Court of Arches: Act Books 1677-1682

The current project to catalogue the Act Books of the Court of Arches from 1677 to 1682 (Arches A 13-15) is well advanced and on course for completion by the end of 2022.

The diverse business of the Court during these years included suits concerning the dilapidation of parsonage houses and bishops’ palaces. The deaths of successive Bishops of Worcester, for instance, led to suits concerning the state of the palace at Worcester and Hartlebury Castle. The death of John Hacket, Bishop of Lichfield, whose efforts saved Lichfield Cathedral from ruin caused by the civil war, also led to a lengthy suit; his successor Thomas Wood, complained that Hacket had not lavished equal concern on his palace. The deeds and misdeeds of the clergy were also exposed in court, as in the case of Thomas Turner, Vicar of Milton-next-Sittingbourne (now Milton Regis, Kent), whose drinking and playing at cards and dice at the Three Hats, the Red Lion, the Crown, the White Hart and the Queen’s Head often ended in the gutter with the revelation ‘I am damned drunk’.

Suits concerning marriage and divorce were also to the fore. Lady Elizabeth Percy, the greatest heiress of her day, widowed at the age of thirteen, secretly married Thomas Thynne, known (on account of his wealth) as ‘Tom of Ten Thousand’. A suit followed, whereupon Thynne was murdered in 1682. Elizabeth then made a third marriage, at the age of 15, to the Duke of Somerset. Less fortunate was the life of Posthuma Bullocke, forced by her husband to wear a chastity belt, ‘an engine commonly called an Italian padlock’ for almost two years. No less remarkable were the marriages of Anne Pierrepont, daughter of the Marquess of Dorchester. Her marriage to Lord Roos, afterwards Duke of Rutland, was ended by a legal separation in the Court of Arches and then by a parliamentary divorce, the first in England. Anne went on to marry Henry Vaughan, only to return to the Arches in 1681 seeking yet another divorce on account of his cruelty. Marriage contracts were also disputed in court, as in the engagement of Donough O’Brien, Lord Ibrackan, to a daughter of Thomas Osborne, afterwards Duke of Leeds. In this instance the Dean of the Arches allowed himself a moment of candour, urging a speedy marriage to avoid ‘the distast and exasperation which judicial proceedings may begett’.

Other cases ranged from the violation of churchyards, the impersonation of the Vicar General at a visitation, and penances for adultery, to more mundane disputes over tithes, rates, institutions to benefices and rights to pews. Time and again the records reveal the unexpected. The elegant white marble monument to George and Judith Ayliffe in the church at Foxley, Wiltshire, celebrates their lives and five children. Few would guess the reality revealed in court, that Judith left her husband after having been cruelly beaten.

Ayliffe memorial, Foxley Church, Wiltshire. Photo: Sheona Beaumont, 2022. shospace.co.uk.

Variations in the spelling of names in the seventeenth century present challenges to cataloguers. It was pleasing to rescue the poet John Dryden from the obscurity of ‘John Draydon’ and to identify ‘John Eveling’ as the virtuoso John Evelyn. Both were protagonists in Arches cases, as was another diarist, Samuel Pepys.

Richard Palmer

‘I do not wish to speak for long’: The Transcripts of the Church Assembly and General Synod, 1920-1972


Church Assembly Session, 6 November 1962 [CIO/PHO/NEG/188, 62117/1]

Lambeth Palace Library has recently catalogued the transcripts of the reports of proceedings from the Church Assembly, and the early sessions of the General Synod. From the mid-nineteenth century the Church of England sought to achieve greater self-governance as its legislation was dependent on Parliament. The historic Convocations of Canterbury and York (made up of clergy) both added a House of Laymen by 1892, and together formed the Representative Church Council. This body, with bishops, clergy and laity all represented, became the Church Assembly in 1919 with the ‘Enabling Act’ empowering it to become the Church’s legislative body. The transcripts cover sessions between 1920 and 1972, covering the entire lifespan of the Church Assembly, and the formation of its successor body, the General Synod, in 1970.

The transcripts are a fantastic resource that add colour to the published reports of proceedings, which tend to omit much of the actual speech. The reports of proceedings are a summary of speeches made, edited from present to past tense and often shortened. On occasion, whole passages found in the transcripts are missing from the reports. Presumably, the editor viewed these as superfluous to the argument being made. By just looking at the reports of proceedings, researchers miss most of the anecdotes and all the humour deployed by speakers, leaving a skeleton speech deprived of the original intonation.

