Find your ancestors in Sussex, Chichester Consistory Court Wills Index, 1482-1800

Was your ancestor’s will proved in the Chichester Consistory Court? Discover an ancestor’s will through this index of 22,173 wills from 1482 to 1800. All wills prior to 1858 were proved within the Church of England courts. The index will provide your ancestor’s residence, occupation and a reference for the original records.

Each record includes a transcript of the original index. The detail in each record can vary but most will include a combination of the following:

  • Name of the testator
  • Status or occupation
  • Year
  • Place – residence of the testator
  • Original text – may contain additional notes
  • Court – the court in which the will was proved
  • Document type – normally either registered will or original will, though both may be available for testators. There are a number of unregistered wills and a few administrations.
  • Document reference – the reference needed to access the original records

For registered wills, the reference includes the volume and the folio, on which the first page of the will appears, for example, STC I/14/358 or STC I/23/100b.

For original wills, the reference includes the file letter followed by the document number, for example, STC II/B 276 or STC II/J 103.

Locating the original documents

Where are the originals held?

The original wills are held at West Sussex Record Office.

What information from the document do I need to locate the original?

  • Testator's name
  • Abode
  • Year of will
  • Document reference

Discover more about these records

This collection is an index to wills proved in the Consistory Court of the Bishop of Chichester and the peculiar jurisdictions within it from 1482 to 1800. Chichester is a cathedral city in West Sussex in South-East England. North of the city you will discover the rolling hills of the South Downs and to the south of the city are the coastal towns Selsey and Bosham.

Before 1858, all wills had to be proved through a Church of England court. The most important of these courts was the Prerogative Court of Canterbury (PCC). The Chichester Consistory Court ranked below the PCC. The jurisdiction of the Chichester Consistory Court extended over the whole of the Archdeaconry of Chichester, comprising the Deaneries of Arundel, Boxgrove, Midhurst and Storrington, and thus covered the western part of the County of Sussex. Discover more about the role of ecclesiastical courts and structure of the church courts by reading Church of England Courts available in Useful Links and Resources on the main search screen.

The original index was published in 1915 as British Record Society Volume 49. We have provided the original introduction to the 1915 volume in the Useful Links and Resources section.

While researching your family’s history it is important to remember that during the civil war and after, the activities of the probate courts of the Church of England were interrupted, and from 1653 to 1660 there was by law only one probate court in England and Wales, the Prerogative Court of Canterbury (PCC). Thus wills for the period 1649-1660 will be found in the Prerogative Court of Canterbury Wills Index 1750-1800.