Clergy lists, chapels and curates: some observations made and problems defined from Derbyshire 1558–1662

Richard Clark (rc2546[at]


This paper examines some of the problems involved in creating full and accurate lists of the clergy in the early modern period. It highlights both the shotcomings of the sources and also the fact that the parochial structure was not as rigid as is often assumed.The latter part of the article discussed the evidence for the behaviour and discipline of the unbeneficed clergy in the archdeaconry of Derbyshire.

Citation Information

To cite this article:
Richard Clark, ‘Clergy lists, chapels and curates: some observations made and problems defined from Derbyshire 1558–1662’, CCEd Online Journal 2, 2007.


To compile lists of beneficed and unbeneficed clergy for one archdeaconry – Derby – may appear to be a simple task, given the relative abundance of diocesan and associated records. In fact it is fraught with difficulties and reveals much about the record-keeping practices and priorities of local administrative units within the reformed Church of England; the case-study also has implications well beyond the archdeaconry of Derby.

The archdeaconries of Stafford and Derby, the core of the diocese of Coventry and Lichfield, share some characteristics of the five dioceses within the northern province of York: substantial upland areas, dominated at the time by pastoral farming and mineral extraction, as well as lowland districts with more agrarian economies. The former was characterized by parishes of large extent and sparse provision for worship. ‘What have we here a church… Have you churches in this country, sir?’ asks the wayfarer, traversing the upper reaches of the Dove Valley, in Izaac Walton’s The Compleat Angler. The angler replies ‘You see we have; but had you seen none, why should you make that doubt, sir?’, to which his companion retorts, ‘Why… I’ll tell you. I thought myself a stage or two beyond Christendom.’ They were near the parish of Hartington whose vicar in 1705 described it as ‘a very large one, twelve miles and upwards in length, and between three or four miles in breadth, containing in it at least fourteen villages, hamlets or townships and one chapel.’ ((Quoted in M. Austin, ‘Religion and society in Derbyshire during the industrial revolution’, Derbyshire Archaeological Journal, 93(1973), 75; Lichfield Record Office [LRO], Queen Anne Bounty Returns, 1705, B/A/13ii.)).

Another feature of these two archdeaconries was the relative paucity of benefices. In extensive areas the provision of worship depended both on churches and chapels of varying non-beneficed status and considerable numbers of unbeneficed clergy serving them. In this paper I want to focus on both of them and the impact of one more trait of the archdeaconry of Derby on effective clergy listing: the relative poverty, thinness and incompleteness of records available.

At any one time in the archdeaconry there were just over a hundred benefices, almost evenly divided into rectories and vicarages. There were a dozen or so livings, some in extra-parochial areas, variously described as perpetual curacies and donatives where vicarages had never been established, and up to fifty chapels with full parochial rights and of varying degrees of dependency under their mother churches. In addition there were more than two dozen chapels in which public worship was at sometime in the period conducted or probably so. Some of these lacked full parochial rights, others had an uncertain or shadowy existence and a few sat on the dividing line between public place of worship and private domestic chapel.

In drawing up lists of clergy under the places where they ministered, two features emerged from attempts to identify, enumerate and categorize places of public worship within the archdeaconry. The first was that the parochial structure of the Church of England at this time was less rigid than I had first appreciated; the second that I remain unsure how many places of public worship operated at any one time.

With regard to structure, some places of worship rose in status, others declined; some disappeared, others emerged; a handful were just ill-defined. A few benefices, all ill-endowed vicarages, fell under lengthy periods of sequestration and were served by curates in place of instituted clergy. Bishop Overton listed five vicarages in a certificate to the Fruit and Tenths Office of 20 November 1596, describing them as vacant for years and under sequestration because of their poverty and arrears of tenths to the crown. ((The National Archives [TNA], PRO E331/Coventry and Lichfield/8 Oct 1595- Oct 1600 (Certificates to the First Fruits and Tenths Office); PRO E112/9/36: Petition to the court of Exchequer, Robert Croftes clerk v John Walton clerk. Robert Croftes, instituted to the vicarage of St Michael’s in Derby in 1588 after a vacancy there of nearly two decades, petitioned the court of Exchequer to insist that he was not liable for the arrears of clerical tenths. With what success is uncertain but he soon found another benefice, leaving the vicarage vacant for another twenty years. R. Clark, ‘Lists of Derbyshire clergymen: parishes D’, Derbyshire Archaeological Journal, 126 (2006), 182.)) In all eleven benefices before 1662 fell under lengthy periods of sequestration, three of which lasted continuously more than a century. Two cases occurred before the Reformation, the rest in the third quarter of the sixteenth century, indicative of the financial pressures on benefices at this time, particularly caused by the impact of clerical taxation. ((Institutions to Sawley ceased during the fifteenth century and the last institution to Church Broughton was in 1502. There were significant gaps in the institutions to Bolsover, Castleton, Derby St Michael and St Werburgh, Dronfield, Kirk Hallam, Scarcliffe, Swarkestone and Willington.))

