Chancery Master. Exhibits in Exchequer cases are therefore found in
the following series:-

             Exhibits Listed alphabetically by parties where known, but without
             indication of date or subject matter. Some exhibits are described in
E 140
             more detail in OBS 1/752: this list has to be keyed with the modern
             series list.
             Exchequer Office, Clerks' Papers (17th - 19th century). Includes exhibits.
E 219
             Descriptive list; card index of plaintiffs where known.
             Chancery, Masters' Exhibits, Master Richards. Most are exhibits in
C 106        Chancery actions, but the series includes Exchequer cases also (although
             the list does not identify them as such). Descriptive List.
             Chancery, Masters' Documents, Master Richards. Most relate to Chancery
C 121
             actions, but the series includes Exchequer cases also. See C 106, above.

(d) Clerks' Papers Much of the procedural work in Exchequer equity cases was done by the clerks
of the King's Remembrancer's Office. This part of their duties was similar to that of the Chancery
Masters. The clerks' papers include correspondence, office copies, exhibits, briefs, drafts produced
for each stage of the suit, and bills of costs, as well as papers relating to the working of the
Exchequer Office itself.

             Exchequer Office, Clerks' Papers. (17th - 19th century). Descriptive list.
E 219        Card index of plaintiffs, where known. The list has a good introduction,
             which should be consulted before using the list.

3.3 Court decisions and other formal records
(a) Decrees and Orders At each stage of an equity dispute an order of the court was required to
effect the next stage of the proceedings. Orders therefore appointed days for hearing, authorised
the issue of commissions and the like, and, on occasion, made interim settlements. Most orders
ran 'of course' and were little more than formalities; a few add substantially to our knowledge of
the case. The first notice of an order was a brief entry in the Minute Books (E 161); orders were
then written out in full (Original Orders, E 128, E 131) and registered (E 123 - 125, E 127). The
final judgement was called a decree. Many cases were either withdrawn or settled out of court
before they reached this stage, so that no conclusion would be reached by the court. The first
notice of a decree was an entry in the Exchequer Chamber Minute Books (E 162). These, with the
clerks' papers, (E 219) are the only records which give any indication as to what actually happened
in court, as distinct from the decisions of the court. Like the orders, decrees were first written out
in full (E 128 , E 130) and then registered (E 123 - 124, E 126). Some drafts and copies of both
decrees and orders are in the Clerks' papers (E 219). A full description of the interrelationship of
the several series is given in the introduction to the E 123 series list. The series overlap, and
entries relating to any one case may be found in more than one record series.

E 111/56 Entry Book of Decrees and Orders (Philip and Mary). Not indexed.
           Entry Books of Decrees and Orders, Series I (Elizabeth I - 3 James I).
E 123
           Decrees and Orders.
           Descriptive list, MS, in order of entry, Elizabeth I -James I. List of
Indexes:   parties, MS, in order of entry, James I. IND 1/16897 indexes E 123/1A
           - E 123/1B.

Other means of reference:

Adam Martin, Index to Repertories, Books of Orders, and Decrees, and other Records in the Court
of Exchequer (London, 1819). Place name index. The references have to be keyed to modern
series lists: Wood's Index (IND 1/17050). A descriptive list arranged in county order.

             Entry Books of Decrees and Orders, Series II (1 James I - 1 Charles I).
E 124
             Decrees and Orders to Michaelmas 1604, then Orders only.
Indexes:     List of parties, MS Descriptive list, MS, to 1610 only.
             Entry Books of Decrees and Orders, Series III (1 Charles I - 13 Charles
E 125
             II). Orders only.
             List of parties, MS, to 1649 only. Indexes (incomplete) in IND 1/16854
             - 16850: see Catalogue of Indexes (List and Index Society Vol 232).
             Entry Books of Decrees and Orders, Series IV (2 James I - Victoria).
E 126
             Decrees only. See also E 159, below.
             Calendars, MS, giving parties and subject, James I - 5 Wm & Mary.
Indexes:     Indexes of parties 1677 - 1841, IND 1/16862 - 16866: see Catalogue of
             Entry Books of Decrees and Orders, Series V (13 Charles II - 1841).
E 127
             Orders only
             Parties only, IND 1/16866 - 16891. The series is incomplete. Some
Indexes:     index the original orders (E 131) rather than the registers, but can be
             used with minor adjustments as indexes to the registers.
E 128        Decrees and Orders, Original (Elizabeth I - 1663)
E 130        Decrees, Original (1663 - 1841)
E 131        Orders, Original (1663 - 1842)

Some decrees, particularly those in which the crown had an interest, might be enrolled elsewhere,
in addition to the entry book copy.

