Guildhall Library Manuscripts Section

Leaflet Guides to Records:


SOURCES FOR TRACING CLERGY AND LAY PERSONS


The Manuscripts Section of Guildhall Library holds most of the archives of the Diocese of London, together with the archives of St Paul's Cathedral, and the archives of the Commonwealth and Continental Church Society. The sources listed below relate to clergy and lay persons in the Diocese of London and the Bishop of London's jurisdiction overseas, the Peculiar jurisdiction of the Dean and Chapter of St. Paul's and the Commonwealth and Continental Church Society. Unless otherwise stated, printed sources can be found in the Printed Books Section, and manuscript sources (i.e. items with an Ms reference number) in the Manuscripts Section.

1. General Published Sources for Church of England Clergy

For the period before the mid 19th century, when most English clergymen were graduates of Oxford or Cambridge University, biographical details including clerical appointments can often be found in:

- A.B. Emden, Biographical register of the University of Oxford, covering Oxford graduates 13th cent.-1540;

- J. Foster, Alumni Oxonienses, covering Oxford graduates 1500-1886;

- A.B. Emden, Biographical register of the University of Cambridge, covering Cambridge graduates 13th cent.-1500;

- J. and J.A. Venn, Alumni Cantabrigienses, covering Cambridge graduates 13th cent.-1900.

Similar books exist for the universities of Aberdeen 1566-1970, Edinburgh 1587-1888, Glasgow 1727-1897 and St Andrews 1413-1579, and for Trinity College Dublin 1593-1981; however some of these do not give full biographical details.

No comparable sources exist for those who were graduates of St Andrews after 1579 or for those who had not received a university education.

From 1817 to date the following clerical directories are available:

  1. the Clerical Guide for 1817, 1822, 1829 and 1836. This lists incumbents but not curates, arranged by parish (with index to names), giving date of institution or collation to current incumbency.
  2. the Clergy List for 1842, 1845, 1848-50 and annually from 1852 to 1917, listing incumbents and curates, arranged by parish and also by name.
  3. Crockfords Clerical Directory for 1858, 1860, 1870, 1872, 1874 and annually from 1876 to date. This lists incumbents and curates, arranged by name and also (from 1889) by parish. The following details are given in all volumes (except for 1858 and 1860, where some details are omitted): current address, date of institution or collation to current incumbency, date of licensing to current curacy, date and diocese of ordination, places and dates of previous incumbencies or curacies.

The London Diocese Book, first published 1865 but available at Guildhall Library only from 1897 to date, lists incumbents and curates, within the diocese of London only, arranged by parish, with index to names. Dates are given of ordination and also of institution or collation to current incumbency, or of licensing to current curacy.

The Clergy of the Church of England Database is a collaborative project, funded by the Arts and Humanities Research Council and bringing together scholars from King's College London, the University of Kent at Canterbury and the University of Reading. Its objective is to create a relational database documenting the careers of all Church of England clergymen between 1540 and 1835. It is currently incomplete, being work in progress, and does not yet include the Diocese of London. However, each upgrade will be announced on the News page of the Database website, along with details of what new data has been added.

 

2. Incumbents instituted or collated

The Bishop (or Chapter) had the authority to institute a clergyman to livings within their jurisdiction; where the Bishop (or Chapter) presented and instituted an incumbent, the process was known as collation.

a) Parishes in the City of London & (former) County of Middlesex

For the period 1321-1898 see G. Hennessy, Novum Repertorium Ecclesiasticum Parochiale Londinense (1898), which is arranged by parish with an index to personal names at the back. Hennessy gives details of institutions and collations of incumbents derived from records of the diocese of London and the peculiar jurisdictions of the Archbishop of Canterbury and the Dean and Chapter of St Paul's. References to original sources used by Hennessy are given in each entry.
After 1898, lists of those in office at any given date can be found in Crockfords Clerical Directory or the London Diocese Book (see section 1) for the year concerned. The most accessible manuscript source for institutions and collations 1898-1937 is the Bishops' Act Books (Ms 9532A/11-15).

b) Parishes in Essex (before 1867), Herts. and Bucks. (before 1845), Kent (1845-67) & Surrey (1845-77) within the Diocese of London; & parishes in Essex & Herts. (before c.1847) within the Peculiar of the Dean & Chapter of St Paul's

For the period 1321-1700, see R. Newcourt, Repertorium Ecclesiasticum Parochiale Londinense (1708-10), arranged by parish in 2 volumes with an index to personal names at the back of volume 2.

