Anglican ecclesiastical records

A guide to the archives of the Church of England in Derbyshire.

In 1969, Derbyshire Record Office was legally designated by the Bishop of Derby as the Derby Diocesan Record Office and parish records are also deposited under the Parochial Registers and Records Measure 1978.  The office is also approved by the Master of the Rolls for the deposit of tithe records.

The Diocese of Derby was created in 1927.  Prior to this, the whole county was an archdeaconry in the Diocese of Lichfield to 1884 and then in the Diocese of Southwell.

Diocese of Derby

Most the of diocesan records held at Derbyshire Record Office date from the creation of the diocese in 1927, although some series (including glebe terriers and tithe records, ref: D2360) were transferred from the diocesan registers of Lichfield and Southwell.  The records of these dioceses are held at Staffordshire Record Office and Nottinghamshire Archives respectively.

Broadly speaking the diocesan records here at Derbyshire Record Office fall into five categories:

  • Administration including induction papers, reports and files
  • Finance including minutes, accounts and reports
  • Churches and property including minutes, deeds, architect’s files and drawings, glebe terriers and tithe records
  • Education including minutes, reports and accounts
  • Social responsibility including minutes, accounts, reports and case books.

Some early boards created on an archdiaconal basis continued as diocesan organisations and these records are also held.  A list of all the archive collections for the Diocese of Derby can be seen here via our online catalogue.


The basic unit of the Anglican hierarchy is the parish, sometimes with missions or chapels and sometimes united with other benefices or operating as part of a team ministry.  Changing patterns of population led to the creation of many new parishes in urban areas, particularly in the 19th and 20th centuries, some of which have now been amalgamated.  County boundary changes have sometimes been reflected in the transfer of parishes to different dioceses.  

A full list of parish archive collections can be seen here, or search the online catalogue using the place name and word parish in the Title field, and select Fonds as the Level:
Parish Search

Parish records may include:

  • Registers of baptisms, marriages, banns and burials (some as early as 1538), and occasionally services from the late 19th century
  • Faculties and other documents relating to the income of the church and to the church building
  • tithe maps and schedules
  • records of church schools and charities
  • accounts (and occasionally other records) of parish officials – churchwardens, constables/headboroughs, *surveyors of the highways and *overseers of the poor including settlement papers, removal orders, bastardy papers, pauper apprenticeship indentures, some as early the 17th century
  • minutes and other records of the *vestry and later the Parochial Church Council.

*Until 1894, the parish was also a civil administrative unit.

The commencement date of surviving registers and a brief history indicating when each of the non-ancient parishes was created and from which other parish/es can be found in our Parish Register Guide.

Rural Deaneries

When the Diocese of Derby was created in 1927, new archdeaconries of Derby and Chesterfield were established.  Within the archdeaconry, parishes were, and are, organised into rural deaneries.  Clergy within the deanery meet regularly in chapter or conference – no deanery chapter or conference minutes survive before the 1840s. 

A list of the archive collections for rural deaneries can be seen here via our online catalogue.

Presbyterian National Church

Episcopacy (rule of the church by bishops) was abolished in 1646 during the civil war and a Presbyterian national church came into being.  Fully developed, a Presbyterian church would have consisted of four levels of organisation: the congregation or parish presbytery; the clerical assembly (or classis) formed of delegates from the parochial presbyteries within a specific area; the provincial synod; the national assembly.

This system was never fully implemented in England but, in the 1650s, groups of ministers came together to establish “classical” assemblies such as the Wirksworth classis (ref: D125).  Much of its business consisted of the examination and ordination of candidates for the ministry, chiefly, but not exclusively, within the area of Wirksworth Wapentake. When the monarch was restored in 1660, the Church of England was also restored as the established church.


Overseers of the Poor account book: numbering

The first thing you normally do when you take a volume apart is to number all the pages in pencil, so you know exactly how everything fits together.  However, in this case, there were two issues preventing me from doing that: turning over the pages to number them risked destroying some of the damaged areas and at some point someone else had gone through the volume and numbered it in pencil in the top right corner of each page.  Great, you might think: just use the existing numbering and go ahead! Unfortunately, relying on someone else’s numbering is never a good idea, as they may have made mistakes and they may not have numbered all the pages you need to be numbered before taking a volume apart.  All volumes (whether they are hand-written manuscript volumes or printed books) are bound with endleaves at the front and the back.  The first and last page of these blank sheets are stuck to the boards and help hold the binding together – no one ever counts these endleaves when counting the number of pages of a book and equally no one ever numbers these.  Except for conservators, who need to know exactly how each page relates to every other page.  In this case, as you can see, the front endleaf has become detached from the board, showing more details of the binding, whereas the back endleaf is still in place and has been written on.


Front endleaf and exposed front board

Front endleaf and exposed front board

Back endleaf

Back endleaf still attached to back board

To avoid confusion and prevent further damage I have decided not to add any additional numbering, but to number the endleaves with roman numerals as I take the volume apart and hope the old numbering will be reasonably accurate.  As always when taking a volume apart I will be keeping detailed notes of how all the pages fit together, so if there are issues with the old numbering I can keep a record of those and still fit everything back together as it should be.



Conservation of an account book of the Overseers of the Poor

In order to help us prioritise which of our thousands of documents to repair next, we keep a record of everything that gets requested in the Searchroom but we’re unable to give access to because of its poor condition.  This account book of the Overseers of the Poor for Great Longstone and Holme from 1789 to 1829 (D307/C/4) has been requested several times and is my latest project.

The account book in its original binding

The account book in its original binding

In the above picture the volume doesn’t actually look very damaged: its original parchment binding is still sturdy, so you would expect the paper textblock to have survived equally well.  However, when we take a closer look, we can see how badly the bottom quarter has suffered from water and mould damage.  The volume was probably stored in damp conditions for a long time, with that lower quarter getting especially moist, which encouraged mould to grow.  The combination of the water and the mould seeped all the strength out of the paper, so although it has long since dried and there’s no more live mould the paper crumbles into dust as you touch it.

The bottom edges of the volume, affected by damp and mould.

The bottom edges of the volume, affected by damp and mould.


Close-up of the damaged area.

Close-up of the damage.


Paper crumbling when pages are turned.

Paper crumbling when pages are turned.

My first task will be to take the whole volume apart, as that is the only way to get to the pages to repair them properly.  I’ll let you know how that works out…