Archbishops’ Archives

A B C D E F G H I J K L M N O P Q R S T U V W X Y Z –

The following list of collections provides more detail on some of the archives collected by the Library. This section covers archives relating to the role and work of the Archbishops of Canterbury. For summary information on further collections, please see the A-Z list, and for fuller details of Library holdings search the online archives catalogue.

Archbishops’ Papers

The Archbishops’ Papers are the official papers of the Archbishop of Canterbury. They are wide-ranging, covering political and social issues as well as ecclesiastical history in Great Britain and more generally throughout the Anglican Communion. Apart from correspondence they may include diaries, sermons, newspaper cuttings, and reports on ordinands. The Archbishops’ papers mainly date from the mid 19th century onwards and are generally subject to a thirty-year closure rule.

Aside from the surviving papers of individual Archbishops listed below, there may also be material relating to specific Archbishops in other collections; for this, search for the relevant Archbishop in the name authority database.

For further information about the Archbishops, please see our research guides and the finding aid below:

Descriptions of different Archbishops’ papers in the online catalogue vary in detail. Papers of 19th-century Archbishops were indexed in greater detail than those of 20th century Archbishops, and in particular the papers of Archbishops Davidson, Lang and Fisher were catalogued in less detail.

Note that papers of some Archbishops may be held elsewhere; for guidance, see the National Archives catalogue. The Dictionary of National Biography (available online by subscription and in many public libraries) also contains useful information. 

Selected images from the collection are available here.

Archbishops’ Registers

From 1279 to 1642, the registers are the principal record of the Archbishop’s administration. After the Restoration the registers were superseded in importance by the Archbishops’ Act Books, part of the Vicar General archive.

The registers 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.

There are a large number of published finding aids to Archbishops’ Registers in the link below:

A micropublication of the Archbishops’ Registers, 1279-1640, is available from World Microfilms Publications. This also includes the cartulary of the see of Canterbury (MS 1212). 

Selected images from the collection are available here.

Bishops’ Meeting Records

Minute books of the Bishops’ Meetings, a gathering of diocesan and suffragan bishops in England and Wales, chaired by the Archbishop of Canterbury, and held biannually from 1871.

Carte Antique et Miscellanee

The Carte Miscellanee or Lambeth Charters date from the 12th century onwards, and include royal charters relating to archiepiscopal estates, patents of appointment of officials, bonds from recusants, returns of diocesan clergy made for Archbishops Grindal in 1576 and Whitgift in 1591, records relating to the London tithes dispute, 1634-9, to the Great Plague and Fire, 1665-6, and to the abbey of St Benet of Holme, Norfolk.

The collection was brought together and numbered as MSS. 889-901 in the early 18th century, but was disbound and renumbered as CM I-XX in the early 1960s.

The series has been continued with the addition of archiepiscopal records, the East Kent deeds of the Langleys and Peytons of Knowlton relating to Knowlton and Sandown, and various acquisitions from the late 12th century to the 20th century. These include a late 13th century roll of Augustinian statutes, 16th century deeds for various monasteries, including St. Augustine’s, Canterbury, Christ Church, Canterbury, and Southwark priory, libri cleri for the diocese of Norwich, sede vacante, 1499, and for the diocese of Canterbury, 1610, professions of obedience to Archbishop Warham, 1504-23, and acta of Archbishop Warham, 1507-12.

Further information is available in the online catalogue descriptions, based on:
Owen, D.M. A Catalogue of Lambeth Manuscripts 889 to 901 (Carte Antique et Miscellanee) (1968).
Carte Antique et Miscellanee: Supplementary Series (CM 23-55): a Catalogue.
Churchill, I.J. East Kent Records. A Calendar of Some Unpublished Documents and Court Rolls in the Library of Lambeth Palace (Kent Records, vol. 7, 1922). [Now CM 31-36]

Selected images from the collection are available here.

Convocation Records

Convocation is the ancient legislative assembly for the province of Canterbury, which since the 15th century met as two houses, the upper house of bishops, presided over by the Archbishop of Canterbury, and the lower house (of clergy) who elect their own chairman.

