Annual Report 1989-90

Message from the Chairman of the Patrons

1. Director's Report

2. Project Reports

  i Feeding the City: London's impact on the economy of southern England c.1200-1350
  ii Epidemics and Mortality in the Pre-industrial City: Florence and London compared
  iii From Counting-House to Office: the evolution of London's central financial district 1690-1870
  iv Bibliography of Printed Works on London History to 1939
  v The Jobbing System of the London Stock Exchange: an oral history
Appendices I Patrons
  II Advisory Committee
  III Associate Supervisors of Projects
  IV Staff of the Centre
  V Publications
  VI Sources of Funding


It is encouraging to see from this Annual Report the considerable advances that the Centre has made with its existing research programme, and with its plans for future work. The staff are to be congratulated on their evident level of commitment and enthusiasm in spite of continuing worries about their financial security. Finding adequate funding for these important investigative projects, and for their inevitable administrative costs, is still proving difficult, though the Centre has cause to be grateful to several London institutions and firms for recent donations. I hope that others will soon follow their lead, enabling the work to go on shedding light on metropolitan London's complex and fascinating past, that history which still continues, and moulds all our lives today.

Sir Kit McMahon

[1988-9] [1990-1] [1991-2] [1992-3] [Back to Contents]


During 1989-90 the Centre for Metropolitan History made steady progress with the programme of work begun in the previous year, and consolidated its position as a focus for the study of London and other metropolises, serving both the University of London and the wider community in Britain and abroad. A new research project was added to the four already in being. At different times during the year the Centre had a staff of nine or ten, all but one employed on short-term contracts. Reports on the projects, written by the staff involved, will be found in the second part of this report.

The crowded conditions in the basement of 34 Tavistock Square were alleviated by the acquisition of a further room, and there should be more improvements in the Centre's accommodation during the forthcoming year. This gain in working space was somewhat off-set by a welcome enlargement of our computing facilities. During the year the Centre was linked to the JANET network, through which it now has access to the University's mainframe computer and, lines permitting, to databases and facilities in many more far-flung locations. Computing has loomed large in our lives this year, not least because of the logistical problems of setting up and using the equipment, but the advantages, in terms of everyday efficiency and of opening up new prospects for historical research, are apparent to all. The advice and assistance of the University of London Computer Centre is gratefully acknowledged.

The programme of research covers a wide range of topics and periods relevant both to London and to metropolitan life in general. In time, it ranges from 1270 to 1986, and its subjects so far embrace agrarian specialisation in the metropolitan hinterland, the impact of epidemic disease, the emergence of the city's central financial district, and the jobbing system of the Stock Exchange. The Centre's bibliography of London History is proving ever more useful to outside enquirers, and its guide to biographical listings of Londoners will be published soon. The seminar series, focusing this year on 'Poverty and Health' and 'Conspicuous Consumption' brought together metropolitan historians both professional and otherwise. Papers covered attitudes to diphtheria in Paris, Berlin, and London, hospital reform in modern London, public health in the eighteenth century, plague in Florence, and changing patterns of mortality in London, under one theme; along with William Morris and the marketing of his products, princely building projects in eighteenth-century Paris, aristocratic consumption in thirteenth-century London, the design of eighteenth-century textiles, and the idea of luxury in late Stuart London, under the other theme. A special seminar or conference was held on the findings of the project on the jobbing system of the Stock Exchange: it promoted a lively debate among former jobbers and historians. The Centre also organised a session on 'Regions, cultures, and societies' at the Anglo-American Conference of Historians.

The seminar themes for the forthcoming year are 'Commerce and Industry' and 'Entertainment'. Conferences are being organised on 'Newspapers as a source for metropolitan culture' (February 1991), 'Metropolitan Folklore' (March 1991), and 'Anglo-American publishing in the late twentieth century' (July 1991). All three are intended to open up debate and to help define topics worth investigating in the subject of metropolitan culture. In this connection, some preliminary thought was given to a possible investigation of London's role in the 'Republic of Letters' in the period 1670-1750, by means of an analysis of the private ownership of books in London, Amsterdam, and Paris, and of the dissemination of books (and ideas they represented) between those three cities.

During the year efforts were made to develop the Centre's research programme in a variety of ways. An application to the Economic and Social Research Council (ESRC) for funds to extend the study of the city's central business district during the nineteenth century was unsuccessful, as was one to the Wellcome Trust: study of sickness and welfare in the immigrant Huguenot community. On the other hand, with the help of our Patrons, funds have been raised for an investigation of the origins and development of a small number of the palatial headquarters which financial institutions erected in the heart of the City during the mid and later nineteenth century. This will add depth to the findings of the 'Counting-House to Office' project, and will provide a link between that and what we h is a forthcoming study of 'Office Life and Environment in London, 1870-1980'. The Pasold Fund has made a grant to the Centre for a study of the City's textile marketing district during the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries. In this way hope to build up a series of studies of the specialized business districts in the city the results of which can be brought together in a general consideration of transformation of the city in that period, of patterns of work there, and of the relationship between its business and the wider world. The Centre was also successful in obtaining grants which will ensure the completion of its bibliography project over the next two years. After that the bibliography will be kept up to date, but is intended to devote the main effort of the bibliography team, funding permitting to projects such as that long planned on eighteenth-century legal records, which will explore hitherto little known and intractable sources and make them accessible to historians. Plans were also laid for a series of studies arising from the 'Feeding the City' project, examining the impact of London on its agrarian hinterland in later periods, and at different aspects of the interaction between metropolis and region.

The ESRC made a grant for a major new project to begin in 1990-91. This will be a study of 'Metropolitan London in the 1690s', when the metropolis, after a period of exceptionally rapid growth, was poised to assume its future role as a world centre of trade and finance. As a result of the heavy and innovative taxation of those years, there is a uniquely comprehensive body of records concerning householders and their families in London, their occupations, their wealth, and their places of residence. One outcome of the study will be a social atlas of the metropolis, providing an invaluable benchmark for investigations of its longer-term development.

