Located AtStaffordshire Record Office
LevelCollection
TitleDiocese of Lichfield
Administrative HistoryFrom 1228 until the dissolution of the Cathedral Priory of Coventry in 1539 both the secular collegiate church of Lichfield and the Benedictine priory church of Coventry were cathedrals for a diocese stretching from the Ribble in Lancashire to Edgehill in south-east Warwickshire. It was called 'Coventry and Lichfield' until the mid-17th century and then 'Lichfield and Coventry' until 1836.

The diocese was one of the largest in medieval England, tracing its origins to the conversion of Mercia in the 7th century. It was divided into five archdeaconries roughly coinciding with the constituent counties or parts of counties: Chester (covering Cheshire and south Lancashire), Coventry, Derby, Salop and Stafford. If minor deviations from civil boundaries are ignored, its limits can be described as follows: from the mouth of the River Ribble in Lancashire, along the river to the Yorkshire border, then the boundary between Yorkshire and, successively, Lancashire, Cheshire and Derbyshire, and southwards along the Derbyshire-Nottinghamshire border. For the whole of this distance, it marched with the diocese and province of York.

It then followed the eastern and southern limits of Derbyshire and the eastern side of Staffordshire and Warwickshire as far as Ratley in south Warwickshire, bordering throughout the diocese of Lincoln. The boundary then moved north-westwards through Warwickshire: Leamington, Kenilworth and Solihull were in the diocese, but Warwick was in the diocese of Worcester whose limits seem to preserve the 7th-century boundary between the partly Saxon Hwicce and the Anglian Mercians. Of the modern Birmingham, the parishes of Birmingham itself, Aston and Edgbaston, together with Harborne and Handsworth, which were in Staffordshire until 1891 and 1911 respectively, were in Lichfield diocese, while Yardley, Kings Norton and Northfield were in the county and diocese of Worcester.

The boundary followed the general direction of the Staffordshire-Worcestershire border, although Clent and Broom, a detached island of Staffordshire, were in Worcester diocese, as were Rowley Regis, which was part of the parish of Clent, and Amblecote, which was part of Old Swinford (Worcs). The boundary with Hereford diocese roughly followed the course of the River Severn through Shropshire, although including a group of parishes in mid-Shropshire, approximately comprising the hundred of Condover, south of the river. The original boundary between the dioceses of Lichfield and Hereford may well have commemorated the 7th-century borders of the Mercians and the Magonsaete.
The boundary included the former detached part of Flintshire, comprising the parishes of Hanmer, Overton, Bangor, Iscoed, which was partly in Denbighshire, and Worthenbury and Penley chapelry, and continued northwards up the western boundary of Chester diocese, taking in the Denbighshire parishes of Holt and the Flint parish of Hawarden.

Changes since 1541

From 1541 until 1836, a period from which a great many of the diocesan records date, the diocese covered Staffordshire, Derbyshire, northern Shropshire and northern and eastern Warwickshire. Here is a summary of the changes to the area of the diocese, or to the names of its constituent parts, which took place during that period and subsequently:

1541: the diocese of Chester was created. Parishes in south Lancashire, Cheshire, Denbighshire and Flintshire were transferred to the new diocese. Penley (Flint), a chapelry of Ellesmere (Salop), remained in the diocese.

1836: the archdeaconry of Coventry was transferred to the diocese of Worcester. This comprised that part of the diocese which was then in Warwickshire, except for Warwickshire parts of the parish of Tamworth, which was wholly in the archdeaconry of Stafford.

1846: Bridgnorth deanery, on the abolition of the peculiar jurisdictions, was transferred to the diocese of Hereford. The deanery comprised the parishes of Bridgnorth St Mary Magdalen, Bridgnorth St Leonard, Alveley, Claverley and Quatford (Salop) and Bobbington (Staffs and Salop). The deanery had previously been almost entirely exempt from the jurisdiction of the bishop of Lichfield. At about this date, Shrawardine (Salop) was transferred to the diocese of Lichfield and henceforth held in plurality with Montford (Salop).

1884: the archdeaconry of Derby was transferred to the new diocese of Southwell. The archdeaconry comprised the part of the diocese which was then in Derbyshire.

