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Archives in London and the M25 area


Identity Statement

Reference code(s): GB 0074 DL
Held at: London Metropolitan Archives
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Date(s): [1271]-2011
Level of description: Collection
Extent: 506.60 linear metres (LMA material); 9481 production units (Guildhall Library Manuscripts material)
Name of creator(s): Diocese of London | Church of England


Administrative/Biographical history:

The diocese of London was first established in the Roman period, the first known bishop being Bishop Resitiutus who attended a Council in Arles in 314. London reverted to paganism following the Saxon invasions and the diocese was reconstituted in 604 with the first Saint Paul's as its Cathedral. The medieval diocese continued its jurisdiction over the area established in the 7th century: namely the City of London and the ancient counties of Essex and Middlesex and the greater part of Hertfordshire. The diocese lay entirely north of the Thames River.

The area served by the diocese remained unchanged until the 19th century, apart from a short period between 1540, when the diocese of Westminster, founded by Henry VIII, was taken out of the diocese of London (covering Westminster, the county of Middlesex with the exception of Fulham), and 1550 (when the appointed Bishop Thirlby resigned and the bishopric reverted back to London).

The administration of the diocese was originally split into the Archdeaconry of London and Archdeaconry of Middlesex. In 1708 there were 5 churches and chapels subject to the archdeacon of London, 52 subject to the archdeacon of Middlesex, 14 subject to the bishop directly and 4 subject to the Archbishop of Canterbury and outside the jurisdiction of the diocese of London.

The Bishop's highest court was the Consistory Court. The Consistory Court's jurisdiction was diocese-wide. It heard primarily civil suits, but it also dealt with criminal and testamentary matters. The Commissary Court was the Bishop's lower court. Its jurisdiction appears to have been restricted to the City of London, the county of Middlesex and Deanery of Barking in Essex. There was no clear distinction between the jurisdiction of the Consistory and Commissary Court. The latter dealt mostly with criminal cases and probate.

The growth of population in the 19th and 20th centuries demanded rearrangements of the boundaries of the diocese. Up until 1845 the diocese comprised of most parishes in Middlesex (except part of Stanwell which lay in the diocese of Oxford), the City of London parishes (excluding the thirteen parishes in the peculiar of the Arches), a substantial number of parishes in Hertfordshire and four parishes in Buckinghamshire (namely Aston Abbots, Grandborough, Little Horwood, and Winslow).

The abolition of the Peculiar jurisdictions of the Archbishop of Canterbury (the ecclesiastical units within the Middlesex area which were exempt from the administrative control of the diocese) in 1845 added the thirteen parishes in the City of London, some parishes in Middlesex, and those in the Deanery of Croydon in the ancient county of Surrey (Barnes, Mortlake, Newington, Putney, Walworth and Wimbledon). The diocese retained nine Essex parishes (Barking, Chingford, East and West Ham, Little Ilford, Low Leyton, Walthamstow, Wanstead and Woodford). The rest of Essex was temporarily transferred to the see of Rochester and the parishes in Hertfordshire and Buckinghamshire were removed from the diocese. At the same time parishes in the ancient county of Kent (Charlton, Deptford, Eltham, Greenwich, Lee, Lewisham, Plumstead and Woolwich) just south of the Thames were brought into the diocese.

Under the London Diocese Act 1863 and Diocese of Saint Albans Act 1875, provisions were made for the removal of Essex, Kent and Surrey parishes. In 1877 Surrey and Kent parishes were transferred to the diocese of Rochester, and then Surrey parishes to the diocese of Southwark in 1905.

The appointment of Suffragan bishops was also revived in the 19th century with officials holding the titles of Bishop of Stepney, Islington and Kensington. Further reorganisations were designed to link the ecclesiastical boundaries with that of county administration. In 1912 the Archdeaconry of Hampstead was carved out of the Archdeaconry of Middlesex. In 1951 parishes East of the City of London formed the Archdeaconry of Hackney. By 1964 the diocese of London consisted of the archdeaconries of London, Middlesex, Hampstead and Hackney with a total of 28 deaneries and 500 parishes.

In 2001 the diocese was made up of five areas, Edmonton, Kensington, London, Stepney and Willesden, 4 of which had an Area Bishop, to whom the Bishop of London delegated responsibilities. It covered 277 square miles and 17 boroughs of Greater London north of the Thames, from Staines in the West to the Isle of Dogs in the East serving a population of 3.5 million people.