From its prorogation in 1717 until its revival in 1852, Convocation conducted no business whatever, its meetings being purely formal. The records comprise act books of the upper and lower houses, and committee papers mainly from 1865 onwards. Earlier records of Convocation were often recorded in the medieval archbishops’ registers and were printed in David Wilkins’ Concilia (1737). See also Gerald Bray’s published series on records of Convocation, covering from 1313 until its revival; then from 1858, proceedings of Convocation were published in The Chronicle of Convocation.

Parallel records for the York Convocation are held at the Borthwick Institute.

Council on Foreign Relations

The Council on Foreign Relations originated in resolutions passed by the Church Assembly in 1927 and 1932. Its terms of reference were the “survey and promotion of the Relations of the Church of England with Foreign Churches”, that is Churches outside the Anglican Communion, and its inaugural meeting  was held on 2 February 1933 with Archbishop Lang in the chair. From 1959 until 1964 its remit was enlarged to include ecumenical relations within Great Britain, such as relations with the Church of Scotland, during which time it was known as the Church of England Council on Inter-Church Relations. The Council was the church’s official organ for dealing with overseas churches until the creation, in 1970, of the General Synod with its Board for Mission and Unity. It was reconstituted as the Archbishop of Canterbury’ s Counsellors on Foreign Relations on 1 January 1972 and its work was finally wound up in 1981 when Archbishop Runcie brought ecumenical relations within the administrative structures and staffing of Lambeth Palace.

The Council functioned through a central committee and separate committees dealing with each of the churches: the Ancient Oriental, Orthodox, Roman Catholic, Lutheran and Reformed, and Old Catholic Churches, all of which reported ultimately to the Archbishop of Canterbury through the Chairman and Secretary. Chairmen have included A.G. Headlam, Bishop of Gloucester, and George Bell, Bishop of Chichester, and CFR’s first Secretary was Canon John Douglas. The Headlam, Bell and Douglas Papers are all held in the Library.

The CFR papers are extensive and wide-ranging. Each committee produced minutes and series of numbered information documents for internal circulation, as well as subject files arranged by country dealing with ecumenical visits, ecumenical dialogues and exchange programmes for foreign clergy. Although they deal mainly with ecclesiastical relations they also have rich political content, especially for wartime Europe, the British Mandate in Iraq, and relations with Communist Eastern Europe. The files also deal with high-level relations with the Papacy and the Ecumenical Patriarchate, and there is detailed coverage of, for example, the Second Vatican Council.

Court of Arches

The Court of Arches is the court of appeal of the Archbishop of Canterbury and dates back to the 13th century. However, with the exception of a small quantity of pre-Restoration material, the very extensive archive dates from 1660 onwards. In its heyday the court exercised an extensive jurisdiction over marriage, probate and testamentary disputes, defamation, church property (rates, tithes, fabric of churches), and morals of the clergy and laity. For further context, see the collection summary.

The collection includes over 2000 process books, transcripts of proceedings in the lower court sent up on appeal, and exhibits, including medieval title deeds (Fineshade cartulary), court books, probate accounts, churchwardens’ accounts, rate books etc.

Further information is available in: Houston, J. (ed.) Index of Cases in the Records of the Court of Arches at Lambeth Palace Library 1660-1913 (Index Library, vol. 85, 1972). This information and additional descriptions are also available in the online catalogue.

See also a list of documents in the Arches E series newly catalogued in 2017 via the link below:

Several series of Court of Arches records were published in microformat by Chadwyck-Healey Ltd. and copies are available to consult in the Library.

The process books (series D) are also available from the British Library.

Parallel series of records were created by the Province of York courts.

Selected images from the collection are available here.

Faculty Office

The Faculty Office was set up under Peter’s Pence Act of November 1533 to issue ‘licences, dispensations, faculties, compositions, and rescripts, etc.’ previously granted by the pope or papal curia.

With the exception of three muniment books or registers, the archive dates from 1660 and comprises records of the grant of a variety of dispensations throughout England and Wales, including dispensations to hold benefices in plurality, marriage licences, appointment of public notaries in the British Isles and colonies, and the conferment of Lambeth degrees (W. Stubbs, ‘Lambeth degrees’, The Gentleman’s Magazine, 1864, Vol 216, pp.633-8, 770-2 lists degrees granted to 1848. For degrees 1848-1948, see MS. 1715, pp. 89-113). Also included are a few medical licences, and dispensations for ordination.

