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Introduction

The bulk of the surviving records relating to the diocesan and capitular administration of the diocese of Oxford are held in two archives.

The diocesan record office is

Oxfordshire Record Office, St Luke's Church, Temple Road, Cowley, Oxford. OX4 2HT.
email: archives@oxfordshire.gov.uk
website: [http://www.oxfordshire.gov.uk/oro
tel: 01865 398200

Records of the dean and chapter of Christ Church are preserved in:

The Archivist, Christ Church, Oxford. OX1 1DP.
email: archives@christ-church.ox.ac.uk
website: [http://www.chch.ox.ac.uk/modules/standard/viewpage.asp?id=399
tel: 01865 276171

Unless otherwise indicated, all the records discussed are held at the Oxfordshire Record Office.

  • 1540 to 1660 (Reformation to Restoration)
  • 1660 to 1737 (from the Restoration to the end of the episcopate of John Potter in 1737).
  • 1737 to 1835 (from the appointment of Thomas Secker as bishop to the end of the period covered by the database).

1540 to 1660 (Reformation to Restoration)

For both the diocese and the peculiars within it, rather sparse records for the Tudor period become more plentiful after 1604. It would be tempting, but misleading, to attribute this to the fact that the bishopric was unoccupied for much of Elizabeth I’s reign but was filled from 1604 through to the 1640s. Diocesan administration in fact functioned smoothly in the absence of a bishop.

The diocesan records for the sixteenth century contain a good run of institutions, and ordinations when there was a bishop in post, but there are no subscription books or licensing books. Nor are there lists of clergy appearing at visitation, except for a liber cleri for the archdeaconry in 1585, preserved among the Barlow papers at Queen's College, Oxford. After 1604, there is a full run of subscription books until 1646, a fair number of resignations for 1609–46 which are entered in the registers or surviving as resignation deeds, and also visitation books for 1630–41. Curates and schoolmasters appear in the subscription and visitation books from 1619 to 1641.

Neither the diocesan nor the peculiar records contain an exhibit book or a register of orders. The nearest to this type of source is the incomplete clerical survey of 1593, which records details of ordination, and either institution to a living or licensing to a curacy.

The registers as sources for appointments to benefices and cathedral offices

Despite the vacancies in the see under Elizabeth I, there is a fairly complete list of institutions recorded in the registers for the years 1544–1642, though there are major gaps for 1542–4 and 1623–8. The latter has been covered by using the returns to the First Fruits Office in the Exchequer (The National Archives, PRO E331/Oxford/6–7). Subscriptions upon institutions also survive for 1628–32 (MS Oxf. Dioc. Papers e. 13, pp. 7–14). Incumbents in post in 1604–5 were required to subscribe to canon 36 of 1604 and their names and offices are entered in one of the subscription books (MS Oxf. Dioc. Papers e. 12).

Some resignations are entered in the registers and from 1609 onwards there are also a small number of resignation deeds (MS Oxf. Dioc. Papers c. 85, d. 177).

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

There are no licensing books recording the appointment of curates, preachers and schoolmasters for this period. Instead, names of curates in post before can be recovered from clerical subsidy records for 1558–1605 (TNA, PRO E179/48), from a survey of the diocesan clergy in 1593 (Lambeth Palace Library, Cartae Miscellanae XII/3), from subscriptions of clergy in post in 1604–5 (MS Oxf. Dioc. Papers e. 12) and from clerical lists compiled at visitations, which survive from the 1580s from some of the peculiars, and for the diocese itself for 1630–41. The registers and peculiar act books also record the licensing of a very small number of preachers and schoolmasters. There is one nomination to a curacy, admitted by Bishop Skinner in 1643 (MS Oxf. Dioc. Papers c. 83, fo. 132r).