Scope and content/abstract:

Records of the Diocese of London, 1467-1976, held at the London Metropolitan Archives include:
* records of the Archdeaconry of Hampstead (induction mandates, visitation papers)
* records of the Archdeaconry of Hackney (visitation papers)
* records of the Archdeaconry of Middlesex (assignation books, churchwardens' presentments, financial papers, calendars, probate books and probate inventories, caveat books, registers of wills, administration bonds, renunciations, warrants, original wills, visitation books)
* records of the Consistory Court of London (Acts of Court, assignation books, deposition books, Vicar General's books, registers of wills, original wills, matrimonial and testamentary cause papers, appointments of proctors, caveat books, Chancellor's notebooks, statistics)
* papers of various rural deaneries (Paddington, Spitalfields, Bethnal Green, Saint Pancras, Enfield, Chelsea, Tottenham, Shoreditch, Saint Marylebone)
* bishop's transcripts from the County of Middlesex and the County of London
* papers relating to tithes (maps, apportionments, altered apportionments, certificates of capital value, awards of exchange, redemption certificates).

Records of the Diocese of London, 1306-1996, (held at the Guildhall Library Manuscripts Section but currently accessible through the LMA) include:
* Bishops' registers
* Vicar Generals' books
* Bishops' Act books
* Ordination papers and Ordination registers
* Licensing papers for curates, lecturers, institutional chaplains, parish clerks, midwives, physicians and surgeons, schoolmasters
* Marriage allegations and marriage bonds
* Parish files (of church deeds, consecration papers, plans and so on.)
* Faculty papers, by parish.
* Subscription books.
* Parish register transcripts
* Episcopal visitation records
* Records of jurisdiction:-
* Commissary Court records including court books, probate records, original wills, probate and administration act books, probate inventories
* Estate records for property and manors in the City of London, Essex, Hertfordshire, Middlesex, Surrey, Sussex, Westminster and Worcester.

Also papers relating to the Bishop of London's jurisdiction overseas. The Bishop of London was held to exercise responsibility for Anglican churches overseas where no other bishop had been appointed. He retained responsibility for churches in northern and central Europe until 1980, but his jurisdiction in southern Europe ceased in 1842 on the creation of the diocese of Gibraltar. In 1980, the Bishop of London divested himself of all overseas jurisdiction and a new diocese of 'Gibraltar in Europe' was established. Records include:-
* Ordination and licensing records
* Consecration papers and chaplaincy deeds
* Foreign register transcripts
* issues of the "Gibraltar and Fulham Diocesan Gazette"
* Foreign chaplaincy archives for the chaplaincies of:
Adelboden, Switzerland
Aix les Bains, France
Alassio, Italy
Archangel, Russia
Athens, Greece
Balestrand, Norway
Biarritz, France
Bologna, Italy
Bordighera, Italy
Boulogne, France
Bucharest, Romania
Bucharest and Lower Danubian ports, Romania
Burgenstock, Switzerland
Calais, France
Cannes, France
Cap d'Antibes, France
Cartagena, Spain
Champery, Switzerland
Chantilly, France
Corfu, Greece
Davos, Switzerland
Ferrol, Spain
Florence, Italy
Fray Bentos, Uruguay
Geneva, Switzerland
Ghent, Belgium
Grindelwald, Switzerland
Haarlem, Netherlands
Hamburg, Germany
Helsinki, Finland
Hughesovka, Russia
Jerez de la Frontera, Spain
Leghorn, Italy
Leysin, Switzerland
Libau, Latvia
Lisbon, Portugal
Lucerne, Switzerland
Lyons, France
Messina, Sicily, Italy
Minas de Riotinto, Spain
Monte Carlo, Monaco
Moscow, Russia
Nantes, North West France
Odessa and South Russia
Oporto, Portugal
Ostend, Belgium
Palermo, Italy
Pisa and Bagni di Lucca, Italy
Ponta Delgada, Azores
Riga, Latvia
Rigi-Kaltbad, Switzerland
Saas Fee, Switzerland
St Servan, France
Seville, Spain
Spiez, Switzerland
Stockholm, Sweden
Stresa, Italy
Syra, Greece
Tamaris sur mer, Toulon, France
Taormina, Sicily
Trieste, Italy
Ulvik, Norway
Versailles, France
Viareggio, Italy
Vitznau, Switzerland
Wengen, Switzerland
Zermatt, Switzerland

