You are in [Archives] [Dean of Sarum's Acts Books 1564-77]

Derek Patience kindly contacted the Virtual Museum in 2011, offering to send a copy of his transcription of the Dean of Sarum's Acts Books 1564-77.

He says: "The records of the Ecclesiastical Courts are a major source of information for local and family historians for the 16th, 17th, and 18th. centuries. They are notoriously difficult to read, because of their use of technical terms and abbreviations, but they contain much of interest. The Act Books, which summarize the procedure of a case, are perhaps slightly easier to follow than other records. The cases covered by the Courts deal with religious and moral issues, and punished a wide range of sins of commission and omission, both on the part of the clergy and the laity. The officers of the courts saw themselves as the guardians of public morality, and as a result the courts became known as the 'bawdy courts' because they dealt with sexual misconduct and defamation. Public penance was imposed on those guilty of adultery, fornication, slander, etc.

The parish of Hungerford formed part of the Peculiar jurisdiction of the Dean of Salisbury. There are some 57 volumes of the Act Books of the Dean's Court, and I have been able to examine just three of these during a couple of visits to the Wiltshire Record Office. From these I have extracted those entries relating to Hungerford as I was able to recognize, but cannot claim that these are comprehensive. As mentioned above, and as can be seen from the photographic copies, they are not easy to read, and it is quite conceivable that I may have missed some in looking through them. In transcribing the original Latin, I have extended all abbreviations to what I believe to be the full Latin words.

Clearly there is much more relating to Hungerford to be found in these books, as well as the 19 volumes of witness deposition books, which must await other visits to WRO, but the entries contained here at least give a flavour of what is to be found."

The covering email adds: "As promised, I am now attaching a Word file containing transcripts of entries in the Acts Books which I have examined.

I have described it as a "Selection of entries", as I cannot be certain that these are all the entries relating to Hungerford contained within the 3 volumes I studied. I did this some 15 years ago now (!), from (non-digital) photos I took at the time, and from photocopies of entries obtained from WRO, which Norman Hidden gave me the references to. It is very possible that both he and I missed some entries in going through them. I take full responsibility for any and all errors in interpretation, transcription and translation. I do not pretend to be an expert in this field, but I think my "A" level Latin, achieved in 1961, has done me pretty well, along with various text books on medieval Latin and its abbreviations.

I have no idea why I didn't look at volume 1 of these books - I think I started off by looking up a specific reference in volume 2 that I came across in my research, and carried on from there. However, there are some 57 volumes in all, and my efforts have only scratched at the surface. There is so much more to be found, I believe, if only I had the time. The content gives such good insight to the life and times of people in Elizabethan Hungerford (and no doubt later). However, I don't get many opportunities to get down to WRO these days."

We are very grateful to Derek for his support and help.

See also:

- Dean of Sarum's Acts Books 1564-77, transcribed by Derek Patience (pdf, 20 pages).

Dean of Sarum's Acts Books extracts - further extracts, especially of entries relating to Passion and Hungerford, transcribed by Derek Patience in 2001 (pdf, 17 pages). Several relate to accusations of extra marital sexual relations, and other lewd behaviour. Several entries refer to excommunication, sometimes with later absolution. [Note: Norman Hidden advised that several transcriptions of "sua quinta manu" as "he has to purge himself for the fifth time" should better be "to his fifth compurgator", ie he has to call up 5 'hands' or compurgators, and these five compurgators are always mentioned later in the same entry by name.]