The Parish Chest

When you have exhausted the resources of civil registration, census, parish registers and wills it is worthwhile looking deeper into available parish sources to flesh out the bones of your ancestors lives.  The parish chest, the historical resting place for parochial documents, normally kept in either the church itself or the vestry room, contains the administrative papers of the parish.  These include vestry minute books, overseer’s records, churchwarden’s accounts and a variety of other records relating to the running of the parish and its inhabitants.

Vestry Minute Books

The detail included varies from parish to parish and are sometimes put aside by family historians.  However they can still be very fruitful in adding to your knowledge of the running of the parish and you may well find your ancestors involved in the many office holding positions of the parish. The Vestry dates back at least to Tudor times although local records are rare before the 1700s.  Prior to 19th Century changes in local government the Vestry was responsible for the church, church lands, property which may include cottages within the parish, charities, the highways, administration of the poor law including arrangements for pauper apprentices.  The meetings were usually chaired by the incumbent and included two churchwardens, overseers of the poor, surveyors of the highways and constables.  These positions were normally held for one year and all ratepayers were liable to be ballotted for the positions.

During the nineteenth century many of the responsibilities of parish management were removed from the Vestry.  Overseers were retained until the end of the Poor Law in 1929 but the Vestry no longer controlled the Workhouse.  This had become the responsibility of the Guardians of the Workhouse.  The position of Parish Constable disappeared with the formation of the West Riding Constabulary in 1856 and the Parish Surveyor of the Highways work was incorporated into the Local Boards in 1864.  These later formed the Urban & Rural District Councils from 1894.   The responsibility of the Vestry became largely about the running and maintainence of the church and church property     However many churches still retained some management and influence over the running of church schools and local charities so their records still have revelance to genealogists. 

Here are some examples:

Otley Vestry Minute Books:

At a meeting held in the Vestry at the Parish Church of Otley pursuant to notice given in order to make a list of the names of the persons liable to serve the office of Surveyors of the Highways for the ensuing year held the 4th day of October 1803 the following persons were thought proper:

Wm Hartley, Wm Thompson, Wm Mounsey, Thos Stephenson, Wm Dawson, Brian Holmes, Wm Garnett, Thos Hodgson, Geo Foster, John Fox, John Blenkin.

At a meeting……………..a list of names of persons  to serve the office of Overseer of the Poor for the ensuing year held 4th day of April 1804:

John Harrison, Wm Weir, John Dinsdale, Wm Maude, Wm Thompson, John Blenkin, Benj Birks, Wm Hartley, Wm Dawson, Wm Read, Wm Waddington.

Addingham Vestry Minute Book

At a meeting dated 23rd September 1793 the following names were put forward for the post of Surveyor of the Highways:


Wm Fieldhouse

John England

Joseph Smith

Wm Atkinson

Edward Brumfitt


John Atkinson

Joseph Batty

Thos Horner

James Pickard

Wm Skirray

Wm Fieldhouse appointed at a salary of 8 guineas

The Addingham records also threw up a few more interesting minutes:

At a vestry meeting 9th February 1815……Thomas Kidd agreed & undertook for the sum of 10 guineas annually to use his utmost skill to destroy the moles within the parish of Addingham for the term of 14 years.

18 June 1843 it was resolved that the following people should be excused from paying poor rate on account of poverty:

Ann Tyning

Wm Brayshaw

Hannah Bradley

Martin Pickard

Thomas Holme

John Batty

Henry Briggs

Thos Whitaker

Rachael Steele

Richd Metcalfe

Wm Swale

Joseph Sherwin

8 July1770

At a Vesty held on this day it was concluded that a lawyers opinion should be taken with regard to two paupers viz Stephen Jennings & Wm Whitaker by the overseers and they shall proceed in such measures as the law shall direct at the expense of the parish.

At the back of the book (somewhere I always look) is a list taken at a vestry meeting dated 12th March 180l of all persons liable to take apprentices:

Thos Beanlands

George Atkinson

George Witham

Edward Fortune

Wm Proctor

Thos Watkinson

John Harrison

John Beck

Thos Mason

Wm Whitham

James Pickard

Edward Lister

John Wall

Ann Bramley

James Bond

Wm Fieldhouse

John Hodgson

John Whithead

John Pearson

Ambrose Dean

Thos Lister jun

Wm Wall

Antony Fentiman

Joseph Smith

John Parkinson

Marmaduke Spencer

Thos Wall

Thos Gill

Thos Steele

Thos Lambert

Thos Laycock

John Pickard

John Swale

Peter Atkinson

Joseph Batty

Wm Lister

John Whitham

I have located the following Vestry Minute Books:

Addingham          1754-1849  Bradford Archives

Burley                  1865-1978 Bradford Archives

Burnsall               1704- 1947 NYRO

Giggleswick        1893-1914 NYRO

Hubberholme   1932-1954 NYRO

Ilkley              1800-1969 Bradford Archives

Otley              1797-1924 Leeds Archives

Settle             1818-1836 NYRO

Skipton            1830-1885 NYRO

Thornton in Craven 1885-1934 NYRO

Addingham Band of Hope Abstainers Roll 1927-1935

The Band of Hope was started in Leeds.  Its purpose was to discourage, particularly the young, from alcohol. 