A lively debate led by the Bishop of Ely about ‘Danger on the Highways’, February 1935 [CAGST/2/32]

The transcripts also give an indication as to how speeches were received by the Assembly and later the Synod. Incidences of laughter, cries of dissent and murmurs of discontent are noted, giving the reader an insight into the atmosphere of these meetings.

The period of 1920-1972 covers many tumultuous domestic and global events, and this is reflected in the topics discussed by the Assembly and Synod. Domestically, the transcripts show lengthy discussions on divorce, unemployment and racial discrimination. The passing of monarchs and the accession of new Kings and Queens are marked.

‘Death of King George V, and Address to King Edward VIII’, February 1936 [CAGST/2/35]

The rapidly changing geopolitical landscape of the twentieth century can be seen through the transcripts, moving from a debate on the ‘League of Nations’ in 1924 to the threat of ‘Nuclear War’ in 1963. Slightly more unusual subjects discussed include ‘Danger on the Public Highways’ and ‘Influence of the Cinema’.

‘Nuclear War’, November 1963 [CAGST/2/108]

The transcripts supplement many of the other collections at Lambeth Palace Library, including the photographic collections of the Church Information Office. The photographic collections provide a comprehensive library of photographs illustrating the teachings and activities of the Church. Church Assembly sessions in the 1950s and 1960s were photographed, as well as the inauguration of the first General Synod.

Church Assembly discussing ‘Horror Comics’, November 1954 [CIO/5/PHO/1/1a]
Debate on ‘Sordid Reading Matter’, November 1954 [CAGST/2/81]

The Church Assembly and General Synod transcripts are a wonderful resource for readers wishing to gain a full and comprehensive understanding of the discussions had by Church Assembly and General Synod, and how this shaped Church policy and thought throughout the twentieth century.

Inauguration of first General Synod by the late Queen Elizabeth II, 4 November 1970 [CIO/5/PHO/2/4]

Olaudah Equiano

Olaudah Equiano (c. 1745 – 1797), a remarkable man whose life story was of vital importance to the campaign to abolish slavery, was born in the Kingdom of Benin (now a part of modern day Nigeria) and, as a child, was kidnapped, sold into slavery and taken to the New World. Sold to Royal Navy Captain Michael Henry Pascal, he was renamed Gustavus Vassa and was baptised as a Christian in 1759 at the Church of St. Margaret, Westminster Abbey. After being sold twice more, including to a Quaker merchant who allowed him to earn a profit through trading, Equiano would eventually purchase his own freedom in 1766. He saw battle during the Seven Years’ War and was trained in seamanship, going on to travel the world, including the Mediterranean, the Caribbean, the Atlantic, and the Arctic.

Frontispiece and title page of 'The Interesting narrative...'
The Library’s copy of The Interesting narrative… is a first edition and is part of Sion College Library [B79.10/V44].

Equiano’s autobiography ‘The interesting narrative of the life of Olaudah Equiano, or Gustavus Vassa, the African, written by himself’ (London, 1789) was a huge success and went through many editions in his lifetime.

The first slave narrative to gain popularity among an English audience, Equiano’s autobiography would not only precipitate a literary genre, but become a voice for the growing anti-slave movement in Great Britain. His account of his childhood in Africa and his life as a slave captivated the public, from whom Equiano’s detailed and lucid writing elicited a strong emotional reaction.

Engraving of the shipwreck of the 'Nancy' on Bahama Banks.
An engraving from the second volume depicts the shipwreck of the Nancy, a slave vessel upon which Equiano worked in the Caribbean, and serves as an example of one of the many harrowing episodes he would survive and later write about [B79.10/V44].

Throughout his autobiography Equiano recounted several instances where he was accosted and threatened with violence, kidnapping, and re-enslavement even after becoming a free man. The bleak prospects and cruelties faced by himself and other Africans in the British Colonies, freed or otherwise, were a driving force in his decision to return to England in 1766.

