Church dedications and landed units of lordship and administration in the pre-Reformation diocese of Worcester
One of the few quantifiable measures available for any study of society in the medieval period, other than economic and fiscal data, is the evidence of shared beliefs and values as expressed through the cult of saints. The chronology and geography of this phenomenon, of which one aspect is the dedication of churches, forms a vital, but often mishandled class of evidence for tackling a range of fiscal and historical issues relative to patterns of settlement, community, lordship and patronage, trans-national as well as insular. This thesis concentrates on a single region, the pre-Reformation diocese of Worcester, which is generally agreed to have been coterminous with the early Anglo-Saxon kingdom of the Hwicce, because it is both rich in medieval documentary evidence, and provides a sufficiently large corpus of evidence to provide reasonable amounts of data for statistical interrogation and/or intuitive judgement. This study therefore exploited medieval documentary evidence, chiefly wills, of which more than 600 were examined, but also including episcopal, legal and other records in transcript and in printed editions, in addition to evidence already published in the Victoria County Histories. The results were collated in a dataset of evidence for the dedications of churches and other foci of religious observance. Since churches operated as integral parts of the medieval systems of community, economy, and administration, the study attempts systematically to identify the superior settlements of the region in successive medieval periods, and to suggest a reconstruction of early landed units of lordship and administration within which the region's chronological and spatial patterns of dedication may be further examined. A variety of published sources was used for this part of the investigation. The results of the database collation, set against the evidence for superior settlements and landed units, form the basis for a discussion of chronological and spatial patterns of cult observance. In conclusion, the study identifies areas for further study, and suggests ways in which such an approach may be applied in other regions so as to provide a tool for historians tackling a range of issues. The dataset and spatial evidence form an appendix. The dataset is available on disk for other researchers to interrogate.
Jones, Graham Roderick, “Church dedications and landed units of lordship and administration in the pre-Reformation diocese of Worcester,” Centre for English Local History Theses and Papers, accessed April 12, 2021, https://elhleics.omeka.net/items/show/19.