Glossary of Terms

1715 Oath Act

'An act for the further security of his majesty's person' (1 George I, c. 13) wherein holders of certain public offices were required to take the oaths of allegiance, supremacy and abjuration as defined in the Act. [Back]

1723 Oath Act

'An Act to oblige all Persons being Papists..., and all Persons... refusing or neglecting to take the Oaths appointed for the Security of His Majesty's Person and Government..., to register their Names and real Estates (9 George I, c. 24). The Act required 'every Person and Persons' to swear loyalty oaths to King George by 25 December 1723. Those who refused to take the oaths were to registers their estates by 25 March 1724. Individuals who refused to either swear their allegiance or register their property risked forfeiting their estates. The oaths administered were those of allegiance, supremacy and abjuration. See Appendix 1 for an abridged text of the act. [Back]

Association Oath

The name given to the loyalty oath administered in 1696 following an attempt to assassinate William III. Though only holders of public office were required to pledge their loyalty, in some parts of the country the rolls were subscribed by most residents of substance. The majority of the Devon rolls for 1696 are located in The National Archives among the Chancery records (class mark C213/68-92). The remainder can be found at the Devon Heritage Centre as part of the Quarter Sessions series (QS20/1). [Back]

Catholic Taxation Act

'An Act for Granting an Aid to His Majesty by laying a Tax upon Papists' (9 George I c. 18). The Act received royal assent on the same day as the 1723 Oath Act. A controversial measure championed by Robert Walpole and opposed by many MPs, it sought to raise a levy of £100,000 from Catholic estates. This was in addition to the double Land Tax already levied Roman Catholics. The sum to be raise from the Catholic community in Devon was set at £613 16s, with a further £5 14s 8½d to be obtained from Catholics in Exeter. Catholics were defined as those who had refused to take the oaths of allegiance, supremacy and abjuration. [Back]

Clerk of the Peace

The official responsible for keeping the records of the Quarter Sessions and framing presentments and indictments. The clerk was often a member of the local gentry and treated his office as a sinecure, appointing a deputy to do the work. Both clerks and their deputies were normally attorneys with their own private practice. [Sources: John Richardson, The Local Historian's Encyclopaedia (2nd ed., New Barnet, 1986), 158; Lilian J. Redstone and Francis W. Steer (eds), Local Records: their Nature and Care (London, 1953), 125-129.] [Back]

Convocation of the Church of England

The two Convocations were ancient assemblies of bishops and clergy of each archdiocese, summoned by the crown. In 1697 Francis Atterbury wrote A Letter to a Convocation Man. This claimed that Convocation had historically been summoned simultaneously with Parliament, and that the failure to do so since 1688 was unconstitutional. The Letter was motivated by perceived threats to the established Church, and called for the convening of Convocation to defend the church. When Convocation convened in 1701 the majority of representatives of the inferior clergy supported a strong line against dissent. However, the majority of bishops in the upper house supported greater leniency. This led to heated debates between the two parties, and after 1717 the body ceased to meet, only being convened again briefly in 1741. [Source: Stephen Brumwell and W.A. Speck, Cassell’s Companion to Eighteenth Century Britain (London, 2001), 99-100]. [Back]

Exeter (castle at)

Rougemont Castle was a royal castle administered on behalf of the crown by the Sheriff of Devon. Therefore, despite its location within Exeter it was administratively part of Devon and served as the centre for local government in the county. Members of parliament were elected at the castle, and the county Justices held their meetings there. [Back]

Exeter (city of)

The city of Exeter comprised the thirteen parishes within the city walls, three lying outside the walls (St. David, St. Sidwell and St. Edmund) and three partly within and partly without (St. Mary Steps, Holy Trinity and Allhallows-on-the-Wall). This area comprised the county of Exeter, and formed a separate administrative unit to Devon itself. Therefore, inhabitants of the nineteen Exeter parishes were required to swear their oaths before the city Justices at the Guildhall in Exeter. [Back]


The Hanoverians succeed to the English throne following the death of Queen Anne in 1714 under the terms of the Act of Settlement. George I was succeeded in 1727 by his son George II. The Hanoverian period continued until the death of William IV in 1837. [Back]

Incorporated Borough

Devon contained eleven boroughs that held royal charters in 1723. These towns were entitled to run their own affairs, with separate Justices presiding over borough Quarter Sessions. The eleven boroughs were: Barnstaple, Bideford, Bradninch, Dartmouth, Great Torrington, Okehampton, Plymouth, Plympton, South Molton, Tiverton and Totnes. The names of the 1723 oath-takers are known for Great Torrington and Tiverton only. The Torrington oath-takers are recorded on separate rolls held in the North Devon Record Office. Tiverton's Royal Charter was suspended in August 1723, one result of which was that the town's inhabitants were required to swear their oaths before the county Justices. Lists of oath-takers are not known to have survived for the remaining nine boroughs. [Back]


Supporters of the Stuart dynasty exiled after James II's flight from England in December 1688. They strongly maintained the principle of the monarchy's hereditary succession; that James and his heirs, appointed by god, were rightful kings of the British monarchies in spite of their Roman Catholicism. Their belief in divine right monarchy led them to attack the Revolution settlement of 1689 and the Hanoverian succession of 1714 as illegal and even blasphemous. Voicing Jacobite sympathies provided an outlet for those discontented with the governing regime, while Jacobitism exacted powerful emotional appear upon Tories and Anglicans anxious over the legality and consequences of the Revolution of 1689. Often receiving aid from France or Spain, the Jacobite 'Pretenders' James Francis Edward Stuart and Charles Edward Stuart conspired to recover their lost thrones. There were unsuccessful Jacobite risings in Britain in 1689-91, 1715-16, 1719, and 1745-6. [Source: Virtual Norfolk. Reproduced with kind permission.] [Back]

