Durham Bishop's Transcripts: The Howe Manuscript Collection
The Howe manuscript (MSS) collection of early Durham Bishop's transcripts has an interesting history and enables us to understand the recording of the transcript collection for the diocese over recent centuries.
The documents forming this collection were discovered on 27 October 1998 in the Dean and Chapter Library of Durham Cathedral in tray numbered 6a . The Howe manuscripts as they are known were transferred that day to the Durham University Library (DUL) which houses the main surviving series of parish register transcripts for the diocese of Durham, among the Durham Diocesan Records (DDR) together with some stray transcripts from parishes and chapelries in the Durham ecclesiastical peculiars in Yorkshire among the Muniments of the Dean and Chapter of Durham (DCD)
Cuthbert Mills Carlton
Carlton was a journalist, antiquarian and genealogist who was a native of Durham and who died on 19 January 1892. By his will made on 21 July 1890 and proved at Durham on 5 February 1892, he left to his friend John Howe for life “all my volumes of MSS as belong to me and are marked [for Howe]” with a request that after Howe’s death “all such manuscripts and papers” should be handed to the secretary of the Newcastle Society of Antiquaries”.
John James Howe
Howe had been the chief or principal clerk in the Durham District Probate Registry at the time of his retirement. He left all the volumes and manuscripts bequeathed to him by Carlton to the Durham Dean and Chapter Library. His will made on 2 March 1935 and proved on 26 April 1937 created the Howe legacy and the MSS collection rediscovered in 1998.
Contents of the Howe MSS Collection
• Transcripts from two ecclesiastical peculiars in Allertonshire in Yorkshire. These were respectively responsibility of the Bishop of Durham and the Dean and Chapter of Durham.
• Transcripts from Crayke, a detached part of Durham County until 1844, when it became part of Yorkshire. Part of Durham diocese until 1837 when it became part of York Diocese.
• Transcripts from 6 parishes in the diocese of Durham all with initial letters from the same part of the alphabet Denton (Durham County 1756-1757) Elwick Hall, Escomb, Esh and Greatham (Durham County 1709-1710) Elsdon (Northumberland 1720)
The Mystery of the finds
The six Durham discoveries mentioned above are tantalising as they indicate that the main series of surviving parish register transcripts for the diocese from 1760 onwards for chapelries and parishes have been detached from earlier transcripts. Theoretically transcripts can exist from the sixteenth century onwards. The Durham DDR transcripts were placed with Durham University library from 1951 onwards and the fate of earlier transcripts remains a mystery. The Howe MSS strays together with occasional strays which surfaced earlier, suggest that pre 1760 transcripts did exist and one day may be discovered.
The Howe MSS also suggest that the 1709-1710 years are particularly strongly represented and that the transcripts had previously been grouped alphabetically and within each year.
How were the transcripts gathered by the diocese?
The process of gathering Bishop’s transcripts was simple. At the time of visitations by Diocesan officials transcripts signed as required as “a true and accurate account” were taken to the Diocesan Registry for storage. In Durham these were stored in separate annual sequences for the whole diocese (sometimes divided into separate Durham and Northumberland series within each year), rather than as parish series.
This was still the case in 1951 when the collection transferred to the University and was deposited.
The Durham University Library was faced with increasing demand from genealogists students and researchers and the main series of transcripts were rearranged alphabetically into each parish and chapelry.
The alphabetical assembly of the Howe MSS suggest that pre 1760 transcripts were arranged alphabetically by parish in the Diocesan Registry and that a change of Registry process took place in the intervening years.
Where are the Howe transcripts?
The originals have been photocopied by Durham University Library, the originals are stained and faded and difficult to read.
A 1935 label signed and dated 21 January 1935 lists only part of the collection. The Dean and Chapter Library in fact received the bequest in 1937 and more parishes are included than this label suggests. The series have been designated HBT by the library.
Birkby (Yorkshire) HBT1 Birkby, Yorkshire
November 1714- March 1715
Brompton (Yorkshire) HBT2-12 Brompton (near Northallerton), Yorkshire
Lady [Day 25 March] 1710 – Lady [Day 25 March 1711, 25 March 1714-25 March 1715
25 March 1716-25 March 1717
1724-1725 undated William Wood curate
[25 March 1725-25 March 1726] undated William Wood curate *
1727-1728 undated William Wood curate
These were presented at visitation by the Dean and Chapter Durham member on 22 April 1735 at Northallerton.
Brompton transcript 1727-1728 is included in the Northallerton transcript in the Howe collection.
*Judith Smeaton, of the North Yorkshire County Record Office compared the original parish register with the Howe Transcript for 1725-1726. She noted that although the transcript is easier to read than the original it is not an accurate or complete copy of the original.
Crayke (Durham County) HBT 13-24 Crayke, Yorkshire
25 March 1716-25 March 1717, 25 March 1722-
Until 1844, thereafter Yorkshire 25 March 172, 25 March 1729-25 March 1731
25 March 1732-25 March 1735
Deighton (Yorkshire) HBT25-27 Deighton, Yorkshire
25 March 1714-25 March 1715 [25 March] 1727-
25 March 172, 25 March 1729- 25 March-1731,
(Deighton transcript [25 March] 1727 – [25 March] 1728 is included with Northallerton transcripts)
Denton (Durham County) HBT28 Denton, Durham
January 1756-March 1757
Elsdon (Northumberland) HBT29 Elsdon, Northumberland
April 1729-August 1720
Elwick Hall (Durham County) HBT 30 Elwick Hall, Durham
25 March 1709 – 25 March 1710
Escomb (Durham County) HBT31 Escomb, Durham
25 March 1709- 25 March 1710
Esh (Durham County) HBT32 Esh, Durham
25 March 1709- 25 March 1710
Greatham (Durham County) HBT 33-35 Greatham, Durham
Lady Day [25 March] 1709- Lady Day [25 March] 1710
[3 sheet parchment booklet]
High Worsall (Yorkshire) HBT 36-39 High Worsall, Yorkshire
[25 March] 1727 – [25 March] 1729, [25 March 1730, - [25 March] 1732
Kirby Sigston (Yorkshire) HBT 40-42 Kirby Sigston, Yorkshire
[25 March 172] – [25 March 173(Temp.Thomas Clarke, rector 1675-died 1708
25 March 1730 – [25 March] 1732
Leake (Yorkshire) HBT43L Leake, Yorkshire
[25 March] 1729- [25 March] 1730
Northallerton (Yorkshire) HBT 44-48 Northallerton, Yorkshire
[25 March] 1727- [25 March] 1728
[25 March] 1729- [25 March] 1730
[25 March] 1732- [25 March] 1734
Including Brompton (Yorkshire) [25 March] 1727- [25 March] 1728
& including Deighton (Yorkshire) [25 March] 1727- [25 March 1728]
& including Romanby (Yorkshire) [25 March] 1732- [25 March] 1734
See also: Brompton
North Otterington(Yorkshire) HBT 49-50 North Otterington, Yorkshire
[25 March] 1727-[25 March] 1729
Romanby (Yorkshire) Romanby (near Northallerton),Yorkshire
[25 March] 1732-[25 March] 1734
(All Romanby transcripts are included with Northallerton transcripts)
Thornton-le-Street (Yorkshire) 25 March 1729-25 March 1730 Thornton le Street, Yorkshire
West Rounton (Yorkshire) HBT 52-58 West Rounton, Yorkshire
1709 = 2 sheets the second of these is blank
25 March 1729 25 March 1732,
25 March 1733-25 March 1735