York Diocesan Archive: Records of the Archbishop: Records of Archiepiscopal Visitation

Scope and Content

The dates of visitation for which records are held are 1567-68 to 1981 inclusive. The records are grouped by the year/s of each visitation, and to request a document the reader will need to identify the specific year.

Call Books, Exhibit Books, Visitation Returns and Visitation Papers have survived for the following dates:

  • Call Books: 1669-70, 1693-94, 1825, 1849, 1853, 1857, 1861, 1865.
  • Exhibit Books: 1633, 1640 to 1825 inclusive.
  • Visitation Returns: 1743, 1764, 1865, 1868, 1871, 1877, 1884, 1894, 1900, 1912-22, 1931, 1936, 1946-47, 1953, 1969.
  • Various papers for the Diocese of Chester: 1571-72, 1578-79, 1590-91, 1595-96, 1607, 1629-30, 1633, 1662-63, 1684-85, 1693-94.
  • Various papers for the Diocese of Carlisle: 1590-91, 1607, 1662-63, 1693-94.

Administrative / Biographical History

The bishop’s visitation of his diocese became frequent as far back as the thirteenth century, when the need for observation and correction of both ecclesiastical and lay members of the flock began to be taken seriously. The process was extended and modified by the reformed Church of England, and by the mid-sixteenth century had become an extremely powerful instrument for the maintenance of religious settlement and the discipline of church members. The bishop’s visitation sat alongside the annual visitation of the archdeacons (for which, see GB 193 C.V, GB 193 ER.V, GB 193 S.V and GB 193 Y.V).

It was customary for a bishop to hold his 'primary' visitation during the first year after his enthronement, and thereafter to repeat his 'ordinary' visitations at intervals of three or four years. The process of visitation produced voluminous court books, which in the Diocese of York are arranged by rural deanery. In some cases, chronological files containing each type of visitation document were made, but usually a general file was created for each visitation. In York, visitation papers supplementing the main visitation records include such items as premonitions, returns to articles of enquiry, examinations of clergy, calls, commissions, inhibitions, relaxations, presentments, correction citations, excommunications, penances, surrogations, conjunctions and letters of proxy. Bundles of miscellaneous correspondence illustrating the whole range of archiepiscopal responsibilities and duties survive in a few cases. From 1849 answers to articles of enquiry are entered in the spaces left for them on the printed enquiry forms. Occasionally the visitation also includes papers from the dioceses of Chester or Carlisle.

This sub fonds has recently been expanded to include the Bishopthorpe Papers: Visitation Records (reference Bp.V in the Borthwick Institute Guide).


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

A hard-copy finding aid is available at the Borthwick Institute, and an online guide (to 1980) can be found at http://www.york.ac.uk/inst/bihr/Guidesandfindingaids.htm.

Physical Characteristics and/or Technical Requirements

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

Archivist's Note

Description compiled by Martyn Lawrence, Archives Hub project archivist, June 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 expected.

Related Material

York Diocesan Archive.

GB 193 C.V; GB 193 ER.V; GB 193 S.V; GB 193 Y.V.


  • D.M. Owen, The Records of the Established Church in England, British Records Association: Archives and the User 1 (1970), 30-35.
  • W.J. Sheils (ed.), Archbishop Grindal's visitation, 1575: comperta et detecta book, Borthwick Texts and Calendars 4 (1977)
  • C. Annesley and P.M. Hoskin (eds.), Archbishop Drummond's Visitation Returns 1764, 3 volumes, Borthwick Texts and Calendars 21, 23, 26 (1997, 1998, 2001)
  • J. Jago and E. Royle, The eighteenth-century church in Yorkshire : Archbishop Drummond's primary visitation of 1764, Borthwick Paper 95 (1999)

Personal Names