The archive constitutes an enormously rich historical resource, its evidence relevant not only within the primary context of ecclesiastical court history but touching also on many issues of local church estates and property, parish and community concerns, family structure and individual lives.
During the most active period of the Archdeaconry court, from the 16th to the end of the 18th century, ordinary people were subject to its control and influence in a number of ways. Up to the mid-17th century, people were brought before the court for a wide variety of offences, including religious dissent, non-payment of church dues, disorderly behaviour in church precincts and superstitious practices. By the mid-18th century, the court's attention was most focused on the problem of illegitimate births. Offenders brought before the summary jurisdiction of the court could be asked to perform a penance, and could be excommunicated for non-compliance. Parishioners also appeared in more complex Instance causes, which were argued by proctors, or ecclesiastical lawyers, through the means of libels and other written pleadings. Instance causes were most commonly concerned with allegations of defamation, non-payment of tithes and other church duties, and non-payment of legacies. The Archdeaconry court appears to have ceased functioning in 1796.
Ordinary people also appear in the Archdeaconry records in connection with marriage. Although most couples were married after the calling of banns in their parishes, and can be traced through parish records in Nottinghamshire Archives Office, a significant minority were married by licence granted from the Archdeaconry court.
Several series in the archive provide information on the careers of beneficed clergymen, and the work of parish churchwardens who were elected each year. The Archdeaconry administration also sought to ensure that parish churches were in good repair and had the required fittings, furnishings and religious artefacts.
There are twenty series of records covering all areas of the work and administration of the Archdeaconry. Act Books, the principal records of the ecclesiastical court, are present (1565-1926), supplemented by churchwardens' presentment bills (mostly 1587-1756), penances (1590-1794), records of excommunications (1573-1792), citations (1590-1769), and libels and other cause papers (c.1560-1791). Records of visitations (1580-90, 1755-1865) and parochial visitations (1718-1736) also feature. Administrative records include account books (1603-1855) and lists of clergy (1660-1864). The marriage bonds (1594-1884) constitute a lengthy and heavily used series, supplementing the parish records with significant details about the couples in question.
Fuller details are given under the entries for each specific series.
The majority of documents dated before 1733 are in Latin.