subfonds YDA/11 - Probate

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  • 1383-1858 (Creation)

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Extent and medium

Approximately 164 cubic metres

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Scope and content

The records in this section represent the probate material that was passed to the District Probate Registry in York when probate became a civil matter in 1858. The transfer of material took place in 1886 – some years after the Diocesan courts ceased to handle probate and testamentary matters; until then, the records remained in the care of the York Diocesan Registrar and the Minster Chapter Clerk. Not until the District Probate Office moved from its initial location in Minster Yard to a new location in Duncombe Place were the records physically moved.

In 1958-1960 all these records were transferred to the Borthwick Institute. They have been placed back within the York Diocesan Archive because they are unchanged since their removal from the York Diocesan Registry in the nineteenth century.

Testamentary business was a function of the courts of the Archbishop and of the peculiar courts of the Dean and Chapter; it was also a function of other peculiar courts whose records were stored at the Diocesan Registry. For the other records of the courts of the Archbishop see YDA/5 Archiepiscopal Courts and for other records of the courts of the Dean and Chapter see YDA/10 Peculiar Jurisdictions.

Probate in the Archbishop’s Courts

The Consistory Court in its earliest days dealt with testamentary matters but there are no examples after the late sixteenth century. Thereafter it had no general probate jurisdiction but it dealt with testamentary causes and appeals.

The Exchequer Court was a purely testamentary court, proving wills and granting administrations. Its jurisdiction covered laity and unbeneficed clergy (that is who were not rectors or vicars) who left land or property only in the Diocese of York.

The Prerogative Court was a testamentary court formed in 1577, with jurisdiction over individuals who died in one of the dioceses or peculiar jurisdictions in the Province of York leaving goods and chattels to the value of five pounds and above in any other diocese or peculiar jurisdiction within the province (bona notabilia). All causes relating to accounts or legacies arising from such wills and administrations were also heard in this court.

The Chancery or Audience Court was the personal court of the Archbishop, and it had testamentary jurisdiction over beneficed clergy and testamentary jurisdiction over all laity and clergy during an archiepiscopal visitation. It also heard testamentary causes, including appeals.

Probate in the Peculiar Courts

The Dean and Chapter court exercised direct jurisdiction, including probate jurisdiction, over a large number of parishes, chapelries and townships in Yorkshire and over some places further afield. The peculiar courts of Minster dignitaries and prebends and those of the Archdeacons also had probate jurisdiction. However contentious jurisdiction was (with the exception of the Deanery Peculiar) in the hands of the central Dean and Chapter court, which therefore heard all cases of disputed probate or administration. The Dean and Chapter courts also had contentious jurisdiction including probate cases over some peculiar courts that had once been under Minster dignitaries or prebends but were now in lay hands: these were the peculiar courts of Acomb, Bishop Wilton, Masham, South Cave, Salton and Wadworth. The Dean and Chapter Court also had visitation rights over all places where they had contentious jurisdiction, and during visitation the jurisdiction was merged with the Dean and Chapter jurisdiction so that all probates and administrations were granted by the Dean and Chapter Court.

The Dean and Chapter court also had vacancy jurisdiction over the Diocese and Province of York during vacancies of the see. At these times all the probates and administrations normally granted by the Archbishop’s Exchequer, Prerogative and Chancery courts were granted by the Dean and Chapter court (but the impact this had on the way the records were created and kept varied from vacancy to vacancy). Testamentary causes during a vacancy were also heard in the Dean and Chapter court, though these were duly recorded in the Act Books of the Archbishop’s Consistory and Chancery Courts, where they would normally have been heard.
The probate records of some other peculiars which came into lay ownership were kept with the records of the other peculiars: thus the probate records of the peculiars of Selby, Snaith,and Alne and Tollerton can be found here. Also here are the probate records of the Peculiar Court of the Provost of the Collegiate Church of St John, Beverley, which was dissolved under the Chantries Act of 1547, but whose peculiar jurisdiction continued for some time after the surrender of the provostship to the Crown. Some manorial courts had testamentary jurisdiction, and the probate records of the manorial courts of Askham Bryan, Barnoldswick, Beeford,, Crossley Bingley Cottingley and Pudsey,; Linton on Ouse,Marsden, Newton on Ouse with Beningbrough, Silsden, and Temple Newsam can be found here.

The Peculiar of Howden and Howdenshire belonged to the Dean and Chapter of Durham, but because the deputy registrar of the peculiar was resident in York and practised in the York ecclesiastical courts, the records of that peculiar jurisdiction, including probate material, is located here. Further records relating to this jurisdiction are at Durham University Library Archives and Special Collections.