For incumbents not mentioned in Newcourt, the following sources may be worth trying:

- for Essex parishes see P.H. Reaney, Early Essex Clergy (1939-46) which covers the 12th to 15th centuries;
- for parishes in the St Paul's Peculiar see the Chapter Act Book 1411-48, Ms 25513 and the Dean's Register 1536-41, Ms 25630/1;
- for the Diocese of London 1701-1761 consult the Bishops' Registers, Ms 9531/17-20, for 1761-92 the Bishops' Act Books in Mss 9548 and 9549, and for 1792-1877 in Ms 9532A/1-7.
For parishes under the jurisdiction of the Peculiar of the Dean and Chapter of St Paul's (to c.1847 only), consult either the Muniment Books, Ms 25664/1-7, which have indexes to places, or the Seal Books, Ms 25660/1-7, which have indexes to names 1660-1823 only. There are no indexes to names 1823-c.1847.
 

3. Incumbents presented by the Bishop of London or Dean & Chapter of St Paul's to livings in their patronage

Besides instituting incumbents to livings within their jurisdiction, both the Bishop and Dean and Chapter had the right of presenting incumbents to such livings as were within their patronage.
Where the Bishop (or Chapter) presented an incumbent but, because the living was situated in a different diocese or jurisdiction, did not institute him, the relevant sources are as follows:

Bishop of London's patronage:

- from the mid 18th century to 1778, a list of incumbents arranged by parish is available in Ms 9554;
- from c.1815 to 1937 incumbents are recorded and indexed in the Bishops' Act Books, Ms 9532A/2-15.

There are no records available before the mid-18th century or for the period 1779-c.1814.

Dean and Chapter's patronage:

- from 1660-1854 consult either the Muniment Books, Ms 25664/1-7, which have indexes to places, or the Seal Books, Ms 25660/1-7, which have indexes to names 1660-1823 only. There are no indexes to names 1823-54.
- from 1854-1912 consult Ms 25664/8, which has indexes to both names and places;
- from 1912-31, consult Ms 25660/7 (not indexed).

There are no records available before 1660.

 

4. Persons ordained in the Diocese of London

The following sources relate to persons ordained by the Bishop of London or by a suffragan acting on his behalf. Most of them subsequently held clerical office in the diocese of London, but the ordinands include a number whose subsequent clerical career was overseas (whether within or outside the Bishop of London's jurisdiction) or in another English diocese.
 

INDEXES TO ORDINATION REGISTERS

* available on microfilm
** ordinands subscriptions only
*** ordinands subscription only by persons intending to officiate in the colonies

No records are available for the periods 1375-81, 1449-88, 1629-61 (presumably no ordinations took place c.1646-60), and 1781-87 (no ordinations took place).
Guildhall Library also holds ordination papers, Ms 10326, which include testimonials, letters and related papers for the ordination of priests and deacons 1674-1985, and the same for curates, preachers, and lecturers c.1720-c.1760. These papers have survived for some individuals in part only, and for others not at all. Access is not permitted to ordination papers less than 50 years old. See also Mss 10116, 22334 and 17850 for further licensing papers concerning curates etc., 1660-1986, (access is not permitted to papers less than 30 years old).
Persons resident in the diocese of London who were to be ordained by a bishop in another diocese may be sought in the records of persons granted letters dimissory by the Bishop of London between 1761 and c.1892 (see next section). At some dates the Bishop of London did not perform ordinations himself but granted letters dimissory to all ordination candidates, including those who were to be licensed to a curacy or other title within his own diocese.
The Library has ordination papers of three persons ordained by the Bishop of Gibraltar, in 1916, 1931 and 1963: see Ms 20977.
 

