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Westminster Diocesan Archives

Series A: historic collection of the secular clergy


Reference code(s): GB 0122 Series A

Held at: Westminster Diocesan Archives

Title: Series A: historic collection of the secular clergy

Date(s): 1501-1847

Level of description: Series

Extent: 49 vols and 38 boxes

Name of creator(s): Vicars Apostolic of the London District


Administrative/Biographical history:

The Vicariate Apostolic of the London District was an ecclesiastical jurisdiction of the Roman Catholic Church in England, 1688-1850. There were four Catholic jurisdictions in England and Wales: the London District, the Western District, the Midland District and the Northern District.

The Vicars Apostolic of the London District were:

Bishop John Leyburn, (1688-1702), formerly Vicar Apostolic of England (1685-1688)
Bishop Bonaventure Giffard, (1703-1734)
Bishop Benjamin Petre, (1734-1758)
Bishop Richard Challoner, (1758-1791)
Bishop James Robert Talbot, (1781-1789)
Bishop John Douglass, (1790-1812)
Bishop William Poynter, (1812-1827)
Bishop James Yorke Bramston, (1878-1836)
Bishop Thomas Griffiths, (1836-1847)
Bishop Thomas Walsh, (1847-1849)
Bishop Nicholas Wiseman, (1849-1850), later Archbishop.


Scope and content/abstract:

Pre-reformation papers and papers of the English Secular Clergy, 1501-1688 and papers of the Vicars Apostolic of the London District, 1688-1847.

The papers chiefly comprise correspondence with the Roman agent; papers relating to Synods; copies of Pastorals; correspondence with Vicars Apostolic and clergy from the Western, Midland and Northern Districts and Scotland; correspondence with Irish Bishops; correspondence with institutions of the English Catholic diaspora; correspondence with Bishops and clergy abroad notably with the Catholic Church in the British colonies; legal papers including wills, bequests, leases and trusts and papers of institutions of the English Catholic diaspora including Douai College, 1652-1789; St Omers College, 1762-1772; the English College Rome, 1701-1783; the English College Lisbon, 1708-1791; the English Seminary Paris (also known as St Gregory's, Paris), 1762-1777 and student register for the English College Lisbon, 1628-1715.

The papers of the Vicars Apostolic of the London District include papers from the episcopacy of Bishop John Leyburn, 1688-1702, Bishop Bonaventure Giffard, 1703-1734; Bishop Benjamin Petre, 1734-1758; Bishop Richard Challoner, 1758-1781; Bishop James Robert Talbot, 1781-1789; Bishop John Douglass, 1791-1798; Bishop William Poynter, 1812-1827; Bishop James Yorke Bramston, 1828-1836 and Bishop Thomas Griffiths, 1836-1847.

Highlights of the collection include: a consultation about the dowry of Catherine of Aragon, c 1509; copy of a letter from Mary Queen of Scots, c 1586; letter from St Henry Walpole to Father Persons, 13 Nov 1593; chart of the Royal succession down to James VI of Scotland as published in Father Persons' book on the succession, 1593; letters of Cardinal William Allen; letter from Father Henry Garnet relating to the Gunpowder Plot, c 1605 and a petition from the Citizens of London to Charles I complaining about Popery, 1640.


Language/scripts of material: Latin, English and French.

System of arrangement:

The majority of the papers from 1501-1798 are bound in 49 volumes. The volumes are arranged chronologically until 1700, subsequently they are arranged in volumes according to Bishop or College. Papers from 1798 onwards are unbound and arranged by Bishop (Douglass, Poynter, Bramston and Wiseman) and divided into sub series.

Conditions governing access:

Open for consultation by appointment only between 12:00 - 5:00, Mondays and Wednesdays. Call: 0207 938 3580 or email: for appointments.

Conditions governing reproduction:

Copies, subject to condition of the original, may be supplied for research use only on the undertaking of a copyright declaration. Requests to publish original material should be submitted to the Westminster Roman Cathlic Diocesan Trustees.

Finding aids:

A list of contents can be found in the front of each volume; these were created when the material was bound. Detailed lists for volumes 38-49 and the papers of Bishops Poynter and Bramston, and an index for volumes 38-42, are available in the archive's reading room.



Archival history:

The material was bound in 49 volumes over the period 1880-1912.

Immediate source of acquisition:

Received by the archive from Archbishop's House.


Related material:

Papers of Archbishop Nicholas Wiseman, Vicar Apolistic, 1849-1850, (Ref no: W).

Series B contains supplementary material to Series A.

Further material on the Paris Seminary can be found in Series C.

Publication note:

Newsletters from the Archpresbyterate of George Birkhead, ed. M C Questier, Camden Fifth Series, volume 12, (Royal Historical Society, 1998).

Newsletters from the Caroline Court, 1631-1638, ed ed. M C Questier, Camden Fifth Series, volume 26, (Royal Historical Society, 2005).

The Early Vicars Apostolic of England 1685-1750, Dom Basil Hemphill, (Burns & Oates, London, 1953).

The Diaries of Bishop William Poynter, VA (1815-1824) Canon Peter Phillips (Catholic Record Society, London, 2006).


Archivist's note: Compiled by Sarah Drewery.
Sources: Dom Basil Hemphill, The Early Vicars Apostolic of England 1685-1750,( Burns & Oates, London, 1953).

Rules or conventions: Compiled in compliance with General International Standard Archival Description ISAD(G), second edition, 2000; National Council on Archives Rules for the Construction of Personal, Place and Corporate Names 1997.

Date(s) of descriptions: Sep 2008

Catholicism | Christianity | Ancient religions | Religions
Christian education | Religious education | Social science education
Counter-Reformation | Religious movements | Religious institutions
Denominational schools | Schools | Educational institutions
Reformation | Religious conflicts | Religion
Religious discrimination | Religion
Religious practice | Religious activities
Roman Catholics | Catholics | Christians | Religious groups
Society of Jesus | Religious communities | Religious institutions
Jesuits x Society of Jesus

Personal names
Allen | William | 1532-1594 | cardinal
Bramston | James Yorke | 1763-1836 | Vicar Apostolic of the London District
Catherine | 1485-1536 | of Aragon | consort of King Henry VIII
Challoner | Richard | 1691-1781 | Vicar Apostolic of the London District
Charles I | 1600-1649 | King of Great Britain and Ireland
Douglass | John | [1743]-1812 | Vicar Apostolic of the London District
Garnett | Henry | 1555-1606 | Jesuit
Giffard | Bonaventure | 1642-1734 | Vicar Apostolic of the London District
Griffiths | Thomas | 1791-1847 | Vicar Apostolic of the London District
Henry VIII | 1491-1547 | King of England and Ireland
Leyburn | John | 1620-1702 | Vicar Apostolic of the London District
Mary | 1542-1567 | Queen of Scots
Persons | Robert | 1546-1610 | Jesuit
Petre | Benjamin | 1672-1758 | Vicar Apostolic of the London District
Poynter | William | 1762-1827 | Vicar Apostolic of the London District
Talbot | James Robert | 1726-1790 | Vicar Apostolic of the London District
Walpole | Henry |[1558]-1595)| Saint | Jesuit and martyr

Corporate names
College of St Omer
English College | Douai x St Edmund's College | Ware
English College | Lisbon
Roman Catholic Church
St Gregory's | Paris
Venerable English College | Rome
Vicariate Apostolic of the London District

London | England | UK | Western Europe | Europe