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Introduction

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

The diocesan record office is

Centre for Kentish Studies, Sessions House, Maidstone, Kent ME14 1XQ
email: archives@kent.gov.uk
website: [http://www.kent.gov.uk/e&l/artslib/archives/archcks.html
tel: 01622 694363

Records of the dean and chapter of Rochester are preserved in:

Medway Archives and Local Studies Centre, Civic Centre, Strood, Rochester, Kent ME2 4AU
email: archives@medway.gov.uk
website and online catalogue: [http://cityark.medway.gov.uk/
tel: 01634 332714

It is worth noting the excellent online catalogue developed by the Medway Archives: anyone seeking more detailed information on the dean and chapter archives discussed below, will find them in effect calendared there.

However, Rochester has not been fortunate in the survival of its records. There are considerable gaps, particularly surprising in the modern period. Uniquely among English and Welsh dioceses the episcopal register(s) relating to the most recent period of the CCED has been lost in the course of the twentieth century: certainly it would appear that the Revd C. H. Feilding was able to consult it when compiling his Records of Rochester Diocese, published in 1910. When the Pilgrim Trustees surveyed the records in 19** at the diocesan registry in the precinct at Rochester, it is impossible to be certain whether the loss had already occurred. The last surviving register remains uncatalogued and is in fairly poor condition. The accounts of the CCED project's record survey and selection of sources for this diocese bears testimony to the difficulties this causes the project. It is hard to avoid the conclusion that some of the gaps in the archive reflect the series of geographical reorganizations to which the diocese was subject from the mid-nineteenth century.

Unless otherwise indicated, all the records discussed are held at the Centre for Kentish Studies, Maidstone, Kent.

  • 1540 to 1660 (Reformation to Restoration)
  • 1660 to 1756 (from the Restoration to the commencement of the episcopate of Zachary Pearce in 1756).
  • 1756 to 1835 (from the appointment of Zachary Pearce as bishop to the end of the period covered by the database).

1540 to 1660 (Reformation to Restoration)

On the face of it, the diocesan records are Rochester for 1540 to 1660 are very thin. While there is a complete run of registers, there are few ordination records, no subscription or licensing books and just one liber cleri . However, the varied contents of the registers to some extent compensate for this. In contrast to most dioceses, sources for 1540-60 are adequate, but sparse thereafter, especially information relating to curates.

There is an unbroken run of episcopal registers for the period, though those for 1605-8 are in chaotic order and do not record all institutions and collations. The great strength of the registers is their inclusive character: in them we find collations, institutions, inductions, and copies of the returns to the First Fruits Office; ordinations, letters of orders and the occasional letter dimissory; appointments of diocesan officials, dispensations, copies of subsidy returns listing prebendaries, minor canons and cathedral clergy (1544-54), vacant livings, the occasional licence to preach, clergy licensed for a combination lecture, admission of a chaplain, installation of deans, archdeacons and canons. There is even a register of orders (1605) in one register.

In contrast, no subscription book survives. All we have is seventeen subscriptions on institution (1609-10) before Bishop Neile, recorded in his personal subscription book (Borthwick Institute, York, Sub. Bk 2). There is no surviving licensing book.

Turning to visitation records, besides the aforementioned register of orders entered in a register for 1605, there is one liber cleri for 1562-5.

Surviving induction mandates sometimes contain acts of resignation.

The registers as sources for appointments to benefices and cathedral offices

For collations and institutions, the records are pretty full for 1540-1605, and in some cases we also have returns to the First Fruits Office and induction mandates. The registers on occasion record the installation of the cathedral clergy. For 1605-46 the registers are less complete, and returns to the First Fruits Office (PRO, E331 Rochester/19-25) have been drawn on. There are also 20 resignations for 1550-91 among the induction mandates (DRa/Ai). We also have seventeen subscriptions on institution (1609-10) before Bishop Neile, recorded in Bishop Neile's personal subscription book (Borthwick Institute, York, Sub. Bk 2).