Ordinations

There is a reasonably full record of ordinations. They are entered in the registers for the years 1544–58, 1567–8, 1597–1602 and 1604–23 (MS Oxf. Dioc. Papers d. 105; c. 264); thereafter, they can be reconstructed from entries in the subscription books for 1624–5, and 1628–46 (MS Oxf. Dioc. Papers e. 12, 9, 13). Most include details of the candidate’s degree and college affiliation (if any).

There are some oddities, which in the Elizabethan period arose from the frequent vacancies in the see: ordinations were occasionally performed by other bishops, such as Bishop Richard Meredith of Leighlin in Ireland and later Bishop Henry Robinson of Carlisle while still Provost of Queen’s College Oxford. In May 1632 Richard Corbet held an ordination after his translation from Oxford to Norwich, which is recorded in one of the subscription books (MS Oxf. Dioc. Papers e. 13, pp. 151–4).

Records of appointments in peculiar jurisdictions

No records for institutions and collations survive for any of the peculiar jurisdictions within the diocese of Oxford. However, for the peculiars of Banbury, Thame and Dorchester, there are some lists of clergy summoned to visitations for the 1580s and 1590s, and more for the early seventeenth century. These records also occasionally record subscriptions for curates and schoolmasters. No records at all survive among the diocesan papers for the peculiars of Langford and Newington.

Records of the dean and chapter of Christ Church

The records at Christ Church have yet to be surveyed.

1660-1737 (from the Restoration to the end of the episcopate of John Potter in 1737)

The diocese of Oxford has a reasonably full set of sources for this period. The episcopal registers begin in August 1660 and run through to 1736, providing good coverage of institutions, collations and ordinations, though there are some gaps for the period between 1665 and 1678. A parallel set of subscription books begins on 23 December 1665, though there is a gap here between 1671 and 1676. A single subscription book for 1662–1730 includes curates and schoolmasters, both of whom rarely appear in the main series. A good series of visitation books, containing libri cleri, begins in 1664, but there are no exhibit books for the diocese.

Episcopal Registers, etc. as sources for institutions and collations

MS Oxf. Dioc. Papers d. 106 is the register of bishops Robert Skinner (1641–63), William Paul (1663–5), Walter Blandford (1665–71), Nathaniel Crew (1671–4), Henry Compton (1674–6), John Fell (1676–86), Samuel Parker (1686–8), Timothy Hall (1688–90), John Hough (1690–9), and William Talbot (1699–1715), for the period from 2 August 1660 to 31 May 1702. However, the volume is blank for the following periods: 13 February 1664/5–20 June 1669, 26 February 1670/1 – 21 December 1673, 20 September 1674 – 30 May 1675, 30 May 1675 – 9 March 1675/6, and 24 February 1677/8 – 10 April 1678, with the result that, as is recorded in the register itself, 'Many Institutions and Ordinations are irrevocably lost.'

For the periods for which there are entries in this register, it appears to provide a full record of institutions and collations, though the gaps in the record might cast some doubt on this. A subscription book for the period between 23 December 1665 and 28 June 1671 (MS Oxf. Dioc. Papers e. 14) covers some of these gaps and others may be covered by the returns to the office of first fruits and tenths (TNA, PRO E331/OXFORD/10), which have yet to be extracted. Some further information about the tenure of rectories and vicarages in this period may be provided by the visitation books (MS Oxf. Dioc. Papers e. 2–3 and d. 19).

With minor exceptions the remaining subscription books for this period (MS Oxf. Dioc. Papers e. 9, 15–17) duplicate the events recorded in the registers.

MS Oxf. Dioc. Papers c. 266 is the register of bishops William Talbot (1699–1715) and John Potter (1715–36), for the period from 12 April 1699 to 17 September 1736. The collation of the register and the subscription books for the period (MS Oxf. Dioc. Papers e. 18–21) suggests that the register provides a full record of institutions and collations, with the exception of a small number for 1734 and 1736 which have been extracted from MS Oxf. Dioc. Papers e. 21.

Some original resignation papers for this period are preserved in MS Oxf. Dioc. Papers c. 85 and d. 771.

