71. CASES IN CHANCERY

(A) Petition for General Relief (1399)

To the most reverend father in God and most gracious lord, the bishop of Exeter, chancellor of England, Simon Hilgay, parson of the church of Hilgay, humbly makes petition [as follows]: —

Whereas he has charge and cure of souls in the same parish and is menaced by one Robert of Wesnam and by ... ,[1] associates and confederates of the same Robert, who daily menace him to the extent that, through fear of unmerited death, he does not dare to approach the said parsonage to hear the confessions of his parishioners in this most holy time of Lent ...; and whereas, furthermore, the said Robert of Wesnam, with so many miscreants for associates and confederates, has such horrid maintenance that the said petitioner will never be able at common law to secure recovery against him and the rest without your most gracious aid: [therefore] may it please your most gracious lordship to consider the aforesaid matter and therein, at your most wise discretion, to provide remedy for the said petitioner — for the sake of God and as a work of charity.

[Endorsed:] By virtue of this petition the herein named Simon Hilgay, parson of the church of Hilgay, obtains four writs directed to the herein named persons, [summoning them] to appear before the said king and his council in his chancery on Tuesday next after the coming feast of St. Gregory, to make answer regarding the content [of the said petition].

(Latin and French) Baildon, Select Cases in Chancery, pp. 44 f.

(B) Petition for Injunction

To the most reverend father in God and most gracious lord, the bishop of Exeter, chancellor of England, Esmond Francis, grocer and citizen of London, humbly makes petition [as follows]: —

Whereas, on account of a certain debt owed to him ... , the said Esmond for the past two years has been executor over certain lands and tenements within the parish of Madesden in the county of Gloucester, once belonging to John Madesden, dyer of London, of which lands and tenements, according to the requirement of the common law, he had livery by the king's writ; and whereas it now happens that, through the maintenance and conspiracy of James Clifford and Hugh Bisley of the same county, no man or farmer of the said county ... dares to occupy or administer the said lands and tenements for the use and profit of the said Esmond: [therefore] may it please your most noble and gracious lordship to grant a writ of our lord the king directed to the sheriff of the said county and to the justices of the peace in the same locality, instructing them, on behalf of our said lord the king, to charge and command the same James and Hugh, on peril of the consequences, to permit the said Esmond and his servants and farmers to occupy and administer the said lands and tenements thus delivered to him by the law, without any interference or disturbance by the said James and Hugh; so that the said Esmond may have his profit from the said lands and tenements as awarded to him under the law — for the sake of God and as a work of charity.

(French) Ibid., pp. 68 f.

{C) Petition with Regard to a Trust

To the chancellor of England John Horsemonger humbly makes petition as follows: —

Whereas one John Peckham enfeoffed, among others, Reginald Pympe and Walter Judde with certain lands and tenements in the county of Kent on certain conditions, among which was contained the wish of the said John Peckham that, when the said lands were sold, he who was next of blood to the said John Peckham, and to whom the inheritance of the lands and tenements would have descended, was to have 40 to relieve his estate; [and whereas] the said lands and tenements have now been sold by the said feoffees for 500m., which sum the said Reginald has in his own possession, and, although the said petitioner, as kinsman and heir of the said John Peckham ... , has often requested the said Reginald to pay and deliver to him the said 40 according to the wish of the said John Peckham, [the said Reginald] is nevertheless unwilling to pay him a penny of it, to the great damage of the said petitioner: [therefore] may it please your most gracious lordship, for the honour of God and the cause of righteousness, to grant writs summoning the said Walter and Reginald to appear before you in the king's chancery, which is a court of conscience, there to make answer in this matter, as is demanded by reason and conscience; otherwise the said petitioner is and shall be without remedy — which God forbid!

(French) Ibid., pp. 120 f.

(D) Petition and Judgment Regarding a Mortgage (1456)

To the right reverend and worshipful father in God, the archbishop of Canterbury, chancellor of England, Robert Bodenham humbly makes petition [as follows]: —

Whereas he lately borrowed 80 from John Hall of Salisbury, for which [sum] the said John, through subtle promises, caused the said Robert, on May I in the thirty-third year of the reign of our sovereign lord the present king,[2] trustingly to enfeoff the said John with the manor of Shipton-Bellinger in the shire of Suffolk, to have and to hold for the said John and his heirs and assigns, on condition that, if the said Robert or his heirs or executors would pay to the said John or his assigns 100 at the feast of St. John the Baptist in the year of our lord 1461, the said feoffment should then be void,[3] as plainly appears from an indentured deed made in that connection, so that the said John thereby intends to receive and have the issues of the said manor until the said day of payment, which will amount to the sum of 85m., and also 100 by way of usury for the loan of the said 80, or else the said manor is to be lost and forfeited [by the said Robert]; [and whereas,] moreover, the said John, imagining further deceit for the injury of the said Robert, by subtlety caused himself to be bound to the said Robert by an obligation for 300 under the law merchant of Salisbury dated on the second day of the said month of May, which [obligation] the said Robert delivered to one John Gardner to keep until satisfactory indentures in defeasance thereof were made by learned men between the said Robert and John, that the said condition should be performed;[4 ]and [whereas], although the said indentures are not yet made and the said obligation remains with the said John Gardner, the said John Hall has sued for execution upon the said obligation for the said 300 and by virtue thereof has taken the said Robert and straitly imprisoned him at Salisbury, so that the said John intends to have from the said Robert 450 and more for the lending of 80, against right and conscience and to the utter ruin of the said Robert, who in this matter has no remedy at common law: [therefore] may it please your gracious lordship to summon the said John by a writ of sub poena to appear before you on a certain day to make answer to the premises; and [may it please] you thereupon to execute justice as required by good faith and conscience — for the love of God and as a work of charity.

This is the answer of John Hall to the bill of Robert Bodenham....

This is the replication of Robert Bodenham to the answer of John Hall to the bill of the said Robert....

This is the rejoinder of John Hall to the replication of Robert Bodenham.[5]...

[Endorsed:] Memorandum that, on February 18 in the thirty-fourth year of the reign of King Henry VI after the Conquest, after the matters in the herein-written petition ... , as well as the matters in the answer, replication, and rejoinder ... , had been fully read and made known in the said chancery, and after deliberation and advisement ... had been held with the lord king's justices of both benches and with divers serjeants-at-law and other persons then and there appearing as counsel for the parties aforesaid, by the advice of the said justices, it was then and there decided that, in so far as the said Robert then and there in the same chancery paid to the said John Hall the said 80 ... , the same John Hall should cause the same Robert to be liberated from prison ... and should quash, annul, and cancel the said obligation [for 300]; and that the said John Hall should re-enfeoff the said Robert with the said manor and its appurtenances....

(Latin and English) Ibid., pp. 137 f.


[1] Six other persons named.

[2] 33 Henry VI, 1455.

[3] This transaction constituted the mortgage, on the law of which see Holdsworth, History of English Law, III, 108 f.

[4] That is to say, Robert signed in favour of John a bond for 300, which was to be cancelled when further agreements had been drawn up in connection with the mortgage. On the law merchant, see ibid., II, 158 f.

[5] In the course of this debate, the regular procedure in such cases, John admitted at least the principal transaction and advanced little more than trifling arguments in defense. Robert offered to repay the 80 in court, together with reasonable costs, for the recovery of the manor and the quashing of the bond.


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