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Source material: Churchwardens' accounts

Alongside the manor, the parish was one of the dominant units of local government during the pre-industrial period. One of the most substantial of the parochial offices, that of the churchwarden, stretches back into the medieval period. Churchwardens had a range of functions within the local community and were usually elected on an annual basis, often in pairs and without remuneration. Pre-Reformation churchwardens' accounts are extant for a few parishes, but the earliest surviving records usually date from the 17th and 18th centuries.


From 1593 the Halifax parochial churchwardens' accounts are incorporated in the parish register, but from 1620 the accounts are kept in a separate volume. Printed extracts are available for the period 1620-1832. Elland accounts have survived and are in print from 1648 to 1750.


The chief areas of responsibility of the churchwardens included the care of the church fabric, bell ringing (to celebrate occasions of local and national rejoicing), the relief of destitution, the administration of burials, the destruction of vermin and the maintenance of law and order within the church precincts. The accounts can provide valuable insights into the religious and political developments within a local community and within the country as a whole over much of the early modern period.

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