This year marks the centenary of the Law of Property Act of 1922, through which a type of manorial tenancy agreement called ‘copyhold’ was abolished. This legislative change had a huge effect on the ways in which records associated with manors—or ‘manorial documents’—were held, as they became essential as the only proof of title (claim of ownership) to former copyhold land.
Manorial documents are records relating to the administration of a manor (an estate of land administered as a unit), providing a treasure trove of information about people and places in England and Wales from the twelfth to twentieth centuries. The National Archives defines them as:
“court rolls, surveys, maps, terriers, documents and books of every description relating to the boundaries, wastes, customs or courts of a manor” This excludes: “deeds or other instruments required for evidencing the title to a manor or agreements or draft agreements relating to compensation, or any documents which came into being after 31st December 1925”.
The records often hold detailed information concerning the history and customs of a house, family, or region, including practices of land ownership, urban development and agriculture. As manor courts sometimes held jurisdiction over minor offences, they can include useful and often colourful descriptions of crime and punishment.
Following the Act of 1922, a new set of rules was created for the preservation and care of manorial documents, and they became the only type of document (asides from public records) to have statuary protection. As part of this response, The National Archives created the Manorial Documents Register (MDR), an index that gives the location of documents made before 1926 relating to any manor in England or Wales.
Manorial Records at Lambeth Palace Library: A case study
The manorial documents in Lambeth’s collection mostly relate to estates that have been owned by the central organisations of the Church, including the above map of the Manor of Lambeth, which features the palace in its lower left corner. Taking one manor as a case study shows the rich material diversity of these documents, as well as the range of content that can be gleaned from them.
The manor of Boughton (or Boughton under Bleane) in Kent was owned by the Archbishop of Canterbury since at least the 11th century, when the Archbishop was recorded as its Lord in the Domesday book. Searching for ‘Boughton’ on the MDR provides a list of documents relating the manor, the majority of which are held by Lambeth Palace Library. Listed are court rolls, maps, rentals, and surveys dating from the 13th to 20th centuries, just a small selection of which are featured below.
Rentals record the annual rent paid to a Lord (the tenant in chief) by their tenant. The earliest manorial document that mentions Boughton Manor is a 13th-century survey and rental of the possessions of the archbishopric (ED 2068), including information of a number of manors in the form of a roll over 6 metres long. The section on Boughton, like other accounts in the roll, begins with a summary of the rents and fees and the feast days on which they are payable, followed by a survey of the land and a description of its customs.
Caption: Survey and rental (13th century, ED 2068) with leather attachment
Court rolls were produced by a manor’s court, which held regular meetings to discuss the activities related to the manor and its inhabitants. Tenants needed permission from the court to sell, buy, sublet, or mortgage their property. Such actions were recorded in the court rolls, often alongside lists of tenants, surrenders of land, and other general matters. Lambeth Palace Library holds around 120 court rolls for Boughton Manor, dating from the 15th to mid-18th centuries. Details of entries concerning Boughton in these rolls are available to view on our image database (see the list of sources below).
This information was not only kept in rolls but also in loose papers, often copied into the court rolls later on. In the below mid-18th-century example (TH 35) are lists of tenants, detailed information related to quit rent (a type of land tax), and warrants sent to the manor’s constable to hold courts, the latter often officiated with a wax seal.
Maps and surveys
The earliest map of Boughton in the Library’s possession is TD 25, made in 1631 by the map maker William Boycot (fl. 1615-48). Drawings of distinctive buildings and natural features are accompanied by symbols, used with the key on the lower right to show who owned land in Boughton and where. The largest group of manorial maps are those related to the work of the Ecclesiastical Commissioners, made from the mid-19th century onwards, after the Commissioners took over the running of the Church’s estates. Within this series are multiple maps of Boughton, including the OS map below annotated in the early 20th century. Many of the Ecclesiastical Commissioners’ maps are accompanied by parish surveys, providing further information on the estate.