5. Persons to whom letters dimissory (for ordination in another diocese) were granted by the Bishop of London

For 1761-75 see Ms 9548 and for 1775-92 see Ms 9549 (both indexed); from 1792 to c.1892 consult Ms 9532A/1-9 (indexed). There are no records available before 1761 and after c.1892.

N.B. For letters dimissory granted by the Bishop of Gibraltar 1882 and 1889, see Ms 20977.

 

6. Bishops

Bishops of London 1601-1956 are listed in F.M. Powicke and E.B. Fryde, Handbook of British Chronology (1996). For Bishops c.1066-c.1857, full references to original sources are given in John Le Neve, Fasti Ecclesiae Anglicanae (see section 13 below). Individual biographies of several bishops (eg. Creighton, Leonard) are held in the Printed Books Section. A narrative account and list of Bishops of London can be found in B. Denny, King's Bishop (1985).
There was only one Bishop of Westminster, viz. Thomas Thirlby, 1540-50.
Suffragan Bishops in London Diocese 1332-1895 are listed in G. Hennessy, Novum Repertorium Ecclesiasticum Parochiale Londinense (1898). Suffragan Bishops of Edmonton 1970-5, Islington 1898-1923, Kensington 1901-64, Stepney 1895-1978 and Willesden 1911-1974 (also Bishops of Fulham 1926-70 and Bishops of Gibraltar 1842-1970) are listed in Crockfords Clerical Directory 1977-9.
 

7. Curates, lecturers & other unbeneficed clergy licensed before 1792

Diocese of London: for the period c.1520-1627 and 1675-85, licences are entered in the Vicar Generals' Books held at London Metropolitan Archives, 40 Northampton Road, London EC1R OHB (these are mostly licences 'to preach'; no curates' licences before c.1565).
At Guildhall Library there are lists of curates 1554 (incomplete), 1561 (incomplete), 1574,1577 and 1580, and of curates and lecturers 1583, 1586, 1589, 1592, 1598, 1607, 1612 and 1615, arranged by place, in the visitation books, Ms 9537/1-12.
There are licensing papers for curates, lecturers and other unbeneficed clergy, from 1660, in Mss 10116 and 22334 (calendared to 1720 only in Ms 21737). Subscriptions of curates and lecturers 1675-85 are recorded in Ms 9540/1-4, and lists of curates and lecturers arranged by place, 1677, in Ms 9537/21, and 1680, in Ms 9537/23.
However, for an initial search where the parish is unknown it is probably easier to use the books at London Metropolitan Archives.
A modern index has been compiled from subscription books of curates etc. for the periods 1627-46 and 1660/1-75 to names in Ms 20868/1-2 and to places in Ms 20868/3.
From 1685-1723, names and places are indexed for licences entered in the Vicar Generals' Books at Guildhall Library, Ms 9532/1-3.
For 1723-48 and 1748-87 names are listed alphabetically in the Fulham Papers volumes 42 & 38, held at Lambeth Palace Library (see note in section 20 below. Copies are available in Guildhall Library Printed Books Section, microfilms 383A and 383).
For a list arranged by place see Ms 9550 and for lists of curates etc. in office, dated 1753 and 1759, arranged by place see Ms 9537/36.

Names and places are indexed in the Bishops' Act Books for 1761-75 (Ms 9548) and 1775-92 (Ms 9549).

Peculiar of the Dean and Chapter of St Paul's: for persons licensed 1667-93 & 1700-7 consult the lists in Ms 25533/1-7 (NB. volume 2 does not include any curates or lecturers; presumably none were licensed for the period 1670-4). For 1686-1723 consult Ms 25801 and for 1724-79 see the Dean and Chapter Commissary's Muniment Book, Ms 25665.

There are no records available for 1724-c.1756 and 1780-c.1792.

