Document ReferenceAN/E
TitleExcommunications and Absolutions, 1573-1792
Extent10 boxes
Access ConditionsIn common with the rest of the archive, many of these bundles suffered damage from damp and mould. A large proportion is too fragile to handle, and access may be restricted.

The reference numbers given below refer in most cases to bundles of Excommunications, each containing large numbers of documents. Unbound Excommunications will be issued to readers in small batches of up to twenty items in any one production.
Content DescriptionSentences of excommunication were imposed by the Archdeaconry Court on individuals who had not appeared in court to answer charges against them, and were therefore guilty of contumacy, or who had not performed a penance, or who had not paid court fees imposed on them. The Official or his surrogate decreed in court that a person was excommunicate, and this was recorded in a 'Schedule of excommunication' which was signed by him. Some Schedules of excommunication list the names of a number of different people denounced in one court session on the same sheet of paper.

A few days after the court day, a more official 'Mandate for excommunication' was written under the name and seal of the Archdeacon. It was checked by the Registrar or his deputy, and signed with the words 'Concordat cum decreto', or 'This agrees with the decree'. Excommunication mandates commanded the clergy to publicly denounce and declare in their parish churches that the offender was excommunicate. The mandate was returned to the court by the incumbent of the parish church of the offender, signed at the bottom or on the back to certify that the mandate had been published in the parish church. If a person remained excommunicate for more than forty days, he was liable for arrest and imprisonment by the civil authorities.

Both Schedules of excommunication and Mandates for excommunication were filed by the Archdeaconry administration and survive in this series. The documents include the name of the person or persons involved, the date of the decree or the mandate, and, especially in the 18th century, the reason for the excommunication. Most are signed by the incumbent of the parish to certify that the excommunication mandate had been read out in church.

Absolutions are often preserved in the same bundle as Excommunications. They were issued under the name of the Official, and commanded the clergy to announce publicly that the offender had been absolved from the sentence of excommunication. Like Mandates for excommunication, they were returned to the court with an endorsed certificate signed by the incumbent.

Six bound volumes at the end of the series, called 'Liber Schedularum' or Books of Schedules (of Excommunication), were used by the court to record, in chronological order, the names of each excommunicated person, the dates of their excommunication, and the place in which the sentence was read out (which was usually the churches used for meetings of the Archdeaconry court). The books provide details from 1616-1792, with gaps from 1618-1627 and 1640-1663.

The last Excommunication mandate in this series is dated 1768, although the Books of Schedules record excommunications up to 1792. Some Excommunications relating to business in the Court of Instance are found within bundles of cause papers in the Libels series (AN/LB).

The series is arranged chronologically for the most part, but there are significant overlaps in date between bundles, which probably reflect record-keeping practices in the Archdeaconry registry. The documents were pierced, and tied together with string, and their original arrangement has been preserved.

Excommunications and absolutions are in Latin until 1733, and English thereafter.
Related MaterialSome loose late 16th and early 17th century Excommunications are bound up in various Citations series (see AN/C). Other loose excommunication mandates, schedules and notices can be found in the Libels series (AN/LB) and the Miscellaneous series (AN/M).
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