By Joseph Bettey
Issue 21, Autumn, 2010 pp.12-15.
The Consistory Court was established in Bristol following the creation of the bishopric and diocese in 1542. Previously the Bristol parishes north of the river Avon had been part of the diocese of Worcester, while the parishes south of the river were in the diocese of Bath and Wells. In this article, Joseph Bettey explores a neglected source for local history and genealogy in Bristol and the surrounding area: the records of the Church or Consistory Court. Proceedings of the court, including statements by witnesses, were recorded in detail, and 45 Cause Books survive starting in 1545, as well as numerous bundles of Cause Papers from 1600. Ecclesiastical jurisdiction dealt with many aspects of daily life, including disputes over wills, marriage and inheritance, offences such as heresy, immorality, drunkenness and slander, failure to attend church and misdemeanours of the clergy.
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