Churchwardens' Vouchers/Receipts from St Dionis Backchurch (PP)

A bill for the cost of a parish event or meeting, recording £3 8s spent on wine, and a further 1s 8d on tobacco.  The bill is signed by parish officers and members of the vestry. St Dionis Backchurch, Churchwardens' Vouchers, 1683-1739, London Metropolitan Archives, Ms 11280/Box 2, LL ref: GLDBPP307000065.


The manuscripts in this category derive entirely from the parish of St Dionis Backchurch and are essentially miscellaneous in character, reflecting the daily workings of a small urban parish. The content of this category of documents is similar to that of Miscellaneous Papers (PM).

Loose Bills and Receipts

The two boxes of churchwardens' vouchers reproduced here form the most ephemeral of parochial records, including simple scraps of paper with notes of items ordered and amounts paid or received. In effect, these files contain the detritus of eighteenth-century administration; the sort of material that would normally have been thrown away once its purpose had been served, or the information transferred to an Account Book (AC). In themselves, each scrap of paper contains only the slightest quantum of information, but collectively they form a foundation upon which a clear understanding of parish administration can be built.

A page listing payments made by the parish of St Dionis Backchurch to both individuals and other parishes.  Each item is signed or marked by the recipient. St Dionis Backchurch, Receipt Books, 1706-60, London Metropolitan Archives, Ms 4220/1-2, LL ref: GLDBPP307020017.

Receipts Book

Receipts books of the sort reproduced here are not commonly found in parochial archives, and the existence of this volume reflects the high standard of record keeping achieved by St Dionis Backchurch. In it, every item of expenditure undertaken by the churchwardens and overseers of the poor is recorded, and the recipient of each payment was then asked to sign the entry by way of creating a receipt. The inclusion of numerous pre-printed receipts, filled in by hand and pasted into the volume, reflects the working practices of the parish officers who would normally have a pad of blank receipts always to hand, ready to be completed.

A page of entries recording the payment of quarterly annuities in the spring of 1763 to four different women of between £2 and £6 each. St Dionis Backchurch, Receipt Books, 1759-82, London Metropolitan Archives, Ms 4224/1, LL ref: GLDBPP307030046.

Annuity Receipts

In a practice that is extremely rare, St Dionis Backchurch administered a series of annuity backed pensions for parishioners. For a sum of anywhere between £100 and £500 a parishioner could purchase from the parish an annual income for life either for themselves or for someone else. In effect this created a parish-backed pension scheme for middling sort and wealthy men and women. The initial purchase price was paid to the parish and used to cover ongoing expences, while the pension was paid from the rates. It is possible that St Dionis Backchurch was following the lead of the Mercers' Company, which ran a similar scheme from 1700 onwards.1 In effect this system meant that once the beneficiary died, the parish gained the initial purchase price as a charitable support to parish relief. This circumvented the conditions of the Mortmain Act of 1736,2 which attempted to protect the rights of heirs against the practice of death bed charitable giving. The volume reproduced here takes the form of a receipts book, recording the distribution of quarterly payments to annuity holders.

Introductory Reading

  • Boulton, Jeremy. Welfare Systems and the Parish Nurse in Early Modern London, 1650-1725. Family & Community History, 10:2 (2007), pp. 127-51.
  • Hitchcock, Tim. Down and Out in Eighteenth-Century London. 2004, ch. 6.
  • Neate, Alan Robert. The St Marylebone Workhouse and Institution, 1730-1965. Rev. edn., 2003.
  • Snell, Keith D. M. Parish and Belonging: Community, Identity, and Welfare in England and Wales, 1700-1950. Cambridge, 2006.

Online Resources

For further reading on this subject see the London Lives Bibliography.

Documents Included on this Website

  • St Dionis Backchurch, Churchwardens Vouchers, 1683-1727, London Metropolitan Archives, Ms. 11280/Box1, LL ref: GLDBPP30701, Tagging Level: D
  • St Dionis Backchurch, Churchwardens Vouchers, 1727-1739, London Metropolitan Archives, Ms. 11280/Box2, LL ref: GLDBPP30700, Tagging Level: D
  • St Dionis Backchurch, Receipt Books, 1706-60, London Metropolitan Archives, Ms. 4220/1-2, LL ref: GLDBPP30702, Tagging Level: D
  • St Dionis Backchurch, Receipt Books, 1759-82, London Metropolitan Archives, Ms. 4224/1, LL ref: GLDBPP30703, Tagging Level: D


1 For an analysis of the evolution of annuities in this period detailing their economic rationale and workings see Edmund Cannon and Ian Tonks, Annuity Markets (Oxford, 2008), ch. 6.

2 9 George II c. 36.