The Court of Arches collection is of national importance as the archive of the Court of Appeal for the province of Canterbury under the Archbishop of Canterbury. It exercised a wide-ranging jurisdiction over aspects of society such as marriage and divorce, probate, defamation, manners and morals of the clergy and laity, and non-conformity. The records, dating largely from 1660 onwards, are a primary source of considerable importance for the social, biographical, economic, legal, topographical and ecclesiastical history of England south of the Humber and Wales. In depositions from cases relating to morality, society and religion, the authentic voice of ordinary people from the 17th, 18th and 19th centuries can still be heard.
Recent cataloguing of the collection by Dr Richard Palmer (former Librarian of Lambeth Palace Library) has flagged the Bbb series of records as being of especial interest, but this series is currently ‘unfit for production’ (very dirty, water and pest damaged, with fractured seals and tears). The conservation will unlock both the intellectual and the physical potential of these Court of Arches records. The NMCT grant will provide valuable financial support to our campaign to clean and stabilise parchment and paper manuscripts to enable safe access by the public.
The project is being undertaken in Lambeth Palace Library’s new building, which offers much better facilities for conservation (see image in gallery below) than the previous space.