The story of these successes and failures illustrates one of the principal difficulties faced by an enterprise like the CMH, that of maintaining continuity in its staffing and in the pursuit of its objectives. Sources of funds are unpredictable, the processes of applying and of awaiting a final decision are often elaborate and protracted, and some of the principal funding agencies do not yet recognise the need to contribute towards the cost of the overheads which are an essential component of this type of endeavour. Perceptions of the wider financial situation, and of political priorities, can also enter into the picture. There is no easy solution to the problem, but it was in the hope of securing longer-term funding for a part of the Centre's programme that the Institute of Historical Research entered the ESRC's 'Designated Research Centre Competition' with a proposal that the CMH be one of the new Designated Research Centres. The proposal was not successful.

The director of the CMH was able, in addition, to pursue several of his own lines of research arising principally from his earlier work on the economy, society, and topography of medieval London. A paper on the spatial arrangement of food marketing, and the buildings provided to accommodate it, was given to an international conference in Venice. A study of the distinctive and substantial 'Wardrobes' of late thirteenth-century London, used by aristocratic landlords as bases for the purchase and management of luxury goods, and for doing other business in the city, was presented to the Metropolitan History Seminar. In preparation for the future work on the metropolitan hinterland, a preliminary investigation was undertaken of the ways in which, during the Middle Ages, London appears to have contributed towards moulding commercial and manufacturing specialisation among the small towns of its region. This will appear first in the proceedings of an Hungarian conference on small towns. A short paper was written on the widows of London tanners before the Black Death, sparked off by earlier work on retailing in Cheapside. The Centre' s improved computing facilities enabled a systematic analysis to be undertaken of spatial patterns in land values in the Cheapside neighbourhood over the period 1300-1630. Contacts were also maintained with German historians working on Hanseatic towns' trade. These may lead to collaboration in a study of the Hanseatic community in London and its environment

A major event in the director's year was the transfer of the archive concerning the detailed study of Cheapside, the suburb outside Aldgate, and other areas of the medieval city from the Museum of London to the CMH, where it will be available to scholars for consultation. An extension to the memory in the form of 48 filing drawers containing over 50,000 large, closely written slips, still far from exhausted as a research tool, is a sobering item for daily contemplation.

There were several staff changes during the year. Bernard Attard joined us in order to interview the former jobbers. At the end of the ESRC support for the 'Counting-House to Office' project Jon Lawrence left us, and joined a research team in Cambridge investigating welfare and public health in London and other European capitals during the First World War. Justin Champion was appointed to a teaching post at Royal Holloway and Bedford New College, where he will be able to continue his work on the plague in London, writing up the results of that side of the project. Towards the end of the year Janet Barnes joined us in order to help with that work.

Links with scholars and organisations with interests similar to ours, in both the British Isles and overseas, were maintained and extended throughout the year. There has also been a steady flow of enquiries (which we are usually able to answer) from members of the public and from journalists. Links have been particularly close with the Associates of the Centre, acting as supervisors and advisers in connection with existing projects, and in planning new ones. As already indicated, our Patrons have provided wise guidance and effective support.

[1988-9 Report] [1990-1 Report] [1991-2 Report] [1992-3 Report] [1993-4 Report] [1994-5 Report] [1995-6 Report] [1996-7 Report] {1997-8 Report] [Back to Contents]



This project, which commenced in September 1988, seeks to examine London's role as a catalyst of economic and agrarian change in the period 1250-1350, the century preceding the arrival of the Black Death. London's development as one of the largest urban centres of medieval Europe must have placed considerable demands on its rural hinterland to ensure adequate supplies of human and animal foodstuffs and of fuel and building materials. 'Feeding the City' aims to study the effects of this demand by using the rich documentary sources which survive for rural England from this period.

The project is now entering its third and final year, archive work is drawing to a close and from now on the emphasis will be firmly on analysis and writing up of results.

The first part of the past year was spent in statistically and cartographically interrogating results from the database assembled from Inquisitions post mortem. This meant many weeks toiling in front of computer screens, but in the end it was felt that the results were worth the effort. The geographical coverage of the IPM data is particularly satisfactory. In the ten counties which comprise our study area (defined on Figure 1 with a black line) there are few gaps and those that exist can be explained by natural features or patterns of landholding. As IPMs concern the lands of lay tenants in chief of the crown, they are less plentiful in areas characterised by extensive ecclesiastical land ownership, for example, the Soke of Peterborough.

Fig 1. map showing distribution of IPM
extents, 1270-1339
Fig. 1 Distribution of IPM extents, 1270-1339

These factors must also be taken into account when we look at the numerical breakdown of extents by county (Fig. 2).

Fig. 2 picture of pie chart of distribution of IPM
extents by county, 1270-1339
Fig. 2 Distribution of IPM extents by county, 1270-1339

The GIMMS mapping package has been used to produce simple distribution maps of resources which are documented in the IPM extents, for example, windmills and watermills (Figs. 3 and 4) or more complex relationships between value of land uses (Fig. 5).

Fig. 3 map showing distribution of watermills
Fig. 3 Distribution of watermills

Fig. 4 map showing distribution of windmills
Fig. 4 Distribution of windmills

The technique of grid-square analysis is particularly helpful when studying ratios between value and area of different land use resources. The study area is divided into 10x10 kilometre squares and the information from the extents which fall into each grid square is meaned to produce one figure. Thus, Fig. 5 illustrates the importance of grassland vis-à-vis arable in terms of the ratio of mean aggregate values at grid-square level. The darker the shading, the greater the relative importance of grassland in value terms. This particular distribution has some features which seem to reflect the influence of the metropolis on its hinterland. Thus grassland appears to have been a highly valued resource very close to London, where it would be used to fatten livestock ready for sale and consumption in the city. There was a further concentration of highly-valued grassland at a much greater distance from London, in Oxfordshire and Northamptonshire, and also in Kent. These may have been stock rearing areas, or ones where cattle brought from very much further afield were exchanged and fattened before being sent on to London. A single analysis cannot provide definitive answers to such questions, but many different analyses of land uses and values can be compared, and combined with more detailed information of local farming practice, so as to give us a convincing picture of the agrarian system and its specialisation in the hinterland of the capital.