There were, on the other hand, attempts from 1587 to 1631 to institute clergy into four livings never recorded before as benefices and an effort to prise the rectory of Mapleton from the vicarage of Ashbourne to which it had been united in the late thirteenth century. But, like entry to the Premier League, promotion was usually followed by relegation. All, except one, were unable to sustain their place, thwarted, by the vicar of Ashbourne in the case of Mapleton but owing to unknown factors in the two other cases. ((The cures concerned were Mapleton, Ockbrook, Osmaston by Derby, Stanton by Dale and Willesley.))

There were additions to the stock of places of public worship in the period; at least four chapels were built anew from 1593 to 1657, three enjoying full parochial rights. ((These were Edale (consecrated 1634), Buxton (1625), Peak Forest (1657), and Risley (1593). The chapel of ease at Dore was possibly established in this period but confirmatory, documentary evidence is lacking. A private, domestic chapel had been constructed at Catton by the late 1620s.)) On the other hand six chapels of ease and one parish church, certainly in existence in the 1540s or in 1553, disappear from the record in the following decades and at least two more chapels later on. When the chapels of Foremark and Ingleby became ruinous; Foremark was rebuilt by Sir Francis Burdett and consecrated in 1662, but Ingleby was abandoned. ((The chapels of ease identified as disappearing in the period are Catton, Clifton, Codnor, Coton-in-the-Elms, Creswell, Cromford, Ingleby and Little Eaton; the parish church at Duckmanton also fell out of use when its vicarage was united to the rectory of Sutton Scarsdale in 1559.))

Although the parochial structure in the archdeaconry was not completely rigid, the changes that did occur were limited and ambivalent in their impact. They did little to strengthen or enhance provision for worship to any significant extent before 1642 nor to diminish it. On the other hand more negative developments to the structure seem contained to the period before 1580 and more positive ones thereafter.

How many places of worship operated at any one time remains unclear. The hope that the visitation call books or libri cleri or the various occasional surveys of the clergy might provide a complete list of places of worship along side the names of active ministers, was soon dashed once the information from these books was tabulated and compared with other sources. Some chapels appear in the visitation call books and then disappear, sometimes reappearing several years later; others known to have existed, are never named in them at all during this time. These chapels are all in the group of the two dozen chapels of ease described earlier as having a shadowy existence. For example, Calke Chapel was listed in most, though not all, call books, from 1558 to 1614 and never afterwards. Alderwasley was listed from 1558 to 1605, Dethick from 1558 to 1586, reappearing in the call books of the early eighteenth century, Brimington from 1558 to 1614, reappearing from 1662 onwards and Holmesfield appearing only in 1616 and then not again until 1701.

There is also the problem of when is a chapel a public place of worship, which one would expect to see listed in visitation records, and when is it a private, domestic oratory which one would not. The existing records suggest no clear definition. The chapels at Chatsworth, Hardwick and Haddon, the last two with good early seventeenth-century fittings, never appear in the call books. Nor does the chapel built in the 1620s at Catton Hall. On the other hand Calke and Dethick, both chapels to major gentry households and constructed by their owners, are listed. After the Restoration the Gilberts of Locko built a chapel attached to their house and that too appears in call books. More disconcerting to the obsessive clergy lister by place of worship is the appearance for the first time of five chapels in the Parliamentary survey of livings, undertaken upon the orders of the Rump in 1650. The commissioners declared three ‘fit to be disused’, something of a shock when one had not been aware that two of them had been in use in the first place. ((N. Pevsner, rev E. Hallam, The buildings of England: Derbyshire (London, 1986), pp. 226, 236, 264; Lambeth Palace Library [LPL], Comm. XIIa/6, 363, 441, 459, 467, 471 (parliamentary survey of parishes 1650).))

There are, perhaps, two explanations for these patterns and omissions in the visitation call books. First, the diocesan officials conducting these visitations were more interested in recording clergymen than places of worship. Their concern was to check that the clergy cited before them had appeared in person or by proxy, had presented their letters of ordination and institution and their licences for inspection, and had paid their visitation fees. Chapels of ease, lacking a permanent minister, or where worship was irregular or served by the incumbent of the mother church, were of less interest, hence their omission. Riddings Chapel was only ever listed in the visitation records of 1620 when it had its own reader, Richard Cope. Perhaps at other times the chapel, if functioning, was served by visiting clergy or the vicar of Alfreton, the incumbent of the mother church. ((LRO, B/V/1/37 (visitation call book 1620).)) The only problem is that this is surmise, not recorded certainty.

The other explanation lies probably in the way that the libri cleri or call books were drawn up. Diocesan officials clearly used one or more call books from previous visitations to draw up a book for the current visitation. The series of call books to 1616 can all be shown in their use of the similarly and strangely ordered listings of parish livings to have used earlier books going back to the first surviving one, drawn up in 1558. As a result omissions or redundant entries recurred. So Coton-in-the-Elms appears up to 1616 when finally ‘no prayers’ is written against the name. ((LRO, B/V/1/2, 4-5, 7-9, 11, 13, 15-16, 23-5, 28, 32 (visitation call books 1558, 1560, 1561, 1570, 1573, 1576 (fragment), 1579, 1581, 1584, 1586, 1597, 1605, 1609, 1614, 1616).)) In the call book for Bishop Morton’s visitation in 1620 the order of the listing of parishes under deaneries is so different, though still inexplicable, that it was clearly an attempt to work from scratch and from this point a number of chapels cease to be listed. For the visitations of 1636 and 1639 an effort was made, not entirely successfully, to draw up call books in which parish livings were listed in alphabetical order under their deanery. The book for 1639 was clearly the model for the call books of 1662, 1665 and thereafter. ((LRO, B/V/1/37, 57, 62, 67 (visitation call books, 1620, 1636, 1639, 1662).))

