The inside cover of the Elizabethan register of St John’s, Ousebridge, York contains the following entry:
Memorandum that John Stoddart, clerk, began to serve in this parish of St John’s at Ousebridge end in August 1591 and doth still serve the same, who also did rule this same parchment book in such form and sort as it is, of his own proper cost, after that it was bought by James Cristalson, being churchwarden, in the year of the reign of Queen Elizabeth etc. 41, anno domini 1599 … price vii s.
The corresponding register of the adjoining parish of All Saints, North Street, where Stoddart became the pluralist rector in March 1594, begins very similarly. These (at least for York) uniquely full registers, supplemented by a set of churchwardens’ accounts from St John’s and the eighty or so wills which can now be traced for the two parishes make it possible to chart the development of a loosely associated group of committed protestants in an area of central York which the arrival of a resident minister stimulated in both a positive and, less predictably, negative way. The story of voluntary religion which emerges is not one of high drama, faction-fighting, or even separation between the godly and the rest, but rather of a sustained and ultimately triumphant attempt of a minority to enrich the spiritual life of their parishes.’