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Book of Common Prayer

Clergymen who neglected their duties as prescribed in the Book of Common Prayer, or who failed to lead a moral life, were liable to find themselves before the Archdeaconry court.

John Hague, curate of Scrooby in the early 1620s, who was described as a 'quarreller' by a parishioner, made seven separate presentments against his congregation. The churchwardens had had enough by 1624, and presented him for a variety of offences, including striking Thomas Watson in the church, and for 'being much addicted to drunkenness' (AN/PB 339/6/29 and AN/PB 339/7/43). Hague left Scrooby in around 1625, but he turned up again in Cromwell in 1638, writing a characteristic Presentment Bill finding fault with six of his parishioners for arguing or quarrelling with his judgement (AN/PB 328/11/42).

Churchwardens were asked to report any misconduct by their ministers to the Archdeacon. Clergymen, in addition to services and sermons, were required to baptise, marry and bury their parishioners, catechise servants and young people, observe all holy days, and provide a good example in their private behaviour. They knew their parishioners intimately, visited them when ill and prayed with them. When a clergyman failed to do his duty, the religious and social fabric of the community could unravel.

This particular copy of the Book of Common Prayer, a page from which is shown below, has a special interest, being one of a small number of printed folio editions altered in manuscript in 1661 to agree with a new legal standard version. They were certified by Commissioners and sealed with the Great Seal of England (which has been lost in this version), to prove authority in the case of disputes over wording. They are therefore known as Sealed Books of Common Prayer. Only 26 other Sealed Books of Common Prayer are now known to be in existence. Most are held by Cathedral libraries. This particular volume probably originally belonged to Westminster Abbey, but is supposed to have been acquired by Edward Harley, 2nd Earl of Oxford, in the 18th century. It remained in the library of the Dukes of Portland until it was transferred to the University of Nottingham.

 

Certificate page from a Sealed Book of Common Prayer

Certificate page from a Sealed Book of Common Prayer (London: 1662) Pw V 1/94

 

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