Justices of the Peace

An office established by the crown in 1361, the monarch appointed Justices usually from among the nobles, county gentry, or more rarely, the clergy. They acted as overseers of local government, presiding over the Quarter Sessions courts and administering the Poor Law. [Source: Virtual Norfolk. Reproduced with kind permission.] [Back]

London Gazette

The official government newspaper that first appeared in February 1665/66 as the Oxford Gazette. Richardson, Local Historian's Encyclopaedia notes that, 'It was, and continues to be, an official publication dealing with royal engagements, church, legal, civil, naval, and military appointments as well as recording business company formations and dissolutions together with bankruptcies'. [Source: John Richardson, The Local Historian's Encyclopaedia (2nd ed., New Barnet, 1986), 95.] [Back]


Non-jurors were High Churchmen or Anglicans of the late seventeenth century who refused to take the oath of allegiance to William III and Mary II after their succession to the throne in 1689. They maintained the notion of the Divine Right of kings, believing James II and his male offspring to be the legitimate line of succession. Eight bishops, 400 priests and numerous laymen refused the oaths. Many of them endeavour to maintain an alternative Church of England with illegal serivces. . [Source: Virtual Norfolk. Reproduced with kind permission.] [Back]

Oaths of allegiance, supremacy and abjuration

The three loyalty oaths administered in 1723 in accordance with the act of 9 George I c.24, and as defined in the previous act of 1 George I c. 13. The text of the oaths is reproduced in Appendix 2. [Back]

Quarter Sessions

The meetings of the county Justices of the Peace, held four times a year. They originated in 1361 when Keepers of the Peace were made into Justices and empowered to determine cases as well as to bring them. They began to meet quarterly in 1363. Aside from dealing with criminal cases, the sessions settled matters of county administration such as the Poor Law and repair of highways and bridges. The Devon Quarter Sessions covered the entire county with the exception of the incorporated boroughs, which held their own sessions. The city of Exeter was a county in its own right, and therefore also had its own court. [Sources: Virtual Norfolk. John Richardson, The Local Historian's Encyclopaedia (2nd ed., New Barnet, 1986), 157.] [Back]


One of the two main parties that dominated politics from the late seventeenth century to the mid nineteenth century. The term is derived from a derogatory describing Irish bandits, and was used by the Whigs to blacken the court supporters of James Duke of York during the Exclusion Crisis. They were deeply attached to notions of divine right monarchy and strongly attached to the Anglican church, perceiving them to be the guardians of the religious, political and social order. Firmly entrenched in power in 1685, James II's Catholic policies compelled most to grudgingly accept the Revolution of 1689 to safeguard the Church of England, although many had difficulty accepting William III as rightful king. In the 1690s country Tories attacked the Whig Junto as corrupt, condemning the toleration of Dissenters and the expense of the war against France. They emerged as 'the new Tory party' under Robert Harley, enjoying more power in government during Queen Anne's reign (1702-1714). However the party was increasingly split over the Hanoverian succession, and the extremist Tories who embraced Jacobitism allowed the Whigs to blacken the whole party as Roman Catholics and adherents of foreign powers. They remained an opposition in parliament and few returned to government office until the 1760s. In the later eighteenth century they were more loosely organised, some aligning with various Whig factions, some with existing governments, some maintaining a country or independent viewpoint. Many strongly supported William Pitt's ministry opposed to the French revolutionaries, although Pitt's government cannot be accurately termed Tory until after his death in 1806. Out of the early nineteenth century factions, emerged the Toryism of Sir Robert Peel, the man credited with establishing the ideology of Conservatism. [Source: Virtual Norfolk. Reproduced with kind permission.] [Back]


One of the main two political parties in Britain between the late seventeenth and mid-nineteenth centuries. The name derives from a derogatory term applied to Scots covenanters which was used by the Tories to blacken the enemies of James Duke of York during the Exclusion crisis. Initially populist in their ideology, Whigs championed the causes of popular sovereignty and contractual monarchy, maintaining the people's right to resist tyranny. They were strongly supported by Protestant Dissenters, whose ambitions for religious toleration they championed. Whig principles helped shape the Revolution of 1689, and during the 1690s aristocratic court Whigs experienced political power, distancing themselves from their country brethren who remained critical of the government and joined the new Tory party under Robert Harley. Firm adherents of the Hanoverian succession, the Whigs tightened their stranglehold on power in the early eighteenth century, ruling through an oligarchy of great Whig families, including the Townshends and Walpoles. However Whig discontent with Walpole's government grew in the 1730s and forced Sir Robert Walpole's resignation in 1742. By the mid 1750s the old style Whigs under Pelham lost favour and from 1760 George III removed many from office. During the 1760s most statesmen were loosely termed Whigs, but the Whig stalwarts rallied as an aristocratic country party under the Marquis of Rockingham. During the 1770s they championed the causes of economic reform and a reduction in royal power. In 1782 they briefly formed a government, ended by Rockingham's sudden death. In 1783 they supported the Fox-North coalition, but were eclipsed by William Pitt the younger who formed a government of non-party Whigs. The 'Rockingham' Whigs split in 1794, the conservative led by the Duke of Portland supporting Pitt's administration, with the radicals under Charles James Fox remained opposed to the war with revolutionary France. The Foxite Whigs kept alive the party's reforming traditions and contributed to the ideas behind the Great Reform Act of 1832. The Whigs submerged into the liberals in the mid-nineteenth century and the term largely disappeared from political discourse thereafter. [Source: Virtual Norfolk. Reproduced with kind permission.] [Back]