The modern archdeaconry of St Albans is co-terminous with the geographical county of Hertfordshire and lies within the Diocese of St Albans.
The earlier history of the Archdeaconry is involved. In 1157 during a visit by Robert de Gorham, Abbot of St Albans, to Rome, Pope Adrian IV (Brakespear), himself a native of Hertfordshire, granted extensive privileges to the Abbey of St Albans. The Abbot of St Albans was made a bishop with the right of appointing his own archdeacon and was exempt from the jurisdiction of the Bishop of Lincoln, within whose diocese the abbey lay. After considerable dispute this exemption was recognised by Henry II, and henceforth, until the dissolution of the Abbey in 1539, those Hertfordshire and Buckinghamshire parishes - 26 in all - which formed the old Archdeaconry of St Albans (see list at end of this introduction) remained subject to the authority of an archdeacon appointed by the Abbot.
On the dissolution of the abbey in 1539, under the terms of 31 Henry VIII, c.13, the archdeaconry should have become subject to the Bishop of Lincoln within whose jurisdiction it nominally was. It appears, however, that until 1550, when Edward VI by Letters Patent annexed it to the Diocese of London, it remained independent of episcopal surveillance.
From 1550 to 1845 the Archdeaconry remained within the Diocese of London. In 1845, by an Order in Council dated 8 August under the provisions of 6 & 7 Wm IV, c.77, the whole county of Hertford was annexed to the Diocese of Rochester and the Archdeaconry of St Albans became co-terminous with the county, the Buckinghamshire parishes being transferred to the Archdeaconry of Buckingham, annexed to the Diocese of Oxford.
By the London Diocese Act, 1863 (26 & 27 Vict, c.36, s.3), the Archdeacon of St Albans acquired jurisdiction over the city and deanery of Rochester and became Archdeacon of Rochester and St Albans. The Act of 1863 cited above had envisaged that when the Archdeaconry of Rochester next became vacant it should be suppressed and the next and every future Dean of Rochester should become Archdeacon of the City and Deanery of Rochester. As the Archdeaconry of Rochester had been vacant for some time prior to 1863 but no vacancy in the Deanery had occurred, no one exercised archidiaconal jurisdiction over the City and Deanery. This provision, extending the jurisdiction of the Archdeacon of St Albans into Kent, met the urgent need.
On the foundation of the Diocese of St Albans in 1877 under the Bishopric of St Albans Act, 1875 (38 & 39 Vict, c.38) and an Order in Council of 30 April 1877, the Archdeaconry of St Albans together with the Archdeaconries of Colchester and Essex were formed into one diocese. The Archdeacon's jurisdiction over the city and deanery of Rochester was suppressed and his jurisdiction since then has covered the whole county of Hertfordshire (except for Flaunden, which in 1876 was consolidated with Latimer, Bucks and transferred to the Diocese of Oxford).
Provenance of the Records
The records of the old and new Archdeaconries of St Albans, now for the first time listed here, have had a varied life. Until the changes of the 19th century, they appear to have been kept in the Abbey of St Albans and in the offices of successive Registrars and Officials of the Archdeaconry. There may have been some disturbances as a result of the transfer to the Diocese of Rochester, but there was no major disturbance until a large segment of the records was transferred in 1868 to the custody of the Principal Probate Registry under the Wills Act of 1857.
On that occasion, the registers of wills, original filed wills, inventories, administration bonds and accounts, probate and administration act books, together with the act books of the archdeacon's court and other papers not entirely or specifically connected with the jurisdiction of the Archdeacon in testamentary matters were removed to Somerset House. The rest of the records remained at St Albans in the Watching Loft of the Abbey and in a small muniment room.
In 1906, W H R Wilton Hall, Sub-Librarian of the Abbey, began his extensive work of arranging and listing the by now truncated and greatly disordered archives of the Archdeaconry. This work he continued until 1921. The results of this work may be seen in the records themselves and in the series of transcripts and calendars he made. A list of these will be found at Appendix A to this introduction and they are mentioned at appropriate places throughout this inventory (See DEX977).
In 1932 the bulk of the records still at St Albans was transferred to the Hertfordshire Record Office, and in 1941 a further small quantity overlooked at the time of the first transfer came to Hertford. In 1954 the records transferred in 1868 to Somerset House were reunited with the rest of the archives of the Archdeaconry. In 1963 a further quantity of more recent visitation records was received from the Registrar of the Diocese amongst the Diocesan archives transferred in that year to the custody of the Hertfordshire Record Office. Appendix B to this introduction lists, by reference number only, the provenance of the archives dealt with in this inventory, up to 1963. Later deposits have been received from the Archdeacon or his office unless otherwise noted.
PARISHES COMPRISING THE ARCHDEACONRY OF ST ALBANS PRIOR TO 1845
St Paul's Walden