Introduction: the Court of Common Pleas and the London Evidence
In the weeks after the feast of St Hilary (13 January) in 1403 a plea brought on a writ of debt, between plaintiffs Margaret le Toller of Smithfield, London, and her husband John le Toller, and defendant Richard Barbour of Wycombe, Buckinghamshire, was heard before the justices of the royal Court of Common Pleas at West-minster. In this case, Margaret and her husband claimed that nearly two decades before, on 8 August 1384, while Margaret was a single woman, an accounting was held between herself and Richard Barbour in the London parish of St Bride Fleet Street before two London tradesmen appointed by Margaret as auditors. Margaret pleaded that this accounting found Barbour to owe her £10 arrears and clear debt concerning diverse monies and receipts, which ‘although often requested’ he had not yet paid, neither ‘to Margaret as a single woman, nor to John le Toller and Margaret since their marriage’. Barbour responded, not denying the alleged accounting nor debt, by pleading that just over three years before, on 6 October 1399, he, John and Margaret had submitted to arbitration before certain men, at Wycombe, concerning all debts and disputes between them from the creation of the world until that day. And further, Barbour pleaded that this arbitration had decided that he ought to pay John and Margaret 18d. to settle all disputes between them, which he duly paid, thereby acquitting himself of all obligations to the couple.