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Researching a Norfolk parish church

Consistory Court records and faculties

Consistory Court records

The Bishop’s Consistory Court dealt with cases arising from the bishop’s and archdeacons’ visitations and other matters, such as dilapidations of church property and the misappropriation of church goods.

  • The act books (in Latin until 1733) cover 1508-1871; see list DN/ACT. They are not indexed and the sentence is not always recorded.
  • The deposition books are generally in English but survive for 1499-1788 only and are not indexed; see list DN/DEP. For an example, see the Rev E D Stone, Norwich Consistory Court depositions 1499-1512 and 1518-1530, Norfolk Record Society, x (Norwich, 1938).
  • The case papers, 1528-1989, are partly indexed by parish: see list DN/CON and DN/FCP.

Faculties

Faculties were granted by the bishop for the alteration or destruction of church buildings.

  • They are recorded in the faculty court books, which survive from 1633; see list DN/FCB. There is a printed index by parish in the searchroom catalogue.
  • For parishes in the Dean and Chapter Peculiar, see list DCN 77.

Earlier faculties relate mainly to bells, pews or the removal of lead from the church roof.
However, not all alterations or repairs were undertaken with the prior consent of the bishop until the mid-19th century or even later. 

  • Faculty petitions and papers survive, with gaps, from c1638, and plans are included from the mid-19th century onwards: see list DN/FCP and DN/CON
  • Papers relating to faculties in DN/CON 128-241 (covering 1828-1956) have been catalogued in detail

To check whether there are papers in this series relating to your church, go to our online catalogue and search on your parish name in the Any Text field. At the same time, enter DN/CON in the catalogue reference field.

The catalogue for list DN/FCP does not state the parishes included in each bundle of papers. To search for papers for a particular parish, first consult the faculty court books to obtain the date of the work carried out, and then check through the bundle of papers for that year.

Contested faculties, usually involving pews, memorials, vaults or burial grounds, were brought before the Consistory Court.

  • Bonds to carry out the work permitted in the faculty and accounts for work completed survive for 1717-95 and 1836, with gaps: see list DN/FBA
  • From 1940, an archdeacon’s certificate is required acknowledging the completion of work according to the faculty: see list DN/FBA

Under the Faculty Jurisdiction Measure 1964, archdeacons can authorise certain undertakings affecting the church fabric and these authorisations are filed with the faculty papers.