Court of Requests, 1485-1642: a Court for the 'Poor'
The Court of Requests was an offshoot of the king's council, intended to provide easy access by poor men and women to royal justice and equity. It was established in 1483, when the chancery official responsible for sorting petitions from the poor became clerk of the council of requests. A cheap and simple procedure attracted many suitors (not all of them poor, but particularly including women), but also the enmity of some common lawyers. The records of the court cease in 1642. Its privy seal was removed during the Civil War. Although the court was never formally abolished, much of its caseload eventually passed to local small claims courts. Types of case heard included title to property, annuities, matters of villeinage, watercourses, highways, wilful escape, forgery, perjury, forfeitures to the king by recognisance and dower, jointure and marriage contracts.
Courts of Requests
[...]The practice is by summons. If the party do not appear, the commissioners proceed summarily, examining the witnesses of both parties on oath, and according to their own judgment, pronounce a verdict. These courts are extremely useful, though there is something arbitrary in their constitution. If the party summoned do not appear, the commissioners have power to apprehend and commit. The time and expense of obtaining summary redress in this court are very inconsiderable, which renders it of great service to trade.