A commentary on the records employed for the Clergy of the Church of England Database 1540–1835 relating to the Diocese of Lincoln

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The surviving records relating to the diocesan administration of the diocese of Lincoln are held in the diocesan record office:

Contact details:

Lincolnshire Archives, St Rumbold Street, Lincoln LN2 5AB
Email: lincolnshire_archive@lincolnshire.gov.uk
Website: http://www.lincolnshire.gov.uk/residents/archives/
Tel: 01522 782040
Fax: 01522 530047

Dean and chapter records of Lincoln cathedral are held in the Cathedral Library:

Lincoln Cathedral Library, The Cathedral, Lincoln LN2 IPX
email: librarian@lincolncathedral.com
website: http://lincolncathedral.com/library-education/
tel: 01522 561640
fax: 01522 561641

Unless otherwise indicated, all the records discussed are held at Lincolnshire Archives.

  • 1540 to 1660 (Reformation to Restoration)
  • 1660 to 1733 (from the Restoration to the episcopate of Richard Reynolds).
  • 1733 to 1835 (from the episcopate of Richard Reynolds to the end of the period covered by the database).

1540 to 1660 (Reformation to Restoration)

In preparation.

1660-1733 (from the Restoration to the episcopate of Richard Reynolds).

In preparation.

From 1733 to 1835 (from the episcopate of Richard Reynolds to the end of the period covered by the database).

Lincoln was a big diocese: it generated a lot of records (more than 25,000 have been extracted for the Database for this period alone). It was also geographically complicated, covering a huge and fragmented territory. Bearing this in mind, the modern records of the diocese are surprisingly coherent and centralised. Partly as a result, its registers are appropriately large and often written in a small though neat hand. The only consolation to those required to enter the records for the database is that they survive as a sequence and provide very comprehensive coverage of the events we sought to record. Some sense of the scale of the registers is apparent from the case of Register XXXIX, covering a period of thirty-eight years, and from which we extracted over 5,600 records.

Episcopal registers, etc. as sources for institutions and collations

Three episcopal act books/registers survive for this period. Register XXXVIII, described on its cover as Diocese of Lincoln. Episcopal act-book 1723–1761, records events from 9 June 1723 and is therefore split between this period and its predecessor. From it we extracted institutions, collations and resignations beginning from 27 March 1733 (folio 275), covering the latter part of the episcopate of Richard Reynolds, and that of John Thomas. This was less straightforward than it sounds, for the volume often lacked the marginal entries which make it easier to identify the start and end of accounts of individual events in registers. Then, logically enough, follows Register XXXIX, Diocese of Lincoln, Episcopal Act book 1761–1799, covering the period 9 December 1761 to 15 December 1799, embracing the episcopates of John Green and Thomas Thurlow, and the first part of the episcopate of George Pretyman (-Tomline). Once again this is a dense affair, with many appointments being made by commissioned clergy, and therefore requiring careful reading. A striking feature of this and the other registers is the coverage afforded of peculiar jurisdictions, a note on folio 697 recording ‘NB the Bishops of Oxford have invaded the Lincoln jurisdiction by granting inst[[ituti]on to those livings which lie in Oxfordshire and are peculiars of the Church of Lincoln.’ Register XL, Diocese of Lincoln Episcopal Act Book 1800–1858, completes the coverage of the database, its first entry dating from 8 January 1800, and the last relevant entry, that of 22 December 1835, appearing on page 430. Here we find the institutions and collations and resignations for the remaining years of Pretyman-Tomline’s episcopate, those of George Pelham’s and those from the early years of John Kaye, although the recording of resignations seems to have become less systematic in later years. A particular strength of this volume was that the entries often mention livings already held by those being appointed. As with the earlier registers, it also contains records of appointments at Lincoln College Oxford, and at Eton (the provost).

These registers undoubtedly provide a very full record of appointments in the diocese of Lincoln for our period. It has not been felt necessary in any significant way to supplement them with additional material from subscription books. However, in the course of establishing this a few additional records which did not appear to duplicate material in the registers were extracted. A single and incomplete record of a subscription for a vicarage was extracted from Sub VIII, while a record in Sub XIII provided the date for an institution which was undated in the registers.

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

Once more the Episcopal Registers XXXVIII–XL are a major source, including many records of the licensing of curates, often associated with ordinations. Perpetual curacies are identified as such from the 1760s. In the 1740s, there is a lapse in the recording of licences granted in association with ordinations, although titles are given; where the licences were recorded, it was often still necessary to get the name of the living involved from the ordination record and the title given there. While perpetual curates go on being recorded, after 1813 the registers no longer record the licensing of assistant curates.