Equiano would later marry a Cambridgeshire woman, Susanna Cullen, with whom he had two children. Moving in both popular and radical circles in the 1790s, he worked with Thomas Clarkson and the Society for the Abolition of the Slave Trade, and spoke at many public meetings where he described first-hand the cruelties of the trade alongside advocating for the Black community in London. As a leading member of the Sons of Africa, an early black campaign group, Equiano was a prominent voice for abolition in Britain’s political sphere. Ten years after Equiano’s death, the Slave Trade Act of 1807 finally made illegal the transatlantic slave trade; the practise of slavery in the British Empire would only begin to be phased out with the Slavery Abolition Act in 1833.

Collection Care – A student placement book conservation experience, part 2

By Juliana Cordero, Books and library materials Masters student, West Dean College

My most intensive project while at Lambeth Palace Library (LPL) was the treatment of one book from a two-volume set of world geography from the Sion College Collection, Parallela geographiae vetertis et noua from 1649 B12.0/B76. I worked on this book under the direction of Sion Collection Conservator Talitha Wachtelborn, who completed the second volume.

I assessed and established treatment options to Talitha’s guidance as it was important to have a unified treatment methodology between the two conservators.  Both volumes had detached boards and no spine coverings. The sewing was broken and the spine folds were very brittle due to acid degradation. Additionally, the volume I worked on had deep cuts through several layers of paper where maps had been cut out, presumably for sale individually.

Brown leather book textblock laying on its side with no leather over the spine. Evidence of sewing is visible from six vertical brown stripes across the spine.
Sion College: B12.0 B76 volume 2, untreated spine

After surface cleaning, I locally resized the spine folds in order to add strength to the paper and to limit the number of paper repairs needed. Locally resizing was a new treatment for me, and since learning of it I have implemented it in other conservation projects. The size included a solvent and therefore Tal and I completed a risk assessment and ensured I applied it under fume extraction. The size was applied to the spine folds using a fan brush to allow a light, even coating.

Cream coloured paper bifolio on light table shows brighter areas where paper is missing.
Sion College: B12.0 B76 volume 2, applying Japanese tissue with wheat starch paste while on the light table

Due to the heavy damage and the necessity of resewing the textblock, each individual spine fold was repaired. These repairs were performed on a light table which made it easier to see paper tears and holes and to position the Japanese tissue repair strips. In sections where a conjoined page was missing, it was decided to infill with a western handmade paper that was a similar weight to the original paper. In areas of excessive damage, a heavier weight Japanese tissue was used to infill losses to enable resewing the book. Due to the many repairs needed and my limited placement time, I was unable to complete the entire treatment which would have consisted of resewing the textblock and recovering the spine with leather. The most dramatic photo of the treatment is where the repair sections can be seen next to the unrepaired sections.

Stack of folded cream coloured paper making up the spine of a textblock. Upper section is smoother. Middle section is rough with areas missing. Lower section is smooth.
Sion college: B12.0 B76 volume 2 in mid-treatment, difference between completed sections visible

In addition to my conservation and preservation projects, I participated in several team training sessions. During these sessions and other opportunities, I learnt about:

  • parchment repair methods including historical methods and adhesives,
  • pest management,
  • temperature and humidity checks,
  • the assessment of books for loans,
  • assessing objects for exhibitions and lectures,
  • disaster training,
  • what is needed to prepare for digitization, and
  • a new method of spine removal and lifting of leather on boards in preparation for a leather reback.

Continuing Professional Development

Four people sat around a table. Person in lower left corner is holding a piece of parchment with black and red ink.
Juliana is located lower right corner holding a piece of parchment.
Historic parchment repair workshop with Collection Care team led by Lara Artemis, Senior Conservator

It was not only the collection and location that enabled me to grow as a conservator, but the people that I have met and worked with. The knowledge and skills that I have learned during my placement at LPL are invaluable and will help me succeed in both my Master’s studies and my career.  I would like to thank Lara Artemis, Meagen Smith, Talitha Wachtelborn, Maria Martinez-Viciana, Arianna Mangraviti, Avery Bazemore, and Atsuko Matsumoto for all their teaching and support, and everyone else at LPL who gave me such a warm welcome and helped in making such an amazing opportunity possible.

