The History and Antiquities of London, Westminster, Southwark, and Parts Adjacent, vol. 2

Allen, Thomas


The Court of Requests.

This excellent court, from its reasonable and equitable proceedings, is commonly called the court of conscience, and which had its beginning in the of Henry VIII. anno , by act of common council, whereby it was ordained, that the court of lord mayor and aldermen should monthly appoint aldermen and commoners to be commissioners thereof, who were to sit weekly in on Wednesdays and Saturdays, to hear and decide all causes brought before them for the recovery of debts not exceeding .

This being an experimental act, was only made for years; but upon its being found to be of great use and benefit to the poor, it was renewed and continued by divers acts of common council, and the number of commissioners increased to ; in which state it continued till the of king James I. , at which time divers cruel and inexorable creditors, despising the authority of the same, commenced suits in superior courts against several citizens for trifling debts, to the ruin of them and their poor families; wherefore the city in the year aforesaid, applied to parliament for redress of this grievance, by which it was enacted, that all the citizens, and others inhabiting within the city of

London, and liberties thereof, who then had, or thereafter shall have any debt or debts due, or becoming due to him or them, by any citizens, &c. as aforesaid, not amounting to the sum of , that he or they should, or might cause such debtor or debtors, to be summoned to appear before the commissioners of the court of requests at , by the officer thereunto belonging; where they, or any thereof, are empowered to hear and determine all matters between citizen and citizen, &c. touching debts not amounting to ; and in a judicial manner to administer oaths to plaintiffs, defendants, and witnesses. And for the more effectual preventing all litigious and merciless creditors from ruining their poor debtors, it was ordained, that if


by any action of debt, brought against a citizen of London, in any of the courts of , or elsewhere (out of the said court of requests) it shall appear to the judge or judges where such action shall be prosecuted, that the debt sued for does not amount to , in such case, the said judge or judges, instead of allowing the plaintiff or plaintiffs any costs of suit, they shall adjudge the said plaintiff to pay to the defendant all such costs as he shall make appear to have been by him disbursed in defending the said suit.

It was also ordained, by the authority aforesaid, that if either plaintiff or defendant, after having been duly summoned, shall refuse to appear before the said commissioners in the court of requests, or shall refuse to obey the orders or decisions of the said court; in both such cases, the commissioners are empowered to commit such person or persons to either of the compters, till he, she, or they shall submit to the rules and determinations of the said court.

Perhaps never a court of justice was better adapted than this, for the ease and relief both of debtor and creditor; for here the is not exposed to the payment of exorbitant charges, and the latter may recover his debt with the greatest expedition, at a trifling expense. The amount has been since extended by the stat. and Geo. , c. , to debts amounting to If the defendant do not appear the court day, after being regularly summoned, an attachment is awarded against him; which compelling him to appear, the charge is thereby enhanced.


[] Maitland, ii. p. 1211.

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 Title Page
 CHAPTER I: History of London, from the Accession of William and Mary, to the reign of George the Second
 CHAPTER II: History of London during the reign of George the Second
 CHAPTER III: History of London from the Accession of George the Third, to the year 1780
 CHAPTER IV: History of London continued to the Union
 CHAPTER V: History of London from the Union to the Jubilee, 1809
 CHAPTER VI: History of London from the Jubilee to the Peace of 1814
 CHAPTER VII: History of London continued to the accession of George the Fourth
 CHAPTER VIII: Account of the Civil Government of the City by Portreves, Bailiffs, and Mayors, with a list of the latter...
 CHAPTER IX: An account of the Aldermen and Sheriffs, with a list of the latter
CHAPTER X: Lists and brief Accounts of the various Officers and Courts within the City
CHAPTER XI: Some account of the Ecclesiastical Government of the city of London, with a List and Biographical Notices of the Bishops of the see
CHAPTER XII: Some Account of the Military Government of London, and the Artillery Company
CHAPTER XIII: An Account of the twelve principal Companies of the City of London
CHAPTER XIV: An Account of the Companies of the City of London, alphabetically arranged
 CHAPTER XV: An Account of the River Thames
CHAPTER XVI: Historical and topographical account of London Bridge, Westminster Bridge, Blackfriars Bridge, Waterloo Bridge, Southwark Bridge, and the Thames Tunnel
CHAPTER XVII: Topographical and Historical Account of the Tower of London