Views from the Parish: Churchwardens' Accounts c.1500-c.1800
This collection of essays raises the profile of churchwardens’ accounts, much beloved by many local historians, yet not as well-known as the parish registers and poor law material that also comprised the contents of the celebrated ‘parish chest’. Churchwardens’ accounts survive for only a minority of parishes of England, Wales and Ireland, meaning they are ‘treasure trove’ where they do exist. They afford an invaluable source for information about the maintenance of church fabric, furnishings, liturgy, music, and the nature of parish worship and community life in general. We are fortunate to possess such records for over 3,750 parishes, and for the most part, they are thankfully carefully stored in over 125 record offices.
This collection illustrates what may be achieved in use of these records, poses questions about the many technical and conceptual problems that will be encountered, and provides invaluable context in terms of changes in record keeping practice over time and location. Essays deal with such matters as the nature of the church year, the impact of the Reformation, local rituals, parish customs, the particularities of survival in Wales and Ireland, the impact of Civil Wars, and what may be gleaned about the history of music. This wide-ranging collection of essays, covering a long period, will spark new research on the many issues raised by a team of experienced experts in the field.
Dr Valerie Hitchman has been studying and analysing churchwardens’ accounts for many years, with her main interest being the tumultuous seventeenth century. She is an Honorary Research Fellow at the University of Kent, and is currently heading a project to record all surviving pre-1850 churchwardens’ accounts in a joint venture with Warwick University.
Dr Andrew Foster, FRHistS, FSA, FHA, is an ecclesiastical historian who has written chiefly about English bishops, dioceses, cathedrals, clergy and parishes of the early modern period and is close to completing his two volume history of early modern dioceses of England and Wales. He is an Honorary Senior Research Fellow at the University of Kent and a Literary Director of the Sussex Record Society.
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Joan A. Dils
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