Moral & Material Decay

Four centuries of the Court of Arches

Lambeth Palace Library invites you to peer into the courtroom of the Province of Canterbury’s most senior ecclesiastical court. The records of the Court of Arches follow misbehaving clergy, watchful servants and members of the gentry with much to lose, as they battle their way through allegations of infidelity, defamation and wayward religious practices. This exhibition explores some of the themes that dominate the court and illuminates social relations and practices over four hundred years.

Over the course of the Court’s life, its records have been stored in numerous sites from the towers of Lambeth Palace to a disused well in St Paul’s churchyard. The exhibition acknowledges the generous funding from the National Manuscripts Conservation Trust in helping us preserve this archive and reveals the effects of recent conservation work on the documents. The Library is grateful to the Friends of Lambeth Palace Library for their on-going support of the cataloguing work.

Find out how the exhibition was created in our new video: The Making of an Exhibition: Four centuries of the Court of Arches

Moral & Material Decay is exhibited in four thematic cases. Click on each of the links below to explore the interactive digital exhibition.
You can visit ‘Moral & Material Decay: Four centuries of the Court of Arches’ in person at Lambeth Palace Library from 19 July -20 October 2023, 9:30 – 17:00 Monday to Friday.

Saturday 5 August, 2 & 9 September, 7 October 10:00 – 17:00

Lambeth Palace Library, 15 Lambeth Palace Road, London, SE1 7JT
This digital exhibition was made using