View Full Version : Clerk of the Peace / Sacrament Certificate

07-07-2015, 3:33 PM
I am now in the middle of the 18th century, and struggling with terminology so I hope some wise heads will be able to help with this.

The Reverend Francis Matson, c1700-1782, served as 'one of the justices of our said lord the king' in the East Riding of Yorkshire. From that I assume that he was a Justice of the Peace. He is the person who heard the case that relates to my family and completed the names/dates/places on the Bastardy Recogizance [not actually a Bond, as originally thought] in the Quarter Sessions on 12 March 1779. When he writes his own name on the document he adds the word 'Clerk'. So it seems, in this instance, he was doing two jobs - sitting as a JP and also writing up the record as the Clerk of the Peace. Was that quite commonplace?

He studied at Cambridge and was ordained in 1731. East Riding Archives hold several Sacrament Certificates that relate to him - 1736, 1739, 1747, 1748. From my limited reading, I understand that a Sacrament Certificate (an oath against the doctrine of transubstantiation, so as to exclude Catholics) was necessary before anyone could hold a public office at this time. So, presumably, Francis had to take the oath in order to be the Clerk. Four of these Certificates have survived. Is there any significance in that? (I am guessing that taking this oath might have been an annual thing - some certificates would survive, but many did not.) In April 1774, there is a record of the qualification oath he took in order to be a Justice. Can anyone throw more light on Sacrament Certificates? (Note: This is just background for my research and I do not want/need to go to the expense of getting photocopies of the originals.)

Finally - Quarter Sessions. Would these invariably have been held in the County town? Or could they move around, in the way that - I gather - the lesser Petty Sessions could?

Many many thanks even for reading this one - I have been going through Herber's Ancestral Trails but it leaves me with more questions than it answers.


Megan Roberts
07-07-2015, 7:05 PM
Where he appears to have written "clerk", it might have been "cleric", as this is something that I have come across on my tree with an ancestor who was a vicar, and then when a found a reference that looked like "clk", I thought like, "clerk of what". I later found that it was short hand for "cleric".

The other questions I can't answer, but I did find this in Encyclopaedia Britannia (which makes a change for Wikipedia):


Peter Goodey
07-07-2015, 8:33 PM

Errr... "Clerk in Holy Orders", surely.

16-07-2015, 3:08 PM
Thank you, both

The Rev Francis Matson would have meant that he was a 'Clerk in Holy Orders', because a Clerk of the Peace was, I believe, required to have formal legal training. (So the problem arose because of my hurried posting without doing a bit of digging first.)

The term - Clerk in Holy Orders - is not much used today but I did notice it in a parish register from the early 1980s, where the vicar officiated at the marriage of his own daughter. On the register, his profession is given as 'Clerk in Holy Orders' and his name was also on the register as the person who conducted the ceremony.