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Churchwardens' Accounts Database

English and Welsh Churchwardens’ Accounts

Welcome to our website. We are creating a searchable national list [link coming soon] of all surviving churchwardens’ accounts from the earliest known (c.1300) to c.1850. This resource, although incomplete, will be updated regularly as we continue to collect data.

The list features every known parish church along with any chapels of ease and private chapels, along with their dedication, diocese, archdeaconry and deanery of each. Wherever possible an indication of the population, will be given, taken from the Hearth Tax Returns and an early nineteenth century census. Further information will be added as it is gathered – this will include bibliographic information for each parish.

The surviving churchwardens’ accounts will be located, examined and each year of survival will be listed with, wherever possible, the total expenditure of each year. Documents too fragile to be examined will also be mentioned ready for when they are conserved and available to researchers.

We also plan to include information about the churchwardens’ accounts and their uses. A recently published collection of essays based on churchwardens’ accounts Views from the Parish: churchwardens’ accounts c1500 – c.1800, ed. Valerie Hitchman and Andrew Foster, gives more information about this source. Another dealing with both the use and the problems of this source is Andrew Foster’s, ‘Churchwardens accounts of early modern England and Wales: some problems to note, but much to be gained’, in K. French, G., Gibbs and B. Kümin (eds), The Parish in English Life 1400-1600 (Manchester, 1997), pp 74-93.

Although the main purpose of this website is to give details of original sources, a search has been made for both modern and antiquarian publications with transcripts and extracts from the churchwardens’ accounts. This information is all shown on the appropriate parish pages.

To use this list, searches can be made for county, parish, diocese, archdeaconry, deanery or dedication; or the list can be scrolled. Those parishes for which information has been collected are hyperlinked; by clicking on the link, the respective parish page will appear.

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For anyone unfamiliar with churchwardens’ accounts, they provide a list of expenditure relating to the parish church for each year and give an insight into parish administration. Among the many areas in which churchwardens’ accounts can be used by researchers are:

To monitor the repairs and rebuilding of churches,
To chart changes within the church geography and liturgy,
To provide information on frequency of Holy Communion.

Also they often record the cost of materials used for repairs or rebuilding along with the wages paid to both skilled and unskilled workmen, and occasionally give the names and trades of the individual workmen.

The dating within these documents can present problems. Up until 1752 the year changed on 25th March (24th March 1660 was by the current system 24th March 1661). Today, this is often shown by the double date 24th March 1660/61. After 1752 the year change occurred on 1st January but the accounts generally continued to run from Lady Day to Lady Day (25th March).

The Churchwardens often dated their accounts with the words ‘for the year of ….’ Was this the year past or the date when the accounts ended or the date when the account were presented to the parish? Examples of each can be found.

With the regular change of churchwardens the method of dating could also change, so that what had been a year ending date suddenly became year beginning date. There were of course the very helpful churchwardens who gave both the beginning and the end date for their accounts but they are the exception rather than the rule. For these reasons where it is unclear which dating method has been used, the date given has been treated as the year beginning date. So please bear in mind that the date could be the year ending date.

The expenditure can also present problems and is shown here only as an indication of activity, rather than a reliable source for the churchwardens’ spending. In many parishes, especially the smaller parishes, the positions of Churchwarden and Overseer of the Poor went hand in hand and thus the accounts are sometimes combined. Accounts can be found in which not only the churchwardens and overseers expenditure is recorded but also that of both the Constable and the Surveyor of the Highways.

Where occasional years are missing from the accounts, this could be for several reasons:-

the page has been lost (many account books are made up of pages that have been bound together at a later date)
the accounts were never written up for an unknown reasons (blank pages are sometimes found in the account books where the missing year should appear) the account dating changes from year beginning to year ending
the previous or following year’s account is for two years, without clear indication that this is the case. Where it is obviously a 2 year accounts, this has been indicated. But the original does need to be examined closely to confirm this.
With some accounts, especially pre -1600 accounts, the expenditure is divided into separate accounts so that there are several totals – candles, bell ringing, sacrament, etc. In these instances the letter ‘O’ has been placed against the date, showing that the original account survives but no clear total of expenditure can be easily found. The ‘O’ is also used where data was collected before the decision to note the expenditure was made. Eventually these will be re-examined and the data collected.

Occasionally the expenditure is listed in detail but no total entered. In these instances a ‘no total’ has been entered against the date. Where the document is damaged so that the total has been lost, this is also indicated against the date with either ‘lost’ or ‘total lost’.

Where a document is badly damaged, a note is given to that effect on the appropriate parish page.

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Can you help?

If you have undertaken any research using the churchwardens’ accounts and have information you are prepared to share with others, please let us know, using the link below.

We are also looking for people to help us complete the data collection. Can you spare us some time and visit your local County Record Office or Local History Library? A list of currently identified locations for these documents is given below.

You do not need experience of working with churchwardens’ accounts as we will give you full instructions and we will be available to answer questions, but you do need to be able to cope with some early handwriting and Roman Numerals. Again, some guidelines can be provided for these.