1905: on the creation of the diocese of Birmingham, the rural deanery of Handsworth, comprising the ancient parishes of Handsworth and Harborne (Staffs, later Warks), was transferred to the new diocese.

In Shropshire, the rural deanery of Condover, comprising the ancient parishes of Acton Burnell, Berrington, Condover, Cound, Hanley, Kenley, Leebotwood, Longnor, Pitchford, Sheinton, Smethcott and Stapleton, and the parishes of Worfield and Quatt, were transferred to the diocese of Hereford.

The parish of Upper Arley (Staffs, later Worcs) was transferred to the diocese of Worcester.

The Shropshire parishes of Badger, Beckbury, Meole Brace and Sutton, together with Bobbington (partly in Staffs) were transferred from the diocese of Hereford to Lichfield.

1920: on the disestablishment of the Church in Wales, the parish of Penley (Flint), formerly a chapelry of Ellesmere, was transferred to the diocese of St Asaph. Oswestry Deanery in Shropshire, comprising the parishes of Oswestry, Kinnerley, Knockin, Llanyblodwell, Llanymynech, Melverley, St Martin, Selattyn and Whittington, was transferred to the diocese of Lichfield from St Asaph.

1877: the archdeaconry of Stoke was formed from part of the archdeaconry of Stafford.

1981: the archdeaconry of Stafford was renamed the archdeaconry of Lichfield.

1993: the deanery of Himley was transferred to the diocese of Worcester.

1997: the deaneries of Trysull, Walsall, Wednesbury, West Bromwich and Wolverhampton were removed from the archdeaconry of Lichfield to form the archdeaconry of Walsall.

Additions to this material are received each year. Contact the Record Office for further details of unlisted material.
DescriptionThe arrangement of the records

Most of the diocesan archives have been classified in three sections:
A: Administration
C: Court
V: Visitation

These letters are preceded by B for bishop. The records of the archdeaconries (A) and some of the peculiars (P) have also been classified in this way, with some modifications. The first number in document reference codes usually denotes the record series or type, whilst subsequent numbers denote the individual items within series. Thus B/A/1 is the code for the whole series of bishops' registers, whilst B/A/1/1 is the code for the first register in the series.

It should be noted that the counterparts of certain diocesan record series such as marriage licence allegations and bonds are to be found among the records of the Dean and Chapter of Lichfield and of peculiars, which were areas exempt from the bishop's jurisdiction but performing many of the same functions.

In 1964, a group of records was transferred from the Cathedral Library to the then Lichfield Joint Record Office, but clearly relating to the diocesan administration and not to that of the Dean and Chapter. This group was miscellaneous in content, including types of document not otherwise represented in the diocesan records. These records were listed as a separate group in the predecessor of this Guide, but now descriptions of each series appear in their appropriate places in the classification scheme with their references codes and the note "Ex D and C" or Ex D&C". This must always be quoted when ordering or citing these documents, since they have been separately catalogued. It is now easier, therefore, to see at a glance the office's holdings of a particular type of record, such as subscription books (B/A/4), regardless of their ultimate provenance.

Some diocesan records have also been received from other sources and were not included in the Diocesan cataloguing scheme outlined above, but are included in this catalogue as Diocesan records. Those formerly held in the Lichfield Record Office on deposit have reference codes with the prefix LD followed by a number (e.g. LD137), whilst those acquired by gift or purchase have L followed by a number (e.g. L271).

Finding Aids
After the main record descriptions, details are given of any available calendars, transcripts, analyses and specialised indexes. These add to the information contained in the general series of catalogues. Calendars are detailed abstracts of records which can generally be used instead of the originals, whilst transcripts are complete reproductions of the text of the originals. Analyses are detailed interpretations of the data contained in the records. Calendars, transcripts and analyses are to be found in a variety of published and unpublished sources. Reference is also made to other guides to records published by the Staffordshire and Stoke-on-Trent Archive Service.
Access ConditionsMany items in this collection require a minimum 2 working days' notice for production. See individual item descriptions or contact Stafforsshire Record office for further information.
    Powered by CalmView© 2008-2019