Fig. 5. map showing mean ratio of value of
grass to arable (by grid square)
Fig. 5. Mean ratio of value of grass to arable (by grid square)

This period of analysis and mapping was followed by another long stretch in the archives. While all the IPMs are kept in the Public Record Office, the other major source for the project, demesne account rolls, are much more scattered. This meant some enjoyable and productive weeks spent in Canterbury Cathedral trawling the extensive collection of accounts for Christ Church priory as well as visits to the ten county record offices and college archives in Oxford and Cambridge. London archives such as Westminster Abbey, Lambeth Palace, and of course the PRO, still provided us with valuable source material.

In all, we hope to collect information from between 450 and 500 demesne accounts representing about 200 manors and a variety of owners, geographical location and make-up.

Although the data from the account rolls have not yet been systematically analysed, certain characteristics of the study area are beginning to emerge, and metropolitan influence does seem to play a key role in shaping zones of specialised production. One striking picture which is emerging is of a zone of specialised fruit and vegetable production quite close to the capital. Middlesex, Surrey and east Berkshire manors with good transport links to London marketed significant quantities of garden fruits, honey, nuts and verjuice (a liquid made from unripe grapes and widely used in pickling and cooking). For example, the earl of Lincoln's manor of Holborn specialised in producing fruit (apples, pears, cherries), vegetables (leeks, onions, garlic) and wine for the metropolitan market.

Another interesting, although not unexpected feature which is well documented in our sources is the importance of water transport in general and of the river Thames in particular, for bringing supplies of grain into the capital. If the population of London was as large as 100,000 in 1300, as many as one million bushels of different grains would be needed to supply its requirements. Many of the big grain producing manors in south Oxfordshire and Buckinghamshire sent grain overland to Henley where London merchants are known to have had granaries and other interests. From Henley the grain would have been conveyed to the capital by boat. Wood products, such as bulky timber for construction and faggots for firewood, were also transported by water whenever possible.

Fig. 6 drawing of a baker at the oven, temp.
Edward I (Assisa Panis, 21 Edw. I-16 Henry. VI)
Fig. 6 A baker at the oven, temp. Edward I (Assisa Panis, 21 Edw. I-16 Henry. VI)

Preliminary results from the project were presented at the winter conference of the British Agricultural History Society, the Medieval Economic and Social History seminar at the University of Oxford and the CMH workshop on 'Regions, Cultures and Societies' at the Anglo-American Conference of Historians. Work is also proceeding on a number of publications, including one based on the workshop paper and intended as an introduction to the project and a study of land-use in the metropolitan hinterland based on IPM material. There are also plans to publish a catalogue of surviving medieval manorial accounts for the study area and interest has been expressed both by editors of local history journals and the List and Index Society. Further seminars, conference papers and publications are planned to publicise the work of the project as widely as possible.

This three-year project is funded by the Leverhulme Trust and is undertaken in conjunction with The Queen's University of Belfast.

[1988-9 Report] [1990-1 Report] [Publications arising from project] [Feeding the City II] [Back to Contents]


This is a comparative research project, intended to assess the impact of the last outbreaks of plague on two of the larger metropolitan centres in seventeenth century Europe: Florence in 1630-1 and London in 1665.

Within each city, parishes have been selected for study so as to provide a range of social and environmental conditions, from the more affluent to the very poor. Evidence for the incidence of plague and other deaths has been examined in relation to surveys which reveal the character of the local communities: a household census for Florence and the Hearth Taxes and some other assessments for London. During the past year the basic information has been entered into computerised databases for both parts of the project, analysis has been completed for most of the material and several papers have been presented to research seminars in British universities and at the International Economic History Conference in Leuven, Belgium.

The Florentine Plague, 1630-1

The study area corresponds to the parish of S. Lorenzo, which contained about 15 per cent of the city's population. Here there was a substantial concentration of artisan families engaged in the city's clothing industry, as well as an aristocratic quarter, an area notable for its high density of housing, and large numbers of men and women living within religious houses.

Records entered into the database include: detailed lists of households visited by the public health authorities during the autumn of 1630, when the epidemic was at its height; lists of individuals taken to the Lazzaretti (isolation hospitals) between autumn 1630 and the official end of the plague period in summer 1631; burial registers of plague victims throughout the period; and the house-by-house census of the parish in 1632. Two additional sources have been discovered, and will also be analysed in a similar way. The first, compiled as the epidemic was getting under way, lists those inhabitants who lived in insanitary conditions, defined as sleeping on the floor without a mattress or as living near a house with a leaking cesspit or well. The second is a survey of the rental value of properties in the area. It was compiled in 1648, but nevertheless provides a good guide to the character of each street seventeen years earlier.

In analysing this material, an initial attempt to link information concerning individuals was abandoned, on account of the differences between the records in the level of detail provided, their different temporal coverage, and the fluidity of naming practices among the Florentine population. Each source, therefore, has been treated separately, but in a way which will allow the results to be compared. For example, it is possible to reconstruct a detailed social and occupational profile of each street, and to compare this with the records from the autumn of 1630, which can be used to trace the occurrence of infection street by street, and the size and character of the households which suffered. By contrast, registers of the sick admitted to the Lazzaretti and of burials in the specially designated plague pits (the Campo) outside the city walls generally listed only the names of the victims and their parish of origin.

Even these less detailed sources, however, can be used to identify hitherto unknown features of the epidemic and of the government's reaction to it. For example, the burial registers of S. Lorenzo reveal that the outbreak was already under way by August 1630, well before the government acknowledged the presence of plague and began the official registration of burials of plague victims in the Campo (Figs. 7 and 8). Historians have previously assumed that all plague victims were buried in the Campo. The S. Lorenzo evidence shows that this was not the case, and suggests that previous studies have underestimated epidemic mortality in Florence, possibly by as much as five per cent.