As the call books do not provide a completely reliable guide to all the places of worship in operation at any one time in the jurisdictions visited, so they omitted a few unbeneficed clergy serving in them at the time of the visitations. Thomas Saunderson, cited to the diocesan visitation of 1626 as curate of Alderwasley, was not listed in the call books of 1616 and 1620 even though he appears as curate there in probate acts from 1615 onwards. William Mower, named as curate of Holmesfield in the 1616 call book, was omitted from visitation records in 1620 and 1626 but appears in a probate act as curate there in 1627. Nicholas Yeallott appears in Hathersage parish register as curate of Derwent from 1637 onwards but is not listed as such in the diocesan visitation call book of 1639. ((R. Clark, ‘Lists of Derbyshire clergymen: parishes A-B’, Derbyshire Archaeological Journal, 105 (1984), 27; Clark, ‘Lists of Derbyshire clergymen: parishes D’, 189; LRO, B/V/1/32 (Visitation Call Book 1616), B/C/10/14, 50v (probate act book).))

The imperfections of the visitation call books are perhaps only apparent at the peripheries of the ecclesiastical structure in the archdeaconry. Even so, this is unfortunate; in the absence of a complete set of diocesan ordination registers, subscription books and licensing records, the surviving call books with the surveys of clergy from 1593 and 1603, 1650 and 1651/2 are the most important source of names for the unbeneficed clergy of the archdeaconry during this period.

The call books score ‘a double whammy’ in that in most visitations for which they survive, diocesan officials used them as registers of appearance of clergy at the visitation court rather than as a means for recording their details of educational attainment, ordination, institution and licensings. They were, in effect, documents of administrative processing rather than of reference. There are only four, surviving exceptions – the call book of 1584 with details of the clergy’s dates of ordination and institution noted, an incomplete call book of 1597, and the call books of 1639 and 1662, though after this date more detailed call books eventually became standard practice. As a result sources of any additional evidence about the unbeneficed clergy such as details from probate records and parish registers become especially helpful. The limitations of the call books also suggest that the diocesan authorities lacked a full grasp of the ecclesiastical structure of the archdeaconry and the clergy serving in it. ((LRO, B/V/1/15, 23, 62, 67, 77, 79, 89, 93, 96 (visitation call books); archdeaconry records for the period do not survive, but there is no reason to think the archdeacon of Derby was any better informed.))

When the diocesan registrar in September 1662 petitioned Bishop Hacket on behalf of Sir Francis Burdett and the inhabitants of Foremark and Ingleby to seek his approval and consecration of the new chapel at Foremark, not only was the irreparable and ruinous state of the former chapels alleged. It was also claimed ‘there is no endowment for a minister to perform divine offices for the said inhabitants, but that which was done was done by such mean and stipendiary clerks as did rather redound to the dishonour of Almighty God and contempt of his holy worship…’ Burdett had not only offered a newly built chapel ‘furnished with a chancel or seats, a belfry and bell’. He had also granted ‘at his very great cost’ a yearly stipend of £20 out of the impropriated tithes of Milton upon condition he could nominate the curate who thenceforth had to be a university graduate. ((LRO, B/A/1/17, 17-19 (Bishop Hacket’s register).)) Despite its special pleading, the petition encapsulates many of the criticisms that both contemporaries and later commentators have levelled at chapelries and their non-beneficed curates; that chapelries were impoverished and insufficiently endowed; that their ministers were dependent, for example of the offerings of the laity, and insecure in their employment; that they were inadequately qualified, and seldom graduates; that the pastoral care they offered was third rate, ignorant or ineffective.

A good deal of this picture sticks for the archdeaconry of Derby. Chapelries were poor; so were their curates, although with a good deal of variation. Most information about the value of chapelries is later than 1662 and more detailed than anything surviving before. The only contemporary, incomplete data comes from a survey of the clergy made on Archbishop Whitgift’s orders of May 1603 to his diocesans and in the comperta of the 1639 diocesan visitation in response to Bishop Wright’s new article about the value of appropriations and vicarages. In the former the value of chapelries varied from the forty shilling stipend of the curate of Normanton-by-Derby to the £13 6s 8d (20 marks) in tithes enjoyed by the curate of Smisby. In the latter the range was from the £5 stipend paid to the curate of Allestree to the £20 ‘and his table’ provided the curate of Foremark cum Ingleby by Sir Thomas Burdett. ((LRO, Dean and Chapter Records, AA11 (survey of clergy 1603); B/V/1/64 (visitation acta and comperta); Visitation Articles and Injunctions of the early Stuart Church. Volume II, ed. Kenneth Fincham (Church of England Record Society, 5, 1998), p. 70. The figures for curates’ incomes given probably represent sums to which they were legally entitled rather than their actual total, annual gross earnings which would have included a variety of fees and in some chapelries voluntary contributions. For the last documentation before 1662 is lacking.)) Sir Francis, his son, was clearly being less magnanimous than suggested in the petition to Bishop Hacket.

