RepositoryLambeth Palace Library
Alt Ref NoReg
Extent65 volumes
TitleArchbishops' Registers
DescriptionThe registers are the central record of administration of the province and diocese of Canterbury, and the only record with the exception of the court rolls and accounts of the temporalities, and a few registers of the Prerogative Court of Canterbury which have survived from before 1500 (although it is known that registers of the Court of Arches were kept before that date).

There are no surviving registers for the period 1328-49 [Meopham, Stratford, Bradwardine] and 1642-60 [Commonwealth]. No register survives for Roger Walden (1397-99), if he ever kept one. For more information on gaps in the series of registers, see D.M. Smith, 'Guide to bishops' registers of England and Wales' (London, Royal Historical Society, 1981), p. 1.

Stratford's register still existed in 1391 when it was consulted by Archbishop Courtenay, but it was lost along with other Courtenay records during a highway robbery on the baggage train of Archbishop Arundel in Rogate, Sussex, in 1402. The circumstances are recorded on folio 432v of the first Arundel register in a monition declaring the highwaymen excommunicate (see A. K. McHardy article cited below).

When a vicar general was appointed for the first time, during the archiepiscopate of Cranmer (?), the records became the central record of that office.

From 1279 to the mid 17th century, the registers are the principal record of archiepiscopal administration, and include institutions and appointments of clergy, grants of dispensations, ordinations, appointments of bishops, sede vacante administration of suffragan sees, diocesan and metropolitical visitations by the archbishop, visitation of monasteries, records of convocation, and heresy trials.

The first surviving Register dates from the time of Archbishop Pecham. The catalogue of Lambeth manuscripts by H. J. Todd (1812), p. 266, suggests that his predecessor Archbishop Kilwardby 'is said to have carried with him to Rome the elder Registers of the See', and refers to an entry in the Pecham Register which he suggests supports this contention. However, Cheney's 'English Bishops' Chanceries' (appendix II) argues that this entry in the Pecham register is not good evidence that Kilwardby had a register in the accepted sense. Cf. also D.M. Smith, 'Guide to bishops' registers of England and Wales' (London, Royal Historical Society, 1981), p. 1.

For a summary see D. M. Owen, 'Canterbury Archiepiscopal Archives in Lambeth Palace Library', Journal of Society of Archivists, II, no. 4, Oct. 1961.
ArrangementChronologically by archbishop.
FindingAidsCatalogue records for volumes based on D.M. Owen, 'Handlist of archbishops' registers, 1279-1928' (typescript, 1960). The registers from Pecham to Laud are also described in D.M. Smith, 'Guide to bishops' registers of England and Wales' (London, Royal Historical Society, 1981: pp. 1-24); also D.M. Smith, 'Supplement to the Guide to Bishops' Registers in England and Wales ...' (2004) [Lambeth Palace Library KA34.(R6) [R] ]

For items within the Registers, refer to published editions where they exist, or to indexes (to 1757) of place and subject compiled c.1760 by A.C.Ducarel, then Lambeth Librarian, and continued by Miss M.D.Slatter (1953-6) for such of the remaining registers (to Benson) as are not self indexing. These (ref: LR/F/62) are still of use where no published edition of a particular Register exists. Note that these do not tend to refer to personal names so it may be more productive for example to look under a place name for an entry relating to a clergy appointment. Otherwise refer to the internal indexes within the Registers themselves.

Typescript calendars to selected Archbishops' Registers (on Reading Room shelves):
Matthew Hutton (Archbishop of Canterbury 1757-1758) [1 volume]
Full register
Thomas Secker (Archbishop of Canterbury 1758-1768) [2 volumes]
Volume 1, ff 1-149 (part)
Charles Thomas Longley (Archbishop of Canterbury 1862-1868) [1 volume]
Full register
Archibald Campbell Tait (Archbishop of Canterbury 1868-1882) [2 volumes]
Volume 1 (full) and volume 2, pp 757-830 (part)

See also:
E. F. Jacob, The Medieval Registers of Canterbury and York, York, 1953 (St. Anthony's Hall Publications No. 4), with lists.

Also noted in H.J. Todd, A catalogue of the archiepiscopal manuscripts in the library at Lambeth Palace (1812), pp. 266-267.

Charles M. Andrews and Frances G. Davenport, Guide to the Manuscript Materials for the History of the United States to 1783, in the British Museum, in Minor London Archives, and in the Libraries of Oxford and Cambridge (Washington, 1908), p. 286, note that from Archbishop Moore (1783-1805) onwards the Registers contain references to America, with entries for consecrations to both American and Canadian sees.

Commissioners on the Public Records 1801: Return of John Topham, MS Librarian to the Archbishop of Canterbury, as to Lambeth Palace Library, dated 24 Mar 1800, App. T, pp. 387-9, in Second Report, 1801. Includes list of registers, p.388.

For testamentary records in the registers, catalogue records are based on:
J. Challenor Smith, "Index of wills recorded in the archiepiscopal registers at Lambeth Palace" [1282-1635] (reprinted from 'The Genealogist', N.S., vols. 34-5; 1919). The dates given are the date of probate (Old Style). Place names refer respectively to place of burial and to where the will was dated from. This publication includes a brief introduction to the testamentary contents, including the jurisdiction covered, and the relationship to Prerogative Court of Canterbury records, particularly with reference to the Courtenay Register. Some Archbishops' and Bishops' wills appear in these Registers, but others are found elsewhere.
"Calendar of Lambeth administrations recorded in the archbishops' registers" (reprinted from 'The Genealogist', vols. 7-8; 1883-4).
Copies of these two indexes are shelved in Lambeth Palace Library reading room. ['The Genealogist' main series (London, George Bell, 1881-1893) is shelved at Lambeth Palace Library JS1: the relevant issues for these two items are Vol. 5, nos. 39, 40, and Vol. 6, nos. 41, 43, containing calendar of Lambeth wills; Vol. 7, nos. 47, 48, containing calendar of Lambeth administrations.]