Fig. 7 picture of graph showing mortality in Florence, 1630-1
Fig. 7 Mortality in Florence, 1630-1
Burials within the parish of S. Lorenzo during the epidemic period compared with those of plague victims from the whole city who were buried in the Campo

Fig. 8 picture of graph showing burials in S. Lorenzo
during the plague period.
Fig. 8 Burials in S. Lorenzo during the plague period.
After the peak in August 1630, most plague victims from the parish were buried in the Campo (cf. Fig. 7)

The inhabitants of S. Lorenzo suffered more severely from the epidemic than those of the city overall, for during the autumn of 1630 a disproportionately high number of those admitted to the Lazzaretti (28 per cent) came from the parish. Particularly high infection rates were found in two streets where most heads of household were involved in textile production. In Borgo la Noce, for example, 74 per cent of houses were infected, and in Via S. Zanobi 50 per cent. Borgo la Noce was the more crowded street, where houses occupied narrow plots and contained, on average, 7.6 persons. Conditions in Via S. Zanobi were more spacious, and houses there contained 6.8 persons on average.

These relatively straightforward conclusions concerning the correlation between the incidence of plague and living conditions, and perhaps also the trade of the families concerned, demonstrate the strength of the method adopted. They suggest that it will be possible further to narrow down the combination of factors which might have led to higher or lower mortality in the densely populated urban environment of an Italian city.

The Great Plague in London

This part of the project is based upon a study of a group of parishes representing several different types of social and environmental conditions in the city of London and its suburbs (see Tables 1 and 2). Taxation records provide an indication of the wealth of householders in terms of the number of hearths their houses contained. Patterns of mortality during 1665 have been traced from burial registers for the sample parishes, and for all parishes in London from the weekly 'Bills of Mortality' published by the Parish Clerks. The Bills have also been used to establish the seasonal pattern for the whole of London over the period 1655-1664.

A first stage in the analysis of this material, once it had been entered into a computerised database, was to link the individuals recorded in the burial registers with the households in the taxation records to which they had belonged. Overall, 42 per cent of those buried could be linked in this way (Table 1).

Not surprisingly, the proportion of linkages is much higher for the small, wealthy, central parishes, and is low for large, poor, outlying parishes, like St. Saviour and St. Botolph, where the sources reveal the population to have been exceptionally mobile. The linkage rate is also affected by the degree of plague mortality in the parish expressed as the 'Crisis Mortality Ratio' (CMR: see Table 2).

The CMR is the ratio of the total of deaths in the plague year (1665) to the mean annual total of deaths for the period 1655-64. A ratio of 2 or 3 is generally considered to indicate a crisis year, and that for London overall in 1665 is 5.7. Clearly, in several of the wealthy central parishes (Table 1), mortality hardly approached crisis proportions. The parish of St. Mary le Bow was an exception, perhaps because it contained enclaves of relatively crowded dwellings occupied by artisan families. For this parish, significantly, the linkage rate was the lowest for the central area. In the case of the riverside parish of St. Michael Queenhithe the linkage rate was exceptionally low, lower even than for the poor suburban parish of St. Botolph, where the CMR was higher. Other sources suggest that the parish contained exceptionally large numbers of single men who lived in lodgings, and probably worked as porters and labourers on the quays. Such victims of the plague would not readily be associated by the parish clerk with particular households

Parishes No. of households No. of Burials Burials linked to households Linked to deaths as % of total

Central parishes
All Hallows Honey Lane
St Mary le Bow
St Mary Colechurch
St Stephen Walbrook

Riverside, north
St Magnus
St Michael Queenhithe

Riverside, south
St Saviour, Southwark

Western suburb
St Dunstan in the West

Eastern suburb
St Botolph Aldgate

St James, Clerkenwell






























Table 1 Households, burials, and the linkages between them in the sample parishes, 1665

Parishes Mean no. of hearths per household Deaths per hearth Deaths per household Crisis Mortality Ratio
Central parishes
All Hallows Honey Lane
St Mary le Bow
St Mary Colechurch
St Stephen Walbrook

Riverside, north
St Magnus
St Michael Queenhithe

Riverside, south
St Saviour, Southwark

Western suburb
St Dunstan in the West

Eastern suburb
St Botolph Aldgate

St James, Clerkenwell

























Table 2 The relative wealth of the sample parishes and impact of mortality upon them

The information on the dead and on households thus provides a robust basis for exploring the differential impact of plague in London according to physical and social conditions, and a series of papers on different aspects of this topic will be written over the coming year.

A second group of analyses has concerned the Bills of Mortality for 1665. Taking deaths on a week by week and parish by parish basis, it becomes clear that crisis mortality levels appeared first in the outlying areas of London to the north of the river, and that the epidemic did not have a similar impact within the city walls until some six weeks later. The Bills also indicate that the CMR was greater for women than for men, and that while the peak mortality for men occurred in September the peak for women was about three weeks later. The reasons for this gender differentiation are not clear, but may become apparent after comparison with the parish studies.

The Bills also give causes of death, including plague. If we subtract plague deaths from the weekly totals (leaving totals for 'residue deaths'), it becomes clear that Londoners suffered crisis mortality from other causes (at least as described in the Bills) in 1665 as well as from plague. The peak in the 'residue deaths' occurs a little earlier in the summer than the peak for normal years (cf. Fig. 10 and Fig. 12), suggesting that the 'residue deaths' were of an exceptional nature. Their peak was also in advance of that for deaths attributed to plague (cf. Fig. 11).