Two registers of curates’ licences also survive, and it is these which explain the change in practice noted above. The first, with no archival reference other than its title Register of Curates’ Licences 1813–1831, and with the self explanatory title on the cover Register of Curates’ Licences granted subsequent to the passing of the Act of 53d Geo 3d cap: 149 (20 July 1813) entitled ‘An Act for the Further Support and Maintenance of Stipendiary Curates’, contains some 2,020 records of licences issued to assistant and stipendiary curates and gaol chaplains between 17 August 1813 and 11 January 1831. These are not recorded in the episcopal register, and so have been recovered for the database, along with those contained in the second volume entitled Register of Curates licences. 1831 to 1840 covering the period up to the end of the database from 29 January 1831, some 525 licences in all. These registers do not record the names of those nominating curates, although they do sometimes note other posts held by those being appointed. They cover the peculiar jurisdiction of the dean and chapter of Lincoln and individual prebends, and also the Lincoln peculiars.

From both the episcopal registers and curates’ licence registers records of other appointments can also be extracted. The former record licensings as preachers throughout the diocese in association with institutions etc. and appointments of lecturers; we have already noted the gaol chaplains in the curates’ volumes.

For schoolmasters, however, coverage is less effective. Only a very few are recorded in the episcopal registers, but have been extracted.

Both the episcopal and curate registers have been cross checked against the excellently preserved collection of diocesan subscription books (for this period, Sub VII–XV) to see whether there are large numbers of curates’ licensings or other events missing from the registers. In fact, there appear to be very few additional events recorded in the subscription books relating to any other categories discussed above save for schoolmasters. Where we encountered records relating to events not recorded in the registers in the course of this survey we duly recorded them. So specific licences for curates were extracted from Sub VIII, Liber Subscriptionum incipiens 28 Juny 1727 for 1742–3; Sub IX, Subscription Book 1769 to 1780, for 21 Dec. 1778; Sub XII, covering 12 June 1802 to 23 December 1815, where we found two licences otherwise unrecorded for 1811, and all those associated with an ordination on 5 June 1814; Sub XIII, Subscriptions 1815 to 1823 yield two licences; and Sub XIV, Subscriptions 1824 to 1834 three more, including lecturers.

Two more subscription books lie outside this sequence, apparently (though less certainly in the second instance) used for recording subscriptions en route on episcopal progresses at visitations through the diocese. Sub T. 5, an 11-page Travelling Subscription Book beginning 1761 1778 yielded 6 more licences, and Sub T. 6, covering 21 June 1780 to 18 June 1818 a further sprinkling, in some cases amplifying other records.

The most important subscription book proved to be Sub VIII, for this contained over 100 subscriptions relating to the appointment of schoolmasters (including women) over the period alongside surgeons, proctors and parish clerks for the period 1727–1820. All those relating to schoolmasters have been extracted. Otherwise the subscription books did not seem to record any more schoolmasters than the registers, and they clearly remain underrepresented in this diocese for this period.

Clergy lists

The sheer scale of the task involved in entering the main sequences of records, and their excellent coverage, combined with the often poor condition and scrappy nature of much surviving visitation material to prompt a decision not to attempt recovery of this material for the Database. This is most to be regretted with reference to schoolmasters, but the nature of the call books made it difficult to envisage any effort to extract records relating to them alone. Nor was it apparent that they in any case offered significantly greater returns in this respect than those records which were entered.


Records of ordinations and of the issue of letters dimissory (rarely recorded) have been extracted from Registers XXXVIII–XL. In many instances they give titles for ordination, facilitating record linkage. After 1820, however, a separate Register Book of Persons Ordained from Michaelmas 1820 to Christmas 1868, Ord Reg 1, was maintained alongside the episcopal register, which ceased to record ordinations. The ordinations relating to the period of the database have been extracted, as well as some loose ordination papers contained in the volume relating to the issue of letters dimissory to T. O. Drawbridge. The volume contained almost 1,750 relevant entries.

Once more subscription books were checked against the registers, and a few additional ordinations extracted. Sub IX yielded a private ordination in 1775 and an ordination on the bishop’s behalf by Shute Barrington of Llandaff; Sub XIII more private ordinations from 1821. Sub T.5 contained a note of the issue of letters dimissory to the bishop of Oxford in 1766, duly extracted.

Records of the Dean and Chapter of Lincoln

The records of the dean and chapter are held in the cathedral for the most part, and have not as yet been recovered for the Database. However, Lincoln Archives does hold a Dean and Chapter subscription book for 1713 to 1914, D & C Cij 97/1. From this we extracted all records relating to the appointment of ‘senior vicars’ (minor canons) for the period 1714 to 1835, along with those relating to appointments to livings in the patronage/jurisdiction of the cathedral clergy for the same period, which yielded some twenty records relating to mainly curates and schoolmasters.