Hampshire Archives and Local Studies

‘A Serche in Oure Evidences’: The Winchester Bishopric Estate Archive cataloguing project

A nine-month project, funded through the National Cataloguing Grants Scheme, with a contribution from Hampshire Archives Trust, has brought one of the largest and most significant collections in Hampshire Record Office into the light.

The Winchester Bishopric collection (Hampshire Record Office reference 11M59) comprises the manorial and administrative records of the vast Winchester bishopric estates which at their greatest extent consisted of 60 manors spread across seven southern counties, from Oxfordshire in the north to the Isle of Wight in the south, and from Southwark in the east to Taunton in the west. In the medieval period, over 30 Hampshire manors were included in the estates. The collection comprises some 515 boxes of material, and over 16 linear metres of loose volumes, dating from the 13th to the 20th centuries and reflecting the estate’s size and complexity. It is particularly rich for the medieval period, but also of significance for later years, and its importance has for many years been recognised by scholars worldwide. The collection includes the celebrated Winchester Pipe Rolls, recently added to UNESCO’s UK Memory of the World Register.

Until now, much of the catalogue for this collection has been extremely difficult to use, as well as incomplete and misleading in places. The project improved both the catalogue and the poor state of preservation of parts of the collection, opening it up fully to researchers for the first time.

Cataloguing work began in summer 2013; milestones included:

  • August 2013: 464 account rolls listed, relating to the Bishopric estates Buckinghamshire, Oxfordshire, Somerset, Surrey and Wiltshire (11M59/B2/32-36), dating back to the 15th century, complementing over 3,000 rolls already catalogued for Hampshire (11M59/B2/1-31) – and of course the Pipe Rolls (11M59/B1);

  • November 2013: 880 bundles of court papers listed, detailing the business of the manorial courts in session (11M59/C6 and C7). The papers date from the early 16th to the early 20th centuries and include over 400 sets of presentments and other court records including petitions, papers in private disputes, lists of tenants and jurors, and appointments of manorial officials, many written in English;

  • December 2013: 494 fine books and their indexes listed (11M59/C3 and C4), recording changes of tenancies on the Bishop’s property, and an invaluable resource for tracing the history of properties within the manors, dating back to 1540;

  • January 2014: 121 surveys, valuations, rent rolls and books of customs listed 11M59/(A1) – a treasure trove of information about the estates and their tenants, dating from 1332 through to c1926, when copyhold tenure – the means through which the Bishop’s tenants held their land – was extinguished;

  • February 2014: 386 bundles of court papers cleaned, flattened, repackaged and numbered by two specially-recruited project volunteers.

Descriptive records for all catalogued items can now be seen through our online catalogue

Work was completed on the project in April 2014.