Fig. 9 picture of graph showing mortality in the Plague Year, 1665

Fig. 10 picture of graph showing crisis mortality on Residue Deaths, 1665
Fig. 10 Crisis mortality on Residue Deaths, 1665

Fig. 11 picture of graph showing non-plague mortality in
Fig. 11 Non-plague mortality in l665

Fig. 12 picture of graph showing average seasonal
mortality (from 1655-1664 Bills)
Fig. 12 Average seasonal mortality (from 1655-1664 Bills)

Even if we allow for some misdiagnosis, both deliberate and accidental, it seems likely that the outbreak of 'plague' in 1665 (and we are by no means certain of exactly which disease was diagnosed as plague on that occasion) was accompanied by epidemics of other diseases too. Some indication of what those other diseases may have been is provided by identifying those causes of death given in the Bills where there was a sharp increase in the number of victims over the number for normal years (expressed in Table 3 as a Crisis Mortality Ratio).

Diagnosis Average no. of cases 1655-64 No. of cases 1665 Crisis Mortality Ratio Peak weeks during 1665
Bloody Flux
Spotted Feaver





Table 3 Some of the principal causes of death other than plague during the peak period of mortality (approximately weeks 30-42 in 1665).

Particularly notable are those given causes of death which can be associated with childhood and with enteric disorders (e.g. 'teeth' and 'surfet', respectively), where the possibility of confusion with 'plague' seems unlikely. Perhaps, as our problems with linkage also suggest, the outbreak of plague caused serious dislocation in economic and social systems, affecting in particular the care of children and the provision of food. There is also scope for epidemiological investigation of the possible relationship between 'plague' and some of the other major causes of death in 1665.

At the end of the year Janet Barnes joined the project team to assist with the final inputting of data, most notably records for the parish of St. Margaret, Westminster, concerning the distribution of relief to plague victims and their families. This is the only London parish for which such detailed information is available, providing a picture of the impact of plague on individual households comparable to that to be obtained from the Florentine records of the autumn of 1630.

This two-year project consists of two separate but related studies, one funded by the ESRC (concerning Florence and London), the other funded by the Wellcome Trust.

[1988-9 Report] [1990-1 Report] [Publications arising from project] [Back to Contents]


During the eighteenth century London replaced Amsterdam as a world centre for financial, insurance and commodity markets. At the beginning of the period business life in the city still followed an essentially medieval pattern. Commercial activity was based upon the shop, the warehouse and the merchant's residence, specialised premises which might be combined on one site or scattered between several lying close together. By 1870, however, much of the City, and certainly the financial district, had ceased to be residential, and its built environment had been transformed by the construction of massive new commercial premises.

The aim of the project has been to identify the main stages in this transformation, in itself an important measure of the growth and specialisation of the City's business, and to relate that process to the work which was carried out there. Direct evidence as to how city business was done in that period is very difficult to come by, and so the approach adopted has been to create a series of 'snapshot' overviews, at successive dates of the City's financial district, using rate assessment lists, census enumerators' books, commercial directories, and other sources. The area chosen for detailed study is represented by a group of small administrative districts in the city, approximately bounded by Gracechurch Street on the east, by Prince's Street and King William Street on the west, and by Threadneedle Street on the north (Fig. 13).

Fig. 13 Map of the project study
area, showing the five sectors used for analysis
Fig. 13 Map of the project study area, showing the five sectors used for analysis
(Based on the Ordnance Survey 1:2500 map of the City (1873)

The Economic and Social Research Council provided funds for an eighteen-month research project, which came to an end on 31 March 1990. This report covers the closing months of the project, in which the analysis of the basic data continued, and in which some hitherto under-exploited records, including collections of sales particulars for properties in the area were used to gain new insights into its changing character (Fig. 14).

Fig 14 picture of extract from a notice of
an auction sale, 1865

The notice vividly expresses many of the considerations which were in people's minds as the city building boom of the 1860s neared its peak.

Work during the first year identified the main outlines of the changes, which were decidedly uneven (Fig. 15). During the second half of the eighteenth century, the rise in the demand for property, and the amalgamation of sites, were most marked in the immediate neighbourhood of the Bank of England, while other areas only a few minutes walk away seem hardly to have changed.

picture of histograms showing rental values and separately rated properties 1693 - 1871
Fig. 15 The transformation of the central financial district of the City of London
The histograms show the different pace of change in each sector of the district, indicated by the numbers of properties, and their total rental value as given in the 'Four shillings in the pound Tax' of 1693 and in the City's 'Sewer Rate' for later years. The north western sector includes the site of the Bank of England.

The next half century, a period overall of unparalleled growth in the financial services provided by the City, was characterised by more widespread development, most notably along Cornhill. In this period several specialised headquarters buildings were erected for banks and other institutions, but the dominant feature was the conversion of residential properties, many of them elegant and substantial, for use as offices. In the past wealthy City families had often kept 'retiring houses' in the countryside just outside London, but they generally also maintained both residential and business premises in the heart of the city. Now, with the development of luxurious and accessible suburban estates, 'a citizen', as a contemporary observed, 'may ... live in a ... Belgravian or Tyburnian mansion, upon the rent he obtains for the drawing-room floor of the house wherein his ancestors lived for generations.' Some of the great nineteenth-century speculative office developers, such as John and James Innes, began their operations in this market for converted dwellings. Shopkeepers and small-scale traders also benefited from the rising demand for offices: despite steeply-rising rents they were able to remain resident in the area by letting out rooms in their houses for office-space. This appears to have contributed to the City's distinctive political complexion at that time. In some parts of the area, notably in the south-eastern sector, there still survived as late as 1851 networks of alleys where many relatively poor families dwelled in overcrowded conditions.

The final stage in the transformation of the area took place between 1851 and 1871. Palatial headquarters buildings were erected, often with letable office space on the upper floors, but a distinctive feature of the new phase was the speculative block. Ready access to capital promoted both the rapid amalgamation of sites and large-scale building programmes. Even so, the purely speculative developments tended to take place in marginal locations where land values were lower (thereby banishing many of the middling and poorer households which had persisted in the area until then), while the headquarters buildings were erected on prime frontages of the highest value. By 1871 the residential population of the area, which had halved in twenty years, consisted mainly of the messengers, porters, and housekeepers who were needed on the spot to serve and to watch over the new commercial palaces.

