Parochial clergy of the archdeaconry of Coventry, c.1500-c.1600
This thesis sets out to analyse the size, distribution and character of the clerical profession in the archdeaconry of Coventry between circa 1500 and the close of Elizabeth's reign. The focus of the thesis, therefore, is firmly on the parochial clergy, those priests with whom the laity were in closest day-to-day contact. Although a number of other historians have studied the diocese of Coventry and Lichfield, this thesis aims to investigate in greater depth some of the unique characteristics of Coventry archdeaconry and its parochial clergy. Each chapter follows a partly chronological, partly thematic organisation. Throughout the thesis many points of similarity between old and new, in town and countryside are identified. Chapter 2 delineates the physical extent of Coventry archdeaconry, describes its demographic characteristics and introduces authoritative figures, including the diocesan bishop and the archdeacon. Arguments are also presented in respect of the practical implications of minor orders and of the vexed question of ordination titles. In Chapter 3 the number and deployment of clergy both before and after the severance from Rome are explored. Special attention is paid to the changing fortunes of the unbeneficed. The chapter also examines the adequacy of pastoral care in the light of a re-alignment of ministerial goals. In Chapter 4 the focus moves to patronage as exercised in parochial appointments. Different patronal categories are examined and conclusions drawn in respect of the effects of the monastic dissolutions and whether the re-distribution of advowsons to secular patronage affected the ministry of the parochial clergy. Pluralism is a contentious subject, the extent and effects of which in Coventry archdeaconry are explored in Chapter 5. Benefice tenure is subjected to scrutiny and fresh terrain surveyed in tracing the geographical mobility of parochial clergy.