By Kris Massengale, Library and Information Studies MA student, University College London
During a two-week work placement at Lambeth Palace Library, I was invited to participate in a day’s worth of the Court of Arches act books restoration project at the Collections Care studio as a taster session of sorts to become acquainted with the Library’s approach to conservation. I was joined by both a new member of the Library staff and by a master’s student from a different university than myself who was writing an article on the damaging properties of iron gall ink, and for this reason sought the guidance of Lambeth’s experienced conservators. We were brought into the studio bright and early and given a comprehensive rundown on the terminology, methodology, and background of the project, as well as why it is important to the Library and its users before we tried our hand at conservation work in practice. The details of our preparation and the processes that followed will be outlined in detail below.
Methods of Evaluation
As an introduction to the Collections Care studio and the Court of Arches act papers restoration project, we discussed how and why collections decay, and what can be done to mitigate this process. The following elements were identified as possible agents of deterioration:
Incorrect relative humidity
Thieves and vandals
Relevant to the conservation strategies used is the fact that the Court of Arches collection exists in varying states of physical degeneration or injury as a result of improper storage and exposure to the elements. The quality of most – if not all – of the documents were affected predominantly by dirt, either ingrained into the material itself or sitting atop the surface as a blemish, limiting the legibility of the manuscript text. That isn’t to say, however, that all of the damage can be attributed solely to environmental neglect. In the single day I spent working with the materials, I encountered, for example, fire damage that could be attributed most likely to instances of human incaution, such as a candle being knocked askew upon a desktop. Thus, it is important to understand the role of accidental mishandling, both contemporary to the time of their creation, and that which remains a risk when users and staff interact with archival materials in the present day.
The act books vary in size, composition, and material, with little consistency to their design. Typically, an outer layer of parchment will serve as the wrapper for the rest of the materials inside; this parchment will often have taken the brunt of the elemental damage, meaning that it is dirtier compared to the inner contents. Many of the texts are oversized, and weights are used to flatten them during the cleaning process. Inside the wrapper, there could be more parchment, or – especially true as one traces a progression through time, when the cost of paper production becomes less prohibitively expensive – paper folios (Andersen and Sauer, 2022, p.46).
Iron gall ink is the most common writing material with which manuscripts were written. This is problematic in that, despite its popularity and accessibility during the Early Modern period, and as previously mentioned in regards to the research interests of the other postgraduate student who joined us on this day, iron gall inks are corrosive [Fig. 1]. Iron gall inks were created through an assortment of methods and ingredients, thus making the approach to their conservation complicated at best. Originally made the ink of choice for manuscripts due to its deep, black colour, iron gall inks fade over time into a characteristic brown; the reason for this transformation, however, is not fully understood (Díaz Hidalgo, Córdoba, Nabais, et. al., 2018, p.2-3). The solution itself is typically composed of iron salts, gum arabic, and, most significantly, gallic acid, which is extracted from tree galls boasting a high concentration of tannin by being cooked, soaked, or fermented; galls themselves were formed by the eggs of parasites such as aphids, wasps, and flies within certain types of trees (Ibid., p.5).
Though a single, agreed approach to the mitigation of corrosion from iron gall ink has yet to be decided, Lambeth Palace Library takes a preventative approach to further deterioration through careful handling of materials most susceptible to loss from iron gall ink-related fragility. That is, careful assessment and monitoring of the instances in which this damage has occurred, and restricting access to the documents most vulnerable to further cracking, tearing, and abrasion are some of the ways in which the Collections Care department works to ensure that the historical legacy of documents such as the Court of Arches act books will be preserved for future generations.