While large buildings dominated the street scene, and large blocks of capital had been necessary to bring the transformation about, City business in this period was to a very large extent in the hands of small private concerns. In 1871 there were 2128 businesses in the area, an increase of 18 per cent since 1851, and perhaps of 70 per cent since 1817. There were distinct patterns in the grouping of the firms. Sixty-three per cent of the stock brokers in the area, for example, had offices almost immediately adjacent to the Stock Exchange. In other parts of the district there were strong similarities in the location patterns of businesses which had quite different specialisms, but which nevertheless, in the days before the telephone, seem to have required ready physical access to each other. This 'horizontal integration', a sharp contrast to the 'vertical integration' characteristic of many large-scale enterprises today, seems to have been a particularly important feature of business in the nineteenth-century City of London. The physical environment was moulded by the need to facilitate this form of interaction between independent specialists, whether they were bankers, brokers, merchants, shipping agents or mining engineers. As well as helping us to understand the dramatic transformation of the fabric of the city, therefore, the project has opened up a way of exploring and defining the complex network of associations between firms which will help to explain how the financial sector of the city did its work.

The project established a highly successful methodology, and an application was made to the ESRC for further funds with which to deepen the study of the financial district, and to extend it to a neighbouring area which specialised in the trade in colonial goods. The city's commodity trading areas were very different from its financial district, but they had vital links with it, and during the nineteenth century were equally transformed by large-scale rebuilding. Unfortunately, the application was not successful. Some funds were raised, however, which will allow studies to be undertaken during 1990-1 of some of the great financial headquarters, and of the textile wholesaling district.

Some of the main results of the study of the financial district will be published in an article which is now in the process of being revised.

This eighteen-month project was funded by the ESRC

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Work on this project continued methodically through 1989-90, with the result that the bibliography now contains over 18,500 entries for books and articles on all aspects of London history. Considerable use has been made of it, not only by other members of the CMH staff, but by outside enquirers who have written or rung to ask for booklists on subjects as diverse as London swimming pools and public baths, Italian merchants in London from 1300-1600, women in London politics, and seventeenth-century clock- and watchmakers. A select list of new articles and books from the database is regularly supplied to the London Archive Users' Forum for their Newsletter, and an annual round up of new publications is planned for the London Journal.

Progress was necessarily slowed down in the first half of 1990 because of Heather Creaton's period of study leave, and the fact that the original ESRC grant for the research assistant's salary expired at the end of December 1989. Other funding applications were under way, but until their outcome was known we were obliged to retain Tony Trowles on a part-time basis only from January to July 1990. He divided his time between Queen Mary College, where he organised short courses on London history including one on maritime London, and the Centre, where he was able to deal with many bibliographical queries, adding missing information to some of the entries and looking at individual articles and books to clarify content and coverage. In the summer we fortunately obtained grants from English Heritage, the Corporation of London and the Society of Antiquaries. From 1 August 1990 a further two year grant from the ESRC became available, and work could go ahead again at full strength. Visits have been made to many of the London boroughs' local history departments, often for days on end, to collect material from their catalogues and enter it direct onto the database using a portable computer. In the case of some of the larger borough collections the work has taken weeks rather than days. Library staff across London have continued to be most co-operative and hospitable, finding us desk space in their busy offices, and providing welcome advice and assistance from their local knowledge. A great quantity of relevant titles has been found on these visits. At Southwark Local Studies Library, for example, we added 524 items to our lists, and at Bromley another 778.

In the course of the year we have been approached by both Cambridge University Press and the Library Association with a view to arranging the publication of the bibliography in book form. Preliminary discussions are under way, and we are also giving serious thought to the idea of issuing the data on disk.

Much consideration has been given to the eventual classification scheme to be used in the published volumes, a complex question and one which is not capable of a final decision until the total span of collected material can be assessed. We calculate that this stage will be reached during the forthcoming year. Final editing and indexing can then begin.

This continuing project has been assisted by grants from the ESRC, the Corporation of London, English Heritage, and the Society of Antiquaries

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The project had its origins at the Metropolitan History Seminar in 1987 in a paper given by one of the its co-supervisors, Dr David Kynaston, on recent developments in City history. It became apparent that while several histories of stockbroking existed there were none of jobbing and, indeed, that few records of the London Stock Exchange's unique jobbing system had survived. Until the system ended in 1986 the functions of jobber and broker were distinct, the jobbers providing the brokers with a continuous market in stocks and shares, being prepared to buy and sell as required.

The project's first aim, therefore, was to produce a record of the jobbers and their way of life by using oral history methods to create an archive of approximately forty recorded and transcribed interviews with former jobbers and others brokers, journalists, fund managers - who came into contact with them, directly or indirectly, through the stock market. The project was originally planned to run for a year. The British Library National Sound Archive and the Sound Records Department of the Imperial War Museum advised about equipment and interviewing techniques. The National Sound Archive will ultimately provide a home for the collection and in the meantime has given the Centre invaluable technical and moral support.

The project started in October 1989, with interviews commencing in mid December. The programme was completed in mid-October 1990, with forty-two interviews and approximately seventy-three hours recorded. Many of the interviews were conducted at the Institute of Historical Research, others in the participants' homes or at the offices of the major securities houses in the City. Interviewees have come from diverse social backgrounds, confirming the view that jobbing was a profession open to anyone with trading ability. They have ranged in age and experience from septuagenarians whose working lives started in the 1930s to the middle-aged who entered the market in the 1960s. A total of forty-four individuals (one interview involving three people) have participated, the detailed breakdown of occupations being: thirty-two jobbers or managers of jobbing firms, seven brokers (including representatives of the government broker), three journalists, a unit trust manager and a merchant banker.

