Guide DN - Norwich Diocesan Archives

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Reference code



Norwich Diocesan Archives


  • nd [? 1186]-2010 (Creation)

Level of description


Extent and medium

Approximately 84 cubic metres (estimated 17 April 2013)

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Name of creator


Administrative history

The Diocese of Norwich was established when Bishop Herbert de Losinga transferred the see from Thetford to Norwich in 1095 or 1096. At that time the diocese contained Norfolk (except Emneth, which was in the diocese of Ely), Suffolk (except for parishes in the peculiar deanery of Bocking) and part of south-east Cambridgeshire. This remained the case until 1837 when the Cambridgeshire portion along with the Archdeaconry of Sudbury (comprising West Suffolk) and the Liberty of Bury St Edmunds passed to the Diocese of Ely. In 1914 the Archdeaconry of Suffolk (except the deanery of Lothingland, i.e., the area around Lowestoft in north-east Suffolk), became part of the newly-created Diocese of St Edmundsbury and Ipswich whilst at the same time the Fincham and Lynn Marshland deaneries were transferred to the Diocese of Ely.

Archival history

The archives of the Diocese of Norwich were for a long time housed in a range of chambers over the East Walk of the Cloisters of Norwich Cathedral. At the beginning of the 1939-45 war, all documents more than one hundred years old, with the exception of tithe records and terriers, together with some of a later date, were removed for safe custody to various repositories in the Diocese. After the end of the war, all that had been removed were brought together again in a new repository formed in Bishop Reynolds's Chapel adjoining the then Bishop's Palace.
Their arrangement prior to removal was not satisfactory. Great care was bestowed on them during the war by Revd J.F. Williams, MA, FSA, of South Walsham, in whose custody a large proportion was, but despite this their arrangement became further confused by the two moves and the fact that they were not boxed but for the most part in paper parcels. On their return to Norwich, they were boxed with the help of a grant from the Pilgrim Trust and roughly arranged in classes with the help of evening work by Mr Philip Hepworth the Norwich City Librarian with his assistants, Miss Kennedy and Miss Grace (archivists) and by Thomas F. Barton, who continued the work of identifying and re-establishing the different classes and of listing them. It was Barton who assigned three-letter mnemonic references to all the older series of records (e.g., REG for Bishops' registers).\r\n\r\nBarton's handlist extended to those documents only which were removed in 1939 and later returned, though a search was also made through the documents remaining over the Cloisters in order to fill gaps. Tithe records and terriers, therefore, did not figure in his handlist. Apart from this, he considered it to be a reasonably complete list of the documents assembled in Bishop Reynolds's Chapel, though, having regard to the magnitude of the task, it could pretend to being more than a general description of most of the documents. The Probate Inventories, numbering some 16,800, however, were listed in detail.
(Edited from Thomas F. Barton's foreword to his Handlist of the Diocesan records, October 1963.)

Immediate source of acquisition or transfer

Received by the Norfolk Record Office in 1963 and subsequently, on various dates, including 3 October 1968, 5 June 1969, 21 August 1969, 24 November 1969, 23 March 1970, 7 August 1970, 30 November 1970, 12 October 1973, 24 August 1976 (numbered DN/ADR various) and 27 September 1976 (numbered DN/FBA 4/14-16 and DN/ADR 14/10 and 11), 8 August 1977 (numbered DN/VCD), 14 March 1985 (numbered various), 9 January 1986 (numbered various), 24 January 1986 (numbered DN/FCR), 3 October 1990 (numbered DN/REG 35), 12 July 1991 (numbered various), 18 March 1998 (ACC 1997/230 numbered DN/CSP 30/1), 2001-2 (ACC 2001/157, ACC 2001/210, ACC 2001/273, and ACC 2001/343, numbered DN/FCP 151-231)

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Scope and content

Pre-Reformation Records
The main series of pre-reformation records are: the Bishop's registers [DN/REG], the Consistory Court depositions [DN/DEP] and Act Books [DN/ACT] and the estate series which contains title deeds, manor court rolls, obedientary rolls, rentals, surveys and bailiff's accounts relating to St Benet's Abbey [DN/EST]. All these series continued after the Henrician Reformation. (Probate business came before the ecclesiastical courts until the 1857 Probate Act but the records were transferred to the newly-created Norwich District Probate Registry. The early 'administration act books' are office act books.)
There are also three papal bulls: a general confirmation of the rights of St Benet's Abbey to the Bishop of Norwich, 1248 or 1249; a confirmation to St Benet's Abbey of the patronage of the churches of Neatishead, Irstead and Bastwick, 1257; and a confirmation of the appropriation of the churches of Scottow and North Walsham to St Benet's Abbey, 1344 [DN/EST 6/1-3]; letters patent from Richard II to the Bishop of Norwich and others to investigate the rebels in Norfolk and Suffolk, 1381/82 [DN/MSC 1/1]; and a mandate from the Archbishop of Canterbury to the bishop and clergy of the diocese to view the records held by the cathedral, 1395 [DN/MSC 1/2].

Post-Reformation records
The main post-reformation series are: glebe terriers [DN/TER], subscription books [DN/SUB], ordination registers and papers [DN/ORR, DN/ORD], tithe maps and apportionments [DN/TA], Consistory Court files [DN/CON], faculty books and papers [DN/FCB, DN/FCP, DN/FBA], consecration registers and papers [DN/CSR, DN/CSP], meetinghouse licence registers [DN/DIS, DN/ACB], marriage allegation bonds [DN/MLB], presentation deeds [DN/PRE], resignation bonds [DN/RES] and visitation books and papers [DN/VSB, DN/VSC, DN/VSM]. There is also a census of strangers' churches at Norwich and King's Lynn, 1567 [DN/DIS 10].