Preservation – A student placement experience of collection surveying and box-making, part1

By Juliana Cordero, Books and library materials Masters student, West Dean College

As a Master’s student at West Dean College of Arts and Conservation, I was lucky enough to have a five-week work placement with the Collections Care team at Lambeth Palace Library (LPL) early in 2022 where I learned new skills and techniques and refined my current abilities. I was given the opportunity to work on different projects and participate in several training activities. The variety of the collections and the people with whom I worked have given me invaluable information and experiences.

The LPL collections allowed me to get a better grounding in the daily routine of a book and library materials conservator by working on preventative conservation projects, assisting with daily tasks, talking with my colleagues about working with new materials and meeting people from different areas in the library. The wonderful and skilled Collections Care conservators welcomed me and were very generous with imparting their knowledge of treatments, techniques, materials, and the many aspects of a conservator role.

I worked on 4 distinct projects during my time at LPL including documenting and cleaning of a portion of the Court of Arches collection (a project written about on this blog by other authors), surveying and rehousing a portion of the Chancel Plans collection, boxing the unhoused Archbishop’s Registers and treating a Sion College volume, see second blog.

Chancel plans

The Chancel plans are composed of architectural drawings of church chancels (the space around the altar). The collection includes a combination of modern machine-made paper, handmade paper and tracing paper in a series of bundles that often contain one or two large paper plans and one or more corresponding tracing papers.

The Chancel plans project allowed me to experience how to survey a large collection and taught me the different elements that need to be noted when undertaking a survey. While I was only able to survey a small portion of the collection, I gained an appreciation of one of the first steps in the conservation of a collection.

Two stacks of creased paper on the left is a cream coloured folded plan and on the left a smaller stack of folded tracing paper pages.
Chancel Plans: a fractured tracing paper plan and the corresponding paper plan before surface cleaning, ECE/11/4/444 Minster (Isle of Sheppy) chancel
A stack of creased paper in layers showing a cream coloured plan with architectural details and measures with a smaller stack of folded tracing paper pages.
Chancel Plans: chancel plan bundle with an larger format plan on paper, three plans on tracing paper and an early photograph, ECE/11/4/446 Moreland Chancel

After completing a portion of the larger survey, the next step was to clean and rehouse the plans. The chancel plans were cleaned using a chemical sponge and a soft brush. The paper plans were often canvas backed and in good condition, which meant that they were easy to clean with gentle motions. However, the tracing paper condition varied depending on types of tracing paper. Some of the tracing paper plans were extremely fragile and damaged while others were in good condition.

A tracing paper plan of Milton next Sittingbourne chancel after surface cleaning and flattening
Chancel Plans: Unfolded and cleaned tracing paper plan, ECE/11/4/441 Milton next Sittingbourne chancel
A tracing paper plan of Milton next Sittingbourne chancel in archival plastic sleeve for safe handling
Chancel Plans: Tracing paper plan housed in sleeve for safer handling, ECE/11/4/441 Milton next Sittingbourne chancel

Most of the damage to the tracing paper documents was along the folds. Due to their brittle nature it was often not possible to unfold the documents without fracturing them. Tracing paper documents that were already damaged or were too fragile to unfold, were placed in a manila folder awaiting conservation treatment. Tracing paper and heavier weight documents in good condition and able to be unfolded were surface cleaned and rehoused in labeled Melinex™ sleeves.

I valued this project as it introduced me to the treatment and handling of translucent papers. Because of the range in dates of the chancel plans, I was able to see the transitions and changes in manufacturing and quality over time.

Archbishop’s Registers

Juliana Cordero standing on the right using a wooden book measuring tool with a brown volume within the measuring bed.
Archbishop’s Registers: Measuring registers
Eight grey archival upright book boxes
Archbishop’s Registers: Completed boxes ready to be reshelved

Boxing the Archbishop’s Registers was good practice for making collection housing while limiting material waste. Under the guiding eye of Avery, I measured and made 33 boxes using a Zund project cutter which infinitely speeds up the box making process over hand cutting each box. Despite the electronic help, it is even more important to be accurate in the measuring of each volume. Each book was carefully measured and information recorded about the archbishop, date, volume, and record number so it could be printed on the box spine. The dimensions were input into the Zund software and the box was cut. Part of the purpose of the project was to fit several boxes on one sheet of folding box board in order to maximize material usage.

Juliana Cordero, a woman, standing to the left of two shelves of grey boxes
Archbishop’s Registers: Completed boxing of the collection. Remember to calculate expansion space!