Selected images from the collection are available here.

Lambeth Conference Papers

The papers of the Lambeth Conference, which met first in 1867 and roughly every ten years thereafter, comprise verbatim accounts of the proceedings, committee minutes, correspondence and photographs.

The subjects covered by the Conferences were wide-ranging, spanning social and political issues as well as matters of ecclesiastical and theological significance throughout the world (see the published reports and resolutions, and Davidson, R.T. (ed.), The Six Lambeth Conferences, 1867-1920, 1929).

Selected images from the collection are available here.

Library Records

A miscellaneous collection of material on the history of the Library, including obsolete catalogues, ranging from the earliest, which provides a catalogue of the books and manuscripts of the Library’s founder, Archbishop Bancroft, in 1612 and includes an account of the Library’s foundation (LR F/1), to those of previous Librarians (Paul Colomiès, David Wilkins, A.C. Ducarel, S.R. Maitland and S.W. Kershaw).

Also included are letter-books of Claude Jenkins, Lambeth Librarian, correspondence, mainly 20th century, a few visitors’ books, and annual reports.

See also the Research Guides below:

Selected images from the collection are available here.

Papal Documents

A collection of papal bulls and rescripts, some of which were addressed to the Archbishop of Canterbury, but the majority of which relate to monastic houses, which came to Lambeth following the dissolution of the monasteries. The collection was arranged by A.C. Ducarel in the 18th century and bound up as MSS. 643-4. In 1960, the collection was disbound and numbered.

A micropublication of the papal bulls is available from World Microfilms in “Lambeth Palace Library: the medieval manuscripts” section II (Law MSS.), reel 18.

Further information is available in the online catalogue descriptions, based on:
Sayers, J.E. Original Papal Documents in the Lambeth Palace Library. A Catalogue (Bulletin of I.H.R., special supplement no. 6, 1967). 

Temporalities and Estate Documents

Records of the administration of the estates of the Archbishops of Canterbury situated principally in Kent, Surrey and Middlesex, but including property in Buckinghamshire, Lancashire, and Sussex. These include accounts, court rolls, leases, maps, plans, rentals, surveys and valuations, correspondence and related papers.

The composition of the temporalities was extensively changed by the Henrician exchanges whereby Archbishop Cranmer received a number of the former monastic estates in Kent and Lancashire in exchange for some of his more valuable properties in Kent and Surrey (see F.R.H. Du Boulay, The Lordship of Canterbury, 1966).

Further information is available in the online catalogue descriptions, partly based on:
Sayers, J.E. Estate Documents at Lambeth Palace Library. A Short Catalogue (1965). Includes court and account rolls for a few religious houses, including Christ Church, Canterbury, and the convent of St. Benet of Hulme, Norfolk, and for medieval bishops of Bath and Wells, Chichester, and Winchester.

Selected images from the collection are available here.

Vicar General

The records of the Vicar General of the Archbishop of Canterbury relate to the ecclesiastical administration of the province, diocese and peculiars of Canterbury, mainly from 1660.

The collection includes the Archbishops’ Act Books, which supersede the Archbishops’ Registers as the principal record of archiepiscopal administration from 1663. They provide the link between the two major aspects of his metropolitical and primatial jurisdiction exercised through the Vicar General and the Faculty Office.

The Act Books record the appointments of bishops, the institution of clergy in the diocese of Canterbury, sede vacante appointments of clergy throughout the province of Canterbury, licences to officiate, to practise medicine, surgery, or midwifery, dispensations to clergy to hold in plurality, and appointments of proctors and advocates of the Court of Arches.

However, sections of the archive relating to the province of Canterbury, the Archbishops’ jurisdiction over the province of York and overseas church, and the Archbishops’ role as Visitor are not fully catalogued.

With the exception of the subscription books, diocesan surveys, and visitation returns, and a small collection of visitation act books, 1540-1640, most of the purely diocesan records are held by Kent Archives.

For information on the extent of the diocese of Canterbury and the peculiar jurisdiction of the Archbishops, see the Library research guide on the the diocese.

Selected images from the collection are available here.