Cathedral's Chapter Acts and Choristers
Following the retirement of the librarian and a delay in appointing a successor, I have spent some time working in the archives of Salisbury Cathedral...
This significant archive which covers the 12th to the 21st centuries, is important not just for the history of the cathedral but of the many estates with which it was endowed throughout Salisbury itself, Wiltshire and Dorset. One of the most remarkable series in the collection comprises the Chapter Act books which survive with few gaps from 1329 to the present. The Chapter manages the cathedral and its staff, clerical and lay. Its business ranged from the mundane to the exceptional. In December 1448 the death of a servant of one of the canon’s was reported and attributed to the unrestrained behaviour of the choristers armed with sticks and the fooling around of the Vicars Choral, singers employed by non resident canons to stand in for them at services. Rules were introduced to restrict such indiscipline and prevent the singing of profane songs.
Postcard of the The Choir, Salisbury Cathedral, early 20th century
The archive has several thousand medieval deeds of properties, mainly in Salisbury, but also in other parishes and towns throughout the diocese. Together with lease books through to the 19th century they form an important source for the history of places and people throughout the diocese.
The registers of those married, baptised and buried in the cathedral are also held in the archive. One other important genealogical source is a plan with schedule, made in 1789, of the gravestones in the around the cathedral that were levelled in the 1790’s during the major work by Wyatt which also included the removal of the bell tower.
Printed engraving of the bell tower from the Gentleman's Magazine, 1819