Archive of the Month August 2014 – Consents to Alterations in Churches – index online

Mary Furlong works on the Consents to Alterations list

A long running project to index the records of consents to alterations in churches has recently been completed in the RCB Library by Mary Furlong, Library Administrator. All 26 volumes of consent forms, covering the years 1876 to 2012, have been indexed, and the complete index can now be viewed online as August 2014’s Archive of the Month.

As the introductory text explains, prior to disestablishment the fabric of the church, its ornaments, furniture and fittings were under the jurisdiction of the bishop and could only be altered by obtaining a faculty from the bishop’s court. Most of the records of the ecclesiastical courts were destroyed in the fire in the Public Record Office in 1922 and so there is little surviving documentation about pre–disestablishment church alterations. However, for the post–disestablishment period the Representative Church Body’s records of the consents to alterations (which replaced the pre–disestablishment faculty system) provide a substantial and sustained record of church alterations.

The 40th Canon of the Church of Ireland (Chapter iv of the 1871 Statutes), which dealt with the ornaments of the church, required that no change would be made to the structure, ornaments or monuments of a church without the consent of the incumbent and select vestry, and the bishop or Ordinary. In pursuit of this, in 1876, the Representative Church Body, provided advice on how potential applicants should proceed, circulating parishes with information about how they should act. This circular became the ‘Form of Certificates of Consent to Alterations’ which when signed by incumbent, the secretary of the select vestry, the architect and the bishop was sent to the RCB for approval. In the RCB the returned forms were organised alphabetically by parish on a diocesan basis, and eventually bound into volumes. It is the contents of these volumes which have been indexed and which provide valuable information on alterations to church structures some of which may not otherwise be recorded.

The consents are likely to be of interest to local and parish historians, architects and genealogists. In themselves they are a useful source of miscellaneous pieces of information about churches and their contents but used in conjunction with parish records and especially with the on–going efforts to complete the online catalogue of the architectural drawings of churches in the RCB Library, available on they they have the potential to add considerably to our knowledge of the built heritage of the Church of Ireland.

For further information please contact:

Dr Susan Hood

RCB Library
Braemor Park


Dublin 14

Tel: 01–4923979

Fax: 01–4924770


Issued on behalf of the RCB Library by:

The Church of Ireland Press Office

Church of Ireland House

61–67 Donegall Street


Tel: (028) 9082 8880

Fax (028) 9032 3554

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