The Registers (1575-1783) were used in Melanie Barber's 'Directory of Medical Licences Issued by the Archbishop of Canterbury', part 1: Vicar General Series Licences, 1576-1775. This forms the basis for catalogue records. With a 2 part volume, only the foliation was given. As a general rule with a 2 part volume, the licences are in the second part. The registers used are as follows:
Edmund Grindal, 1575-1583
John Whitgift, 1583-1604
Richard Bancroft, 1604-1610
George Abbot, 1610-1633
William Laud, 1633-1642
Gilbert Sheldon, 1663-1677
William Sancroft, 1678-1689
John Tillotson, 1691-1694
Thomas Tenison, 1695-1715
William Wake, 1715-1737
John Potter, 1737-1747
Thomas Herring, 1747-1757
Matthew Hutton, 1757-1758
Thomas Secker, 1758-1768
Frederick Cornwallis, 1768-1783

Catalogue records based on two card indexes to proctors and advocates, and typescript list covering c. 1539-1755 (there is some overlap between the cards and the list).
PhysicalDescriptionAll vellum volumes (except Davidson 2).
AdminHistoryThe registry at Lambeth is briefly mentioned in Jane E. Sayers, 'The Medieval Care and Custody of the Archbishop of Canterbury's Archives', Bulletin of the Institute of Historical Research 39 (1966), pp. 95-107, at 107 [reprinted in her Law and Records in Medieval England: Studies on the Medieval Papacy, Monasteries and Records (London: Variorum Reprints, 1988)]. See also 'The Register of John Morton, Archbishop of Canterbury, 1486-1500', ed. C. Harper-Bill, 3 vols. (Canterbury and York Society 75, 78 and 89, 1987-2000), vol. 1, pp. 68-100, nos. 221-66.
CopiesMicropublication of the archbishops' registers, 1272-1640, is available from World Microfilms Publications. This also includes the cartulary of the see of Canterbury (MS 1212). Copies of the microfilm may be available in other libraries.

Lambeth Palace Library microfilm: MS Film 700-718.
RelatedMaterialFrom the Restoration, the registers are superseded in importance by the archbishops' act books (ref: Lambeth Palace Library VB).

For the suspension of Archbishop Sancroft, there is the Dean and Chapter register, recording business of the Dean and Chapter of Canterbury sede vacante (ref: Lambeth Palace Library VC 1D/4a).

National Archives: Prerogative Court of Canterbury archive.
PublnNoteOf the pre-Restoration registers the following still need publishing: Reynolds, Whittlesey, Sudbury, Courtenay, Arundel, Warham, Pole, Grindal, Whitgift, Bancroft, Abbot and Laud. Those of Stafford, Kempe, and Cranmer have been the subject of theses.

Publications using the Registers include:
P. Ayris, "A Church in transition: the intriguing use of the pallium in Tudor England", 'The Journal of Ecclesiastical History' (2017). Pre-publication version available at: and see also:

'A list of the rectors of Ripple, compiled by Rev. H.L. Beardmore, from the registers at Lambeth Palace and other sources ...' London: Mitchell Hughes and Clarke, 1905. 20p. [Lambeth Palace Library H5110.C2R5]

For all pre-Reformation registers + Cranmer (in Canterbury section): 'Biographical register of the English cathedral priories of the province of Canterbury, c.1066 to 1540', by Joan Greatrex, 1997.

'Records of Early English Drama. Kent. Diocese of Canterbury', ed. J.M. Gibson (3 vols, 2002) [Lambeth Palace Library SR621.K3]

Rev. F.W. Weaver, 'Somerset Medieval Wills, 1501-1530', Somerset Record Society, Vol. 19, 1903. Includes wills from Lambeth Registers, pp.286-356.

'Licences to practise medicine and surgery issued by the Archbishops of Canterbury, 1580-1775', by R.R. Rutson [offprint from Janus, 1937, 2 copies: Lambeth Palace Library W489]

'Visitation articles and injunctions of the early Stuart Church'. Volume I; edited by Kenneth Fincham. Woodbridge: Boydell Press for the Church of England Record Society, 1994. xxvii, 227p. (Church of England Record Society, 1).

For Bishops' wills etc, see 'Testamentary records of the English and Welsh episcopate 1200-1413 : wills, executors' accounts and inventories, and the probate process', ed. C.M. Woolgar (Canterbury and York Society 102, 2011) [Lambeth Palace Library H5106.(C2) [R] ]

A number of papers have been published which discuss registers which have not survived. These include:
A. K. McHardy, 'Notes and Documents: The Loss of Archbishop Stratford's Register' in "Historical Research: the Bulletin of the Institute of Historical Research" Vol. 70, no. 173. October 1997. [Lambeth Palace Library H5198.S8M2] This explains that the Stratford register still existed in 1391, when it was consulted by Archbishop Courtenay, but was subject in 1402, with some of Courtenay’s records, to a highway robbery in Rogate, Sussex, while it was being transported in the baggage‐train of Archbishop Thomas Arundel.
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