Subjects: Clothing

In the sixteenth century most people owned very few clothes and would often bequeath them specifically in wills.

Gift of clothing as a love token

EDC 5/1580/8 – The defendant claimed that the plaintiff had said her (the plaintiff’s) husband had paid for a new hat and kirtle (a sort of dress) for the defendant

Subjects: Alehouse

An ale house was simply a house in which ale was sold, quite often brewed on the premises from malt, rather than hops in the north-west of England. Malt was derived from barley, commonly grown in the area.

EDC 5/1580/8 – The defendant claimed that the plaintiff had said that she kept a ‘naughty’ house, although deponents said that her husband kept an alehouse.

Subjects: Appeals to York

It was possible to appeal against a sentence passed by the Consistory Court of Chester. Shortly after the foundation of the diocese of Chester in 1541, the see was added to the province of York and thereafter appeals lay to York in the first instance.

Joyce M Horn, David M Smith and Patrick Mussett, ‘CHESTER: Introduction’, in Fasti Ecclesiae Anglicanae 1541-1857: Volume 11, Carlisle, Chester, Durham, Manchester, Ripon, and Sodor and Man Dioceses (London, 2004), pp. 33-34. British History Online [accessed 26 November 2022].

Grant of inhibition from York

EDC 5/1580/5 – a copy of an inhibition indicates that, following an appeal against a sentence, the judge was prohibited from enforcing the sentence until the matter could be considered by a higher court in York.

Subjects: London

Although north-west England is often considered to have been backward and out of touch with fashionable trends in the sixteenth century, there is evidence that people from the area spent time in London and then returned to the north-west.

Working in London

EDC 5/1580/5 – Ellen Urmeston was said to have been working in London for 5 years prior to her return to Chester.

Subjects: People from overseas

In the sixteenth century, Chester was a busy port with a flourishing overseas trade, notably with Ireland, France and Spain.


D. M. Woodward, ‘The overseas trade of Chester, 1600-1650’, Transactions of the Historic Society of Lancashire and Cheshire, volume 122 (1970) pp. 25-42. Available online:


EDC 5/1580/3 – Thomas Darcie, gentleman, against Cecily Darcie

Subjects: Desertion

Sometimes when one partner had left the other, the deserted spouse might bring a suit for restitution of conjugal rights. If the errant partner failed to return the deserted party might then bring a suit for separation from bed and board and if desertion had been established this could affect the rights of the wife to receive financial support from her husband.

Restitution of conjugal rights

EDC 5/1566/1– Henry Hall contra Helen Hall, his wife


Subjects: Bigamy

Divorce as we know it today was not permitted in the sixteenth century, but if it was established that one of the parties had already contracted a legal marriage and the first spouse was still living his or her second marriage was invalid, or bigamous, so the second marriage might be annulled. This was sometimes referred to as a divorce. Such marriages might be uncovered during a clerical visitation and sometimes one of the parties was pressurised into applying to the consistory court for a dissolution.

Bigamy as grounds for separation/annulment or ‘divorce’

EDC 5/9/3 – William Renshaye contra Clement Bent alias Renshaye
EDC 5/1/3 – Margery Thornycrofte contra John Cokkes alias Stokes


Subjects: Absolutory sentence

In was unusual for a defendant to win a cause brought in the Chester Consistory Court at this time. A sentence given against a plaintiff was known as an absolutory sentence.


EDC 5/1566/12 – Hugh Dodd, rector of Coddington, contra Richard Allen

Subjects: Food and parties

Throwing a party often involved the purchase of grain for brewing or baking. For example in EDC 5/1587/8 John Ledsam had bought three bushells of malt and three bushells of wheat in preparation for the wedding feast.

Provisions for a wedding feast

EDC 5/1587/8 – Katherine Clubb contra John Ledsam






Subjects: Right of action

Sometimes a litigant might have the right to prosecute an action in more than one type of court. Litigants might seek redress both in the consistory court and elsewhere.

The Chester Consistory Court normally heard causes brought by parties resident in the archdeaconry of Chester. Persons resident in the archdeaconry of Richmond, which formed part of the diocese of Chester, would normally bring their causes to the Richmond consistory with right of appeal to York. However, very occasionally Richmond causes were heard in Chester.

The surviving records of the Richmond Consistory Court are held by Lancashire Archives.

Chester Exchequer

Where a dispute involved money, sometimes both the Chester Exchequer and the Chester Consistory Court were involved.

EDC 5/1575/3 – John Vawdrey and Richard Vawdrey contra Ralph Calveley

Secular court (unspecified)

EDC 5/3/1 – Sir Richard Brereton contra Thomas Valentine; in this cause it was claimed that the right to receipt of certain tithes had been alienated in lieu of wages