KENT ARCHAEOLOGICAL SOCIETY  -- RESEARCH   Studying and sharing Kent's past      Homepage

Archaeologia Cantiana -  Vol. 134  2014  page 265

A History of the Ecclesiastical Courts of the Diocese of Canterbury, 1566-86, based on the
   Cause papers bound within the Volume MS.F.4.12. By Karen Rushton

period also saw two Archdeacons, Edmund Freake (1564-1576) and William Redman (1576-1594). Parker was the first Archbishop following the tumultuous period of the Henrician Reformation and the Catholic Restoration of Mary I’s reign, and has been acknowledged for his heavy engagement in propaganda and moulding of public opinion.3 One might see this as part of the entrenchment of Protestantism and the restoring of stability to the operations of the church, thus placing MS.F.4.12 in a period of relative and continuing calm in comparison to earlier years.4 Whilst the tumultuous events of the Reformation undoubtedly made great changes to the country ‘the distinctive element in the Reformation experience of Englishmen was continuity in nearly all areas of church life’.5 This arose from the fact that the church’s structure was more or less unchanged and so the influence of the church courts remained fairly constant throughout.
   Two separate courts operated at the diocesan level in Canterbury, that of the Consistory Court and the Court of the Archdeacon. Ecclesiastical courts across the country existed as part of a hierarchical system with the Court of the Archdeacon being the ‘lowest in the hierarchy of courts ecclesiastical in the matter of appeals’.6 Consistory courts, being the official courts of the bishop, came next and generally speaking acted as the court of appeal for cases from the Court of the Archdeacon. Above them were the provincial courts of appeal, known in the province of Canterbury as the Court of Arches and in the province of York as the Chancery Court. MS.F.4.12 features two entries from the Court of Arches.
   A common point made by many studying the ecclesiastical courts is the impossibility of applying the findings of a study of one diocese more generally. Here Canterbury is no different having its own peculiarities. Two particularly relevant factors are its relatively small size and its close relationship with the archbishop. Firstly, its size meant it had only one archdeaconry (the largest diocese in the country at the time, Lincoln, had eight). A plurality of archdeaconries served to reinforce the hierarchical system by placing the consistory court above those of the archdeacons as it held jurisdiction over the whole diocese and not just a small part of it. With the diocese of Canterbury being as small as it was the two courts shared the same geographical jurisdiction. Secondly, the Canterbury consistory court being the court of the archbishop meant that appeals from the archdeacon generally went directly to the provincial Court of the Arches, bypassing the consistory altogether.7 Nevertheless some distinction did exist between the two, with the consistory retaining full jurisdiction over matrimonial causes and exempt parishes.8
   In terms of content and structure, at first glance there is little to distinguish between the cause papers from the Consistory Court and the Archdeacon’s Court other than the title given to the presiding official in their introduction. An analysis of the papers in terms of the above

Previous Page       Back to Page listings       Next page      

For details about the advantages of membership of the Kent Archaeological Society   click here

Back the Contents page   To Arch. Cant. List    To Publications On-line    To Research Page   To Homepage

Kent Archaeological Society is a registered charity number 223382
© Kent Archaeological Society February 2014

This website is constructed by enthusiastic amateurs. Any errors noticed by other researchers will be to gratefully received so
 that we can amend our pages to give as accurate a record as possible. Please send details too