The archive is one of the largest and oldest in England and its important collection of manuscripts comprises the records of Westminster Abbey from the 10th century to the present day. The core of the collection consists of the court records of the Abbey's very large landed estate which was scattered widely across southern and midland England, together with the account rolls of the various administrative officials of the monastery up to 1540, such as the Almoner and Cellarer (around 6,000 rolls), and the Steward and Treasurer from 1560.
But the Muniments also include many other types of document, such as royal charters, minutes of Chapter meetings, leases of Abbey property (lease books from 1486), some records of coronations and funerals, letters (including a large collection of Dean Pearce's correspondence), tradesmens' bills, Hebrew documents, coroners' inquests for the City of Westminster 1760-1880 and much else.
There are description slips and an index to the medieval, early modern and some of the modern archive, which can be consulted in the Library. Also indexes for the three main Abbey cartularies (Westminster Domesday, Liber Niger and St Martin Le Grand) and the seal collection.
A duplicate index of the WAM numbered collection is in the Bodleian Library, Oxford. A duplicate index with description slips, as well as a duplicate of indexes and descriptions for the Westminster Abbey Domesday and Liber Niger cartularies, are at the University of Reading, Whiteknights.
Any documents said to be in the Chapter House at Westminster in older publications will now be at the National Archives. The Chapter House was formerly a repository for State archives until its restoration in the 1860s. The bulk of records on coronations will be in the Earl Marshal papers in the National Archives.
Richard Mortimer Guide to the Muniments of Westminster Abbey, 2012
Lawrence E.Tanner The nature and use of the Westminster Abbey Muniments in Transactions of the Royal Historical Society, 19 (1936, p.43-80).
Barbara Harvey Westminster Abbey and its estates in the Middle Ages, 1977
Books which publish parts of the collection include:
Emma Mason, Westminster Abbey Charters 1066-c.1214, London Record Society 25 (1988).
Barbara Harvey, Documents Illustrating the Rule of Walter de Wenlok, Abbot of Westminster, 1283-1307, Camden 4th series 2 (1965).
M.D.Davis, Hebrew Deeds of English Jews before 1290 (London, 1888)
Monumenta Palaeographica Medii Aevi...Hebrew and Hebrew-Latin documents from medieval England, 2 vols, 2015. (Volume 1 deals with the Abbey collection)
Anne Causton, Medieval Jewish documents in Westminster Abbey, Jewish Historical Society of England, 2007.
G.R.Elvey, Luffield Priory Charters, 2 vols.[Muniment Book 10] , Buckinghamshire & Northamptonshire Record Society 1968, 1975.
Richard Mortimer (ed.), Charters of St Bartholomew's Priory, Sudbury [Suffolk], Boydell Press, 1996.
A.P.Thornton, The Modyfords and Morgan. Letters from Sir James Modyford on the affairs of Jamaica 1667-1672 in the Muniments of Westminster Abbey in Jamaican Historical Review, Oct 1952. [The Sir Andrew King collection including narratives by Adm.Henry Morgan]
Revd.F.T.Wethered, St Mary's Hurley in the Middle Ages based on charters and deeds, 1898
Westminster Abbey Record Series
Charlotte Stanford (ed.) The Building Accounts of the Savoy Hospital London 1512-1520 , 2015
Guide to the Muniments (see above)
Christine Reynolds (ed) Surveyors of the Fabric of Westminster Abbey 1827-1906 Reports and letters, 2011
Barbara Harvey The Obedientiaries of Westminster Abbey and their financial records c.1275-1540, 2002
Tony Trowles A bibliography of Westminster Abbey..guide to literature..published..1571-2000, 2005
C.S.Knighton (ed.) Acts of the Dean and Chapter of Westminster 1543-1609 and Acts..1609-1642, 3 vols, 1997 and 2006
Westminster Abbey Record Series, to order see: www.boydellandbrewer.com/store/listCategoriesAndProducts.asp?idCategory=259
See also websites:
For those covering 1760-1799 only www.londonlives.org Lists for inquests 1800-1880 are in ms. in the Library. A small bundle of Middlesex inquisitions Dec 1783- June 1784 are incorporated in our collection)
Manor and Court rolls
A list is given on www.nationalarchives.gov.uk NRA 41148 but please note this list has since been annotated and added to, so please double check with the Abbey archives.
Denizens Roll 1544 (WAM 12261)
For the names on this 164 feet long roll see www.englandsimmigrants.com (note that this website database does not record wives or children mentioned on the original but is easy to check initially for names). For a facsimile of the publication "Letters of denization...in England 1509-1603" by William Page with full information on entries go to www.archive.org and choose texts page - then search denization and Vol.8 of the Huguenot Society vol. can be viewed with option then to search inside for names.
All the St Margaret Westminster parish registers from 1538 are online at www.findmypast.co.uk
For Church of England clergy see www.theclergydatabase.org.uk
Theses available for consultation in the Library:
"The Royal Almshouse at Westminster c.1500-c.1600" by Christine Fox, 2012
"Reading the liturgy at Westminster Abbey in the later Middle Ages" by Tim Shaw
"Monasticism and the Marian church" (dissertation) by B.J.Hughes, 2003
"Monastic charitable provision in..... England c.1260-1540" by N.Rushton, 2002
"The organs of Westminster Abbey and their music 1240-1908" by D.S.Knight, 2001
"Land, family and inheritance in a later medieval community - Birdbrook 1292-1412" by P.Schofield, 1992
"A Hertfordshire manor [Kinsbourne] of Westminster Abbey - an examination of demesne profits, corn yields and weather..." by D.V.Stern 1978
"Collegiate Foundations 1540 to 1570 with special reference to St Peter in Westminster" by C.S.Knighton, 1975
"The history of the Manor of Islip from 1066 until the Dissolution..." by Barbara Harvey