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Archaeologia Cantiana -  Vol. 134  2014  page 272

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

for example proctors, could be grouped in with official records of the court within MS.F.4.12. As such we might assume that the records bound within MS.F.4.12 did not belong to any one individual of the court but were grouped together at another point.
   As can probably be deduced from the plenary process the records would have all been produced separately, so fully supporting them having been bound at a later date. The physical evidence for this is clear with the original folds evident on each folio. On the reverse of most entries is a label giving the names of the parties involved, for example ‘Pyllesworthe c[ontra] Wood’ which would have been clearly visible when the records were folded and stored in their original state.
   The reasons for binding the records in the first place are not obvious, as cause papers listed for the Chester, York and Canterbury Consistory Courts in other archives are all loose.27 With no logical order to the records we may assume that they were not bound as part of a system to keep relevant records together nor to facilitate future reference when required.28 In fact if for some reason anyone needed to prove something to do with an earlier court case, entries in the act books would detail the specific procedures that had taken place. Instead the volume seems more likely to just be a method of preserving the papers of the court, possibly as a result of there being a large number of loose records with binding providing a solution to storage problems. Alternatively, the name of William Persivall may indicate that they were taken into a private collection and also offer some explanation as to the provenance of the record.

Types of Cases Heard

The diocesan courts could deal with various issues, including testamentary matters, tithe disputes, cases of defamation, matrimonial disputes, and correction cases, examples of which can be found within MS.F.4.12.


A ‘tithe was a tax of approximately one-tenth, paid on all types of production by all types of producer’.29 Disputes surrounding them are by far the most numerous in MS.F.4.12, a trend witnessed across England having grown in number since the Reformation.30 The disputes arising from them in the courts often involved confusion over what goods were tithable, who they should be paid to and whether or not individuals were trying to hide produce to avoid paying tithes. Given the timing of the increase in tithe disputes it is tempting to assume that they resulted from anticlericalism or resentment towards the church. However several writers on the subject draw attention to how the administration of tithes lacked the religious characteristic widely assumed of it. R.C. Palmer

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