The early-Tudor English government oversaw the rise of various centralised courts offering the king's subjects access to extraordinary justice in their private suits. One such new arena was the ‘Court of Requests’, an early equity or conscience court long overshadowed in histories of the period by the better-known courts of Star Chamber and Chancery. This article analyses the little-studied Requests archives to ask who sued there and when/why the court became associated with specifically poor men's causes. Focusing on the formative decade of ‘popularisation’ between 1515 and 1525, it finds that whilst litigants appear to have been largely from the lower sectors of society compared to their counterparts in the other conciliar courts, most petitioners opted for imprecise, rhetorical and non-static descriptions of their relative poverty – defined not just economically, but also in terms of age, property, and kin – in comparison to their opponents, appealing to the specific interpretation of conscience in Requests. The article thus scrutinises the methodologies we use for uncovering the demography of early-modern central courts, and has implications for understanding litigants' legal strategies, recorded identification as distinct from self-identification, and the theory and practice behind commonly-held ideals about the provision of royal justice for the ‘poor’.