Archives: The Journal of the British Records Association


Archives: The Journal of the British Records Association (2012), 37, (125), 1–10.


Medieval parish visitation records are an extremely valuable source for social and religious history. They deal with the physical state of parish churches, the books and possessions of churches, the provision of religious services and the behaviour of parishioners and clergy alike. Unlike visitation books of the sixteenth century and later, they do not typically survive in long series, only as isolated documents. These documents are not chance survivals. They were chosen for preservation because they could be used as evidence in jurisdictional disputes between archbishops, bishops, archdeacons, religious houses, ‘exempt’ parishes, cathedral chapters and the crown. Historians must think carefully about the institutional and political context of all medieval visitation records, and be wary of treating them as typical of what does not survive. The special circumstances of their preservation may have affected the material recorded in them.

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Author details

Forrest, Ian