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

The names of curates can be recovered from the subsidy lists of 1545-54 copied into the episcopal register, the liber cleri of 1562-5 and the register of orders of 1605. These are supplemented by clerical subsidy records (PRO, E179) from c.1572-c.1603.

A small number of preachers are entered in the episcopal registers and are listed in the register of orders of 1605. There are no records of schoolmasters, except one mentioned in a consistory court book (DRb/Pa.21).

Ordinations

Recorded in the episcopal registers for 1576-7, and 1600 only; usually they list name, degree and college. The register of orders of 1605 records other ordinations in the diocese; the registers also contain some letters of orders issued elsewhere.

Records of the dean and chapter of Rochester cathedral

The episcopal registers on occasion record the installation of the cathedral clergy, and also contain copies of subsidy returns listing prebendaries, minor canons and cathedral clergy (1544-54). There are also a few records relating to individual appointments of schoolmasters, minor canons and canons at the Medway Archives and Local Studies Centre in Strood.

A few minor sources remain to be entered in the database:

  • LPL, CM 13/52: a list of Rochester diocesan clergy with degrees and dates of institution c.1591-2
    • CM 13/53 c.1592 another list, mutilated. Both need to be surveyed to see if they add anything significant to the database.
  • A 1560-1 survey held in Corpus Christi Cambridge.
  • A 1563 survey (BL, Lansdowne 6) short, with a few choice entries. BL, Lansdowne 8 may shed light on the Shoreham peculiar.
  • The few surviving documents relating to chapter appointments at the Medway Archives.

1660-1756 (from the Restoration to the commencement of the episcopate of Zachary Pearce in 1756).

As in the other periods, the Rochester sources for this period are less full than for many other dioceses. There are almost no appointment or ordination records for the period between 1660 and 1688, and very few alternative documents survive to fill the gap at Kentish Studies Centre in Maidstone: quite remarkably, no subscription or licensing books survive at all. Visitation records are non-existent before 1724, and thin before 1738.

Episcopal Registers, etc. as sources for institutions and collations

DRb/Ar/1/17, fos. 101v-123v, is the register of John Warner (1638-66) and John Dolben (1666-83). However, it is seriously incomplete, including records for only 1660 and 1667-71, together with a list of prebendaries of Rochester cathedral complied for its visitation in 1668. It must be doubtful whether the register constitutes a complete record for even the dates covered.

There is then no document providing any information about institutions until 30 September 1685. Consequently, the returns to the office of first fruits have been extracted for the period from April 1660 to April 1691 (PRO, E331/Rochester/26-31). In these records, however, the name of the previous incumbent and sometimes of the patron is frequently missing, especially in the earlier part of the period. Induction mandates for the diocese of Rochester (DRa/Ai) have survived, and these have been extracted in addition to E331. While there is a lot of overlap between the two, the record of some events survives only in E331 and of others only in DRa/Ai.

DRb/Ai/1, a volume entitled 'Bishop's Institutions and Collections from 1685 to 1712' includes (fos. 40-25) a table of institutions and collations from 30 September 1685 to 24 February 1712, probably taking us to the end of Sprat's episcopate.

A uncatalogued 'Act Book 1713-1821' includes institutions and collations from 19 July 1713 until the end of the period covered by this block. Muniment Books 1683-1754 (DRb/Am/1-5) include mandates for induction, but these have not been extracted, as this information should have been gathered from DRb/Ai/1 and the uncatalogued act book. However, a few institutions recorded in DRb/Am/1 (1683-1717) have been extracted.

Further information concerning such appointments can be obtained from the records of the dean and chapter of Rochester cathedral.

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

There are no surviving records providing details of other appointments until November 1689. Given that no visitation records survive for this period, the Database will therefore contain no records of the appointment of curates, etc., for this period. This gap could be filled in part by using parochial records, but that has not yet been done.

From 30 November 1689 until 10 December 1713 appointments of curates and lecturers, and licences to preach, are recorded in DRb/Ai/1, fos. 2-7.

From 19 July 1713 appointments of curates and domestic chaplains are recorded in the uncatalogued 'Act Book 1713-1821'.