Appointments to the canonries of Christ Church are not recorded among the diocesan papers, but can be found among the archives of the dean and chapter.

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

Appointments of curates and schoolmasters do not appear in the episcopal registers. The only major source for such appointments is one subscription book, which covers the period from 4 October 1662 until 17 April 1730. This volume (MS Oxf. Dioc. Papers e. 22) contains a few incumbents along with some medics and midwives, but it is predominantly a volume for curates and schoolmasters. A further subscription book for curates and schoolmasters (MS Oxf. Dioc. Papers e. 23) begins in 1730 and runs through to 1776. There are no similar documents for 1660–2. Occasional subscriptions of curates and lecturers occur in the other subscription books listed above, but such entries are rare, except for a group of subscriptions of schoolmasters in 1714 in MS Oxf. Dioc. Papers e. 16, pp. 304–2.

Visitation books (MS Oxf. Dioc. Papers e. 2–3, d. 19–20, e. 6–8) provide further information about curates and occasionally such lists also record when curates have been licensed.

There are very few records of appointments of preachers or lecturers in the surviving records.

Ordinations

Ordinations for the period from 1660 to 1736 are recorded in the episcopal registers detailed above (MS Oxf. Dioc. Papers d. 106 and c. 266). The gaps in the registers between 1665 and 1678 are, again, partly filled by the subscription book of 1665–71 (MS Oxf. Dioc. Papers e. 14), but no records survive for ordination ceremonies that probably took place in 1671–3, 1674–5, 1675–6 and 1678. No ordinations for 1675–6 or 1678 are recorded in the subscription book for 1675–89 (MS Oxf. Dioc. Papers e. 15) either, but it is unclear whether this subscription book replicates the gaps in the register or whether no ordinations took place during these periods.

The subscription book for 1697–1702 (MS Oxf. Dioc. Papers e. 18, pp. 144–55) contains details of an ordination on 21 March 1702/3 which is not recorded in the register, while that for 1699–1712 (MS Oxf. Dioc. Papers e. 19) provides further details about ordinands in 1699–1701.

Visitation records and other clerical lists

A good run of visitation books survive for episcopal visitations of the diocese between 1664 and 1734, listing clergy, including some curates and schoolmasters (MS Oxf. Dioc. Papers e. 2–3, d. 19–20, e. 6–8, c. 131–4, MS Archd. Papers. Oxon. c. 145 and e. 16). These volumes have been extracted for the visitations of 1664, 1666, 1672, 1679, 1685, 1691, 1697, 1704, 1709, 1716, 1722, 1728 and 1734. The calls for 1670, 1682, 1701, 1719, 1725 and 1731 have not been extracted.

A virtually continuous run of archidiaconal call books (MS Oxf. Dioc. Papers e. 2–3; MS Archd. Papers Oxon. e. 12, c. 34, and c. 144) also survives for the years from 1664, with both Easter and Michaelmas calls in many years. These have not been extracted.

Records of appointments in peculiar jurisdictions

As is often the case, no direct records of appointments of clergy in the various peculiar jurisdictions in the Oxford diocese survive among the diocesan records or the other papers at the Oxfordshire Record Office. However, clergy calls, or libri cleri, do exist for most of the peculiar jurisdictions, either in the court books or as separate visitation calls. In many cases these are annual sequences, allowing fairly accurate dating of the appointments of rectors, vicars and curates.