Appraisal, destruction and scheduling


System of arrangement

The prefix DN was adopted in the late 1990s. The Norwich Diocesan Archives contains:

DN/ABO Accounts Between Offices
DN/ACB Miscellaneous Account Books
DN/ACT Consistory Court Act Books
DN/ADR 1 Diocesan Publications
DN/ADR 2 Seal Matrices
DN/ADR 3 Pamphlets, Sermons and Meditations etc.
DN/ADR 4 Forms and Orders of Service
DN/ADR 5 Ecclesiastical Fees
DN/ADR 6 Advowsons
DN/ADR 7 Cemeteries and Churchyards
DN/ADR 8 Charities and Trusts
DN/ADR 9 Sales and Purchases of Glebe Lands and Parsonages
DN/ADR 10 Maps and Plans
DN/ADR 11 Bishop's Notices
DN/ADR 12 Incumbents (Disability) Measure (1945)
DN/ADR 13 Dispensations
DN/ADR 14 Institution Papers
DN/ADR 15 Church Discipline Acts
DN/ADR 16 Registrars' and Solicitors' Papers
DN/ADR 17 Original Lists and Finding Aids
DN/ADR 18 Commissions
DN/ADR 19 Appointments
DN/ADR 20 Pensions
DN/ADR 21 Committees
DN/ADR 22 More Registrars' and Solicitors' Papers
DN/ADR 23 Personnel Files of Deceased Clergy
DN/ADR 24 Cotman House Management Committee
DN/ADR 25 Diocesan Office Circulars and Memoranda
DN/ADR 26 Diocesan Deeds
DN/ADR 27 Files of the Bishop's Furnishings Officer
DN/AUG Augmentation of Benefices
DN/BBD Bishop's Committee for Books and Documents
BT Bishop's Transcripts
DN/CFR Confirmation Returns and Other Related Papers
DN/CFS Confirmation Registers
DN/CNF Norwich Diocesan Conference
DN/CNS Consolidations and Unions of Benefices
DN/CNV Convocation
DN/CON Consistory Court Papers
DN/COS Consistory Court Fees and Costs
DN/CSP Consecration Papers
DN/CSR Consecration Books
DN/CUR Curates and Chaplains
DN/DAB Church Building Association
DN/DAC Diocesan Advisory Committee for the Care of Churches
DN/DBF Diocesan Board of Finance
DN/DEP Consistory Court Depositions
DN/DET Archdeaconry Debt Books
DN/DIL Dilapidations
DN/DIS Dissenters
DN/DMC Miscellaneous Deeds: Parishes outside the Diocese of Norwich
DN/DNF Miscellaneous Deeds: Deeds relating to Norfolk Parishes
DN/DNW Miscellaneous Deeds: Deeds relating to Norwich Parishes
DN/DPL Norwich Diocesan Plans
DN/DSF Miscellaneous Deeds: Deeds relating to Suffolk Parishes
DN/EST Records of the Estates of the Bishop of Norwich
DN/FBA Miscellaneous Faculty Papers
DN/FCB Faculty Court Books
DN/FCP Faculty Court Papers
DN/GLE Glebe Exchanges
DN/HAR Anthony Harison's Collections
DN/INV Probate Inventories
DN/MAN Mandates for Induction to Benefices
DN/MIN Consistory Court Minute Books
DN/MLB Marriage Licence Bonds, Allegations and Affidavits
DN/MLE Marriage Licence Entry Books and Other Lists
DN/MRC Matthew Rackham's Correspondence
DN/MSC Miscellanea
DN/NDS Norwich Charity Schools and the National Schools Society for the Education of the Poor in the Principles of the Established Church
DN/NRL Licences for Non-Residence
DN/NRM Non-Residence Papers
DN/NRN Notification of Non-Residence
DN/ORD Ordination Papers
DN/ORR Ordination Registers
DN/PCD Precedent Books and Forms
DN/PCS Privy Council Summaries of Non-residence Returns
DN/PHM Parsonage House Mortgages and Repairs
DN/PRE Presentation Deeds
DN/PRG Parish Registers and Churchwardens Accounts
DN/PRO Miscellaneous Probate Papers
DN/PRT Parish Register Transcripts (prefix superseded)
DN/QQN Quinquennials
DN/REG Institution Books
DN/RES Resignations
DN/SEC Bishop's Secretary and Office
DN/SEQ Sequestration Accounts and Papers
DN/SQB Sequestration Registers and Other Papers
DN/SUB Subscription Books
DN/SUN Sundry Books and Documents
DN/SUR Surrogates Papers
DN/TA Tithe Maps and Apportionments
DN/TCA Tithe Commutation Agreements
DN/TER Glebe terriers
DN/TES Testimonials
DN/TNR Tanner's Law Library
DN/VAL Valuations
DN/VCD Visitations: Churchwardens' Declaration
DN/VIS Visitations: Processes etc.
DN/VSB Visitations: Visitation Books
DN/VSC Visitations: Consignation Books
DN/VSM Visitations: Miscellaneous Lists and Indexes

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Finding aids

A subject index is available in the searchroom.

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Related units of description

Records transferred to the Norwich District Probate Registry under the 1857 Probate Act are also held by the Norfolk Record Office but catalogued separately. Records transferred to the Church Commissioners under an Act of 1860 have been deposited with the Norfolk Record Office: see Church Commissioners (Episcopal Estates) list.

Related descriptions

Publication note

'Norwich Cathedral: City, Church and Diocese, 1096-1996', ed. I. Atherton and others (London, 1996). See also 'English Episcopal Acta VI: Norwich 1070-1214' ed. C. Harper-Bill (British Academy, 1990).

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