Notes on the Diocese of Gloucester by Chancellor Richard Parsons

John Fendley

(Record Series 19, 2005)

Richard Parsons, chancellor of the diocese of Gloucester from 1677 until his death in 1711, began his survey of the diocese in 1690. He did not complete it, but left a large collection of notes which, though disordered and frequently obscure, contain much that is valuable to the local historian. Parson's notes are now offered in print for the first time.

Parsons described his work as ‘An account of the diocese of Gloucester and the antiquities of the county, together with the most remarkable epitaphs in the cathedral and parochial churches, collected by myself.’ The notes on each parish naturally give prominence to the parish church, with its patronage, endowment and fabric, not least the description of monuments, with their inscriptions often recorded verbatim. Other recurrent information includes that on charitable benefactions, leading families and their houses, physical and economic features of the parish and antiquities. Parsons used a wide range of sources, which he often named. Notable among the published works are those of Campden and Dugdale. He searched extensively in the registers of the bishops of Worcester and of Gloucester abbey and in the Gloucester diocesan registry. He used local informants, partly by circulating a questionnaire. Much of his material derived from first-hand knowledge, including that acquired in the course of his formal visitations as chancellor.

Later historians of Gloucestershire have struggled to exploit Parson’s notes, described by their compiler in 1694 as ‘very rude and unmethodical so that no-one but I can understand them … a rude and undigested heap’, a description that the accretions of a further decade do nothing to belie. The editor, who edited Bishop Benson’s Survey for the Gloucestershire Record Series, has mastered the atrocious scrawl that Parsons used for his notes, elucidated many of their obscurities and re-ordered his haphazard jottings to provide clear and straightforward entries.

Note: Only good, secondhand copies of this book are available.

xxiv + 564 pages, ISBN 0900197641