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Introduction

The chief deposit of surviving records relating to the diocesan administration of the diocese of Ely and also the archives of the dean and chapter of Ely are held in the Cambridge University Library.

Contact details:

Cambridge University Library, West Road, Cambridge, CB3 9DR
Email: library@lib.cam.ac.uk
Tel: 01223 333000
Fax: 01223 333160

Unless otherwise indicated, all the records discussed are held in Cambridge University Library.

  • 1540 to 1660 (Reformation to Restoration)
  • 1660 to 1754 (from the Restoration to the commencement of the episcopate of Matthias Mawson in 1754).
  • 1754 to 1835 (from the appointment of Matthias Mawson as bishop to the end of the period covered by the database).

1540 to 1660 (Reformation to Restoration)

In preparation.

The registers as sources for appointments to benefices and cathedral offices

In preparation.

Other appointments ( curates, preachers and lecturers, schoolmasters etc).

In preparation.

Ordinations

In preparation.

Records of the dean and chapter of Ely cathedral

In preparation.

1660-1754 (from the Restoration to the commencement of the episcopate of Matthias Mawson in 1754).

Between the Restoration and the middle of the eighteenth century the records of the diocese of Ely are uneven. All of the major sources used by the Database to extract details of the clergy survive - registers, subscription books and liber cleri. For none of these sources, however, is there a unbroken sequence through the whole period and some of the gaps are substantial. More positively, the gaps in the sources tend to be for different periods.

Episcopal Registers, etc. as sources for institutions and collations

Apart from a few extracts made by James Bentham in the eighteenth century (MS Add. 2953), relating mainly to livings in the gift of the bishop of Ely, nothing survives of the episcopal registers before 1702. Then, for the episcopates of Bishops Moore and Fleetwood, two registers survive. One, G/I/10 (‘Part of Bp Moores and Bp Fleetwoods Register 1707 to 1720’), covers the period from 13 Aug. 1707 to 13 Apr. 1721, and the second, G/1/11 (‘Register of Institutions Collations Presentations Ordinations Letters Patent from the Year 1702 to the End of August 1735’), runs from 1702 to 1735. The relationship between the two documents is not clear, but there does not appear to be much overlap. Moreover, there are also some significant gaps - G/I/11, p. 34 records that ‘The late Secretary having omitted for three Years before his death to make up ye Register, it is thus far necessarily imperfect.’

Other appointments ( curates, preachers and lecturers, schoolmasters etc).

In preparation.

Ordinations

In preparation.

Visitation records and other clerical lists

In preparation.

Records of the dean and chapter of Ely cathedral

In preparation.

From 1754 to 1835 (from the appointment of Matthias Mawson as bishop to the end of the period covered by the database).

Ely was a small diocese, and the fact that its records are in reasonable order may partly reflect its compact nature. The sources seem to have undergone more processing than is the case in some other dioceses – thus licensings and other categories of events appear to have been grouped in the records, and they are sometimes grouped into ‘London’ and ‘Ely’ sequences as well.

Episcopal registers, etc. as sources for institutions and collations

Although they are described on the covers as ‘registers’, the main sources for institutions and collations in the diocese of Ely are more akin to act books, covering a wide range of material, much concerned with the secular affairs of the Isle of Ely and University business. Unusually, they have embedded within them liber cleri related to visitations. Many of the events they record were conducted by commissaries, complicating their extraction. They do include cathedral appointments, and also a large number of presentations relating to livings in the gift the bishop (EDR G1/13, for example, having appointments and presentations roughly in the proportion of 3:1). The first ‘register’ for this period, EDR G1/13, Act Book 1755–1770, effectively covers the episcopate of Matthias Mawson (1754–1770), the first record actually relating to 7 January 1755. We have extracted all institutions and collations from this volume, including those to college fellowships. The same practice has been followed for EDR, G1/14, Act Book 1771–1787, which covers the episcopate of Edmund Keene (1770–1781) and the first part of James Yorke’s (1781–1808), ending its coverage on the 21 July 1787. EDR, G1/15, Act Book 1787–1811 completes the coverage of Yorke’s episcopate and all the acts of Thomas Dampier (1808–12), although the last record is from 1811. EDR, G1/16, Act Book 1811–1832 takes us through the first part of the episcopate of Bowyer Edward Sparke (1812–36), being a particularly difficult one to extract, being scrappy in its presentation, and dividing the contents into an ‘Ely’ sequence beginning at the front, and a ‘London’ sequence beginning at the back. Coverage of the database period is completed by EDR, G1/17, Act Book 1832–1848, from which we have extracted all relevant entries up to and including 28 December 1835. Some of the records in this volume are recorded out of sequence, events from the period 1833–5 in some cases appearing after those for 1843.

Other appointments (curates, preachers and lecturers, schoolmasters etc).

The registers/act books are quite a good source for curates, lecturers and the occasional schoolmaster and chaplain. We have consequently extracted all the records of their appointments from EDR, G1/13–17. The numbers recorded gradually increase through the sequence. Towards the end of the period, we benefit from the customary recording of curates licences in a separate volume. EDR, G3/1, Curates Licences 1814–1830 is a bound collection of copies of curates’ licences giving stipends and nominators, although the first seventy items dating from before 1816 are only given in a summary list. A second volume, EDR, G3/2, Curates Licences 1830-1837, sees us through to the end of the period covered by the database. The volumes include some records of chaplaincies. There are some curacies mentioned in the registers which are not recorded in these volumes, and vice versa, so despite duplication both sources are essential.

The overall numbers of curates recovered from these sources appears quite low, especially before 1810, although it is of course difficult to know what number one should anticipate. This is even more clearly the case with schoolmasters of which only a handful are recorded in the registers. Yet an examination of the subscription books for the diocese, the usual means of redressing such shortfalls, did not appear to yield significant numbers of new names, and it has been decided at the moment not to extract additional records from these. A comparison with liber cleri (see below) none the less suggests that there were other curates for whom we do not as yet have a date of appointment.

Clergy lists

There may be an argument for entering more clergy lists than we have to date in the modern period of the Ely diocese in order to recover more names of curates. For the moment, however, the only liber cleri extracted are those embedded within EDR, G1/13 for 1759 and 1764, from which only the names of curates have been extracted. The archives contain a number of ‘diocese books’ which could prove of value, e.g. for the years 1792–1800 (EDR, B8/4) and 1814 (EDR, B8/5). However, the fact that these records were regularly amended without dates means that the results would be imprecise at best were they to be entered.

Records of appointments in peculiar jurisdictions

No records relating to the peculiar jurisdiction of the duke of Bedford at Thorney Abbey had been recovered from the diocesan archive from this period. All the records relating to the bishop’s peculiar, however, are found in the main sequence.

Ordinations

Records of ordinations and of the issue of letters dimissory have been extracted from the act books EDR, G1/13–17. Many of the entries relating to ordinations include the titles on which candidates were ordained, which may cast some light on issues relating to curates discussed above. There does not appear a need to supplement these records from other sources..

Records of the Dean and Chapter of Ely

The records of the dean and chapter, deposited at the CUL alongside the diocesan records, have not yet been surveyed for the clergy database. Major cathedral appointments have been recovered from the diocesan records, but minor canons will not be recovered until these sources have been surveyed.