  • For the peculiar of Banbury, court books, containing annual visitation calls, survive for the periods from 1676 to 1723 (MS Archd. Papers Oxon. c. 28) and for 1724 to 1735 (MS Archd. Papers Oxon. c. 156). No records exist for the years before 1676.
  • For the peculiar of Dorchester, there are court books, containing visitation calls, for the years between 1662 and 1722 (MS Archd. Papers Oxon. c. 158), but none exist for the years between 1723–39.
  • For the peculiar of Langford, an act book for the period 1726–74 (MS Archd. Papers Berks. c. 195) contains libri cleri for the two parishes of Langford and Farringdon for 1720, 1721, 1723, 1724, 1726, 1727, 1729, 1730, 1732, 1733 and 1739.
  • For the peculiar of Newington, see below under Thame.
  • For the peculiar of Thame, a peculiar of the dean of Lincoln, visitation books survive for the periods from 1676 to 1721 (MS Archd. Papers Oxon. c. 162) and for 1723 to 1735 (MS Archd. Papers Oxon. c. 163). MS Archd. Papers Oxon. c. 162 also contains (p. 188) a licence to preach within the peculiar. More oddly, it includes calls for two peculiars of the archbishop of Canterbury, Newington in Oxfordshire and Monks Risborough in Buckinghamshire. Although Newington and Monks Risborough were regarded as separate peculiars, the calls are combined in this volume. Presumably the reason that calls for these three peculiars are all included in the same volume is that, for this period, they shared the same official.

Records of the dean and chapter of Christ Church

Unusually, institutions of the dean and canons of Christ Church are not recorded in the episcopal registers.These events will, therefore, have to be extracted from the act books and other records of the dean and chapter preserved in the archives at Christ Church. As yet, however, these records have not been surveyed.

At Christ Church the closest equivalent to the minor canons found in other cathedrals were known as chaplains. No records surivive of the appointment of chaplains. However, the disbursement books are preserved in a continuous series from 1661 (Christ Church Archives, xii.b.104–119 and xii.c.120–279). These documents record the quarterly payments made to the chaplains, providing reasonably precise dates for the beginning and end of each chaplain's appointment.

A few sources remain to be entered into the Database:

  • TNA, E331/Oxford, for 1660–88.
  • Act books of the dean and chapter
  • Installation mandates of the dean and chapter

From 1737 to 1835 (from the appointment of Thomas Secker as bishop to the end of the period covered by the database)

The modern end of the period covered by the CCEd offers a good body of records.

Episcopal registers, etc. as sources for institutions and collations

The registers for this diocese are large and cumbersome to use, but beautifully kept. MS Oxf. Dioc. Papers b. 21 covers the episcopates of Thomas Secker (1737–58), John Hume (1758–66), Robert Lowth (1766–78), John Butler (1778–86), Edward Smallwell (1788–99) and the first years of John Randolph (1799–1807). The first record dates from 5 June 1737, and the last from 1802. It includes resignations as well as appointments. MS Oxf. Dioc. Papers b. 22 then takes up the story from 6 June 1802 and takes it beyond the end of the Database period to 1845, taking in the episcopates of John Randolph until his departure in 1807, Charles Moss (1807–11), William Jackson (1812–15), Edward Legge (1816–27), Charles Lloyd (1827–9) and the first years of Richard Bagot (1829–45). From these volumes all relevant appointments up until 31 Dec. 1835 have been extracted. Alongside these volumes survives an act book for the period 1777–1811, MS Oxf. Dioc. Papers e. 29, from which two presentations not in the registers have been extracted , but correlation with registers suggested there was no need for this, or its successor volume, MS Oxf. Dioc. Papers e. 30, to be entered into the database in full.

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

The registers are again very useful here, recording curacies of all types. From 1745 onwards MS Oxf. Dioc. Papers b. 21 includes lists of stipendiary curates licensed, in some cases with stipends. Some of the licensings are only recorded as marginalia. It also records a few schoolmasters. MS Oxf. Dioc. Papers b. 22 also contains large numbers of licensing records, with stipends and nominators, though again few schoolmasters. The act book, MS Oxf. Dioc. Papers e. 29, again adds a couple of licensings not contained in the registers, and these have been extracted and uploaded.

