Hampshire Archives and Local Studies

Diocese of Winchester

The records of the diocese of Winchester (21M65) were created by the exercise of the spiritual powers of the bishops of Winchester. They form a distinct collection, entirely separate from the records created by the administration of the bishop's vast landed estates (11M59).

The diocese of Winchester has existed since the 7th century, covering the entire West Saxon kingdom from Surrey to Cornwall. However, by the mid 10th century it consisted of the two counties of Hampshire (including the Isle of Wight) and Surrey (except Croydon deanery). Following the formation of Guildford and Portsmouth dioceses in 1927, the present-day diocese of Winchester covers Hampshire (excluding the north east and south east of the county), and the Bournemouth and Christchurch area of Dorset.

Most records before 1733 are written in Latin. Surviving records date from the late thirteenth century and include

  • bishops' registers and act books, relating to the bishops' main administrative acts and including appointments of clergy
  • visitation records - the process by which the bishop oversees the diocese, including visitation books (lists of clergy and churchwardens), and information supplied by clergy and churchwardens (replies and 'presentments')
  • records of church courts, relating to disputes over marriages, tithes, wills and other church matters, offences discovered at visitation, and probate jurisdation
  • later administrative records relating to clergy, church buildings and relations between the church and civil government (including 'bishops' transcripts' of parish registers and tithe awards and maps).