A damage code document was compiled by conservators working on the project, wherein acronyms have been assigned to describe the condition of documents for ease of assessment. Outlining the possible imperfections that one may encounter when handling the act books, the document is flexible and can be modified in response to new discoveries as they occur. This is the first step in the restoration process, which is undertaken by contract conservationists and members of the Collections Care staff in turn. The documents are assessed according to the damage code document by conservators before the cleaning process begins, with additional notes being added as one progresses through the material. As the act books had already been accessioned and catalogued by the Archives department in 2021, the burden of textual bibliography is not a concern of those working on the project. Let us now take a closer look at the meaning of the codes within the document, which are recorded on a sheet of paper during the assessment process.
The first line of assessment occurs when conservators note physical material of which the document is composed. As previously mentioned, a parchment (PC) wrapper (WR) was often used as a protective sheath for the internal paper (PP) documents. Similarly, all of the documents include writing, typically in iron gall ink (IGI). It is not uncommon to find evidence of applied wax seals (AWS) or embossed paper wax seals (EPWS) upon further investigation into the material. While some of the documents are sewn (SEW) together, others are pinned (PI), or held together by a parchment tacket (PTK). Evidence of revenue stamps (RST) also become increasingly common as one moves chronologically through the collection.
The material is then assessed based on observable damage. There are three categories of assessment, indicating that the items are in “Good,” “Fair,” or “Poor” condition, respectively. Just as well, these fields are open to modification; I was told that the conservators have recently decided to add a “Very Poor” condition category due to the extensive damage present on many of the documents. Dust (DU) and ingrained dirt (ID) is common, especially on parchment wrappers; the internal papers are typically cleaner, with the wrapper preserving its internal contents. There are several categories which allow for granularity when describing physical damage resulting in loss to the documents. Small edge tears (SET) are set apart from large edge tears (LET), just as creases (CR), which indicate unintentional creasing in the paper, are differentiated from folds (FLD), indicating likely intentional, permanent folding of the material. Instances of brittle paper (BP) and brittle parchment (BPC) are also recorded, so that decisions can be made in terms of the suitability of the documents to be handled by the public.
The final two columns, “Treatment” and “Conservation materials used,” are handled by the head of the project; thus, my involvement in the process ended here, aside from the use of vinyl erasers (VE) and chemical sponges (CS) by the other volunteers and myself to clean the documents to the best of our ability once we had assessed them and recorded the appropriate damage codes [Fig. 2a, Fig. 2b]. A “before” and “after” of the cleaning process, that of my own work, can be seen in [Fig. 3a, Fig. 3b]. After the materials have been assessed and cleaned (in this case by myself and the two individuals who joined me on this day), repairs are made by the head of the project, who looks at the damage codes we have recorded throughout the process and decides on an approach to take in the repair of the materials. This can include unfolding material that ought not be folded (UF), traditional repair to paper (TRP), humidification (H), pressing (PW), or washing the documents by hand (W). While the collection was assessed for the presence of mould by the archivists who accessioned it, and was deemed clear, the possibility of mould still exists and is reflected in the “Treatment” category on the basis of whether the mould removal was done chemically or mechanically (MOURM, MOURC).
An anecdote – perhaps legendary in conception – was supplied to me by the Collections Care team to illustrate the importance of staff literacy in conservation. It went like this:
An older individual had served as the sole librarian tending to a rural library for approximately half a century. When conservators arrived for an appraisal of the collection, it was discovered that an observable portion of the books suffered from similar patterns of damage to the spine. This librarian had, over the course of many years, pulled books from the tightly-packed shelves by the spine. Over time, this constituted long-term damage to the binding, and the spine began to separate from the text block until, eventually, it would become detached altogether. It was not that this librarian did not care about the preservation of the library’s holding; rather, it was an issue of ignorance on the topic of best practice in collections care.
