The Register of John de Stratford, Bishop of Winchester, 1323-1333, ed. by Roy Martin Haines

I have a lot of time for the Surrey Record Society. They seem like a bit of a secret society: I know very little about them and have never knowingly met a member, but their publications appear with a satisfying frequency and are always of the highest quality. What is more, most of them are remarkably good value (indeed, certain volumes were being given away for free on my last visit to the Surrey History Centre).

I’ve made extensive use of the four volumes of thirteenth-century Eyre rolls the SRS has published to date (and secretly hope that one day they will produce an edition of the 1241 rolls, source of a great number of early forms of minor place-names in the county), so I was chuffed to find they have published the early fourteenth-century episcopal registers of John de Stratford in a two-volume edition that has been a couple of years in the offing. I spent half an hour flicking through the two volumes (having left my library card at home) and was bowled over by what I found.

Using the local area around Puttenham – which unfortunately does not feature in the registers – as a source of examples, I turned up some real gems in amongst the mass of generic entries recording the institution of new rectors and vicars. There’s the verbose notice of the dispensation to establish St Catherine’s chapel outside Guildford (curiously no mention is made of a precursory building that royal rolls record as being in existence over a century earlier), as well as a much shorter entry detailing the decision to give the thumbs-up to the foundation of an oratory at Hambledon on the proviso that it did not impact negatively upon the parish church. A more controversial episode is an alleged underage marriage conducted in Seale church, then a chapelry of Farnham. The most interesting entries I came across concerned the refusal of the inhabitants of Thursley to contribute towards the repair of the reportedly ruinous nave of Witley church, on account of their having to sustain the maintenance of their own chapel. Thursley was adjudged to represent one third of the parochial area/population, but it was decided in light of their dual burden that its residents should only pay one-sixth of the cost of repairs to the nave of the parish church. This whole episode is made all the more remarkable by the fact that it was unknown up until now – indeed, from reading the accounts in the Victoria County History and Alan Bott’s 2003 guidebook Witley and Thursley Parish Churches, such dereliction (and eventual repair) was not even suspected.

More details on this edition and other publications of the Surrey Record Society, and how to buy them, can be found here.

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