Note, however, that none of these sources include any records of appointments of schoolmasters. Licences for schoolmasters, together with a few institutions and the election of proctors for convocation, are recorded in the Muniment Books 1683-1717 (DRb/Am/1). Relevant records from this volume have been extracted.

Further information concerning such appointments can be obtained from the records of the dean and chapter of Rochester cathedral.

Ordinations

There are no surviving records of ordinations before 2 February 1684. From then until 20 September 1713 ordinations are recorded, sometimes with summary details of testimonials and titles, in DRb/Ai/1, fos. 10-19. A few letters dimissory are recorded in the same volume, fos. 2-7. From 19 July 1713 ordinations and letters dimissory are recorded in the uncatalogued 'Act Book 1713-1821'.

Visitation records and other clerical lists

A good run of visitation processes survive from 1738, listing clergy (including some curates), schoolmasters, churchwardens and parish clerks. These survive in DRb/Vb/1, DRb/Vs/1, DRb/VpM and DRb/VpR (the various classes seem to cover different deaneries), and the coverage for 1738, 1743, 1748 and 1754 appears to be complete. In addition, DRb/Vs/1 includes a process for 1724. As these records provide information about schoolmasters and some additional curates, they have all been extracted in full.

There are some clergy lists in the Muniment Books: Am/2 (1717-26) includes lists of clergy for electing proctors to convocation for 1713 and 1721; Am/3 (1716-24) includes a list of cathedral clergy 1716; and Am/4 (1727-54) includes lists of clergy summoned to elect proctors for 1734, 1741 and 1747. These lists have been extracted.

DRb/C/5 provides a list of clergy summoned to Bromley, with notes of those present and voting for proctors for convocation in 1747. DRb/O 8/5 is a list of clergy summoned to elect convocation proctors in 1754 (which is damaged with some loss of text). Neither of these records has been extracted.

Records of the dean and chapter of Rochester cathedral

The main records of the dean and chapter are the Chapter books, which are preserved at the Medway Archives Office. DRc/Ac 2-7, Chapter books 1-6 (31 December 1678 to 2 December 1765), have been extracted for the Database, providing information about the appointment of minor canons, schoolmasters, and presentations to livings in the patronage of the dean and chapter between 1679 and 1695. DRc/Ac3-4 also include some liber cleri for the dean and chapter compiled for the general audits; these have also been extracted.

Some information about the installation of canons and the appointment of minor canons for the period between 1660 and 1679 is provided by 'The Red Book vol. 2' (DRc/Arb 2).

Other, more minor records, of the dean and chapter remain to be surveyed.

From 1756 to 1835 (from the appointment of Zachary Pearce as bishop to the end of the period covered by the database).

Once more the records at Rochester leave a lot to be desired: it would not be to much to say that Rochester has the poorest record survival for the modern end of the Database of all the dioceses of England and Wales. While some of the deficiencies can be addressed through the use of alternative sources, this is not true for all of them.

Most striking is the loss of the episcopal register(s?)/act book covering the final years of the Database. The impact of this deficiency is amplified by a complete absence of surviving subscription books after 1756. Again, whereas most dioceses have an archive of stipendiary curates' licences dating from the legislative reforms of the 1810s, all that survives at Rochester is a list that would appear to be far from comprehensive. Visitation material is also pretty sparse. Some of the sources we might turn to in extremis elsewhere do not survive: ordination papers, institution/presentation papers etc. The one consolation is that some of the materials that do survive are unusually informative. The one relevant act book contains good information for appointments and ordinations, and is unusually full in records of curates. Moreover records of the meetings to elect proctors for convocation can in some cases serve the same purpose as visitation call books in other dioceses.

Episcopal registers, etc. as sources for institutions and collations

The only surviving act book or register for this period is the uncatalogued 'Act Book 1713-1821' held at the Kentish Studies Centre. This contains records up to 1824, and the collations and institutions it records have been extracted, as well as resignations. For the period after 1824 to the end of the project period , the returns to the office of first fruits have been extracted (PRO, E331/Rochester/59-61).

