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

Methodists & Methodism Washburn Valley – Norwood/Havarrah Park to West End By Stanley Merridew

North Yorkshire Record Office holds Pateley Bridge Circuit records which cover the chapels from Brown Bank to West End. These include baptism records from 1825 to 1961.  All the chapels are together in each volume but the place of residence is shown.

Norwood/Havarrah Park

Known as Brown Bank, this chapel was situated off Watson’s Lane, now a private house.  Northallerton record office have a copy of the Sunday School register 1941-1979. Several names are shown on the Wesleyan Roll:  Darnbrook,  Grange, McKenzie, Gill, Hobson, Hutton


The chapel opened as early as 1763 and was enlarged in 1894 when there were 26 members.  It closed in 1959, also now a private house.  Marriage records 1908-1943 at are held at Northallerton.  At NYRO I came across a list of seat rents for 1910 which mentions the following names:

Mr H Beecroft, John Beecroft, James Hart, Mrs Luty, Mr T Newall, Mrs Patten, Miss J Pennington, Mr F Pennington, R Pennington, Mrs Umpleby, T Varley, Mr W Yeadon.   The only names shown for Fewston on the Wesleyan Roll are John Myers & J Bramley.

Hardisty Hill

The chapel, situated on a lane just to the east of Hardisty Hill opened in 1838 and closed in 1994. 

Hardisty Hill Chapel

There was also a Reading Room until relatively recently at the foot of Hardisty Hill.  The record office holds a copy of the Sunday School register, attendances shown below:

John W Andrew 1896 to 1898                   Dewhirst Beecroft 1909 to 1911

William Beecroft 1895 to 1897         & 1909 to 1911    James E Gill 1892

George Hardcastle 1892 to 1895      Charles Harrison 1897 to 1898

Richard Knowles 1910 to 1911                  Andrew Maud 1893

Bradley Maud 1895 to 1898             Titus Maud 1894 to 1895

Ethel Maud 1897 to 1898                           Lucy Maud 1895 to 1898

Emily Neal 1896 to 1898                           Annie L Newall 1909

Annie M Watkinson 1894 to 1896   Richard Watkinson 1895 to 1896

Charles Watkinson 1895 to 1897                       

Five members of the Gill family contributed to the Wesleyan Roll ( 20th Century Fund), Michael, John , Wilks, Sarah & Esther.

West End

West End Chapel

Taken at the centenary celebration in 1936

An article in the Wharfedale & Airedale Observer 12th May 1962 regarding the above chapel,  just before closure, states it opened in 1836 and was built on land previously owned by John Hall of Thruscross.  The chapel was located at the top of Clogger Lane.   Some of the families involved in the past are mentioned: Newbould, Wigglesworth, Gill, Bulmer, Metcalf & Verity.  It also states that the tea at the Centenary was served by Mrs F Nelson, Mrs Wood, Mrs Newbould, Mrs J Verity, Mrs V Verity, Mrs Smith, Mrs G Marshall, Miss S Peel, Miss S Walker.

There was also a Primitive Methodist chapel.  From documents of a land sale held by Mikki French, one of her ancestors, Godfrey Horsman  of West End, sold to Joshua Hardisty (cordwainer), Joseph Dinsdale (linen weaver), James Fryer (flaxdresser), Thomas Shepherd (weaver) all of Thruscross, Joseph Stott (farmer), Francis Sutcliffe (miller), both of Stonebeckdown & John Watson (wheelwright) of Stonebeckup in 1929  a plot of land for the purpose of building a Primitive Methodist Chapel.  The document states the plot of land was close to Holmefield and Brecks Lane.  This site was, I believe just north of the present Reservoir Road.  The building was sold in 1902, so I assume the two congregations came together.  See the first paragraph regarding baptism records.

Just two names appear on the Wesleyan Roll: Enoch Garth & John Verity.

In an account book dated 1811 there is a list of where collections were received.  At this early date many of the chapels were not in existence and these may have been house meetings.  Amongst the places mentioned, Bramley Head and Bramelane are shown.  The Wesleyan Chapel at West End (opened 1836) was close to Bramley Head and Bramelane is near to Brown Bank.   .       