It is said that if you pay peanuts you end up employing monkeys, an aphorism somewhat belied by the universities of the United Kingdom. With regards to behaviour and discipline, ‘monkeys’ can certainly be found among the curates. John Goostree of Chaddesden was cited in 1623 as ‘a haunter of alehouses and a misdemeanerer’ and Thomas Foljambe of Stanton by Dale as being given to drunkenness and haunting alehouses in 1614. More bizarrely, in 1639 Edward Hollingshead of Brassington was described as, ‘who being (as we verily believe) distracted, said he lived incontinently with one Jane Bount and further said he was dead and buried and that he was the Messiah and that whoever believed not in him was damned’. ((R. Clark, ‘Lists of Derbyshire Clergy: parishes C’, Derbyshire Archaeological Society, 124 (2004), 266; LRO, Visitation Acta and Comperta B/V/i/28, 29; Clark, ‘Lists of Derbyshire clergy: parishes A–B’, p. 56.)) But such cases were exceptional. The commissioners of parish livings in 1650 made more frequent, curt, scabrous comments (‘insufficient and a drunkard’ for John Botham of Allestree, insufficient for George Hill of Barlow and ‘scandalous’ for Thomas Alsop of Brassington and so on) without substantiating or defining their claims. ((Clark, ‘List of Derbyshire clergy: parishes A–B’, pp. 29, 42, 56.))

Less scarce were less sensational breaches of ecclesiastical discipline such as problems about licences, failure to read prayers on Wednesdays and Fridays and, above all, a propensity to perform clandestine marriages. The surviving diocesan court records throw up relatively few examples (eleven or so) of curates operating in chapelries without a licence in response to visitation articles. Even so, some of these cases suggest a potential for disorder in the chapelries from unlicensed ministers and raises the suspicion that the limited, surviving evidence might disguise a more substantial problem. Some occur in chapelries where the turnover of curates was high and the search for replacements (with consequent temptations to resort to the unlicensed) frequent. In 1601 a Humphrey Bradbury was cited and excommunicated for reading prayers unlicensed in Charlesworth chapel in the parish of Glossop, the first evidence that the chapel had survived in any form of use after the Reformation. Some inhabitants of Stanley disputed the right to nominate a curate there in 1637 and procured, according to interrogatories against them, ‘a kind of wandering minister to come to the chappell to preach’. They tried to browbeat the curate, with whom they were in dispute, to permit him though ‘he could or, at least, would not shewe any licence to preach’. Unlicensed ministers were clearly available. These villagers were careful to have another alternative candidate as curate licensed though ‘on false grounds’. ((Clark, ‘List of Derbyshire clergy: parishes C’, p. 268; LRO, Consistory Court Cause Papers B/C/4, 1637.))

The temptation of fees from clandestine marriages was too great for around fourteen curates serving chapelries; at least three of them were serial offenders, the penalty of suspension for this misdemeanour presumably exacerbating rather than deterring recidivism. ((The serial offenders detected were John Stansall, curate of Wingerworth, Edmund Nickson, curate of Chapel-en-le-Frith (appears as Whickson in the Calendar of State Papers), and John Stevenson, curate of Osmaston by Derby. TNA, PRO, SP 16/292, 128; LRO B/C/3, 14, 16, 17; B/V/2/11.)) This group probably represents a tip of an iceberg, if only because the diocesan archive is so incomplete. In quantitative terms about 73 of the approximately 650 (nearly 11.5 per cent) curates listed in the relevant livings either appear in the surviving church court records as having breached some aspect of ecclesiastical discipline or received curt, unsubstantiated, partisan reports in the survey of parish livings of 1650.

Even though the link between ill-endowed chapelries and ill-disciplined clergy is not fully sustainable, it is possible to support an association between impoverished curates, potentially inferior pastoral ministry and more limited educational attainment. Some chapelries, though not all, were likely to have been in the hands of proverbial ‘dumb dogs’, though the nature and limitations of the surviving records make an assessment of ministry a speculative and uncertain undertaking and observations tentative in their nature.

Because of my dependence of visitation call books to supply the names of clergy who served the chapelries of Derbyshire, one point I can categorically make is that the resulting lists of clergy are in most cases incomplete, some seriously so. ((The lists for chapelries in peculiars within the archdeaconry are especially incomplete because of an absence of sources.)) Even so, a comparison of these lists with those for benefices reveals that the turnover of clergy in chapelries on average was higher than in the latter. Curates of chapelries tended to move on. To cite extremes, from 1558 to 1662 there were three incumbents of the rectory of Stanton-by-the-Bridge while at least eighteen curates served Chaddesden and twenty Newton Solney. Whatever the quality of pastoral care, there was a lack of continuity in some chapelries.

On the other hand in a handful chapelries the same minister can be found ministering in the same place for years. Edward Newsham served Alvaston for the best part of forty years; Church Broughton had just three curates in more than ninety years, Scropton four in over eighty years and Smisby two in over sixty years. ((Clark, ‘Lists of Derbyshire clergymen: parishes A–B’, p. 30; idem, ‘Lists of Derbyshire clergymen: parishes C’, pp. 265-6, 274-5; lists for Newton Solney, Scropton, Smisby, Stanton-by-the-Bridge in Clark, ‘Lists of Derbyshire clergymen’, Derbyshire Archaeological Journal, forthcoming.)) Clergy listing has revealed the diversity among livings and emphasized the dangers of drawing too sweeping generalizations.

