The Broughton Missal: Online

One of our most important acquisitions of recent years, the Broughton Missal, has now been digitised and is now online. It is a rare surviving manuscript of the text and music for Roman Catholic church services, according to the Use of York, with adaptations reflecting the practice and interpretations which developed at York Minster during the Middle Ages. York missals are extremely rare compared with Sarum Use missals, which were used in the south of England. Prior to the Reformation, most parish churches in northern England would have owned least one York Use missal, but now only 12 examples are known to survive anywhere in the world and several of these are incomplete.
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The Missal is beautifully decorated throughout with initials in gold, blue and red.


Each one of these manuscripts is different, ranging in date from the 13th to the 15th century, and each has its own story to tell, offering new insights into the liturgical practice in the York diocese, the way in which medieval church services were conducted and how they were experienced by the congregation. The Broughton Missal, for example, gives detailed information about the colours to be worn by the different ranks of clergy participating in the Mass. However, it also contains annotations detailing gifts to Broughton church and notes on the building and its maintenance. For Lambeth Palace Library this extraordinarily rich historical document now represents an invaluable source of information about pre-Reformation life and religious practice in a northern English village.

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The pages of the Broughton Missal were used to record various parish matters, including repairs to the building and gifts to the Church


It is still in its original late medieval binding and is written on parchment in brown ink. Its penwork and decoration is English and of high quality, with capital letters, rubrics (instructions for services) and major feasts picked out in red.  The manuscript is decorated throughout with large illuminated initials in gold, blue and red, with elaborate borders around the pages. It is not known where the missal was made but it may have been produced in York, which was developing as a centre of the commercial book trade at this time.

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A page with a Mass for the Pope crossed out showing that the book continued to be in use during the Reformation


The Broughton Missal was in use in the parish church of All Hallows, Broughton (three miles north of Preston, Lancashire), for at least 150 years, spanning the English Reformation. The various notes and alterations written on the text, including replacing mentions of the Pope with references to the King, provide an important witness to the religious and cultural life of a parish in the north-west of England during that period of upheaval. It remained in the church until the mid-16th century, and from about 1845 became the property of a Lancashire family, through which it has passed down the generations. It was the last known example still to be in private hands and is the first to be acquired by a British institution since 1932.  Purchase of this manuscript was supported by the Friends of Lambeth Palace Library, to mark the 50th anniversary of their foundation, with further contributions from the National Heritage Memorial Fund, the Art Fund, the Friends of the National Libraries, and the B.H. Breslauer Foundation. We are grateful to them all for their help.

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The Broughton Missal retains its original medieval binding



Further reading

Francis Carolus Eeles, On a fifteenth-century York missal formerly used at Broughton-in-Amounderness, Lancashire. Manchester : Chetham Society, 1935.

Matthew Cheung Salisbury, The use of York : characteristics of the medieval liturgical office in York. York : Borthwick Institute, 2012.

Mass and parish in late medieval England : the use of York. Reading : Spire Books, 2005.

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