Court of Arches

The Court of Arches is the court of appeal of the Archbishop of Canterbury and dates back to the 13th century. However, with the exception of a small quantity of pre-Restoration material, the very extensive archive dates from 1660 onwards. In its heyday the court exercised an extensive jurisdiction over marriage, probate and testamentary disputes, defamation, church property (rates, tithes, fabric of churches), and morals of the clergy and laity. For further context, see the collection summary.

The collection includes over 2000 process books, transcripts of proceedings in the lower court sent up on appeal, and exhibits, including mediaeval title deeds (Fineshade cartulary), court books, probate accounts, churchwardens' accounts, rate books etc.

Further information is available in: Houston, J. (ed.) Index of Cases in the Records of the Court of Arches at Lambeth Palace Library 1660-1913 (Index Library, vol. 85, 1972). The data is also available in the online catalogue.

See also a list of documents in the Arches E series newly catalogued in 2017, via the link on the right hand side of this page.

A further project in 2018 provided new catalogue descriptions of Arches series Ee (answers by plaintiffs and defendants to allegations against them 1640, 1662-1798) and series Eee 1-10 (testimony by witnesses 1664-1713), including numerous corrections, enhancements of data, identifications of people and places, and, for the first time, details of witnesses. These corrections and identifications have not been carried forward to entries for the same suits in other series. This means that, when researching an Arches suit, series Ee and Eee are a good entry point.

Several series of Court of Arches records were published in microformat by Chadwyck-Healey Ltd. and copies are available to consult in the Library.

The process books (series D) are also available from the British Library.

For information on parallel series of records for the Province of York courts see: www.york.ac.uk/library/borthwick/projects-exhibitions/church-court-records/cause-papers