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Ecclesiastical Authority in England: Church Court Records, c.1400-c.1660: Series 1: Parts 1 and 2: Ely

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About this Collection

Introduction: Ecclesiastical Authority in England: Church Court Records,c

Introduction: Ecclesiastical Authority in England: ChurchCourt Records, c.1400-c.1660: Series I: The Church Court Records of Ely: Parts1 and 2


The See of Ely was founded by King Henry I in 1109 at thesite of the seventh century Benedictine abbey of St. Etheldreda, and after thistime the Bishop exercised considerable authority over both the Isle of Ely andmuch of the county of Cambridge. All ecclesiastical cases in the area wereheard in the Episcopal courts, where the presiding judge was the official Principaland Commissary, later to be known as the Chancellor, and the records offer aninvaluable insight into the operation of church courts and their significantrole within the diocese.


This series is divided into two parts. Part One (1374-1640)offers the main sequence of Instance Act Books, covering cases between parties,particularly marriage and tithe cases. To this is added a substantial selectionof Court Papers the original bundles of evidence, most of which were storedin the Old Prison at Ely. Part Two (1469-1639) supplies the Office Act Booksconcerning the spiritual and moral welfare of both clergy and laity. This issupplemented by a collection of Formularies, dealing with matters as diverse assequestrations, commissions of offices, proceedings against Lollards,Inquisitions and Dispensations.


A Note on Dates


Church Court Records provide extensive and detailedevidence of the social, legal and economic structure of Medieval and EarlyModern England.


This programme provides coverage of these records from theearliest surviving examples (most sequences commence c.1400) to the end of theInterregnum in 1660.


We are fortunate to begin this programme with the records ofEly. These include the earliest surviving consistory court register for theperiod 1374 to 1381. However, there are gaps in the records after that date.There are no surviving act books for the fifteenth century, and there are noremaining records for the period 1640 to 1660.


We are also fortunate to include the important 'Black Book'of Ely, which provides details relevant to the operations of the consistorycourt over the period 1367 to 1708.