This instance of one librarian causing so much damage to a collection was meant to drive home the point that damage is always cumulative. The books were not damaged by one or two instances of mishandling, but by the same act being performed repeatedly over a number of years. Each time we interact with an object, we are subjecting it to wear. Even delicate handling only serves to slow the process of deterioration. Beyond user requests and subsequent handling in the Reading Room, all interactions with printed and archival materials serve as points of departure for aggregate deterioration of the collections. These include, but are not limited to:
Copying or imaging
Therefore, it is important to note that the everyday tasks we perform as librarians have just as much potential to damage materials as misuse by patrons – perhaps more so. Because we handle these items everyday, there runs the risk of overlooking their importance, and subsequently our personal responsibility in their preservation. In one example of combatting dissociation during conservation work, Lambeth Palace Library encourages employees to take frequent breaks so that they can separate themselves from their work and refocus when necessary.
Collections care in libraries and archives should be a task allocated not only to conservators, but the duty of everyone who interacts with the materials – staff and users alike. Lambeth Palace Library has taken a robust approach in their conservation training, making it a priority rather than an afterthought in their policy. It is important to note that damage to collections is not only cumulative, but that the role of library staff as the people who interact with the materials more frequently than anyone else plays a significant role in this cumulative damage. The opportunity to participate in the Court of Arches act books restoration project as an introduction to the Collections Care studio is a visionary initiative to involve staff outside of Collections Care, as well as external students and professionals, with the department, allow them to ask any questions they may have about conservation, and try their hand at the craft. To analyse materials for damage using a clear methodology is crucial in teaching users and staff alike to identify and isolate these instances of damage as they come across them.
Andersen, J. and Sauer, E. eds., 2002. Books and readers in early modern England: material studies. University of Pennsylvania Press.
Díaz Hidalgo, R.J., Córdoba, R., Nabais, P., Silva, V., Melo, M.J., Pina, F., Teixeira, N. and Freitas, V., 2018. New insights into iron-gall inks through the use of historically accurate reconstructions. Heritage Science, 6(1), pp.1-15.
By Georgia Wood, History Masters student, Queen Mary University of London
As someone currently undertaking a History MA at Queen Mary University of London, I feel somewhat qualified to speak on how a history student thinks about archives. I perceive archives as treasure troves of knowledge awaiting discovery and analysis, but never considered how the pieces I request get into my hands.
Teaching about the archive mostly surrounds what considerations the history student and future historian need to make when considering the materials we can access. However, one problem that is brushed over during our course is the physical condition of documents that have often been carelessly discarded and then exhumed by archivists.
My workshop at Lambeth Palace Library was dominated by being taught how to clean and conserve manuscripts. An incredibly delicate process, cleaning manuscripts is necessary to ensure that not only the text is visible and legible, but also ensure the cleanliness and safety of the archive and its users. I had never considered the need to quarantine and observe a collection for possible infestations or active mould. Upon seeing Lambeth’s quarantine room where newly acquired items are held in wait before they can be examined by the archivists, I began to reconsider the role of the archive and how historians understand historical documents.
I was assigned to cleaning documents from the Court of Arches, Bbb series, created in the sixteenth and seventeenth century. I saw how a document can be given new life under the care of conservators. From being almost unintelligible due to the sheer amount of dust and grime on the items, the collection care team was able to get the documents to a condition they could be used by researchers in the reading room.
The tools a conservator uses is an area I felt I had some understanding of. As a history student a lot of my recommended online media is related to the subject and therefore I have watched quite a few painting restoration videos from large institutions. I assumed that any historical item being restored/conserved had specialist equipment developed to help ensure the best outcome. However, this is not the case. One of the primary tools I used to clean the documents, a smoke sponge, was initially developed to help remove fire soot from walls. The historian is acutely aware of the lack of investment in the humanities, but I had never considered how this would impact the archive. Material held in the archive is the centre piece of historical research and therefore the preservation of historical materials should be a topic in which the historian takes a keen interest.