Although by the end of the single capacity system only twelve London and five provincial jobbing firms still existed, thirty firms are represented in the direct experience of those interviewed, including the five major firms at the time of Big Bang, a number of the smaller firms still trading in 1986, and several partnerships which have long disappeared. These firms have also spanned the major markets in the post-war Stock Exchange: domestic equities, international stocks (e.g. American, South African and Australian) and gilts.

Apart from the jobbers themselves, the importance of including the representatives of the other major participants in the securities industry - the broking houses, institutional investors, regulatory authorities and financial press - was recognised. While invaluable as additional sources of information, they have also allowed us better to weigh the relative importance of the jobbers in the City and to create a sense of the wider market extending beyond the walls of the Stock Exchange.

Following the interviews, transcripts are prepared which are then sent to the interviewees for final checking. The interviewees are also asked to assign copyright in their contribution to the CMH. As anticipated, the transcription work has proved both time-consuming and labour-intensive, and it was found necessary to employ a transcriptionist on a part-time basis to assist the Centre's administrative assistant, Olwen Myhill. It has also not been possible to finish this stage within the year originally alloted. Over half the interviews have now been transcribed and it is hoped that this work will be substantially complete by the end of 1990.

The project's success has depended to a great extent upon the enthusiasm, goodwill and cooperation of a large number of people. Suggestions about whom to interview have been made primarily by the jobbers themselves, and the response of those approached has generally been positive, with only a small number declining to be interviewed on tape. This support was visibly demonstrated on 23 May 1990 at the Institute of Romance Studies, when over half of those who had then been interviewed attended a special seminar to review progress, which also drew together academics, oral historians and others interested in the project.

The strength of oral history is its immediacy, flexibility and capacity to capture evanescent detail which would otherwise be lost. Its limits lie where matters of confidence or sensitivity relating to the recent past occur. Nevertheless, taken as a whole the interviews are an impressive collection of human documents grouped around the common experience of jobbing in the London Stock Exchange over the past half-century. They record the careers of all sorts and conditions of men, and through them the art and technique of jobbing, the working of a marketplace, and the history of firms.

Importantly, the interviews also document the development of the modern Stock Exchange, particularly the two most recent stages. The first, running from the immediate post-war years (when the structure of Stock Exchange was still recognisably that of the 1930s) to the early 1970s, was one when the number of jobbing firms declined dramatically and the senior partners who could be described as the 'architects' of the modern jobbing system expanded their firms to cope with both the vagaries of the managed economy and the demands of the increasingly institutional investors who dominated the market. It was a period nevertheless in which many of the traditions of the pre-war market survived. During the second stage, signalled conveniently by the opening of the new Stock Exchange building in 1972 and running to the early eighties, the jobbing system was increasingly threatened by its contraction into a small number of firms, by the growth of a global securities market which drew business away from London, by tensions with brokers in an often adverse economic climate, and by the desire of other City institutions either to join the Stock Exchange, or to bypass it altogether.

Besides this picture of an often dynamic stock market, the interviews allow us insight into aspects of the functioning of the Stock Exchange as a physical market place. In particular, three themes have emerged: firstly, the structure of the market, and the nature and effectiveness of competition, both when jobbing firms were numerous and as their numbers declined; second, the relationship between jobber and broker, simultaneously adversarial and collaborative, finely graduated according to the scale of business, and ultimately based upon the quality of personal relationships; and finally the importance, sources, circulation and influence of information - whether this be about particular stocks, a large order, or the price opposing jobbers were quoting.

In view of the success in compiling the archive, it has been decided to proceed with the publication of a history of the jobbing system based principally upon the interviews, but also drawing upon existing printed and archival sources.

This project has been funded so far by the International Stock Exchange, Barclays de Zoete Wedd and Warburg Securities

[1988-9 Report] [1990-1 Report] [Publications arising from project] [Back to Contents]




SIR KIT MCMAHON, Chairman, Midland Bank plc


MR STUART LIPTON, Stanhope Properties plc

MR PETER PALUMBO, Chairman of the Arts Council

MR MICHAEL ROBBINS, C.B.E., Chairman of the Board of Govemors, Museum of London


THE BISHOP OF STEPNEY, The Right Reverend J.L. Thompson

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THE DIRECTOR OF THE INSTITUTE (Professor F.M.L. Thompson, M.A., D.Phil., F.B.A.)

G. ALDERMAN, M.A., D.Phil., Professor of Politics, Royal Holloway and Bedford New College

T.C. BARKER, M.A., Ph.D., Emeritus Professor of Economic History

B.M.S. CAMPBELL, B.A., Ph.D., Lecturer in Economic History, The Queen's University of Belfast

M.J. DAUNTON, B.A., Ph.D., Professor of History, University College London

R.J. DENNIS, B.A., Ph.D., Lecturer in Geography, University College London

P. EARLE, B.Sc. (Econ.), Ph.D., Reader in Economic History, London School of Economics

N.B. HARTE, B.Sc. (Econ.), Senior Lecturer in Economic History, University College London

M.M. HEBDITCH, M.A., F.S.A., F.M.A., Director, Museum of London

J.M. LANDERS, B.A., Ph.D., Lecturer in Anthropology, University College London

M.H. PORT, M.A., B.Litt., F.S.A., Professor of Modern History, Queen Mary and Westfield College

E.A. WRIGLEY, M.A., Ph.D., F.B.A., Fellow, All Souls' College, Oxford

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BRUCE M.S. CAMPBELL, B.A., Ph.D. (The Queen's University of Belfast),'Feeding the City'

JOHN HENDERSON, B.A., Ph.D. (CMH and Wolfson College, Cambridge), 'Epidemics and Mortality'

MARTIN DAUNTON, B.A., Ph.D. (University College, London), 'From Counting-House to Office'

DAVID KYNASTON. M.A., Ph.D., 'The Jobbing System'

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Director: DEREK KEENE, M.A., D.Phil. (Oxford)

Deputy Director (and Editor of Bibliography): HEATHER CREATON, B.A., M.Phil. (London), A.L.A.