 

8. 'Stipendiary' curates (ie. those appointed to assist incumbents of parish churches, with payment) licensed after 1792

Diocese of London: the Bishops' Act Books record licences issued 1792-1813 in Ms 9532A/1-2 (names and places indexed); for 1813-1947 curates' licences are available in Ms 10300/1-36 (names and places indexed); licensing papers to 1986 may be found in Mss 22334 and 17850 (access is not permitted to papers less than 30 years old).
Peculiar of the Dean and Chapter of St Paul's: the Dean and Chapter Muniment Books record licences granted c.1792-c.1847 in Ms 25664/5-7 (places indexed; for index to names 1803-23 consult Ms 25660/5). No licences were issued after c.1847.
N.B. For clergy licensed in or after 1858, and for clergy licensed before 1858 whose clerical career continued beyond that date, biographical details with dates of curacies can be found in Crockfords Clerical Directory.
 
 

9. Lecturers, 'perpetual' curates (ie. those having charge of parish or district churches lacking the status of a vicarage or rectory) & ministers of non-parochial chapels licensed after 1792; & institutional chaplains (ie. those appointed as chaplains of schools, almshouses, hospitals, workhouses, asylums and other institutions) licensed after c.1825

Diocese of London: the Bishops' Act Books record licences granted 1792-1937 in Ms 9532A/1-15 (names indexed 1792-1937; places indexed 1792-1853 and 1864-1937); there are licensing papers to 1986 in Mss 22334 and 17850 (access is not permitted to papers less than 30 years old).
Peculiar of the Dean and Chapter of St Paul's: the Dean and Chapter Muniment Books record licences 1792-c.1847 in Ms 25664/5-6 (places indexed; for index to names 1803-23 see Ms 25660/5). No licences issued after c.1847.
N.B. No licences of institutional chaplains appear to have been issued in the Diocese of London before c.1825.
For clergy licensed in or after 1858, and for clergy licensed before 1858 whose clerical career continued beyond that date, biographical details including dates of curacies, chaplaincies etc. can be found in Crockfords Clerical Directory.
 

10. Churchwardens (and sidesmen)

There are no indexes to names of churchwardens, but lists arranged by place can be found in visitation books, as follows:
Diocese of London: for 1554-1822 see Ms 9537/1-51, and 1826-1905 see Ms 9539/1-27.
Peculiar of the Dean and Chapter of St Paul's: for 1667-93, 1700-7, 1738-74 and 1794-1825 consult Ms 25533/1-10. No records available for other dates.
The names of churchwardens for any given parish can generally be found in the churchwardens' accounts in the parish's own archives: for such accounts at Guildhall Library (City of London parishes only) see Churchwardens' Accounts... A Handlist (1969), available at the Manuscripts enquiry desk.
 

11. Organists

 

In the Diocese of London there are no diocesan records relating to organists.

For organists in City of London parishes 1666-1850 see D. Dawe, Organists of the City of London (1983), which has lists of organists arranged by name and place. For other parishes consult parish records in appropriate local record office.

 

12. Parish clerks (and sextons)

When searching for a parish clerk, it is almost always easiest to begin with McMurray's biographical collections on parish clerks c.1400-c.1940, Ms 3704/1-2. These are arranged by parish in two sequences, the first for parishes in the City of London and the second for Middlesex, Herts., Essex, Kent and Surrey parishes (name index for each sequence).
These collections give, for each parish clerk, date of admission to the Parish Clerks' Company, and, from the late 16th century, date of licensing - whether by the Bishop of London, the Bishop of Winchester or the Archbishop of Canterbury. Licences for clerks in the Peculiar jurisdiction of the Dean and Chapter of St Paul's are not included.
When searching for a sexton, McMurray's collections are of little value, and the diocesan (or peculiar) records should be used for the initial search.
Original licensing records of sextons for the Diocese of London and the Peculiar jurisdiction of the Dean and Chapter of St Paul's can most easily be traced as follows:
Diocese of London
: from c.1590-1685, licences are entered in the Vicar Generals' Books held at London Metropolitan Archives;
- from 1660-1862 there are testimonials etc. in Ms 10116/1-35 and 22334, at Guildhall Library (calendared to 1720 only in Ms 21737);
- for 1685-1927 records of licences issued to parish clerks (to 1927) and sextons (to 1849) can be found in the Vicar Generals' Books at Guildhall Library, Ms 9532/1-23 (places indexed; names of parish clerks and sextons, indexed for 1715-35 and 1892-1927 only).
No licences issued after 1927.