Before my experience in the Collection Care studio at Lambeth Palace Library, I had never thought of documents of historical interest being outside the temperature controlled walls of accredited institutions. Perhaps this is because I am a modern political history student, or because I had rarely considered the life of the items I was analysing outside of their initial production, but whatever the case I had never thought documents could become so dirty. My day spent at Lambeth was incredibly enlightening. The next time I go to the archive I will definitely consider how the documents I have requested may have looked before they were left in the care of the archive and made accessible to researchers.
Lambeth Palace Library holds the records of many of the commissions set up by the Archbishops of Canterbury and York. These were groups which played a vital role in shaping the direction of church policy and organisation. In the case of the commissions on church and state they made suggestions which have shaped the relationship between the Church of England and Government and considered the role of the Church in English life.
The 1914 Archbishops’ Committee on Church and State was created after a resolution was passed at the July 1913 meeting of the Representative Church Council that the Archbishops should consider “what changes are advisable in order to secure in the relations of Church and State a fuller expression of the spiritual independence of the Church as well as of the national recognition of religion.” Their report (H5157.A7A7 1916) lead to the creation of the National Assembly, later Church Assembly. The library holds the full minutes of this committee showing the thinking behind their recommendations.
When the Church Assembly passed a motion it was then sent to parliament where a somewhat unofficial process would get it proposed and hopefully approved by both Houses. Parliament was supposed to give members of the laity a voice in the decisions of the church. However, parliament could not make amendments to motions so their power was limited to vetoing measures. This system was accepted until parliament blocked the 1928 revision of the Book of Common Prayer.
This apparent interference in the spiritual matters by a secular organisation sent shockwaves through the church. In an address to the Church Assembly, Archbishop Davidson said “it is a fundamental principle that the Church … must in the last resort … retain its inalienable right … to formulate its faith in Him and to arrange the expression of that Holy Faith in its form of worship.” The 1929 Archbishops’ Commission on Church and State was established to ascertain what changes would need to be made to ensure this principle. It went beyond this and opinions were sought from all across the church and from members of other protestant churches on topics of ensuring conformity, ecclesiastical courts and disestablishment.
The report produced in 1935 by this second commission made a number of recommendations. It suggested that a more democratic Church Assembly was needed to ensure that the whole church agreed on new doctrinal measures and once this was established parliament should pass control of such measure to the assembly. Further adding to the power of the Church they suggested that the church be given the power to refuse bishops proposed by the sovereign and full control over the conditions for people getting married in church.
Most of these recommendations were not acted upon and the subjects considered by the Commission remained contentious. Multiple further commissions considered aspects of the relationship between Church and State. The Howick Commission or Archbishops’ Commission on Crown Appointments unanimously suggested that the Prime Minister should retain control of the appointment of Bishops. A position which was not well supported by the Church Assembly.
gave the Church temporary powers to approve forms of worship outside of the 1662 Book of Common Prayer. This was seen as a trial period for increasing the control the Church had over forms of worship and would require the drafting of new measures for when the trial finished. These issues led to the formation of the third Archbishops’ Commission on Church and State.
As with the second commission the third sought the opinions of members of other Christian churches in England and Anglican clergy abroad. Additionally, they carried out social research to establish the general opinion of the English public on the importance of establishment.
The final report avoided explicit questions of establishment due to the ”confusion” about its definition. Their solution would give more control to the church but parliament would retain the final say in the appointment of bishops and approval of measures. This solution was not accepted unanimously. There were dissenters. Valerie Pitt, Denis Coe and Peter Cornwell suggested that the recommendations did not go far enough, merely making it less public when the parliamentary veto was used to block changes. They believed that disestablishment was the only workable solution. Sit Timothy Hoare only dissented to the chapter about the church’s relationship to parliament. He worried that General Synod had been established too recently for the Commission to conclude whether it was adequately representing the laity and that “[i]t may not be right to jettison the whole of the old pattern before the new has established its effectiveness.”
The Commission was conscious of the privileged position that the Church of England was in compared to other religious organisations. To counteract this they suggested that bishops of other Christian denominations should be added to the House of Lords to sit alongside the Anglican Lords Spiritual.