             King's Remembrancer, Memoranda Rolls Occasional enrolment
E 159
             throughout. Important for 1673-4: See introduction to list of E 123.
Indexes:     Agenda Books, IND 1/17051 - 17979(2); IND 1/6724 - 6727.

Decrees relating to crown lands might also be recorded for the Auditors of Land Revenue.

LR 1       Enrolment Books of Grants, Leases, Warrants, etc.
Indexes    See series list and Catalogue of Indexes.
LR 2       Miscellaneous Books Not indexed.

The first notification of an order or a decree was an entry in the Minute Books.

E 161      Common Minute Books (1616-1841) Brief notes of orders. Not indexed.
           Exchequer Chamber Minute Books (1584-1841) Minutes of decrees. The
           volumes (1695-1841) also give some indication of procedures. From
E 162
           1595, minutes of decrees are sometimes noted on the bills of causes, E
           162/48 - 87
           Exchequer Office, Clerks' papers (17th - 19th century) These include
E 219
           many drafts, originals and copies of decrees and orders.

(b) Reports and Certificates At any stage in the dispute the written pleadings, interrogatories etc.
might be referred for comment to the officers of the court; revenue matters might also be referred
to the Auditors of Land Revenue. Many surviving reports represent a fairly late stage in the
proceedings, dealing with funds in court or the taxation of costs. A few contain very detailed
accounts of the disposition of estates.

E 194      Reports and Certificates (1648 - 1841)
Indexes:   Alphabetical by plaintiff, IND 1/16892 - 16896
           Miscellaneous Reports (Charles II - 1841). Mostly exceptions to reports;
E 195
           and bank certificates. Not indexed.
LR 9/111 Auditors of Land Revenue, Miscellanea. (Elizabeth I - George IV).
E 116-117 Detailed list.

(c) Funds in Court The Court could order that disputed monies should be paid into court, to be held
in trust pending settlement of the dispute in question. Where the quarrel was over the estate of a
deceased person, the court sometimes ordered the sale or realisation of the profits of that estate.
Monies paid into court were frequently invested in consolidated stock: that is, in the Bank of
England. Initially administered by the King's Remembrancer or his deputy those funds were, from
1820, administered by the Accountant General of the Court.

             Account Books of Funds in Court (1675-1841). E 217/1-6, which are
             indexed, are detailed accounts under the titles of the suits. Other
E 217        volumes in the series are chronologically arranged, and the entries brief.
             They contain many entries unrelated to equity proceedings: see the
             introduction to the series list.
             Equity Petitions (1627 - 1841). Many of these post-date the filing of the
             decree, and relate either to the taxation of costs or the payment of
E 185
             funds into or out of court. Petitions earlier than 1800 are mostly for
             admission to sue in forma paupers.
Indexes:   MS list of parties, 1800 - 1841.
             Reports and Certificates (1648 - 1841). Many relate to funds in Court.
E 194
             See above.

3.4 The cost of litigation

Most procedures in the court of Exchequer (or any other court) involved the payment of fees,
although the total cost could sometimes be reduced by admission to sue in forma pauperis (see E
185, above). Entries in the registers, writs, and copies were charged at standard rates. The
introduction of duties on such fees meant that formal records had to be kept.

             Register's Accounts for Decrees and Orders (1691 - 1794). Entry books,
E 225
             arranged chronologically under the names of each clerk.
             Reports and Certificates (1648 - 1841). Many are concerned with the
             taxation of costs, by which the court reduced the successful party's
E 194
             claims for costs to a level which the court considered reasonable. See
             Exchequer Office, Clerks' Papers (17th - 19th century). Includes draft
E 219
             bills and accounts. See above.
             Exchequer, K. R., Miscellaneous Books The Commission Books, E
             165/43 - 45, which record the issue of commissions to take
E 165
             depositions, answers, etc., among other matters, record the payments
             of fees to the acting clerk in court, although the amounts are not given.

4. Further reading
W. H. Bryson, The Equity Side of the Exchequer (Cambridge, 1975).

D. B. Fowler, The Practice of the Court of the Exchequer (2 vols., London, 1795). A manual
produced by a working officer of the court, and much the best guide, at least to eighteenth century

A. Martin, Index to various repertories, books of orders, and decrees and other records preserved
in the Court of Exchequer (London, 1819). Selective index to places mentioned in decrees and
orders, memoranda rolls etc.

See also the introductory notes to The National Archives' onsite Record Series Lists. Many of the
lists have been revised, and introductions added, since their publication in the List and Index Society

Guide reference: Legal Records Information 19
Last updated: 28 June 2004

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