Another generalization for which many exceptions can be found, is that curates who served chapelries tended to be in the early stages of their clerical careers and were likely, if not late ordinands, to be relatively youthful. Their age and experience presumably affected the style of their ministry and their skills of pastoral care as well shaped the social dynamic between themselves and their congregations with regards to the negotiation of levels of respect and deference by each side. How effectively was a curate able to establish himself when he might be deemed ‘wet behind the ears’? Unfortunately surviving records do not enlighten us much. What they do show is that many started their careers in a chapelry before going on to a benefice whereas others remained curates, so far as they can be traced, and went from one chapelry to the next until they disappear from the record. Much depended on luck, connections or endeavours in gaining the appropriate patronage, and especially on the location and character of one’s first chapelry and on who possessed the right of nomination to it.

A number of curates of Baslow and Edensor went on to benefices, presumably benefiting from their connections with the Cavendishes nearby at Chatsworth. Four curates who served Bretby Chapel on the estate of the Stanhope earls of Chesterfield became incumbents of livings, three of which were in the patronage of the family. ((Clark, ‘Lists of Derbyshire clergy: parishes A–B’, pp. 59-60; Edensor in Clark, ‘Lists’, forthcoming.)) On the other hand where noble and gentry influence was weaker and communities less hierarchical, for example in some of the lead mining chapelries of the Peak District, curates could languish in a succession of schoolmasterships and curacies. On 13 June 1656 John Cantrell recorded the peregrinations of his thirty-year ministry in the parish register of Beeley chapel: curate and schoolmaster at Darley 1627-32, a private schoolmaster at Stanton in the Peak in the same parish 1633-4; back to Darley again 1636-44; curate and schoolmaster at neighbouring Ashover 1645-6; at Hucknall, Nottinghamshire 1647-8; and back to the Peak at Elton 1649-52, where the parliamentary commissioners in 1650 described him as ‘scandalous and insufficient’, Parwich 1653-5 Chelmorton 1656 and Beeley 1656. ‘Sic transit tempus vitae humanae’, he added without developing upon his state of mind. Diocesan records show William Higson first as schoolmaster at Ashford in the Water and thence as curate successively at Earl’s Sterndale, Stoney Middleton (twice), Mellor and Elton and Winster, all more or less in a ten mile radius. ((J. C. Cox, Notes on the churches of Derbyshire. II: The hundreds of High Peak and Wirksworth (Chesterfield, 1887), pp. 68-9; LRO, B/V/1/24, 25, 28, 32, 37 (Visitation libri cleri); B/V/4 (citations 1626), B/C/10/14, 70 (probate act book).))

A third generalization about those serving chapelries is the comparative modesty of their qualifications and educational attainment. The only readers listed in the visitation call books all served chapelries or benefices under long-term sequestration. It is not possible to assess how much use was made of lay readers in the archdeaconry. In some of the visitation call books the minister is simply listed by name rather than by office and in others the word curate is not always used to distinguish a clerk in holy orders from a lay reader. In a few cases someone described as a curate is later listed as a reader, perhaps because the diocesan authorities for the purposes of visitation were not concerned to discriminate too carefully. ((The cases uncovered are Thomas Gratton, curate of Belper 1605 and 1615 but reader in 1620, Robert Cartwright, curate of Normanton by Derby in 1603 but reader in 1609, and Nicholas Rowes, curate of Osmaston by Ashbourne in 1603 and 1605 but reader in 1616. Clark, ‘Lists of Derbyshire clergy: parishes A–B’, p. 46; LRO, Dean and Chapter Records, AA11, 13, 17; B/V/1/27, 32 (visitation call books 1609, 1616).)) Whatever the case, there was a group of uncertain size, providing pastoral care yet lacking the minimal attainments to qualify for holy orders.

The clergy lists reveal that some readers were either ‘training on the job’ to attain holy orders or that they were marking time as readers until they attained the minimum canonical age for ordination to the diaconate and priesthood. Ralph Bowker was licensed to Heage in 1597 only on condition that he proceeded to ordination. Robert Gaderne, serving Church Broughton from at least 1570, was not ordained deacon until 1584. John Ridge, already serving Allestree in 1595, was not ordained deacon until 1597. Geoffrey Plattes at Denby by 1614 was ordained deacon in 1615 and Edward Goodwin at Littleover by 1579 was not priested until 1584. ((Clark, ‘Lists’, forthcoming (Heage and Littleover); Clark, ‘Lists of Derbyshire clergy: parishes C’, p. 274; Clark, ‘Lists of Derbyshire clergy: parishes A–B’, p. 29; Clark, ‘Lists of Derbyshire clergy: parishes D’, pp. 173-4.))