 

Peculiar of the Dean and Chapter of St Paul's:

for 1660 consult Ms 25598/1;
- from 1667-87 consult the lists at the front of Ms 25533/1-5;
- a subscription book is available for 1686-1723, Ms 25801;
- records of licences can be found for c.1756-79 in Ms 25665 and for c.1792-c.1847 in Ms 25664/5-7 (places indexed).
No licences issued after c.1847.

 

13. Deans of St Paul's Cathedral; Archdeacons of London and Middlesex [also (to 1845) Essex & Colchester, and (1550-1845) St Albans]; Treasurers, Precentors & Chancellors of St Paul's; Prebendaries & Canons of St Paul's

The following can be found in the Printed Books Section:

- for the period c.1066-1300 see John Le Neve, Fasti Ecclesiae Anglicanae 1066-1300, vol.1, compiled by D.E. Greenway;
- for 1300-1541 see John Le Neve, Fasti Ecclesiae Anglicanae 1300-1541 vol.5, compiled by J.M. Horn;
- for 1541-1857 see John Le Neve, Fasti Ecclesiae Anglicanae 1541-1857 vol.1, compiled by J.M. Horn.

Full references to original sources are given in each entry.

- for 1857-98 see G. Hennessy, Novum Repertorium Ecclesiasticum Parochiale Londinense (1898) (names indexed);
- after 1898, those in office at any given date can be found in Crockfords Clerical Directory or the London Diocese Book for the year concerned.

 

14. Minor canons of St Paul's; Sub-deans & Cardinals, Succentors & Sacrists of St Paul's; Vicars Choral of St Paul's

Minor canons c.1200-1898 are listed in G. Hennessy, Novum Repertorium Ecclesiasticum Parochiale Londinense (1898), which includes separate lists of those minor canons who held the office of sub-dean, senior or junior cardinal. Names indexed.
Minor canons who held the office of succentor or sacrist are included in Hennessy, but not listed separately from the other minor canons. There are separate lists of succentors and sacrists bound into Guildhall Library's copy of W. Sparrow Simpson, The Charter and Statutes of the College of Minor Canons (1871). This book also extends Hennessy's lists of minor canons to c.1911, and includes a list of known vicars choral 1622-1909.
 

15. Choristers of St Paul's; vergers of St Paul's

A list of known choristers early 18th century to 1873 can be found in Guildhall Studies in London History vol.1, p.82. Payments to choristers (with surnames of recipients) 1873-6 may be found in Ms 25725/1, and 1876-81 in Ms 25725/2. There is also a register of applicants to St Paul's Cathedral Choir School (with names of successful applicants), 1879-1938, Ms 29518. A register of St Paul's choir school 1873-1964 is in GL.pam.9784; a list of vergers 1598-1974 is in GL fo.pam.6422.

 

16. Clergy (chaplains, schoolmasters, missionaries & lecturers) licensed to serve in the Bishop of London's jurisdiction overseas

Clergy ordained in the Diocese of London for service overseas are included in the sources mentioned under persons ordained, section 4.

The following sources relate to licensing:

-for the period 1676-1756 (no name indexes or alphabetical lists) chronological lists can be found in the Subscription Books, Ms 9540/2-12 and for 1757-65 and 1775-1810 in Ms 9540A/1-3;
- for 1723-48 & 1748-87 there are lists arranged by place in the Fulham Papers volumes 42 & 38 held at Lambeth Palace Library (see note in section 20 below), with a name index (copies available in Guildhall Library Printed Books Section, microfilms 383A and 383);
-Guildhall Library holds licensing papers from the 18th century-1980 in Mss 10116, 22334 and 17850 (access is not permitted to papers less than 30 years old)
- for 1811-1937 consult the Bishops' Act Books, Ms 9532A/2-15 (names indexed 1811-1937, places indexed 1811-53 and 1864-1937).
N.B. No licensing records of overseas clergy exist before 1676. From 1676 until 1723 the licences are for clergy worldwide (mainly Europe, Africa, America and the West Indies). From 1723 until the end of the 18th century the licences are almost all for America and the West Indies (with very few for Africa and the East Indies; none for Europe). The 19th and 20th century licences are almost all for Europe.
 