Administrative and Research Assistant OLWEN R. MYHILL, B.A. (Birmingham), Dip. R.S.A.

Feeding the City: London's Impact on the Agrarian Economy of Southern England. c.1250-1350:
Researchers: JAMES A. GALLOWAY, M.A., Ph.D. (Edinburgh); MARGARET MURPHY. B.A., Ph.D. (Trinity College, Dublin)

Epidemics and Mortality in the Pre-industrial City: Florence and London Compared:
Associate Supervisor: JOHN HENDERSON, B.A. (Newcastle), Ph.D. (London)
Researcher: JUSTIN A.I. CHAMPION, M.A., Ph.D. (Cambridge)
Data Inputting Assistant: JANET BARNES, B.Sc. (Soc.), B.Sc., M.A. (London)

From Counting-House to Office: the Evolution of London's Central Business District, 1690-1870:
Researcher: JON M. LAWRENCE, M.A., Ph.D. (Cambridge)

Bibliography of Printed Works on London History to 1939:
Researcher: TONY TROWLES, B.A. (C.N.A.A.)

The Jobbing System of the London Stock Exchange: an Oral History:
Researcher: BERNARD P. ATTARD, B.A., M.A. (Melbourne)

BERNARD ATTARD's D.Phil thesis is on the History of the Australian High Commissioner's Office in London, a considerable amount of which has concerned Australian capital raising in the City of London. JANET BARNES's current research interest is in medieval medicine; her M.A. dissertation was on 'Signs of subversion in the Roman de la Rose'. JUSTIN CHAMPION's Ph.D research at Cambridge was on seventeenth century English political thought; his general interest lies in the ideological origins of the English Enlightenment; he is now a lecturer in early modern British History at Royal Holloway and Bedford New College. After varied experience as a reference librarian, HEATHER CREATON edited Writings on British History for many years; in addition to her bibliographical work she runs a regular introductory course for new postgraduate students. JIM GALLOWAY's Ph.D. research examined industry, wealth and mobility in Colchester and its region, 1310-1560; he has broad interests in medieval and early modern historical geography, including the issues of urban development, and industrial and agrarian change. JOHN HENDERSON has written widely on the history of lay devotion, charity and the poor, and plague in late medieval and renaissance Italy, and in particular Florence; he is a Fellow of Wolfson College, Cambridge. DEREK KEENE has written extensively on the society, economy, topography and archaeology of medieval and early modern towns, and especially on Winchester and London; he is a Royal Commissioner on the Historical Monuments of England. JON LAWRENCE's Ph.D. thesis was on popular politics in nineteenth- and early twentieth-century Wolverhampton; he is now working on the social impact of the 1914-18 War on London. MARGARET MURPHY's main research interests lie within the field of ecclesiastical history; her Ph.D. thesis and publications examine the archbishopric of Dublin in the middle ages, covering such themes as piety, administration, and church and society. Apart from grappling with the Centre's computers and administration, OLWEN MYHILL's main historical interest is the impact of religious nonconformity on rural society in the nineteenth century. TONY TROWLES has research interests in the cultural history of London, especially during the eighteenth century; he is writing a D.Phil thesis on the role of the ode in English musical life, 1660-1800.

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Bernard P. ATTARD, 'Politics, finance and Anglo-Australian relations: Australian borrowing in London, 1914-1920', Australian Journal of Politics and History, xxv (1989)

Heather CREATON, 'Starting research in medical history: preparing the ground', Social History of Medicine, iii (1990), 285-9

John HENDERSON, 'Charity in fifteenth-century Florence', in S. Bertelli, N. Rubinstein and C. Smyth (eds.), Milan and Florence: contrasts and comparisons (Florence, 1989)

John HENDERSON (with T. Verdon eds.), Christianity and the Renaissance (Syracuse, 1990)

John HENDERSON, 'Penitence and the layman in early renaissance Florence', in J. Henderson and T. Verdon (eds.), Christianity and the Renaissance (Syracuse, 1990)

John HENDERSON, 'Plague in Renaissance Florence: medical theory and government response', in N. Bulst and R. Delort (eds.), Maladies et société xiie-xviiie siècles (Paris, 1989)

Derek KEENE, 'Continuity and development in urban trades: problems of concepts and the evidence', in Corfield and Keene (ed.), Work in Towns, 850-1850, pp. 1-16.

Derek KEENE, 'Medieval London and its region', The London Journal, xiv (1989), pp. 99-111.

Derek KEENE, 'New discoveries at the Hanseatic Steelyard in London', Hansische Geschichtsblätter, 107 (1989), pp. 15-25.

Derek KEENE, 'The property market in English towns, A.D. 1100-1600', in J.-C. Maire Vigneur (ed.), D'une ville à l'autre: structures matérielles et organisation de l'espace dans les villes européennes (Collection de l'école française de Rome, cxxii, Rome, 1989), pp.201-26.

Derek KEENE (ed., with P.J. Corfield), Work in Towns, 850-1850 (Leicester and London, 1990).

Margaret MURPHY, 'Ecclesiastical censures: an aspect of their use in thirteenth century Dublin', Archivium Hibernicum. xliv (1989). 89-97.

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a) Projects:

  • Bank of England
  • Barclays Bank plc
  • Barclays de Zoete Wedd
  • Corporation of London
  • Economic and Social Research Council
  • English Heritage
  • Guardian Royal Exchange Charitable Trust
  • The Leverhulme Trust
  • London International Stock Exchange
  • National Westminster Bank plc

  • The Pasold Fund

  • Society of Antiquaries

  • Sun Alliance Group

  • The Wellcome Trust

  • S.G. Warburg & Co. Ltd

    b) General:
  • Marc Fitch Fund
  • Mercers' Company
  • Midland Bank plc
  • Museum of London
  • The CMH Accounts for 1989-90 are published as part of the Accounts of the Institute of Historical Research in the Institute's Annual Report

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