Records in this section include probate files, probate registers and probate act books and they relate to probate granted under the following jurisdictions:

Jurisdiction of the Archbishop, comprising the Exchequer and Prerogative Courts (1389-1858), the Chancery Court of York (1535-1858) and the Court of the Archbishop within the Liberty of Hexham and Hexhamshire (1587-1602). [Note that Chancery testamentary material is found in the Archbishops' Registers from 1316.]

Jurisdiction of the Dean and Chapter of York, comprising the Court of the Dean and Chapter of York (1383-1858) and probate records generated during vacancies of the See of York when jurisdiction was exercised by the Dean and Chapter (1464-1847).

Jurisdiction of the Cathedral Dignitaries and Archdeacons, comprising the Court of the Dean of York (1510-1857), the Court of the Precentor of York with the Prebendal jurisdiction of Driffield annexed (1557-1852), the Court of the Chancellor of York with the Prebendal jurisdiction of Laughton en le Morthen annexed (1548-1858), the Court of the Subdean of York (1559-1837), the Court of the Succentor of York (1557-1838), the Court of the Archdeacon of York (1662-1839), the Court of the Archdeacon of the East Riding (1571-1849), the Jurisdiction of the Dissolved Treasurership of York: Peculiar Court of Acomb (1456-1837), the Jurisdiction of the Dissolved Treasurership of York: Peculiar Court of Alne and Tollerton (1458-1858), the Jurisdiction of the Dissolved Treasurership of York: Peculiar Court of Bishop Wilton (1531-1824).

Jurisdiction of the Prebendaries of York Minster (1458-1858), comprising the Prebendal Court of Ampleforth (1528-1827), the Prebendal Court of Apesthorpe (1557-1844), the Prebendal Court of Barnby (1610-1729), the Prebendal Court of Bilton (1591-1849), the Prebendal Court of Bole (1546-1847), the Prebendal Court of Bugthorpe (1544-1831), the Prebendal Court of Dunnington (1549-1729), the Prebendal Court of Fenton (1528-1854), the Prebendal Court of Fridaythorpe (1593-1730), the Prebendal Court of Givendale (1661-1669), the Prebendal Court of Grindal (1623-1628), the Prebendal Court of Holme Archiepiscopi (1560-1836), the Prebendal Court of Husthwaite (1633-1842), the Prebendal Court of Knaresborough (1546, 1560), the Prebendal Court of Langtoft (1520-1845), the Prebendal Court of North Newbald (1496-1851), the Prebendal Court of Osbaldwick (1549-1827), the Prebendal Court of Riccall (1549-1833), the Prebendal Court of Stillington (1515-1843), the Prebendal Court of Strensall (1528-1852), the Prebendal Court of Tockerington (1741-1744), the Prebendal Court of Ulleskelf (1612-1751), the Prebendal Court of Warthill (1548-1837), the Prebendal Court of Weighton (1502-1858), the Prebendal Court of Wetwang (1458-1850), the Prebendal Court of Wistow (1558-1842), Jurisdiction of Dissolved Prebends: Peculiar Court of South Cave (1558-1843), Jurisdiction of Dissolved Prebends: Peculiar Court of Salton (1531-1826), Jurisdiction of Dissolved Prebends: Peculiar Court of Wadworth (1639-1819).

Other Ecclesiastical and Lay Jurisdictions (1521-1858), comprising Manorial Court of Askham Bryan (1715-1799), Manorial Court of Barnoldswick (1669-1794), Manorial Court of Beeford (1561-1768), Peculiar Court of the Provost of the Collegiate Church of St John, Beverley (1539-1555), Manorial Court of Crossley, Bingley, Cottingley and Pudsey (1585-1804), Peculiar Court of the Dean and Chapter (formerly Prior and Convent) of Durham within the jurisdiction of Howden and Howdenshire (1521-1857), Manorial Court of Linton on Ouse (1710-1735), Manorial Court of Marsden (1655-1855), Manorial Court of Newton on Ouse with Beningborough (1614-1812), Peculiar Court of Selby (1555-1858), Manorial Court of Silsden (1588-1809), Peculiar Court of Snaith (1568-1858), Manorial Court of Temple Newsam (1612-1701).


System of arrangement

This is part of the new arrangement of the York Diocesan Archive which is currently being prepared.
The new arrangement draws on the earlier arrangements of 1973 and 2003-2005 but will also incorporate some reorganisation, based on a comprehensive survey and inventory of the archive, and much new cataloguing.

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Language of material

  • English
  • Latin

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Finding aids

Indexes of probate records are available for consultation in the searchroom of the Borthwick Institute. They have also been made available online through Findmypast:

Until the new arrangement of the York Diocesan Archive is complete, the online finding aids to series level on the Archives Hub, should be consulted. These reflect the 1973 arrangement as modified in 2003-2005.

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For the major court records relating to these jurisdictions see YDA/5 Archiepiscopal Courts and YDA/10 Peculiar Jurisdictions and also YDA/8 Archdeaconries.

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Created by K. Webb April 2016




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