The vestry is the room in a church where the vestments and parish records are kept. The word has been used for a gathering of parish representatives who met in the vestry to carry out parish business, consisting of two types: the Open Vestry – that which all ratepayers might attend – and Select Vestry – that which only the ‘close’ governing body may attend (i.e. those members with a property qualification, having been recruited by co-option).
Select vestries were also sometimes elected by an Open Vestry to carry out their responsibilities under the poor law. From 1894 the secular business was transferred to the newly-created Parish Councils, or Parish Meetings, and from 1920 most of their church responsibilities were transferred to the Parochial Church Councils.
Vestry minute books may include references to schools run by the clergy, and to charity schools.