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

Once more the uncatalogued Act Book is a major source: it includes many records of the licensing of curates, including an apparent 'blitz' of licensing of those serving unlicensed by Bishop Horsley in 1796. The number of curates recorded increases significantly in the early nineteenth century. Sadly, the bound volumes of curates' licences which are a common feature of diocesan archives after the introduction of new legislative measures relating to curates in the second decade of the nineteenth century either never existed or have not survived at Rochester. What does survive is a List of Curates' Licences 1814-1887, (DRb/La1) which provides an alphabetical listing of licences issued with on some occasions further details. All the records relating to the period up to 31 December 1835 have been extracted.

For schoolmasters' appointments the uncatalogued act book provides material up to 1824; two licensings of schoolmasters are also recorded in DRb/Am5, the Muniment book 1754-73, and these have been recorded.

Licences to preach are occasionally recorded in the uncatalogued act book.

Clergy lists

There are a number of surviving visitation books/processes from the late eighteenth century. DRb/Vb1 includes visitation books for the deaneries of Rochester and Malling. These have been extracted for 1757, 1769, 1767, 1776, 1780, 1796 and 1800. Similar material for the deanery of Dartford is preserved under the title 'Visitation processes' at DRb/Vs1, and has been recorded for 1754, 1757, 1760 and (in this instance for the deanery of Malling) 1830. However, at least one list is problematic: one list, for 30 July to August 1760, has not been uploaded, as corrections made indicate that the list had been updated and is not a coherent list.

The records of clergy participating in the election of proctors for convocation are recorded in the muniment books, but have not been extracted. There are also separately preserved lists of those participating in early nineteenth-century elections for convocation proctors which have not been entered.

Ordinations

The only surviving act book or register for this period is the uncatalogued 'Act Book 1713-1821'. Records of ordinations and of the issue of letters dimissory have been extracted from this volume. In the absence of surviving ordination papers, the period after 1824 presents more of a challenge. No sources have been discovered for the remainder of the 1820s, although the records of letters dimissory both to and from the bishop of Rochester will of course reveal the identities of some of those ordained by the bishop of Rochester: it is clear that George Murray, bishop from 1827, frequently ordained for his fellow bishops, and the act book reveals his predecessors ordaining numerous clergy for the colonies on behalf of the bishop of London at Fulham Palace. We know about Murray's activity in part because from 1832 the newly established British Magazine, edited by Hugh James Rose, published ordination lists with details of college and degree. Ordination lists for Rochester are preserved in this form from November 1832. It is not clear how Rose obtained his information, but it is highly likely that the coverage was far from complete at least in the first months of the enterprise. The records of these ordinations have been entered. On one occasion, in 1829, an ordination was published in the British Critic, which had begun to record information regarding ecclesiastical events in the mid-1820s, but in an even less systematic way than the later British Magazine.

Records of the Dean and Chapter of Rochester

The records of the dean and chapter, deposited at the Medway Archives and Local Studies Centre in Strood, are a vital resource not only for the clergy appointed to cathedral positions, but as a means of addressing some of the deficiencies of the diocesan archive, recording as they do presentations and nominations made by the dean and chapter to livings in their gift. Detailed listings of these holdings can be accessed on the CityArk website maintained by the Medway Archives.

For this period the following records have been extracted. First, relevant records have been extracted from the Chapter Minute Books, Drc/Ac07-11, which cover the period from 1756 to the end of 1835. In these minute books the chapter recorded presentations to livings in their gift, the nomination of curates to such livings, appointments to the cathedral school, the appointment of minor canons of the cathedral, and acts relating to the appointment of bishops and archdeacons of Rochester. Then there is the so-called 'Red Book' of which the third volume, DRc/Ab03 contains a miscellany of records relating to the chapter, having served as a register of official documents relating to the appointment of bishops and archdeacons of Rochester, and of deans and prebendaries of the cathedral. These have been recorded up to the end of the period covered by the Database.