Introduction to the sources

St Mary Colechurch: Vestry Minutes 1613-72. Originally published by Centre for Metropolitan History, London, 2011.

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'Introduction to the sources', in St Mary Colechurch: Vestry Minutes 1613-72, (London, 2011) pp. . British History Online [accessed 13 April 2024]


The seventeenth century vestry minutes for the parish of St Mary Colechurch - a small and wealthy parish at the commercial heart of the City of London - provide a detailed overview of the business conducted by those responsible for the administration and affairs of the parish in the period. Much of this business was connected to the financial and legal elements of parish life, the upkeep of the church's fabric and the parish's rights and privileges and so on; but recorded alongside this there is also rich information about the lives of the parishioners where those lives came into contact with the machinery of parochial administration. Within these volumes records were periodically kept which were extra to the minutes of vestry meetings. In this collection three such sets of lists have been collated by the People in Place project: a list of parochial officers in the early part of the seventeenth century; a list of pews occupied by parishioners across the middle of the century; and lists of collections where householders were assessed according to their wealth in some fashion, also across the middle part of the century. The purpose of extracting these lists out of the vestry minutes was that they provide reasonably regular listings of parishioners, perhaps more accurately 'householders', resident in St Mary Colechurch, often with some detail of social status or wealth. This has enabled analysis of patterns of residence in the parish.

The lists of parish officers occur annually towards the beginning of the year and list the name and office of every individual elected to hold an office for the forthcoming year. The number of people listed, often thirty or so, reflects a significant proportion of the parish's population, which by the end of the seventeenth century reached approximately 350.

The pew lists provide the name of those entitled to use a pew in the church, along with the number of the pew they were assigned. The listings reflect the division of male and female parishioners into two separate sets of pews (children stood or sat at the rear of the church), and the fact that there were pews in an upper gallery as well as those on the ground (these are sometimes referred to as the 'jury'). Some pews were retained for the use of particular church officials, and analysis has shown that individuals moved towards the front of the church (or the top of the numbered pew listings) dependent partially on their social status, but mostly on the length of time they had been a parishioner.

The final set of listings is a transcription of the various collections and assessments made by the parish, listing those householders liable to contribute with a record of what each paid or what each was to be asked for, depending upon the event in question.

The orginal minute book may be found in the London Metropolitan Archives at classmark LMA P69/MRY8/B/001/MS00064.