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Parish Church deposits

Bedfordshire Archives service is the designated Diocesan Record Office for the St Albans Diocese for parishes in the county of Bedfordshire. Records are held by the service under the conditions stipulated by the Parochial Registers and Records Measure, 1978 and by the 1997agreement with the Diocese.

What should you deposit?

We recommend that you use the Church of England’s records management guides and in particular the one called Keep or Bin - the Care of Church Records.

Under the heading ‘Retention Guidelines’, Keep or Bin has a table that shows you how long you should keep certain types of records and which ones you should offer to the archive service.

The other thing to keep in mind is the classification scheme that we use in Bedfordshire Archives (see below) as this will cover certain things that you may come across that are not actually records but which we may agree are worth keeping with your collection for research purposes.

When should you deposit records?

If you deposit too frequently it makes a lot of work for us all. If you deposit only rarely it makes even more work for us all. In the past deposit was often tied in with quinquennial reports and this is probably a good timescale to use for conducting reviews of what you have and sending material to us that has completed its business use. Whether you have anything to send every five years will probably depend on the size and activities of your particular parish.

Exceptions to the regular, but not too regular, deposit schedule are:

  • marriage registers. Because they are so thin these fill up very quickly and you may find that the registrar wishes to take away both your completed registers one for them and one to send to the archive service. If they wish to do this then that is OK with us; we have good relationships with both Central and Bedford registrars.
  • Records at risk due to environmental conditions, building work or other local issues. Obviously we don’t want you to put your records at risk so if you need to send relevant records to the archive service please do.

How should you deposit records?

Before contacting Bedfordshire Archives please:

  • Select only those things you know we take based on the table in Keep or Bin
  • Categorise these into the different headings of the classification scheme – which isn’t as bad as it first appears; you are unlikely to have material for sections 9-24.
  • Arrange the things in those categories such as registers and PCC minutes into date order – hopefully that’s how you keep them anyway.
  • Write a list of the material e.g.

Register of baptism                                                          June 1980 – April 2014

Register of marriages,                                           9 March 2014 – 16 Sept 2017

Plan of proposed new vestry,                                                           10 Feb 1999

Colour photographs of the work on the tower taken by Fred Bloggs, June 2000

Correspondence regarding the sale of the vicarage           May 2001-June 2003

PCC minutes                                                                                        2011-2016

A list is of tremendous help to us when cataloguing but also speeds up the handover of material to us and makes sure we both know what has come to the archives even if it hasn’t been given references and been fully catalogued.


  • Send us your list, e-mail to
  • If any of the material has any damage that you think we should be aware of (particularly any signs of damp or mould) please advise us of this when you contact us.

Then Bedfordshire Archives will:

  • Prepare the paperwork ready for the transfer – either an interim receipt or, in the case of things like parish registers, we may even be able to generate a catalogue entry and final receipt.
  • Contact you to arrange a date for the material to come into the archive service either by collection or delivery.
  • Catalogue the material received as quickly as resources allow. Remember that even if the material has not received its final references your list will enable anyone who needs to see the material to contact us to arrange to see it.
  • Send you a final receipt so that you know the material has been catalogued. Our catalogues are published immediately online and therefore it is easy to find what we hold in your collection.

Bedfordshire Archives parish records classification scheme

Each parish has a unique reference beginning with P and then a number e.g. P74 = Biddenham.

Each reference is made up of the parish number/number of the record type/the number of the item. E.g. the first Biddenham parish register would be P74/1/1.

The classification scheme can be found here.