As in most dioceses, the 1810s saw responses to legislation concerning curates in the form of new records. MS Oxf. Dioc. Papers c. 84 is in many respects a typical bound volume of copies of curates’ licences, covering the years 1814–20. Stipends are included, as are some licences earlier licences. The volume also included a list of some 36 curates licensed between December 1745 and June 1754. All this data has been extracted. However, other records of licences in the nineteenth century, notably MS Oxf. Dioc. Papers c. 325, a collection of licence copies, seem to have nothing to add to the register, and have not been entered.

If schoolmasters are absent from the registers, they can be found in subscription books, and these have all been surveyed to see if they contain any additional material for CCEd. MS Oxf. Dioc. Papers e. 23, entitled on the cover Subscriptions 1730–71, and rather misleadingly catalogued as containing ‘subscriptions of curates’, includes both curates and schoolmasters, alongside parish officers and proctors (not extracted) and covers the period before 1745 when many curates were omitted from the register as well. Lecturers, also missing from the registers are here too. The relevant records have been extracted. MS Oxf. Dioc. Papers e. 25, labelled Subscriptions 1738–77 (catalogued as subscriptions of instituted clergy) furnished three curates’ subscriptions relating to licences not in the contemporary register which have been extracted. The third subscription book in use in this period MS Oxf. Dioc. Papers d. 99, Subscriptions 1738–99 (once more supposedly instituted clergy), produced another four. MS Oxf. Dioc. Papers d. 102 (supposedly ordinands’ subscriptions 1738–59) contains three curates’ licences not in the register.

Clergy lists

There seems no need to seek out liber cleri for the whole diocese in light of the goods survival of other types of record.

Records of appointments in peculiar jurisdictions

It is at first sight disappointing that the record sequences providing documentation of peculiars largely expire before this period. We do have, however, MS Oxf. Archd. Papers c. 159, the Act and Visitation Book 1740–1836 for Dorchester, which contains liber cleri for this peculiar. All the annual lists contained in the volume have been extracted. It should also be noted that records for the Banbury peculiar appear in the registers for this period; as do those for Langford; the Thame peculiar is covered by records found in the diocesan archives of Lincoln, though even here there are odd instances of records in the Oxford diocesan collections.

Ordinations

Oxford was a busy place for ordinations. Luckily, they are well documented. The registers are central, beginning with MS Oxf. Dioc. Papers b. 21 covering 1737–1802, sometimes with titles being given, and some letters dimissory being recorded. All ordinations have been extracted from this volume, as they have from MS Oxf. Dioc. Papers b. 22 up to and including 31 December 1835. The act book MS Oxf. Dioc. Papers e. 29 contains records of some ten additional ordinations or acts of issuing letters dimissory, which have been extracted from the volume and added to the full records from the registers. Subscription books add more. MS Oxf. Dioc. Papers e. 25 provided a single priesting from 1738, duly extracted; MS Oxf. Dioc. Papers d. 102 and the other ordination subscription books (MS Oxf. Dioc. Papers e. 26–8, in contrast, however, have nothing to add. However, we intend to use information contained in some subscription books, notably MS Oxf. Dioc. Papers e. 27, which has a good list of caveats 1777–94, and the ordination book MS Oxf. Dioc. Papers c. 126, covering 1793–1805, which notes failed candidates for ordination, to provide commentary on the individuals involved.

Records of the dean and chapter of Christ Church

As in the previous period institutions of the dean and canons of Christ Church were not recorded in the episcopal registers at first, but after 1800 in particular a few sis make it into MS Oxf. Dioc. Papers b. 22. More generally these events will have to be extracted from the act books and other records of the dean and chapter preserved in the archives at Christ Church. As yet, however, these records have not been surveyed.

At Christ Church the closest equivalent to the minor canons found in other cathedrals were known as chaplains. No records survive of their appointment. However, the disbursement books are preserved in a continuous series (Christ Church Archives, xii.c.120–279), recording quarterly payments made to the chaplains, providing reasonably precise dates for the beginning and end of each chaplain’s appointment. These have been extracted and uploaded.