York Diocesan Archive: Peculiar Jurisdictions of the Dignitaries of York Minister and the Archdeacons

Scope and Content

The records are divided into the following sub sub fonds:

  • Deanery of York
  • Precentorship of York
  • Chancellorship of York
  • Subdeanery of York
  • Succentorship of the Canons
  • Dissolved Treasurership of York

Records of the archdeaconry of York and the archdeaconry of the East Riding are in the general records of the archdeaconry (see reference GB 0193 Y and GB 0193 ER respectively).

Administrative / Biographical History

A peculiar is an area exempt from the direct jurisdiction of an archdeacon or bishop within the Church. It can be personal, territorial or a combination of the two. The judicial role of a peculiar is exercised either by the Crown, another diocesan bishop, a prebend, Chapters of a cathedral or collegiate, individual Chapter members, the incumbent of a parish, a corporate body such as a university, or the lord of a manor.

Knowledge of the existence of peculiar jurisdictions dates from the twelfth century when episcopal and parochial boundaries were being established, and English bishops, inspired by reforming decrees emanating from Rome, were attempting to exert their authority throughout their dioceses. In doing so, they met considerable resistance from bishops of other dioceses, heads of religious houses and even laity, all of whom owned estates in the diocese and thus claimed some measure of spiritual authority over their tenants and parishioners. Unsurprisingly, bishops who resented relinquishing control in their own dioceses were often happy to claim jurisdiction over estates in others.

The Reformation led to the demise of many peculiars, but several remained in every diocese until the mid-nineteenth century when almost all were merged with normal parishes or became such in their own right. Few now remain, and the status of those that do has in many cases been challenged.


The system of arrangement is reflected in the scope and content.

Access Information

Records are open to the public, subject to the overriding provisions of relevant legislation and the wishes of the donors/owners.

Acquisition Information

The Diocesan Registrar has deposited records relating to the Diocese of York at the Borthwick Institute since 1953.

Other Finding Aids

Where indicated, a hard-copy finding aid is available at the Borthwick Institute, and an online guide can be found at www.york.ac.uk/inst/bihr/Guidesandfindingaids.htm.

Physical Characteristics and/or Technical Requirements

Bound and unbound volumes, parchment, files of papers, certificates and bundles of correspondence.

Archivist's Note

Description compiled by Martyn Lawrence, Archives Hub project archivist, July 2005, with reference to the following:

  • David M. Smith, A Guide to the Archive Collections in the Borthwick Institute of Historical Research (York, 1973)
  • David M. Smith, A Supplementary Guide to the Archive Collections in the Borthwick Institute of Historical Research (York, 1980)
  • Alexandrina Buchanan, A Guide to Archival Accessions at the Borthwick Institute 1981-1996 (York, 1997)

Conditions Governing Use

A reprographics service is available to researchers. Copying will not be undertaken if there is any risk of damage to the document. Copies are supplied in accordance with the Borthwick Institute, University of York terms and conditions for the supply of copies, and under provisions of any relevant copyright legislation. Permission to reproduce images of documents in the custody of the Borthwick Institute must be sought.

Appraisal Information

These records have been appraised in accordance with Borthwick Institute policy.

Custodial History

See J.S. Purvis, Towards a University (York, 1968), for information regarding the history of the York Diocesan Archive and its deposit at the Borthwick Institute.


Accruals are not expected.

Related Material

York Diocesan Archive

For estates records, see Records of the Church Commissioners (reference GB 0193 CC).


  • P. Barber, 'What is a Peculiar?', Ecclesiastical Law Journal 3 (1995), 299-312
  • S. Brown, The Medieval Courts of the York Minster Peculiar, Borthwick Papers 66 (1984)
  • R.N. Swanson, 'Peculiar Practices: the Jurisdictional Jigsaw of the Pre-Reformation Church, Midland History 26 (2001), 69-95