terrier: comes from the Latin terra meaning land, a terrier is a written survey or list of the lands and other property belonging to an estate
Creating and maintaining a detailed contents register for your church is very important for many reasons:
- for insurance purposes, to make sure you are properly covered and have good records in case of loss or damage
- to help you understand your building and all its contents
- to help you write statements of significance and need
- to help specialists understand the heritage of objects and produce in depth reports or studies
Historical registers can also be an invaluable source for the church or local historian. Full lists of the holdings of each parish were first required in 1571. They vary greatly, but that variation itself can be fascinating as an insight into the social history of the area as well as the holdings of the church.
What to include
An ideal contents register should include:
- a list, description and photograph of everything in the church itself, including its fabric, furniture, plate, bells, books and linens
- a detailed description and photographs of the churchyard, including walls and other features, and perhaps a survey of monuments
- a detailed description and photographs of the parsonage with its curtilage
- a detailed description and photographs of other buildings or land in the parish owned by the church, and of any rents charged
When adding detail or items you should always supplement the current information, and not replace it. This keeps the historical record, as well as maintaining a current register.
How often to update your register
You should check your contents register every year, to ensure that everything is included.
If you purchase or are gifted specific objects or furniture, you should include these as soon as they are received.
For Church of England churches, you should especially ensure that your ‘glebe terrier’ is up to date for your regular Archdeacons visitation, as he/she will want to check it as part of their visit.
Church in Wales: log book, terrier and inventory