Another feature of the chapelry clergy lists is the number of names appearing in them as a single reference. Over a quarter of the 650 individuals appear once in one particular place. As many of these names occur from the period when the Lichfield diocesan records are at their thinnest, the easiest explanation is the deficiency of the archive. It also highlights that limited extent to which I have been able to cross-reference clergy of the same name in other jurisdictions. On the other hand it is possible that within this group were individuals who only undertook pastoral responsibilities for a short time, perhaps because either they were readers, unable or unwilling to proceed to orders, or because, though ordained, they left a formal, active, official ministry. About these individuals no more can be said; but a few, better-recorded individuals have been traced who possibly followed these courses. Robert Campion witnessed wills as a cleric in the 1560s and was curate of Osmaston by Derby in 1570. He thereafter ceases to appear in visitation records, witness lists of wills and clerical subsidy records, but was buried in Derby in 1579 as ‘Sir’ Robert. He is described as a minister in his inventory but its details reveal his interests in malt rather than ministry and a personal estate of over £400. Along with his father, he was one of the first large-scale producers of this growth industry in the town. William King, a priest of the Holy Cross Gild in Chesterfield at its dissolution and curate of Barlow up to 1558, thereafter disappears from the visitation records, but the burial of William King ‘priest’ at Barlow is recorded in 1586. Here, perhaps, the explanation is religious rather than secular: withdrawal in the face of Elizabeth’s protestant settlement. ((LRO, B/V/1/7 (visitation call book); B/C/11 (wills and inventory: John Dasone of Osmaston 1562, John Sadler of Allestree 1565, John Robinson of Mickleover 1567); TNA, PRO, E179/19/516 (clerical subsidy assessment 1568 curate at Breadsall); LRO, B/C/10/7, fo. 163v (probate act book); B/C/11 (inventory of Robert Campion 1579); Derbyshire Record Office (DRO), D1145A/PI1 (Derby St Werburgh parish register); Clark, ‘Derbyshire clergy lists: parishes A–B’, p. 43.)) These two examples re-emphasize the potential importance of records other than those of ordination, subscription, licensing and visitation for exploring clerical career patterns.

The ideal of a learned clergy, educated to graduate level and able to preach, was late in being established in the archdeaconry of Derbyshire, and even later in its chapelries. The surveys of clergy made in 1593 and 1603 reveal that the few graduates and preachers there were, were concentrated in its benefices. In the 1593 list ninety-one clergy are listed and assessed by name; twenty-five were graduates and five more had attended university without graduating; thirteen were preachers. Of the thirty with some university education only five were unbeneficed and of these two served prestigious parishes in Derby. Only one of the preachers was unbeneficed but he served All Saints, Derby’s main church. The survey also contained notes about their scriptural learning. Of the fifteen described as ‘mediocrely learned’, eight were serving chapelries, though another eight non-beneficed clergy received more complimentary notices from exercised or versed to well-exercised, laudably versed or studious in Holy Writ. ((LPL, Carte Antique et Miscellanea, XIII, 37, 3, 11-14.)) In 1603 138 ministers were named and listed, 45 of whom had degrees and 22 of whom were licensed to preach, but of degree-holders all were beneficed except four. Five unbeneficed clergy were licensed preachers, but of these two served parishes in Derby. ((LRO, AA11, 8–17 (records of the dean and chapter of Lichfield).))

The educational attainment of the Derbyshire clergy was improving. Of those noted as mediocrely learned in Holy Writ, a majority had been ordained by Thomas Bentham the first Elizabethan bishop whereas William Overton, his successor, had ordained just one of them. Of the curates of chapelries exercised or well versed in the scriptures, two had been ordained by Bentham and four by Overton. ((These figures give a more positive view of Overton than that suggested by Burleigh’s accusation that he ordained unworthy men for personal gain. Rosemary O’Day, ‘Overton, William (1524/5?–1609)’, Oxford Dictionary of National Biography (Oxford, 2004) [, accessed 13 Oct 2007].)) Under Bishop Morton (1619-32) most Lichfield ordinands were graduates or non-graduates who had attended university. By year they never fell below 63 per cent (1626) of all ordinands and for most years of his episcopacy were above 80 per cent. ((LRO, B/A/4/18 (subscription book).)) As a result increasing numbers of them came to serve chapelries in the diocese in the 1620s, 1630s and 1640s. Nevertheless it was in the chapelries that non-graduate clergy continued to operate. Even as late as 1727 it was still felt that an otherwise under qualified candidate might serve a certain type of chapelry. Then William Bainbridge who owned the nomination to the populous, lead mining chapelry of Brassington, wrote from his Leicestershire home to Bishop Chandler, recommending Humphrey Simkin as curate. Despite his lack of university education and not being so well qualified ‘as you and I could wish’, given the necessity of the vacancy and ‘so small an income that scarcely anybody will accept of it’, he ‘hath discharged well his duty in teaching a school and been very charitable in teaching poor boys gratis which will without doubt render him very acceptable to that people who are ye greatest part of them very poor…’ ((DRO, D944/PI17 (Brassington parish records, letter of 6 Apr. 1727).))

One should not assume that the chapelries were a uniform pastoral desert, structurally impoverished and weak and staffed by an ill-qualified, even inept, clergy. There was more variety than that among them. Sometimes this feature is brought out by diocesan records, but more often one depends on less formal sources, particularly the biographical notices of clerics written by later, often dissenting, ministers.

