York Diocesan Archive: Diocesan Registry: Archiepiscopal Administration

Scope and Content

This sub sub fonds is divided into 5 series as follows:

  • Archbishops' Rolls and Registers (including sede vacante registers) 1225-1971 [Reg + number]
  • Institution Act Books: 1 - 35, 1545-1955. [Inst.AB + number]
  • Letters of Orders Register Book, 1977-1979 [Inst.AB]
  • Draft Act Books: 1-8. 1666-1671, 1863-1946. [D/Inst.AB + number]
  • Office Act Books: 1-4, 1865-1881 [OAB + number]

Administrative / Biographical History

Archbishops' Rolls & Registers. Generally, these registers are the books in which are entered the registered copies of all the official acts of the Archbishop, institutions, ordinations, benefices, resignations, wills proved, judicial proceedings, orders after visitation, archiepiscopal property and so on. The series of York archiepiscopal registers begins in 1225 and continues with only brief gaps until the practice of keeping archbishops' registers at York ceased on 31 December 1971. During the sixteenth century as the administration of the diocese became more complicated, different archiepiscopal functions began to be recorded in dedicated registers. After the appearance of the Institution Act Books in 1545 the archbishops' registers tend to become mere repositories of the more formal documents relating to Convocation and visitation, of testamentary business of the chancery court and of legal instruments affecting churches and parishes.

Institution, Draft & Office Act Books. While at first duplicating the records of institutions within the archbishops' registers, the Institution Act Books do hold additional information. The contents of these act books are not restricted to the simple record of institutions and collations, as their description might imply, but also include ordinations, letters dimissory, caveats, licences for curates, preachers, schoolmasters, proceedings affecting disputed presentations, commissions, resignations, certificates of distance and other administrative memoranda. The Draft Act Books contain many of the same details as the Institution Act Books, however there are some differences. As the Institution Act Books started to contain more and more information, during the nineteenth century the Diocesan Registry began a series of Office Act Books that recorded the legal aspects of diocesan administration.


The system of arrangement is reflected in the scope & 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.


Description compiled by Victoria Stretch, Archives Hub project archivist, June 2004 with reference to 'A Guide to the Archive Collections in the Borthwick Institute of Historical Research', David M Smith 1973, 'A Supplementary Guide to the Archive Collections in the Borthwick Institute of Historical Research', David M Smith 1980 and 'A Guide to Archival Accessions at the Borthwick Institute 1981-1996' complied by Alexandrina Buchanan, 1997.

Other Finding Aids

  • Hard copy indexes are available for Archbishops' Registers [Reg] 9, 10A, 13, 14, 17, 19, 21, 24, 33A, 34-51.
  • Hard copy calendars (published by the Suretees Society and the Borthwick Institute) are available for archbishops' registers [Reg] 1 - 8, 9, 13, 15, 16, 18-19 (extracts) & 23.
  • The following Institution Act Books [Inst.AB] are indexed within the volumes: 1 (place, ordinands and testaments), 2 (part 1 is indexed by place: part 2 by place and ordinands), 3 (place and ordinands), 10 (place and ordinands), 9 (place, ordinands and licentiates), 4-8 & 10A (place), 11,11A & 12-35 (person and place.
  • There are hard copy indexes to the following Institution Act Books [Inst.AB]: Act Book 2 Part III (typescript) and Act Book 3 (hand written manuscript)
  • Draft Act Books 2-7 are indexed by person and place within the volume [D/Inst.AB].
  • Office Act Books [OAB] 1-4 are indexed by person and place within the volume.

Conditions Governing Use

A reprographics service is available to researchers. Copying will not be undertaken if there is a 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 the 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 'Towards a University' by J S Purvis (York, Herald Printers, 1968) for information regarding the history of the York Diocesan Archive and its deposit at the Borthwick Institute.


Accruals are expected

Related Material

York Diocesan Archive


  • D.M. Smith, 'A reconstruction of the lost register of the vicars-general of Archbishop Thoresby of York' (Borthwick Institute Bulletin iii no.1 (1983), 29-61, and iii no.3 (1984), 102-13).
  • D.M. Smith, 'A reconstruction of the York sede vacante register 1352-1353' Borthwick Institute Bulletin i no.2 (1976), 75-90)
  • D.M. Smith, Guide to Bishops' Registers of England and Wales: a survey from the Middle Ages to the Abolition of Episcopacy in 1646 (Royal Historical Society guide and handbook no. 11, 1981), pp. 232-253.
  • D.M. Smith, 'Lost archiepiscopal registers of York: the evidence of five medieval inventories' (Borthwick Institute Bulletin i no.1 (1975), 31-7).
  • Professor A. Hamilton Thompson, 'The Registers of the Archbishops of York', Yorkshire Archaeological Journal, XXXII (1936), pp 245-263
  • Professor E.F. Jacob, The Medieval Registers of Canterbury and York, (St Anthony's Hall Publications no. 4, York, 1953).
  • R M Whittaker, 'The register of Archbishop Walter Gray of York (1215-55): criticism and commentary on its value and use as a source for parochial clergy careers in the thirteenth century'. [York University Centre for Medieval Studies Theses]
  • D.M.Smith, 'The York Institution Act Books: diocesan registration in the sixteenth century', Archives 13 (1977-8), 171-9.
  • D.M. Smith, 'A Reconstruction of Archbishop Lamplugh's Act Book, 1688-1691), 1981
  • J A Lipkin, 'Institutions in the Diocese of York 1501-1544'. Typescript, 1979.
  • The series of archbishops' registers from 1225 to 1650 were commercially microfilmed by Harvester Microform (now International Thomson Publishing Services) and may be available for consultation in other academic libraries.