The Register of St Osmund | Salisbury Cathedral

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The Register of St Osmund

The Register of St Osmund is one of the most ancient and important manuscript volumes of the Cathedral concerning its foundation and earliest history. It has become known as the Register of St Osmund, not because it was compiled by him but because it contains a record of the statutes, rules and customs made by or enjoined by him to be observed in the Cathedral. Osmund was Bishop of Salisbury 1078 to 1099 and the acknowledged ‘builder and founder’ of the Cathedral at Old Sarum. During its lifetime the Register of St Osmund has also been simply known as ‘Vetus Registrum’ or ‘The Old Register’.


The Register is believed to have been compiled between 1220 and 1240 at the time of Bishop Richard Poore or his immediate successors and while the present Cathedral was under construction. It is written on vellum (calf skin) in abbreviated Latin.


The opening words of the Register calls Osmund felicis memoriae – of blessed memory. The Register is comprised of seven sections:


1. A consuetudinary, describing the forms and ceremonies used in the Cathedral services.

2. A section forming a cartulary ie transcripts of original documents relating to the foundation and rights of the Cathedral such as copies of charters, including the Cathedral’s foundation charter.

3. A record of a visitation of prebendal churches and estates by the Dean illustrating the condition of the churches and clergy in the thirteenth century.

4. Legal documents relating to the various prebends of the Cathedral.

5. A narrative of the removal of the see from Old to New Sarum, of the full organisation of the cathedral body, of the efforts made for the building of the new cathedral, and of its first dedication on the time of Bishop Richard Poore.  Written by the Dean William de Wanda, or at his dictation.  Wanda’s narrative is the principal source for the history of the move from Old to New Sarum.

6. Detailed statement of the election and appointment of Robert Bingham as the successor of Bishop Richard Poore with a number of Papal bulls relating to the see of Sarum, or to the claims advanced by the Church of Rome.

7. List of the various treasures belonging to the cathedral at the beginning of the thirteenth century.


Custodial History


Traditionally the Register has always been recognised as a manuscript belonging with the archives of the Cathedral Chapter however at some point in the past the Register became included within the Diocesan archives - the records of the Bishop of Salisbury as opposed to the records of the Dean and Cathedral Chapter - when the Diocesan archives were kept at Wren Hall in the Close.  When the Diocesan archives were transferred to the County Record Office (now called the Wiltshire & Swindon History Centre) the Register was transferred also.


In March 2014 the Wiltshire & Swindon History Centre (WSHC) very generously offered to return the Register to the Cathedral Archives recognising the unique importance it holds for the history of the Cathedral. The Register has been rebound in the twenthieth century but the original 13th century binding removed during the rebinding has survived. 


Also available in the archive is a handwritten transcription of the Register completed between 1832 and 1833 by W T Alchin. Click here to see the gallery.