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Welcome to Bedford Borough Council

Parish Record Collections

No Church of England parish archive is ever the same as any other. What records are held for each church will depend on the history of a particular church and the records that survive. Until the formation of modern local government in the last years of the 19th century much of the burden of local government fell on the parish, its vestry and officers. This can leave records useful to genealogists, local and social historians and those concerned with the repair and maintenance of the church property.   

Finding parish records in our catalogue

Each parish is given a number based on the order that they were deposited with us and all have the prefix P for 'parish' so for example Bedford St Paul is P1, Ampthill is P30, Wootton is P3. You can find a full list of all the parishes and their reference numbers here

The catalogue of each parish collection is then broken down into series and each series is represented by a number e.g. in the reference P7/5/1, P7 stands for the collection of Clifton parish church, P7/5 = churchwardens accounts and P7/5/1 = the first volume of those accounts. Not every parish will have records under each heading but the numbering of the series remains consistent.

0        Registers of Services, Clergy Institutions, Admissions and Licences (the legal documents installing an incumbent or curate) 

       Parish Registers - see Anglican Parish Registers 

2        Property of the parish including glebe (land owned by the parish church). May be broken down further into fabric of the church, churchyards, parsonage houses, mission churches.

3        Tithes (tenths of produce originally, but increasingly commuted to sums of money, particularly after the Tithe Act of 1836. The Tithe Act of 1935/6 abolished tithes, compensation being provided by stock which was purchased by the incumbent commuting his own tithe) and other incumbent’s income.

CHURCHWARDENS (the chief lay officers in a parish) 

4        Rates - to raise money for the repair or enlargement of the nave of the parish church (abolished 1869)

5        Accounts - expenses of all types from purchasing candles to major repairs, often a useful source for investigating the history of the fabric of the church and for researching local tradesmen 

6        Deeds of property of the parish

7        Other churchwarden material such as brief books.  

8        Vestry - minutes and proceedings of the Vestry which, very roughly, approximated to the modern Parochial Church Council and Parish Council combined 


9        Accounts 

10      Other records such as lists of constables 


11      Rates to raise money for poor relief 

12      Accounts 

13      Settlement papers (very good sources for the genealogist) 

14      Apprenticeship papers 

15      Bastardy records 

16      Settlement matters such as solicitors’ bills, letters.

17      Militia papers 

18      Overseers’ miscellaneous e.g. workhouse agreements.

19      Relationship with Poor Law Unions after 1834 (particularly the provision of outdoor relief, i.e. money etc. given to the poor in their own parish rather than sending them to the workhouse) 


20      Rates to raise money for highway maintenance 

21      Accounts showing how money was spent, often a good source for local tradesmen

22      Surveyors’ miscellaneous e.g. notes and correspondence


23      Records of other civil parish officers

24      Special committees e.g. lighting and watching committees 

25      CHARITIES (administration of parish charities which commonly included apprenticeship funds, bread and fuel doles as well as more specialised charities)


26      Enclosure Awards

27      Tithe Awards

28      MISCELLANEOUS - may include photographs, printed ephemera such as church guidebooks, concert programmes, things to do with church groups such as choir and bellringers.

29      SCHOOLS (Sunday Schools, National Schools, Charity schools) 


31      Antiquarian books – category rarely used and no longer added to


32      PCC minutes including Annual Church Meetings 

33      PCC Accounts 

34      PCC correspondence 

35      PCC property e.g. of church halls

36      PCC sub-committees

37      PCC miscellaneous e.g. electoral rolls, annual reports.