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Index to nominations of parish clerks for licences, Diocese of Lichfield and Coventry, 1691-1836, and Lichfield 1836-1916

Background

Parish clerks were responsible for assisting the minister of the parish in a variety of ways – reading scriptures, leading the singing during divine worship, leading the congregation during responsive prayers, tolling the bell and digging graves for burials, and assisting the minister in maintaining the parish registers of baptism, marriage and burial. It is this final function for which they are best remembered today.

Extracts from Canon 91 of the “Constitution and Canons Ecclesiastical of the Church of England, 1604”“Parish Clerks to be chosen by the Minister. No Parish Clerk upon any vacation shall be chosen … but by the Parson or Vicar; or … by the Minister of that place for the time being. ...And the said Clerk shall be of twenty years of age at the least, and known to the said Parson, Vicar, or Minister, to be of honest conversation, and sufficient for his reading, writing, and also for his competent skill in singing, if it may be.”

Parish clerks were paid fees that were customary in their own parish. Fees might be applied to any aspect of their work, such as marriages, burials, the churching of women, winding the church clock, etc. Additionally, rates might be levied on householders or landowners, according to the extent of their property in the parish. Sometimes special perquisites were due at Easter, such as eggs. Specific details of all of these fees are often included in parish glebe terriers.

Scope of this Index

This index covers the area of the diocese at any given time during the period covered by the index (1691-1916). However, the extent of the diocese was reduced several times:

  • Between 1691 and 1836 the Diocese of Lichfield and Coventry comprised Staffordshire, Derbyshire, north Warwickshire and north Shropshire.
  • In 1836 north Warwickshire (Archdeaconry of Coventry) was transferred to the diocese of Worcester and the name of the diocese changed to Lichfield.
  • In 1841 some parishes in eastern Shropshire (Deanery of Bridgnorth) were transferred to the diocese of Worcester.
  • In 1884 Derbyshire (Archdeaconry of Derby) was transferred to the new diocese of Southwell.
  • In 1905 a series of boundary changes were effected by exchanges of certain deaneries in Shropshire between the dioceses of Lichfield and Hereford; transfer of the Deanery of Handsworth to the new diocese of Birmingham; transfer of parish of Upper Arley to the diocese of Worcester.

About this index

The surviving nomination papers are comparatively few in number, around 300, and therefore represent only a small fraction of the people who served as parish clerks across the hundreds of parishes forming the diocese over the 220 years covered here.

The index contains parish, surname, forename, year, the reason for the appointment (e.g. death, ill-health, retirement or dismissal of predecessor), and occasionally further information, such as occupation or age.

Some of the parish clerks are noted to be sexton as well. The sexton (derived from sacristan) was responsible for the practical side of things, such as opening up the church, upkeep of the burial ground, tolling the bell for funerals, etc.

All of the parish clerks in this index are male, bar one. She was Emilie Carmille Julie Ilott, wife of the Rev. Percy Ilott, incumbent of Bushbury, Staffordshire, nominated in 1915.

The nominations of parish clerks, formerly available at Lichfield Record Office, are to be transferred to Staffordshire Record Office, where they will be available from May 2018.

Acknowledgements

We are pleased to acknowledge the generosity of Mrs Diana Grant in making the data in this online index available.