17. Naval chaplains

There are printed lists of chaplains 651-1978 in Gordon Taylor, The Sea Chaplains, a history of chaplains of the Royal Navy (Oxford, 1978) which is available in the Printed Books Section. There is also a list 1626-1903 in A.G.Kealey, Chaplains of the Royal Navy (Portsmouth, 1905), but this book is not available at Guildhall Library.
Chaplains in the Royal Navy were subject to examination by the Bishop of London before entering service. However the only diocesan records which relate to naval chaplains are subscriptions 1677-c.1692, which are included in the main series of Subscription Books, Ms 9540/2-3 & 5-6.
From c.1692-1814 no sources are held at Guildhall Library. Consult Taylor or Kealey (as above), or Admiralty records at the National Archives, Kew (classes ADM6, ADM24, ADM30 and ADM82).

From 1815 naval chaplains are included in most, and from 1838 in all, of the Navy Lists published annually.

18. Chaplains licensed to serve in the Diocese of Gibraltar from 1866

There is an index to chaplains licensed 1866-1903 in Ms 20972 but this is possibly incomplete. Thus it may be best to begin by searching the Clergy List or Crockfords Clerical Directory, which are arranged alphabetically and may give dates of licensing and other biographical details. Although the Diocese of Gibraltar was founded in 1842 there is no record of any licences being granted before 1866. Chaplains' licensing papers 1866, 1874-1903 and 1911-21 are in Ms 20976. The whereabouts of licensing papers for other dates are unknown.
 

19. Chaplains, missionaries & school teachers sponsored by the Commonwealth & Continental Church Society and its predecessor societies (from 1823)

The principal object of the society was the provision of Anglican evangelical clergymen, missionaries and schoolteachers for territories of the British Empire and Commonwealth overseas, and for communities of British residents on the continent of Europe. The society was founded in January 1851 by the uniting of earlier societies, the Colonial Church Society (established 1835 as Western Australian Missionary Society) and the Newfoundland School Society (established 1823; name changed in 1829 to Newfoundland and British North American Society for the Education of the Poor, and in 1846 to Church of England Society for the Education of the Poor in Newfoundland and the Colonies, but still frequently referred to as the Newfoundland School Society until 1850). The united society was known as the Colonial Church and School Society from 1851 to 1861, the Colonial and Continental Church Society from 1861 to 1958, and the Commonwealth and Continental Church Society from 1958 to 1979 (now known as the Intercontinental Church Society).
The most useful source for tracing persons working for the societies is the series of printed annual reports for the Newfoundland School Society 1823-50, the Colonial Church Society 1838-50 and the Colonial Church and School Society, becoming (from 1861) Colonial and Continental Church Society 1851-1939 (Ms 15718/1-27). However, personnel lists are often 'buried' among other material in the reports.
For a history of the Commonwealth & Continental Church Society, and its predecessor societies, see Faith at the Frontiers: Anglican Evangelicals & their countrymen overseas (1974) by B. Underwood.
 

20. Sources held elsewhere

Records of the peculiar of the Dean and Chapter of Westminster are held at Westminster Abbey Muniment Room.
Records of the Archbishop of Canterbury's peculiars are held at Lambeth Palace Library, London SE1 7JU (please note: new readers are required to provide a letter of introduction from a person/institution of recognised standing). (N.B. Institutions of incumbents in the Archbishop's London and Middlesex peculiars are included in G.Hennessy, Novum Repertorium..., available at Guildhall Library.)
For records of clergymen in other dioceses, contact the local record office concerned for further information.
Further information is available from the Printed Books and Manuscripts Sections at Guildhall Library concerning any of the sources described in this leaflet. This information has been derived from an unpublished guide which can be consulted at the Manuscripts enquiry desk.
For the boundaries of the diocese of London, and the boundary changes 16th-20th cent., see Extent & Boundaries of the Diocese of London (Guildhall Library, typescript, 1980), GL.fo.pam.5153; another copy is held at the Manuscripts enquiry desk.


Last updated May 2005

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