The minutes of the first committee and the documents, minutes and correspondence of the second and third commissions are available for public research in our reading room as well as copies of their published reports. These and other records from the Archbishops Commissions show changes in the mindset of the church and how it worked to ensure that the positions it took were representative of the community that it served.
The drawings above come from the transcripts of oral evidence given to the second Commission. Unfortunately, the name of the shorthand writer was not recorded so we do not know who drew them. Doodles of many of the witnesses were started although these are the most complete. Images of these can be found in our online image library Lambeth Palace Library or you can view the originals in our reading room. Their reference number is ACCS2/MS/1-5.
The Nikaean Club archive has recently been catalogued and made available for viewing at Lambeth Palace Library. The papers, which date from the Club’s foundation in 1926 until 2008, largely consist of event organisation, alongside AGM and committee minutes.
In 1925, a service was held at Westminster Abbey to commemorate the 1600th anniversary of the Council of Nicaea, followed by a banquet attended by the Archbishop of Canterbury, various members of the Orthodox churches, including the Patriarchs of Alexandria and Jerusalem, and the Reverend John Douglas.
John Douglas was a major figure in ecumenical relations with the Orthodox churches, and it was through him that the Nikaean Club was founded. The Club’s purpose was to provide entertainment to foreign guests of the Archbishop in the form of a banquet or reception.
Originally, Club membership was by invitation only, and, although the Club had a President and a Committee, it was very much run by Douglas, the Entertainment Officer. It operated separately to the Council on Foreign Relations, which was founded in 1933, even though Douglas was Secretary for the CFR. For Douglas, the fact that the Club was separated from the official organisation of the Archbishop of Canterbury was its strength. It was a social club. He also cofounded the Society of the Faith alongside his brother, Charles Douglas, which was used to help fund the Nikaean Club events.
The Nikaean Club endured throughout the Second World War with the Club still managing to hold sandwich lunches for guests despite rationing. One file of documents reveals how hard Canon Douglas fought for the Club to be exempt from rationing but, unfortunately for him, the Ministry of Food disagreed with his argument that the Nikaean Club was more than a social club, and vital to relations between churches.
However, it was after the War that difficulties began to arise. At this time, the Committee started minuting their meetings, adding an air of officiality to proceedings. The costs of running the receptions so regularly had become too high, and a subscribed membership was introduced. There was also a call for a more structured approach to the running of the Club, so that officers were better in control of finances. However, Douglas, as a Club’s founder and Entertainment Officer, still had a large amount of influence in the group. He argued that the casual nature of the Club was why it worked. Other members of the Committee argued that the Club needed more structure, otherwise financially it would not be able to continue operating.
In 1948, at the age of 80, Douglas finally decided to resign from his position in the Committee. This did not appear to happen on good terms, as a book that was given to him as a retirement gift was quickly donated to Lambeth Palace Library. Fortunately, his relationship with the Club grew more cordial again before he died in 1956.
Most of the Nikaean Club’s archive relates to the many dinners and receptions they enjoyed over the years. As well as an annual dinner, they held an annual lecture and Eucharist, whilst also holding special receptions for guests of the Archbishop. Whilst most of the events took place in London, there was also an annual dinner in York to coincide with the beginning of the General Synod. The Nikaean Club also holds a commemorative dinner for the enthronement and retirement of each Archbishop of Canterbury.
The collection demonstrates the relationships between the Church of England and other churches around the world and how international politics affected those relationships. The collections also includes correspondence by John Douglas and other prominent members of the Club.
Huelin, Gordon, The Nikaean Club 1926-1986 : a history of these years, given by the Reverend Dr. Gordon Huelin at the Annual General Meeting of the Club held at Lambeth Palace, 10 March 1986 (1986)
Hough, Brenda, Times past : Notes towards a history of the Nikaean Club (London : Church House Publishing for the Nikaean Club, 2001)