One of my blog entries last year talked about the Chapter Act books, the minutes of Chapter meetings in the medieval period. Chapter, chaired by the Dean, is the Cathedral's primary decision making committee regarding the organisation and running of the Cathedral. Salisbury Cathedral’s earliest surviving Chapter Act book starts in 1329 and like all the early medieval Chapter Act Books is written in Latin on parchment (animal skin). Latin continued to be used in the official written recrods into the 18th century when English takes over – from then on the minutes are much easier to read!
I thought it would be interesting to look a Chapter Act Book from more recent times - the 20th century - although by now they are referred to more prosaically as Chapter Minute Books.
The Chapter Minute book in the picture above dates from 2 January 1935 to 25 November 1942 and is bound is a material giving the appearance of leather but which actually wears away quite easily. It is rather handsomely secured with a buckle.
Typically Chapter minutes would cover such subjects discussed at meetings as: new appointments, matters regarding the upkeep and maintenance to the Cathedral and Close, reports from the Clerk of Works and financial matters etc. This particular volume also contains an account of the enthronement of Bishop Ernest Neville at a meeting on 16 May 1936. Following the meeting a letter of protest appears to have been received from the clergy under the Rural Dean of Abbotsbury “against the treatment melted out to them on the occasion of the Bishop’s enthronement”. Unfortunately the minutes do not tell us what their objections are – often this is the frustrating part when looking at archives - as the really interesting details are not recorded!
As this volume covers the Second World War period there are also references to Cathedral staff being called up for military service and the Cathedral valuables such as Library books and archives being moved to secure storage – firstly out of the Cathedral to secure storage in the Chapter Offices in the Close and later to Westwood Quarry in Bradford Upon Avon. The Clerk of Works report on page 428 also refers to minor damage to windows during an air raid and to fire watching duties by the Home Guard. Other more trivial references are to the purchase of amplifiers and a lawnmower!
Images of several of these entries in the book can be seen in the accompany gallery.