subfonds YDA/8 - Archdeaconries

Identity area

Reference code





  • 1598-[ongoing] (Creation)

Level of description


Extent and medium

Approximately 12 cubic metres

Context area

Name of creator

Administrative history

Archival history

Immediate source of acquisition or transfer

Content and structure area

Scope and content

An archdeaconry is a legal division of a diocese for administrative purposes. It is further subdivided into smaller units called rural deaneries (for records of rural deaneries see YDA/9). The archdeaconry is headed by an archdeacon. The archdeacon is usually appointed by the diocesan bishop and is next after the bishop in respect of his archdeaconry, having statutory authority under the crown. He has day to day supervision of the parishes in the archdeaconry, and his function is to assist the bishop in his office and in his pastoral care. He makes sure that all who hold ecclesiastical office in the archdeaconry perform their duties diligently, and he must bring to the notice of the bishop anything praiseworthy or in need of investigation or correction.

Functions of an archdeacon include examining and presenting candidates for ordination, inducting to benefices and admitting churchwardens; they also have various duties relating to church fabric, faculties, parsonages and church buildings. The archdeacon must hold an annual visitation of the parishes in his archdeaconry. Like bishops’ visitations, the nature of the archdeacons’ visitations has changed over time. Originally visitation had a principally judicial and correctional function, designed to enforce moral standards and ensure religious conformity of both laity and clergy, with powers of correction. Visitation was preceded by a citation to appear at a specified day at an appointed place, and the issuing of articles of enquiry to each parish. From the eighteenth century onwards the emphasis changed towards the gathering of systematic information about the condition of the physical fabric of the church and churchyard, the conduct of public worship, the property belonging to the church, and the moral standard and behaviour of the laity. The visitation was concluded with archdeacon’s delivery of an address or sermon, known as a charge, and was followed by the issue of orders and injunctions for the rectification of defects uncovered.

Today, visitation has a largely pastoral function. While churchwardens are still admitted at an annual visitation, a more thorough visitation will be made at a longer interval - every three years - when a questionnaire will be issued, parochial records, buildings and property inspected and parochial compliance with the requirements of various Measures will be checked, in particular compliance with the Inspection of Churches Measures 1955, the Parochial Registers and Records Measure 1978 and the Care of Churches and Ecclesiastical Jurisdiction Measure 1991.

The territorial division of the Diocese of York into archdeaconries took place before the end of the twelfth century. In medieval times, the Diocese of York had five archdeaconries: the Archdeaconry of York (the largest archdeaconry, comprising the City of York and almost all the West Riding of Yorkshire, divided into five rural deaneries), the Archdeaconry of the East Riding (covering most of the East Riding, divided into four rural deaneries), the Archdeaconry of Cleveland (the smallest archdeaconry covering parts of the North Riding and East Riding, divided into three rural deaneries), the Archdeaconry of Richmond (covering parts of the Yorkshire Dales, the north of Lancashire, south Westmorland and part of Cumberland, divided into three rural deaneries) and the Archdeaconry of Nottingham (covering Nottinghamshire and Derbyshire, divided into five rural deaneries).

The Diocese of York was unusual in that the archdeacons (with the notable exception of the Archdeacon of Richmond) enjoyed far fewer rights and privileges than those enjoyed by archdeacons elsewhere, particularly in terms of probate jurisdiction over their respective archdeaconries. Further, only two of the archdeaconries enjoyed peculiar jurisdictions to support their offices - the Archdeacon of the East Riding possessed the Peculiar of Mappleton and the Archdeacon of York held the Peculiars of Mexborough and Ravenfield - while the Archdeacons of Cleveland and Nottingham had no peculiar jurisdictions at all.

In contrast, the Archdeaconry of Richmond was a semi-autonomous region in the medieval period and the Archdeacon was a powerful figure. In the twelfth century the Archdeaconry of Richmond was said to be the richest in England, and the archdeaconry spanned the counties of Yorkshire, Westmorland, Cumberland and Lancashire. In 1127 most of Cumberland was incorporated into the new Diocese of Carlisle, and in compensation the Archbishop of York conferred all the privileges of a bishop, except for ordination, consecration and confirmation, on the Archdeacon. The Archdeacon had an extensive jurisdiction, including probate, exercised through his own consistory court. In 1541, however, the Archdeaconry of Richmond was removed from the Diocese of York and became part of the new Diocese of Chester. It remained part of the see of Chester until 1836, when the office of Archdeacon of Richmond, together with the Yorkshire deaneries of the archdeaconry, were transferred to the new Diocese of Ripon, and at the same time the Lancashire, Cumberland and Westmorland deaneries were added to the see of Carlisle.

The York Archdeaconry lost its West Riding parishes to the new Diocese of Ripon in 1836. In 1837, the Archdeaconry of Nottingham was transferred to the Diocese of Lincoln. In 1884, the Archdeaconry of Sheffield was created from an area which had formerly been part of the York Archdeaconry; but this was removed from the Diocese of York in 1914 when the new Diocese of Sheffield was created (though the York Diocesan Registrar initially retained his office as Registrar to the Sheffield Archdeaconry).

Today, the Diocese of York has three archdeaconries: the Archdeaconry of York (divided into the Deaneries of York, Easingwold, Selby, New Ainsty, South Ryedale, Derwent and South Wold), the Archdeaconry of the East Riding (divided into the Deaneries of Beverley, Scarborough, Hull, Bridlington, North Holderness, South Holderness, Harthill and Howden) and the Archdeaconry of Cleveland (divided into the Deaneries of Middlesbrough Whitby, Guisborough, Mowbray, Stokesley and Northern Ryedale).

In addition to the three existing archdeacons - of York, of Cleveland and of the East Riding - in 2014 the Diocese of York appointed a further archdeacon in the diocese. This is the Archdeacon for Generous Giving and Stewardship, whose role is to support and resource churches in the area of Christian giving. In contrast to the other three archdeacons, he works across the whole diocese.

Records in this section comprise records of administration and records of visitation for the Archdeaconry of York (1598-ongoing), the Archdeaconry of the East Riding (1632-ongoing), the Archdeaconry of Cleveland (1602-ongoing) and the Archdeaconry of Sheffield (1886-1932). Records of administration include correspondence, working papers, procurations and fee books, records relating to officials, induction mandates, records relating to Convocation, Archbishops’ visitations, and records relating to parishes and deaneries.

Records of visitation include court books, calls, exhibit books, citation mandates, surrogation acts, churchwardens’ presentments, articles of enquiry, correction citations, excommunications, penances, and visitation returns and files.


Further accruals are expected.

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.

Conditions of access and use area

Conditions governing access

Conditions governing reproduction

Language of material

  • English
  • Latin

Script of material

Language and script notes

Physical characteristics and technical requirements

Finding aids

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.

Allied materials area

Existence and location of originals

Existence and location of copies

Related units of description

For records of probate from the Archdeacons Courts see YDA/11.

Notes area

Alternative identifier(s)

Access points

Subject access points

Place access points

Name access points

Genre access points

Description control area

Description identifier

Institution identifier

Rules and/or conventions used

Level of detail

Dates of creation revision deletion

Created by K. Webb April 2016




Accession area

Related subjects

Related people and organizations

Related genres

Related places