"to pay the residue (which might be worth some fifty thousand pounds) into the Exchequer at Westminster; and then let all the claimants file what wills they pleased in Chancery"
The Court of Chancery
Public DomainThe Court of Chancery - Credit: Augustus Charles Pugin and Thomas Rowlandson

The Court of Chancery was a court of equity in England and Wales that followed a set of loose rules to avoid the slow pace of change and possible harshness (or "inequity") of the common law.  The Chancery had jurisdiction over all matters of equity, including trusts, land law, and the guardianship of infants. Until the 19th century, the Court of Chancery was able to apply a far wider range of remedies than the common law courts, and to grant damages in special circumstances.

The Chancery experienced an explosive growth in its work during the 15th century. From the time of Elizabeth I onwards the Court was severely criticised for its slow pace, large backlogs, and high costs. Those problems persisted until its dissolution, despite being mitigated somewhat by reforms, particularly during the 19th century. Attempts to integrate the Chancery with the common law courts began in the 1850s, and finally succeeded with the 1873 and 1875 Supreme Court of Judicature Acts, which dissolved the Chancery and created a new unified High Court of Justice, with the Chancery Division succeeding the Court of Chancery as an equitable body.

For much of its existence the Court was formally led by the Lord Chancellor, assisted by the judges of the common law courts. The staff of the court included a large number of clerks. Offices of the Chancery were sold by the Lord Chancellor for much of its history, raising large amounts of money. Many of the clerks and other officials received no wages, but charged increasingly exorbitant fees to process cases, one of the main reasons why the cost of bringing a case to the Chancery was so high.