Some of these livings were the focus of ‘godly’ endeavour, especially where sympathetic patrons offered support. At Calke Julines Herringe, chaplain of Robert Bainbridge, ministered for about eight years before 1618, according to Samuel Clarke, people flocking to hear him. ((Clark, ‘Lists of Derbyshire clergy: parishes C’, p. 258.)) John Walker was less successful at Brampton; his tactlessness towards his congregation and their perception that he neglected his duties, resulted in his suspension for nonconformity in 1605. He was possibly the protégé of Godfrey Foljambe and Isabel, his wife, of nearby Walton Hall. Foljambe had also established a lecturer in Chesterfield, the next town, with George Tuke, another nonconformist, as the town preacher. In the 1630s John Shaw was appointed lecturer in Brampton to work alongside John Wood, ‘the reading minister’. ((Clark, ‘Lists of Derbyshire clergy: parishes A–B’, pp. 54-5.)) At Buxton a chapel was built in the 1620s to accommodate the growing number of visitors to the spa, serviced first by Charles Broxhome, a nonconformist firebrand until his suspension in 1635, and then by Robert Constantine, a Glasgow graduate of English origin, who, according to William Bagshaw, the later nonconformist, who knew him as a youth, built on his predecessor’s foundations. ((Clark, ‘Lists of Derbyshire clergy: parishes A–B’, pp. 60-1.)) Robert Porter, his biographer and younger contemporary, recorded how John Hieron, as the household chaplain of the Leighs of Egginton, had preached in Newton Solney chapel and at the countess of Chesterfield’s Friday sermons in Bretby chapel, more evidence of the Stanhopes’ patronage of younger clerics. He also attended the exercise at Repton, a perpetual curacy, which flourished from at least the early 1600s until 1633. Later in his career he established a monthly lecture at Dale Abbey, a chapel in a peculiar, ‘kindly embraced by the people of Dale and … well frequented’ until a ‘Church and king’ mob from Derby forced its closure at the Restoration. ((Clark, ‘Lists of Derbyshire clergy: parishes A–B’, pp. 32, 58; idem, ‘Anglicanism, recusancy and dissent in Derbyshire 1603-1730’, University of Oxford, D.Phil. dissertation, 1979, pp. 110, 119; DRO, D632/PW1 (churchwardens’ accounts, Repton 1623-5, 1627, 1633); Clark, ‘Lists of Derbyshire clergy: parishes D’, p. 171.))

In his De Spiritualibus Pecci (1700) William Bagshaw had kind words for a number of non-beneficed ministers of Peak chapelries, even if, unlike him, they had conformed in 1662. Robert Craven of Great Longstone and Anthony Mellor of Taddington were both ‘labourers in the Lord’s vineyard’ and he recalled how Mellor’s enemies had ‘declaimed against him … being for the strict observation of the Lord’s Day and against the profanation of it by Sports or pastimes’. Mr Cresswell at Edale was ‘worthy’ and Robert Wright, his successor, ‘tho’ less furnished than many with a desirable library and falling short of not a few as to outward estate, was diligent in service and patient in suffering for God’. ((William Bagshaw, De Spiritualibus Pecci (1700), pp. 14, 16, 25-7.))

The problem of such biographical sources is that they cover not only a tiny proportion of the non-beneficed ministry, usually briefly and in passing, but also partially and long after the events in pursuit of their own, post-Restoration, nonconformist agendas. Their reliability is open to question. John Shaw claimed in his Memorials that Bishop Morton was initially suspicious of, but eventually impressed, by his youthful abilities. As a result he omitted to demand subscription from him and permitted him to preach anywhere in the diocese soon after his arrival at Brampton in 1630. This account is undermined by Shaw’s signed subscription in the bishop’s book, dated 31 January 1632 for preaching specifically at Brampton. ((Clark, ‘Lists of Derbyshire clergy: parishes A–B’, p. 55; LRO, B/A/4/18 (subscription book).))

Occasionally visitation and consistory court records permit glimpses of personalities, voluntary activities, practices and events which hint that pastoral conditions in some chapelries were more varied and less bleak than cold, statistical analysis might first suggest. They reveal Walter Hieron was able to survive for forty years as a puritan nonconformist minister, first sheltered as a curate in the vicarage of Stapenhill by a sympathetic and pluralist residentiary canon of Lichfield cathedral and then, until his suspension in 1636, as curate to the curate of Chellaston who was also farmer of the tithes there and pastorally neglectful, having ‘for many years received the fleece and starved the flock’. ((Clark, ‘Lists of Derbyshire clergy: parishes C’, p. 269.)) The call books show that Repton was occasionally served by the headmasters and ushers of the school, possibly including Thomas Whitehead, a famed schoolmaster in his day. ((A. MacDonald, A short history of Repton (London, 1929), pp. 98-9, 244; LRO, B/C/10/14, fo. 15v, B/C/10/15, fo. 284 (probate act books); B/C/11 (will and inventory of Philip Ward 1640); B/V/4/18 (subscription book); B/V/1/62 (visitation call book 1639); B/V/4 (visitation citations 1626).)) In 1636 Adam Blakeman was listed as lecturer in Heage chapel. He soon fled ‘from that storm that began to look black upon him’, turning up in New England soon afterwards along with other emigrants from Derbyshire. ((LRO, B/V/1/57 (visitation call book); C. Mather, Magnalius Americana or the ecclesiastical history of New England (Hartford, 1853 edn) and personal communications from Dr William M. Baillie and Jane E. Wilcox.)) Then on 11 February 1639 William Montgomery appeared before the diocesan consistory court. There he recounted how he had been present in Scropton church to hear divine service and heard Emmanuel Heywood curate of Church Broughton declaim from the pulpit against impenitents and incorrigible sinners. So effective was Heywood’s preaching that Montgomery confessed to his sin of fornication with one Anne Barlowe alias Robinson eighteen years before, a confession he repeated to the court. Heywood was, so far as we know, a non-graduate who, when he first appeared at Church Broughton in 1620, was listed as a reader. ((Clark, ‘Lists of Derbyshire clergy: parishes C’, pp. 274-5.)) So much for the pastoral ineffectiveness of the ‘dumb dogs’ of puritan propaganda, though the parliamentary commissioners of 1650 thought him ‘insufficient’!