Anne Townson Lumb Ghyll
Mary Whitham Main Street
Murial Steel Southfield Villas
Lilian Cockcroft Southfield Villas
Mabel Steel Turner Lane
Mary Smith Southfield Villas
Rosa Bradley 18 Church Street
K Fleming 96 Main St
M Richardson 3 The Green
N Richardson 3 The Green
J Townson Lumb Ghyll
K Foster Rhos Cottage Moor L
Norman  Mawer West Hall
Richd  Umpleby West Hall
Jack Wilde Southfield Villas
N Townson Lumb Ghyll
Harry H Stirk 69 Main Street
Clara Atack Main Street
Phyllis Townson Lumb Ghyll
Jack Whitaker 102 Main St
J L Adams 10 Cragg View
H Adams 10 Cragg View
Elsie Hatton 4 Bolton Rd
John Maidment Scar Farm
Mrs Mills Main Street
Miss Scott Main Street
Ella Overin Main Street
Bob Thackray West Hall
Olive Gill 91 Main St
James Mawer 15 Trafalgar Rd Ilkley
Ben Skaife Field House Darley
G Layfield Springfield
Jack Layfield West Hall
Tom Rishworth Layfield Farm Langbar
Lilian Wroe Springfield
Mr Lemmon Springfield

The register commences in 1927 and ends in 1935.  It appears all those who registered paid 1d per annum, though some do not appear to have a penny against their name every year.

Methodism & Methodists – Addingham By Stanley Merridew

Addingham, along with most Wharfedale villages was visited by travelling Methodist preachers from the middle of the eighteenth century.

Grimshaw, Colbeck, Maskew and John Wesley all preached in the village.  One of those converted at the time was Thomas Lee.  Born in Silsden, he served an apprenticeship in Addingham and became one of Wesley’s travelling band of preachers.

Originally the converts would have met in private houses.  One farmhouse on Addingham Moorside continued as a meeting place for methoidst until well into the twentieth century.   The first chapel was erected in 1778 in Lidget Lane (Back Lane).  This was enlarged in 1808 at the time when Addingham became the head of a circuit stretching from Burnsall to Ilkley and across into Airedale.   The land was donated by the Greenwood family and their family mausoleum stands in the large burial ground adjacent to the building.  Wharfedale FHG transcribed the gravestones in the early 1980s.   

 This chapel remained in use until 1973 when it was converted into housing.  The chapel moved to Chapel Lane/Wesley Place, which had previously been built as a Wesleyan School.  It remains there to this day.

We have published the registers of baptism, marriages and burials as well as the memorial inscriptions.  In addition, Bradford Archives hold day school and Sunday School records from 1848 to 1943 plus other material including leader’s minutes and chapel steward’s accounts which will identify families involved with the running of the organisation.  I found at the archives an “Assignment of Right of Burial” signed by John Smiles of Addingham, Grocer dated 25 January 1855:

………..£25 paid by Joseph Styles of Grassington to place a gravestone in the chapel burial ground at Addingham granted by the trustees – Thomas Lister the elder, Isaac Bland, John I’Anson, William Greenwood, Thomas Mason, Francis Wall, James Cockshott, William Cockshott, Henry Flesher Bland, Abraham Emmott, John Beck, Joseph Smith, William Smith, Richard Steel, William Lister, Lister Cockshott, Frederick Alexander Greenwood.   

From around 1850 part of the Wesleyan Church movement decided to breakaway from the main body, forming the Wesleyan Reform Church.  This included part of the congregation of Addingham and they constructed their own chapel in 1861 on Main Street.  This chapel is still in use. 

Addingham Mount Hermon

Wesleyan Reform Chapel

We have transcribed and published the baptisms from 1861.  Further records may still be in the possession of the church.

The Memorial Hall, built in 1913 was originally a Primitive Methodist chapel.  But by 1955 it had become the Memorial Hall we know today.  Sadly no records appear to have survived

Addingham appears to have been a breeding ground for Methodist preachers.  William Kendall Gale, born in 1873 in Addingham   and baptised at Mount Hermon where he later became Pastor.  There is a plaque in his honour at the chapel.

Another was Henry Flesher Bland, born 1818 in Addingham  son of Anthony Bland and Martha Flesher.  He married Emma Levell in Addingham.  He first became a preacher in Addingham and emigrated to Canada, where he rose to become one of the leading lights in methodism.  Two of his sons also became preachers.

The Methodist School was built largely by subscription from local families.  A booklet dated 1876 held at Bradford Archives gives the names of all those who made donations.  It also lists the trustees as follows:

Joseph Gill, clogger

Robert Mitton, manufacturer

William Simpson, draper

Joseph Pighills, farmer

James Thackray, farmer

James Brown, warp dresser

George Whitaker, shoemaker

Michaels Pighills, farmer

Joseph Steele, shoemaker

Edwin Townson, farmer

Charles Wade, cabinetmaker

Jesse Drake, grocer

Starkie Starkie, minister

All the above of Addinghham plus:

Robert Shiers, farmer of Draughton, John Gill, farmer of Beamsley, William Mitton of Ilkley and Giffard Dorey, minister of Ilkley.

Also at Bradford Archives, amongst a large volume of various papers and correspondence, much relating to the school, are two registers concerning the Band of Hope movement, a nonconformist initiative to discourage particularly the young from alcohol.  They run from 1919 to 1948, although some years are missing.  I have photocopied the Roll of the Young Abstainers League 1919-1927.  This shows full name, age at enrollment and address.  Plus Abstainers Roll (Senior Section)  1927-1938.  This only gives name as Mr or Mrs in most cases and few addresses.   These are too large to include in the journal but if you think your family may have been involved please contact me and I will transcribe the relevant information.  I wish they were mine!