Access & Use

Language/scripts of material:
English Latin

System of arrangement:

The LMA records are arranged as follows: County of London: DL; Archdeaconry of Hampstead: DL/AH; Archdeaconry of Hackney: DL/AHY; Archdeaconry of Middlesex: DL/AM; Consistory Court of London: DL/C; Rural Deaneries: DL/DRD; County of Middlesex: DL/DRO; Tithes: DL/TI. The Guildhall records are arranged in sections: ADMINISTRATION: DL/A/A Bishops' registers; DL/A/B Clergy; DL/A/C Benefices and churches; DL/A/D Laity; DL/A/E Registration and returns; DL/A/F Diocesan Registry; DL/A/G Charities; DL/A/H Other Diocesan Organisations; DL/A/I Relations with the province; DL/A/J Household and personal records; DL/A/K London Diocesan Fund. VISITATION: DL/B/A Books and processes; DL/B/B Churchwardens' presentments; DL/B/C Articles of enquiry; DL/B/D Diocese books; DL/B/E Miscellaneous papers; DL/B/F Bishop's exempt parishes; COURT RECORDS: DL/C/A Consistory Court; DL/C/B Commissary Court; DL/C/C Other court records; ESTATE RECORDS: DL/D/A Appointment of officers; DL/D/B Court rolls and books; DL/D/C Estreats; DL/D/D Accounts; DL/D/E Rentals; DL/D/F Surveys; DL/D/G Lease books; DL/D/H Correspondence and working papers; DL/D/I Land tax; DL/D/J Old work of St Paul's Cathedral; DL/D/K Deeds: City and Westminster; DL/D/L Deeds: elsewhere; OVERSEAS JURISDICTION: DL/E/A Jurisdiction; DL/E/B Clergy; DL/E/C Laity; DL/E/D Chaplaincies; DL/E/E Register transcripts.

Conditions governing access:

These records are available for public inspection, although records containing personal information are subject to access restrictions under the UK Data Protection Act, 1998.

Conditions governing reproduction:

Copyright to these records rests with the depositor.

Finding aids:

Please see online catalogues at:

Archival Information

Archival history:

The probate court records of the diocese of London, including wills, administrations and inventories were held at Saint Paul's Cathedral by the 18th century. Between 1861 and 1863 these records were transferred to Somerset House under the Court of Probate Acts 1857 and 1858, by which time they had suffered heavy losses (most of which were likely to have occurred before their removal to Saint Paul's Cathedral). In the 1950s it was decided to split the probate records between the Guildhall Library and the London County Record Office (later London Metropolitan Archives). The Commissary Court of London and Archdeaconry Court of London probate records were sent to Guildhall and the Consistory Court of London and Archdeaconry of Middlesex to the County Record Office.

Immediate source of acquisition:

Received in 42 accessions between 1956 and 2012.

Allied Materials

Related material:

Other Diocesan records held at the LMA: the Diocese of Guildford (reference DG), the Diocese of Southwark (reference DS), the Diocese of Rochester (reference DR) and the Diocese of Winchester (reference DW).

Further Diocese of London records can be found at The National Archives, Lambeth Palace Library, and the British Library Manuscripts Collection. Please see the National Register of Archives database on The National Archives website for more details. Commissary court (Essex and Hertfordshire division) records are held by Essex Record Office.

While records of the Bishop of London's European jurisdiction are part of the Guildhall records, the allegiance of the American (Episcopal) church to the Bishop of London had ended after American independence in 1776. The first Anglican bishop in Canada was appointed in 1787, and other British colonies general acquired bishops of their own in the 19th century. As a result, records from colonial territories are not usually found in the Bishop of London's archives. In addition, records of bishops in India were returned to the civil authorities and are now part of the India Office records at the British Library.

Publication note:

The will registers and probate and administration act books covering 1374-1625 have been edited by Marc Fitch, "Testamentary Records in the Commissary Court of London" (British Record Society vols.82,86,97: 1969-85), the records covering 1626-1649 and 1661-1700 have been edited for surnames A-G only in the same series, (BRS vol.102, 1992).

Description Notes

Archivist's note:

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:
July to October 2009

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