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Guide to the Benkeys

Benkeys - The Benefice Keys

The taxatio database was designed to follow the structure of the original assessment. An internal numbering system ensures that dioceses, archdeaconries and deaneries are listed in the same order as in the text. Within the deaneries, however, the order of each taxatio entity is determined by a unique code, its benkey. If you know the benkey of a benefice, you can use the “Browse by benkey” option (listed on the right of the home page) to find its details. This can be useful if you are following up a cross-reference from a note, as these often reference the benkey rather than the benefice name.

The standard benkey

This has four two-character components separated by full-stops. The first three are two-letter codes denoting, in order, the benefice’s diocese, archdeaconry and rural deanery. The final part of the code is a number which follows the order in which the source lists the benefice within its rural deanery.

This is best illustrated by a couple of examples. The first benefice listed in the taxatio, Fordwich in the diocese, archdeaconry and rural deanery of Canterbury, has benkey CA.CA.CA.01. Much further down the taxatio, the benkey for Newton St Loe is BW.BA.RC.04, standing for Bath & Wells diocese, Bath archdeaconry, Redcliffe rural deanery, and the church’s fourth position in the deanery list.

Benkeys with extra characters

The Minute Benefice benkey has an extra character, “U”, preceding the benefice number, eg, WN.WN.IS.U30, the benkey for Yaverland.

This indicates a benefice that was not present in the original taxatio listing because its assessed value in 1291-2 was too low to be taxed (ie, less than 6 marks [£4]). These benefices are usually found in lists which were appended to the original by the diocesan authorities, although a few may have been identified from other contemporary sources - a note will provide the information. These benefice records are added to the deanery list after the benefices listed in the taxatio.

The Late Benefice benkey has an extra character, “X”, preceding the benefice number, eg, WN.WN.WN.X51, the benkey for Winchester, Holy Trinity.

This indicates a benefice that was not present in the original taxatio listing (nor in a minute benefice list) but was added at a later date. As with the minute benefices, these benefice records are added to the deanery list after the benefices listed in the taxatio.

The Additional Benefice benkey has the same format as the standard benkey but with a letter added after the number.

A very rare occurrence, it is used for benefice information which should be listed between two benefice entries but which was found elsewhere in the taxatio. For example, the Deanship of Hereford cathedral, HE.HE.HE.01, is followed in the taxatio listing by text which suggests that the Precentor’s sources of income should be listed next. However, the text cross-references to a benefice listed elsewhere among the Spiritualities, and the Precentor’s other holdings are also elsewhere, listed among the Temporalities.

The decision was therefore made to collect these together into a benefice record positioned after the Deanship record but to avoid altering the numbering of the following “deanery” entries by giving the record the benkey HE.HE.HE.01A. Most additional benefice keys involve decisions of this type. Where there is more than one benefice record to be added into a list, the suffix letters increment alphabetically, eg, also in this “deanery”, there are similar additional benefice records with the benkeys HE.HE.HE.05A - HE.HE.HE.05X.

Uses of zeroes in the benkeys

Totals benkeys are used for records containing deanery totals. These benkeys comprise diocese, archdeaconry and deanery components followed by a fullstop and the code T00.

Eg, CL.CH.CH.T00 is the benkey of the totals record for the deanery of Chester in archdeaconry Chester of the diocese of Coventry and Lichfield.

In addition, where the taxatio contains a line giving the total income for an archdeaconry or diocese, the information is included in the database in a totals record which ends in T00 like those for the deanery totals, and includes the components 00 where no other value is appropriate. Eg, the totals record for the Canterbury diocese has benkey CA.00.00.T00, while the totals record for the Chester archdeaconry of Coventry and Lichfield diocese is CL.CH.00.T00. [Not all dioceses and archdeaconries have totals lines in the taxatio.]

Spiritualities benkeys are for items that are included in the taxatio listings and diocese totals but are not part of the regular diocese hierarchy. Generally, these items are prebends and churches listed as held by diocesan officials. Where they exist, a benefice record or set of benefice records is created for them, and the benkey has zeroes in place of a location code at the relevant level.

Eg, for the Chichester extra-archidiaconal spiritualities, that is, the dignities, prebends and churches of the Cathedral and City of Chichester, the benefice records have benkeys that begin CI.00, followed by code CC for the cathedral and city and benefice numbers as usual, making benkeys CI.00.CC.01-41.

At archdeaconry level, there are a few instances where the listed spiritual income is not linked to any specified holder, so the benefice record has a benkey with diocese and archdeaconry codes followed by two sets of zeroes. Eg, benkey EL.EL.00.00 is used for the record listing the spiritualities of the archdeaconry of Ely.

Similarly, there are a few instances at Deanery level. In these cases, the zeroes are in the final component of the benkey. Eg, the record for the Spiritualities of the Rural Dean of Fincham who has unspecified income of £1 10s 0d has benkey NW.NF.FI.00.

Cathedrals and major collegiate churches do not generally appear in the taxatio lists as separate entities because their spiritual holdings are listed in the records of the churches and benefices which have been annexed to them. Because of this, benefice records and benkeys have been created for them so they are searchable in the database. Each created benkey has diocese, archdeaconry and rural deanery components appropriate to its position in the diocesan hierarchy but with benefice number C00. The record contains the church’s name, dedication and grid-reference, but its value is left as zero, as its holdings are all assessed in other parts of the taxatio.

Eg, benkey SA.00.SC.00 will display the name, grid reference and dedication of Salisbury Cathedral.

Short benkeys

Benkeys for Bishops: like the cathedrals, bishops do not appear in the taxatio as separate entities, their spiritual income being distributed widely in the assessment. Benefice records and benkeys have therefore been created for them, to facilitate the option (in the right-hand Browse menu) to search for Episcopal income. The benkey has the two-letter component for the diocese, followed by zeros for the archdeaconry and rural deanery components and no benefice component at all.

Eg, the benkey for the Bishop of Winchester is WN.00.00.

Benkeys for headings have been created to facilitate the inclusion in the database of lines in the taxatio which have no connection with the benefices or assessment totals. These lines are almost always deanery headings. They have the appropriate two-character codes for their level, but a single zero in place of a benefice number.

Eg, CA.CA.BR.0 is the benkey for the heading line for Bridge Deanery in the Archdeaconry of Canterbury.

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