A list of Circuit members dated 1838 for each chapel within the Pateley Bridge Circuit: 

Blubberhouses Isabella Cadman Brown Bank John Renton
Blubberhouses James Child Brown Bank Dinah Renton
Blubberhouses Margaret Child Brown Bank Thomas Robinson
Blubberhouses Thomas Elliot Brown Bank Thomas Simpson
Blubberhouses Ann Elliot Brown Bank Mary Stockdale
Blubberhouses Matilda Elliot Brown Bank Grace Stubbs
Blubberhouses Hannah Keswick Brown Bank Sarah Thackrey
Blubberhouses Ellen Lawyer Brown Bank Joseph Todd
Blubberhouses Robert Metcalfe Brown Bank Eliza Todd
Blubberhouses John Newell Brown Bank Hannah Turner
Blubberhouses Susannah Newell Brown Bank William Turner
Blubberhouses Margaret Sunter Brown Bank Elizabeth Whitaker (child)
Blubberhouses Ellen Terry Brown Bank Jonathan Whitaker |(child)
Blubberhouses John Thackray Brown Bank Hannah Wilson
Blubberhouses Mary Thackray Brown Bank Robert Wilson
Blubberhouses Mary Webb Brown Bank Benjamin Wilson
Blubberhouses Hannah Whitehead Fewston Henry Bramley
Blubberhouses Emma Yates Fewston Mary Bramley
Brown Bank Joseph Ainsworth Fewston Ann Bramley
Brown Bank Jonathan Andrews (child) Fewston Mary Bramley
Brown Bank Hannah Bolton Fewston Mary Buck
Brown Bank Hannah Bolton Fewston Elizabeth Buck
Brown Bank Robert Bramley Fewston Sarah Buck
Brown Bank Hannah Bramley Fewston Susannah Buck
Brown Bank John Bramley Fewston Hannah Demaine
Brown Bank William Broadbelt Fewston Mark Demaine
Brown Bank Sarah Broadbelt Fewston Matthew Demaine
Brown Bank Mary Darnbrook Fewston Jane Dickinson
Brown Bank Ann Darnbrook Fewston Elizabeth Dunwell
Brown Bank Mary Dibb Fewston Thomas Elison
Brown Bank Thomas Driver Fewston Mary Elison
Brown Bank Mary Driver Fewston George Hardy
Brown Bank Ann Emsley Fewston Henry Jackson
Brown Bank Charles Emsley Fewston Hannah Morris
Brown Bank Mary Ann Emsley Fewston Thomas Peel
Brown Bank Hannah Ferndale Fewston Susannah Peel
Brown Bank Joseph Grange Fewston Samuel  
Brown Bank William Green Fewston Elizabeth Reed
Brown Bank Daniel Green Fewston Joseph Settle
Brown Bank Samuel Hudson West End Elizabeth Abbot
Brown Bank Mary Hudson West End Walter Buckle
Brown Bank Joseph Irish West End Sarah Buckle
Brown Bank Benjamin Jackson West End Ellen Garrs
Brown Bank Joseph Jackson West End Anthony Garth
Brown Bank Elizabeth Jackson West End Stephen Hardisty
Brown Bank Henry Jackson West End Sarah Holmes
Brown Bank Mary Jackson West End Ellen Holmes
Brown Bank William Margerison West End Elizabeth Imeson
Brown Bank Thomas Moon West End Betty Imeson
Brown Bank William Moon West End Ann Myers
Brown Bank Jane Peel West End Martha Newbould
Brown Bank Robert Peel West End Emmanuel Shepherd
Brown Bank Joseph Rawson West End Elizabeth Waite
Brown Bank Susannah Rawson West End Amelia Wilkinson
Brown Bank Susannah Rawson      

I assume those headed under “Blubberhouses” refers to Hardisty Hill Chapel.

At the archives there is also a Society Roll Book dated 1931.  The circuit members list, plus the roll book and the baptisms would make a useful publication – a willing transcriber needed!