The Archbishops of York usually visited the diocese shortly after their accession, and then every fourth year after that. During a Visitation all the business in the archdeacons' courts was inhibited, and was heard instead by the officials of the Archbishop's court.
The documents that the Archbishops' Visitations generated were:
The Court Books contain comperta (accusations) and detecta (verdicts). Each court book is arranged by rural deanery and calls are included in most of these volumes from the late 17th century. Correspondence and some visitation papers (mainly excommunications and penances) are also to be found inserted in the court books from this date onwards.
These consist variously of presentments (written charges or accusations); commissions; inhibitions; premonitions; excommunications; penances; answers to articles of enquiry; etc.
The Exhibit Books contain the names of all the incumbents in each parish and chapelry within the diocese at the time of the Visitation.
Unfortunately no Court Books have yet been published. There is a current project to provide an online database of cases before the Church Courts of York, but it is unclear if this will contain Visitation cases, see: http://www.churchtimes.co.uk/content.asp?id=40453
What has been published are some of the returns to the Articles of Enquiry, for 1575, 1743, 1764 and 1865. These returns are reproduced below:
1764: Archbishop Drummond's Visitation
Borthwick Texts and Calendars 21, 23 and 26.
1. What number of Families have you in your Parish? Of these, how many are Dissenters? And of what sort are they?
42. No dissenters.
2. Have you any Licensed or other Meeting House in your Parish? How many? Of wha sort? How often do they assemble? In what number? Who teaches them?
3. Is there any public or Charity School, endowed or otherwise maintained in your Parish? What number of children are taught in it? When and by whom was the school founded? Who is the Master or Mistress? What number of children, oys or girls, are taught in it? In what language? Are they cloathed, maintained or lodged? What are they taught? Are they employed in working, and afterwards put out to husbandry, trades or services? And what Care is taken to instruct them in the Principles of the Christian Religion, according to the Church of England, and to bring them duly to Church, as the Canon requires?
4. Is there in your Parish any Alms-House, Hospital, or other Charitable Endowment? Have any Lands or Tenements been left for the Repair of your Church; or to any other pious use? Who has Direction of such Benefactions? How are they managed? Do you know, or have you heard of any abuses or frauds committed in the Management of them? Has there been any augmentation to your church by benefaction or lot from Queen Ann's Bounty, and when? Has there been any purchase of lands etc. in consequence of that augmentation? And what does that purchase consist in, and amount to yearly?
There is an almshouse handsomely endowed with lands, the rents of which are yearly distributed by the Overseer and churchwardens for the time being as need requires. There have been no abuses or fraud committed that I know or have heard of in the management of them. Nothing left towards the repair of the church. An augmentation was made to the church by benefaction in the year 1730, by the best information I can get, which named the Queen's Bounty. No purchase made. [May it please your Grace, after I had answered your fourth querie information was given me that the rent of 3 roods of meadow in Ellerton Ings belonging the poor thereof, value 10s. a year, and which has been paid time out of mind to the above said use, is now withheld by John Newton of Ellerton, the present tenant, and as no writings can be produced to prove its legality, intends to make it a member of his own estate].
5. Do you reside Personally on your Cure, and in your Parsonage House? If not, where do you reside? And what is the reson of your Non-Residence?
No dweling house at Ellerton. My residence is at Aughton, scarce half a mile distant.
6. Have you a Residing Curate? What is his name? How long has he been curate? Is he duly qualified according to the Canons on that behalf? Does he live in your Parsonage House? If not where doth he live? What allowance do you make him?
7. Do you perform divine service in any church besides your own? On what days and at what times is divine service performed in your church? If not twice every Lord's Day, with a sermon in the morning, for what reason?
I do duty in no church but my own. Divine service is performed twice every Lord's Day at 10 and 2 and prayers said on holy days when a congregation can be had, particularly, Aughton in the morning, Ellerton afternoon: the Sunday following, Ellerton in the morning, Aughton afternoon: the third Sunday Cottingwith chapel in the morning, Aughton afternoon, Ellerton empty according to the custom of my predecessor.
8. Do you know of any who come to Church in your Parish that are not Baptized? Or that being Baptized, and of a competent age, are not confirmed? Have you baptized any adults since my coming to be your bishop? If you have, I desire you t exhibit a schedule of their names and ages.
I know of none in my parish who come to church unbaptized, nor any of a competent age who are not confirmed. I have baptized no adults since your coming to be bishop.
9. How often and at what Times do you Catechise in your Church? Do your Parishioners duly send their Children and Servants to be instructed and catechised? Do they learn any, and what, exposition for the better understanding of the church catechism?
4 times a week during the season of Lent. The parishioners are careful in sending the youth to be instructed. I recommend Lewis to the children and Wake to the parents, they have no exposition.
10. How often is the Sacrament of the Lord's Supper administered in your Church? What number of Communicants have you in your Parish? How many of them usually receive? Particularly, how many did communicate at Easter last? Have you refused the Sacrament to anyone? For what Reason? And how has the Person so refused behaved himself since that Time?
4 times in the year. Notice is always given in the church the Lord's Day before. There are 121 communicants in the parish, 32 0r 33 of which usually receive. 23 only received Easter last. The sacrement has not been refused to any one.
11. Have you any chapels within your parish? What are the names of them? How far are they distant from the parish-church? How are they endowed? By whom, and at what times, are they served. Is the curate duly qualified? By whom, and when, was he nominated? Have you any chapel in ruins in which no divine service is performed?
I have no chapel within my parish, nor any in ruins.
12. Have any publick penances been performed in your church since I became your bishop? Do you know of any commutations of penance made by any of your parish within the same time? By whom was it done? For what money? And to what use was that money applied?
No publick penances have been performed, nor any commutations of penance made by any of my parishioners since you became bishop.