Libri Causarum

This class of documents record the main business of the Consistory Court (also known as the Bishop's Court). They cover the various offences and disputes which come under spiritual jurisdiction.


The main surviving records (and the only ones which I have closely examined) begin with a bound volume originally titled Lib Causar ab 1659 ad 1704 which was initially referenced within MS10194 under Libri Causarum 1659-1704. This book however almost entirely contains documents between about 1695 and 1704, and it therefore appears the title contains a careless error. The series (all under MS10194) continues throughout the eighteenth and into the nineteenth century. Within a volume the records are organised in roughly chronological order.


It is clear that records of the Consistory Court were kept throughout the 17th century and perhaps before (since these are sometimes referred to in later documents). Dr Hunt (on the Borthwick Institute website) mentions one other Libri Causarum survival (before 1695). This covered the years 1627-34. It is possible that others are still in existence.


Format of the Records


The Liber Causarum volume which I examined (1659/1695-1704) contains many loose papers which have been bound together. These are predominately documents relating to specific cases (such as petitions to and declarations by the bishop, testamentary issues, disputes over tithes, trials for adultery, witchcraft etc.). Sometimes a summary of the evidence of each of the witnesses in a court case is given, typically with one paragraph per witness. Documents relevant to the bishop (such as Deeds recording his purchase of land, accounts and also commissions by the Lord of Man) are included too.