Heywood appears among Walker’s suffering clergy as a committed Prayer Book man. Forced from his rectory at Barton Blount by the local parliamentarian garrison, he returned to Church Broughton nearby. There he conducted a baptism, wearing a surplice and using a Book of Common Prayer; the soldiers discovered him and destroyed both book and vestment. ((Bodleian Library, Walker MS C5, 83.)) When William Derbyshire curate of Stanley died in 1674 he was described on his memorial inscription as ‘a learned man, worthy of holy orders and skilled in the art of healing, distinguished in knowledge as well as virtue’. ((C. Kerry, ‘A literal transcript of the oldest register of West Hallam, Derbyshire’, Derbyshire Archaeological Journal, 9 (1887), 110.))

One feature of these Derbyshire chapelries is how little complaint there was about them and the clergy serving them from those at the receiving end of pastoral care. On occasion in visitations parishioners in chapelries might complain about the deficiencies of repair or furnishings in the chapel and particular disciplinary failings of their curate, but not about the structure and system behind their pastoral provision in general. There is little idea that living in a chapelry and being served by a curate was per se being pastorally short-changed. Such concern seemed to come more from above – from bishops and their critics and later historians reading back concerns about parochial provision to an earlier age.

This view might well be a distorted one, the result of studying a modestly sized archdeaconry with an even more modest archive. Alternatively, perhaps the lack of protest resulted from a lack of a suitable forum to express it. On the other hand parishioners, served by chapels and curates, might not have regarded themselves as underprivileged in comparison to others. Pastoral experience in chapelries was far from uniform and, perhaps, was not recognized as clearly inferior to conditions in under-endowed vicarages or in rectories served by underpaid curates of non-resident rectors.

When in the 1640s and 1650s augmentation grants were made to some parish livings, the reasons for their selection is never fully clear in the surviving order books. There is little evidence in the order books that the grants were made in response to popular pressures in the livings themselves. They seem to have resulted from the availability of sequestered funds and through clergy who ministered in or near the source of those funds and who had the approval of current local power brokers. The parliamentary commissioners of 1650 made all sorts of recommendations about the union of chapels, their disuse, their setting up as independent parishes, but the survey contains little about whom they consulted and how they made their decisions. Only once is there a suggestion of popular concern about ecclesiastical provision when they reported that the inhabitants of Beard in Glossop Parish would be willing to erect a new church at their own expense. ((LPL, Comm XIIa/6, 443 (parliamentary survey of parishes 1650).))

Bishop Wright had interdicted the chapel of Stanley in 1637 for the meagreness of the curate’s stipend and imposed an agreement that parishioners paid an annual stipend of £10 to a curate, henceforth nominated by the vicar of the mother church of Spondon. A group of leading inhabitants resisted for the next two years. They intruded their own candidate into the pulpit and locked out the curate nominated by the vicar. They were still refusing to pay their contributions to the curate’s stipend in 1639. They preferred to defend their own dubious rights to nomination rather than have a better remunerated, more attractive curacy. ((LRO, B/V/4 (consistory court papers 1637); B/V/1/64 (visitation acta and comperta); even though in the previous decade this had led to at least one curate of doubtful character, one whom by chance we know was old, poor and blind and who conducted at least one clandestine marriage, for which see Nottingham University Manuscripts Department, PB302/1621 (archdeaconry of Nottingham presentments).))

So, far from producing order by listing clergy under parish headings, something less tidy has emerged: no definitive list of places of public worship, let alone a complete list of names. The structural deficiencies of chapelries have been highlighted, but so have the flexibility and variety within the structure. The weaknesses of the ministry in them is apparent but so is the rise of a largely graduate clergy by the 1620s and 1630s and the strengths and integrity of several individuals. The incompleteness and complexity of the surviving diocesan records leaves much about the Derbyshire chapelries that is unclear or unanswerable. Casting the net more widely and using a broader range of sources appears a way forward but produces its own set of problems and renders the initial objective of listing by name under parish subject to a law of diminishing returns.


This paper was given to the Clergy of the Church of England Database Conference, The Northern Diocese’, 27 October 2006, University of Manchester).