Catholic Records

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This is a backup of the West Yorkshire Archive Service's "Off the Record" wiki from 2015. The live went offline in 2016 and remains unavailable.

Following the Reformation and the establishment of the Protestant Church of England by King Henry VIII, the Elizabethan Recusancy Laws were introduced to make dissenting Catholics conform. Persecuton of Catholics began after the Reformation. The 1559 Act of Uniformity of Common Prayer and Administration of the Sacrament made attendance at church compulsory and non-attendance punishable by fine or imprisonment.

Catholics that refused to submit to this Act became known as 'popish recusants' (the word recusant was derived from the Latin 'recusare' meaning to refuse). Additional resources were given to local Justices of the Peace to prosecute popish recusants and constables were responsible for producing lists of dissenting Catholics known in their parish.

The West Riding Quarter Sessions include various records of popish recusants, including indicments, orders, bills and petitions:


Description Dates Reference Repository
Warrents for popish recusants (Skipton) 29 Apr 1679 QS1/18/10/7/4 Wakefield
Warrents for popish recusants (Rotherham) including one against George Fox of Fulwood; and 6 certificates from parish officers relating to the recusants' appearance at Quarter Sessions 29 Apr 1679 QS1/18/12/7/4 Wakefield
Constable of Stainland ordered to make return of Papists Jan 1681 QS1/20/2/8/8 Wakefield
John Fox, bailiff of Wakefield, petition for Manor of Wakefield re a Papist prisoner Robert Seale about whom Thomas Kershaw (also a Papist) made enquiries and Mr Waterson paid for Seale's release Jul 1681 QS1/20/6/6/16 Wakefield
Lists and certificates of Roman Catholics failing to take the oaths of abjuration, allegiance and supremacy, also parchment register of Roman Catholics by name giving details of their real estate and other records. Further information can be found at Quarter Sessions: Enrolment, Registration and Deposit 1714-1829 QE28 Wakefield


The collection of Catholic baptism, marriage and burial registers held by the WYAS are mainly microfiche copies of original volumes that remain in the possession of individual churches. Please note registers less than 100 years old are not open to the public. Further information relating to Catholic records is available in WYAS Collections Guide 5.