[Bell Historians] Peculiar

Chris Pickford c.j.pickford.t21 at ky4xUuGgNpjid4wxzSjAZcVW96AQ9ig17sbq1fPAAPYEKkLNNdK53_eCT8ht2g_Bizov5wx98Ufohf5ij-JJy_C-pb1RQ2Px7g.yahoo.invalid
Wed Dec 27 23:22:19 GMT 2006

I don't have access to my reference books here, but as I recall most exempt jurisdictions ("ordinary" peculiars rather than Royal ones) were abolished in the 1850s. We may be confusing these - places which were once peculiars but are no longer so in anything beyond former legal status - with those that continue to enjoy exemption from episcopal visitation etc. Some peculiars covered clusters of parishes - so as well as the single parish peculiars there were others that fell within exempt jurisdictions. Peculiars had the right to hold their own ecclesiastical courts - in very simple terms, the church courts dealt with sin (and were known as the bawdy courts) while the civil courts dealt with crime.

Anyone who studies family history will be aware of the places that were once peculiars, as they will have found that the wills of their ancestors were proved in the peculiar courts. In Bedfordshire, for instance, wills for Biggleswade and Leighton Buzzard (both peculiars until the 1850s) were locally proved rather than in the Archdeacon's court at Bedford (which operated under delegated powers from the diocesan bishop). Jeremy Gibson's standard reference book on wills includes maps showing the historic peculiars and area of probate jurisdiction.

The church is full of all sorts of quirks, but - as this discussion has shown - some are imaginary rather than real, inventions of convenience, or even (the main point of this contribution) instances of past status mistakenly resurrected as current exemtpion.

I was rather surprised to see my old prep school and its parish - St.Michael's, Tenbury - listed among the Royal Peculiars on Wikipedia. Surprised, because so far as I knew (and I have looked into some of the documentation about the creation of the parish) this parish was created in 1856 by designating an area that was formerly in other parishes. Most of the genuine peculiars are of ancient origin.

But getting back to bells, the historian needs to be aware of seam of archive material created by the exempt jurisdictions that may contain useful documentary material - so there is some relevance to this list after all.  The records of the peculiar courts may contain churchwardens presentments, visitation records and faculties - things that won't be found for peculiars among the main diocesan or archidiaconal records. 

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