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Taylor Sims Discovers Riches in Salisbury

This past summer Taylor Sims (History) spent two weeks in the U.K. exploring several archives relevant to her research on women, gender, and the English Reformation. From London to Salisbury to Chippenham, she put her MEMS Summer Grant to use exploring archives at various levels of national, church, and diocesan administration. Starting in London, she worked in the National Archives at Kew, the British Library, and the London Metropolitan Archive. With a variety of manuscript sources, including lay subsidies, wills, court records, sermons, and saint's lives, she was able to analyze every-day, local, and gendered experiences of religious continuity and change.

Since Taylor's dissertation project focuses on the Diocese of Salisbury from 1450-1600, she also visited the Salisbury Cathedral Archive. Here, she was able to explore a relatively underutilized source base on social, economic, and pious networks in Salisbury and its parishes. The Cathedral Library also provided surprising sources, including dynamic manuscripts that reflect both consistent and changing local theological concerns. Before arriving in Salisbury, Taylor had not anticipated how rich the archive would be, since her project is not primarily concerned with cathedral administration or Salisbury as the seat of power. However, the prescriptive and descriptive sources she found make the sixteenth-century parish life more legible than she had hoped. While in Salisbury, she also spent a morning in the parish church of St. Thomas & St. Edmund, viewing the medieval stonework, paintings, and memorials.

Taylor went on to Chippenham to visit the Wiltshire & Swindon History Centre (the Wiltshire Record Office) to access churchwardens' accounts, visitations, and confraternity rolls. Here, she worked with late fifteenth and sixteenth-century parish records and focused on local dynamics in the county of Wiltshire. Several of the churchwardens' accounts were too fragile to handle; but with the help of understanding archivists, she was able to access most of her sources and compile a substantial source base for her dissertation. While in Chippenham, she was also able to explore the village of Lacock, with its fourteenth-century parish church, tithe barn, and late medieval houses.