England Sacrament Certificates, Compton Census 1676 (National Institute)

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The original content for this article was contributed by The National Institute for Genealogical Studies in June 2012. It is an excerpt from their course English: Non-Anglican Church Records  by Dr. Penelope Christensen. The Institute offers over 200 comprehensive genealogy courses for a fee ($).

Sacrament Certificates[edit | edit source]

One of the requirements of the Test Act, in force from 1672-1828, was the production of a sacrament certificate recording when and where the bearer took Holy Communion as testified by the clergyman, churchwarden and two witnesses. Some relating to the Home Counties are at the PRO but most will be with Quarter Sessions at the county level. I possess copies of three such certificates for my 8th great grand uncle Zachary Dashwood, necessary for his position as an officer of HM Customs in Exeter, Devon:

18 May 1673 in St. Martin’s parish (shown below).
11 Jul 1680 in St. Sidwell’s parish.
13 Jul 1689 in Holy Trinity parish.

Chart: Sacrament Certificate for Zachary Dashwood 1673
[Courtesy Devon Record Office]

We John Prince Minister of the Parish and Parish Church of St. martin in the county of the citii of Exon [Exeter] and Nicholas Tripe Church Warden of the same Parish and Parish Church, do hereby certify that Zach. Dashwood one off the officers of his Maties Customs in the Port of Exon upon the Lords Day commonly called Sunday, the Eighteenth day of May Last Past immediately after Divine Service and Sermon, did in the Parish Church aforesaid receive the Sacrament of the Lords Supper according to the usage of the Church of England. In witness whereof we have hereunto subscribed out Hands the said Ninth day of June in the Year of out Lord, One Thousand, Six Hundred Seventy and Three.

John Prince Minister of the Parish and Parish Church of St. Martin In the Countie of the Citii of Exon
Nics Tripe Church Warden of the said Parish and Parish Church
Francis Oliver of the Countie of the Citii of Exon Gentleman and Thomas Lane of the Countie of the Citii of Exon Joiner do severally make oath, that they do know Zachary Dashwood in the above written Certificate named, and who now present hath delivered the same into this Court: And do further severally make Oath, That they did see the said Zachary Dashwood receive the Sacrament of the Lords Supper in the Parish Church of St. Martin In the Countie of the Citii of Exon in the said Certificate mentioned; and upon the Day, and at the time in the said Certificate in that behalf certified and expressed: And that they did see the Certificate above written subscribed by the persons above named” And farther the said John Prince and Nicholas Tripe do say upon their respective Oaths, That all other matters or things in the said Certificate recited, mentioned or expressed, are true, as they verily believe.
Jurat’ in Curia [signed]                  Tho: Lane
1Jur. 14 Jul. 73                            Fran: Olliver

Compton Census 1676[edit | edit source]

Fears about the resurgence of Catholicism, as well as the need to assess the true extent of nonconformity after the relaxation of conditions in 1672 led to the taking of the Compton Census in 1676. It was authorized by Archbishop of Canterbury Sheldon who wanted to show that the extent of Nonconformity was not as great as was commonly supposed.

The Compton Census of 1676 was carried out under the supervision of Bishop Compton of London. It asked for the total number of parishioners or families, recusants (Catholics) and Nonconformists in each parish of the province of Canterbury. As the question regarding total number of inhabitants was not very clear it is not surprising that it was interpreted differently in the returns. Some gave number of families, others the number of persons over 16 (a standard estimation in those days), and others the total population. Some subtracted the recusants and Nonconformists and gave number of Anglicans for this answer. There were likewise problems in differentiating popish recusants and those suspected of being so, and probably other groups as well. That said, the surviving returns are considered to at least reflect the local distribution of dissidence, if not the actual numbers in each parish (Chalklin). An example of numbers occurring in some Diocese of Rochester, Kent parishes is shown below . During 1678 the eccentric Titus Oates was responsible for a supposed Popish Plot to kill Charles II, replace him with his Catholic brother James. It created a wave of anti-Catholic hysteria which influenced legislation for years. The 1683 the Rye House Plot to murder Charles II and his brother James implicated a number of Whigs, regarded as friends of Dissenters, and thus once again hindered the progress of toleration.

Chart: Compton Census of Kent Parishes

Parish Anglican Papists Nonconformists
Bromley 755 1 7
Cudham 190 - 6
Chelsfied 360 -
Deptford 4,107 -
Erith 200
Eltham 325
Lewisham 550
North Cray 80


Information in this Wiki page is excerpted from the online course English: Non-Anglican Church Records offered by The National Institute for Genealogical Studies. To learn more about this course or other courses available from the Institute, see our website. We can be contacted at wiki@genealogicalstudies.com

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