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Durham County Record Office: the official archive service for County Durham and Darlington

Vestry Minutes

Information about vestry minutes in Durham County Record Office.

The vestry was the governing body of a parish and derived its name from the room in the church building in which its meetings were held. The vestry appointed the Constable and the Overseers of the Poor, and the Surveyor of the Highways, subject to the approval of the Justices of the Peace.

Vestry meetings were held weekly or fortnightly and the vestry made all the important decisions about the parish, including those about paupers and money.

Vestries could be open, when most parishioners attended, or closed, where a small group of men including the parish officers and usually the incumbent attended. Closed or 'select' vestries were extremely common in the north east and are often referred to as the 'four and twenty' or the 'twelve'.

Minutes were kept of all meetings and they provide a history of the parish and include many parishioners' names.

These records were usually kept in the Parish Chest and have been transferred to the Record Office. Search the Catalogue and type vestry in the Keywords box. .