If you think you would like to get involved or would like more information without obligation please contact Valerie Hitchman.

Location Checking Checked
Anglesey County Record Office    
Bangor University    
Barking And Dagenham Archives And Local Studies   x
Bayle Museum, Bridlington    
Bedfordshire And Luton Archives And Record Service   x
Berkshire Record Office    
Bexley Local Studies And Archives Centre   x
Birmingham City Archives   x
Bodleian Library   x
Bolton Archives And Local Studies Service   x
Borthwick Institute Of Historical Research, York University    
Bradford Cathedral Archives And Library    
Brafer-Lawrence Collection    
Bristol Record Office    
British Library   x
Bromley Local Studies And Archives   x
Bury Local History Library    
Cambridge County Record Office, Cambridge    
Cambridge County Record Office, Huntingdon    
Cambridge University Library, Dept Of Mss & University Archives    
Camden Local Studies And Archives   x
Canterbury Cathedral Archives    
Centre For Buckinghamshire Studies    
Ceredigion Archives    
Cheshire And Chester Archives And Local Studies Service    
Conwy Archive Service    
Cornwall Record Office    
Coventry History Centre    
Crimlisk Fisher Archive    
Cumbria Record Office : Barrow    
Cumbria Record Office And Local Studies Library, Whitehaven    
Cumbria Record Office, Carlisle    
Cumbria Record Office, Kendal    
Denbighshire Record Office    
Derbyshire Record Office    
Devon Record Office    
Doncaster Archive Department    
Dorset History Centre    
Dudley Archives And Local History Centre   x
Dunscroft Church (Doncaster Area)    
Durham County Record Office    
Dyfed Record Office    
Ealing Local History Centre   x
East Sussex Record Office (The Keep)   x
Eltham Parish Church    
Essex Record Office    
Filey Town Council
   
Flintshire Record Office    
Glamorgan Record Office    
Gloucester Archives    
Greenwich Heritage Centre   x
Gwent Record Office    
Gwynedd Archives, Meirionnydd Record Office    
Gwynedd Archives: Caernarfon Record Office
   
Hammersmith And Fulham Archives And Local History Centre    
Hampshire Record Office    
Haringey Archive Service    
Hereford Record Office    
Hertfordshire Archives And Local Studies    
Hillingdon Local Studies, Archives And Museum Service   x
Hounslow Local Studies Service   x
Hull Local Studies    
Isle Of Wight Record Office    
Keighley Public Library
   
Kent History Centre And Library x  
Kingston Museum And Heritage Service    
Lambeth Archives   x
Lambeth Palace Archives   x
Lancashire Record Office    
Leeds University. Brotherton Library    
Leicestershire, Leicester And Rutland Record Office    
Lincolnshire Archives    
London Metropolitan Archives (help needed here)
x  
Manchester Archives And Local Studies    
Manchester University John Rylands Library    
Medway Archives And Local Studies Centre    
National Library Of Wales    
Norfolk Record Office    
North Devon Record Office    
North Yorkshire County Record Office    
Northamptonshire Record Office    
Northumberland Record Office x  
Nottinghamshire Archives   x
Oxford History Centre
  x
Pembrokeshire Record Office    
Plymouth And West Devon Record Office   x
Portsmouth Museum And Search Room    
Powys County Archive Office    
Public Record Office / The National Archives    
Shakesppeare Centre Library & Archives    
Sheffield Archives    
Shropshire Archives And Local Studies    
Society Of Antiquarians   x
Somerset Archive And Record Service    
Southwark Local History Library And Archives   x
St Bartholomew’s Hospital Archives And Museum    
Staffordshire & Stoke-On-Trent Archive Service, Lichfield Office
  x
Staffordshire & Stoke-On-Trent Archive Service, Staffordshire Office    
Staffordshire & Stoke-On-Trent Archive Service, William Salt Library    
Suffolk Record Office, Bury St Edmunds Branch    
Suffolk Record Office, Ipswich Branch    
Suffolk Record Office, Lowestoft Branch   x
Surrey History Centre   x
Sutton Local Studies Centre    
Swansea University Library    
Tameside Local Studies And Archives
  x
Teesside Archives    
Thoresby Society, Leeds    
Tower Hamlets Local History Library & Archives   x
Tyne And Wear Family History Centre    
Walsall Local History Centre   x
Wandsworth Local History Service   x
Warwickshire County Record Office    
West Glamorgan Archive Service    
West Sussex Record Office   x
West Yorkshire Archive Service – Huddersfield   x
West Yorkshire Archive Service Calderdale    
West Yorkshire Archive Service Leeds    
West Yorkshire Archive Service, Bradford    
Westminster City Archives   x
Wesy Yorkshire Archive Service Wakefield    
Wigan Archive Service   x
Wiltshire And Swindon Archives    
Wolverhampton Archives And Local Studies   x
Worcestershire Record Office    
Wymondham Church    
York Minster Archives    
Yorkshire Archaeological Society    










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