Guildhall Library Manuscripts Section

Electronic Newsletter

Issue No. 11 Spring 2008


The newsletter is intended to keep you informed about the latest news from the Manuscripts Section of Guildhall Library. It is edited by Philippa Smith, Principal Archivist, Guildhall Library. Please feel free to forward it to anyone you think might like to read it. The newsletter now has getting on for 420 subscribers. If you are not already on the mailing list, and would like to receive future issues, please email us.


Staff news: All Change in the Manuscripts Section!

It’s a business hub! And A gentle start? (first impressions of working at Guildhall Library)

Measuring Up: annual enquiry service statistics, 2007-8; enquiry service  statistics for February-April 2008

PSQG Survey results

Microfilm replacement

Cataloguing news (making inroads into the backlog)

Fires and similar disasters: making a claim on the Sun

The ultimate business network: the London Chamber of Commerce

The Pensions Archive Trust

Guiding the way – from A to A! (more about the General guide to holdings)

Quiz (your chance to win a COLLAGE print of your choice)

One hundred and eleven not out (A Place in the Sun progress report by Isobel Watson)

The Slop-seller’s apprentice (by Richard Howell)

Insights into Jewish genealogy (by Angela Shire)

Guided tours of Guildhall Library (new for 2008 - Clockmakers’ Museum talk and tour)

Forthcoming events at London Metropolitan Archives

Exhibitions: Faces in the Victorian City photographs of people who worked in the City of London, 1850-1900 AND John Claude         Nattes in London, 1765-1822 in Guildhall Library Print Room; Essex Paints London AND Magic Casements – the Keats House  Restoration at Guildhall Art Gallery

Archives for London seminars

We welcome your views!

Contact details


As reported in the last issue of this newsletter, the Manuscripts Section at Guildhall Library is now led by Philippa Smith and Charlie Turpie, who job-share the post of Principal Archivist, Guildhall Library. Since 1 April they have been acting up for Charlotte Shaw, the Head of Archives and Prints and Maps, who is currently on maternity leave, so as well as the Manuscripts Section, Charlie and Philippa are also looking after the Acquisitions and Cataloguing Section at London Metropolitan Archives (LMA).

There have been others changes from 1 April. Matthew Payne has assumed the role of Senior Archivist, City Partners, and is responsible for the management of our City collections, with particular reference to Livery Companies.  He will also be working with colleagues at LMA acquiring familiarity with the City’s own records.

Wendy Hawke as Senior Archivist, Access and Enquiries, is responsible for the day-to-day provision of access and enquiry services in the Manuscripts Section at Guildhall Library. If we have answered a written enquiry from you recently, you will have seen her name at the foot of the reply.

Richard Wiltshire joins the team from LMA in an exciting new role as Senior Archivist, Business Archives, with responsibility for developing and promoting our collections of business records across the two sites.

Archivist Stacey Harmer continues to concentrate mainly on cataloguing.  She assures us that she will emerge from the stores on occasion (blinking mole-like in the daylight and covered with red dust) to deal with microfilming orders and to do her share of enquiry desk duty.

Last, but not least, Sharon Tuff has a new role based at LMA as Senior Archivist, Digital Outreach, which will involve promoting the proposed digitisation service for family history sources (see link below), assisting with events such as London Maze and preparing content for the Manuscripts and LMA websites. She will still be out and about at Guildhall Library organising outreach events, and occasionally helping out on the enquiry desk.

The Manuscripts Section team is completed by information officers Claire Titley and Louisa MacDonald, and strongroom assistant Paul Delaney.

We wish everyone success in their new roles!

It’s a Business hub!

Richard Wiltshire describes his first impressions of working in the Manuscripts Section at Guildhall Library:

Having been appointed Senior Archivist for the outstanding business archives held across the Guildhall and LMA sites, I have already become aware of the international significance of the business records at Guildhall. Inputting Alliance Assurance Company cataloguing into the library catalogue has been an eye opener, not only into the world of cataloguing using a library system, but also into the wealth of insurance material demonstrating the place the City held in the world of commerce. For example, the agents' instruction books for the company (Guildhall Library Ms 38895/1-57) range from Brazil, the Seychelles Islands to the Dutch East Indies.

I have also been busy on the Manuscripts enquiry desk helping users and answering distance enquiries. It is common for readers from various nationalities to be present in the reading room. In late April, we had a researcher who had flown in from Chile for the week to view the Santiago private letter books of Antony Gibbs and Sons, a City-based company which began in the early 19th century and traded overseas, resulting in considerable correspondence with foreign branches. For example, the letter books, dating from 1852-1913, contain outgoing letters from London to Valparaiso, Chile, which by the 1870s had become an important seaport in the Pacific Southwest (Ms 11471/1-83).

In the next few months I will be conducting a cross-site survey of our business archive holdings. If you know of any hidden gems, or have ideas on what you'd like promoted in our collections, I would be very happy to hear from you.


Louisa MacDonald, who has been working as an information officer in the Manuscripts Section since February, having been seconded from LMA, describes her experience of starting work at Guildhall Library:

Well, it was a gentle start, one day on the desk, one day indexing a Lloyd’s Captains Register. Then, having avoided all the cameras that appear so regularly in the public rooms at LMA, I was asked to supervise the filming of a document by the BBC for a Russian documentary and was asked if I could be filmed handing the document over and opening it. Fortunately, it did not involve any talking or looking into the camera and will only be seen in Russia. On the up side, the document concerned was Robert Hooke’s Diary (Ms 1758). For several centuries Hooke was a neglected figure who has been rediscovered over the last ten years or so. Hooke was one of the architects involved in rebuilding the City after the Great Fire, but his contribution has been overlooked in favour of Wren. A number of books are held on this important polymath at both Guildhall Library and LMA. A quick look through the highlights of his life at the beginning of Stephen Inwood’s The Man Who Knew Too Much: The Strange and Inventive Life of Robert Hooke (held at both sites) will give you a good idea of the sheer range of Hooke’s knowledge and discoveries.

I have also dealt with an enquiry regarding William Hychyns’ ordination (recorded in Ms 9531/9). Better known as William Tyndale, Hychyns was the first person to translate and publish the bible in English. For his trouble he was burnt at the stake in Belgium on 6 October 1536. Further information on Tyndale can be found on The Tyndale Society’s website. A number of books are available on Tyndale in the City of London’s libraries (see the catalogue at Of course, ordination records at this date are in Latin and it has been a few years since I was required to translate anything. The frequency with which I use documents that include at least some Latin has rapidly increased in the past few months. I think its time to sit down and relearn it!



The total number of readers to the reading room is slightly down this year. This reflects a very quiet period at the end of 2007 and beginning of 2008 when both LMA and The National Archives (TNA) were closed for refurbishment which generally seems to have discouraged researchers from visiting London. This is the first year that written enquiries (mostly emails) have shown only a moderate increase, although they are still three times what they were ten years ago. We are pleased that we have again exceeded our target by answering 99.5% of enquiries within two days of receipt (our target is 85%) and answering 88% on the day that they were received.

Visitors to the reading room                         7132           (7572 in 2006-7)

Documents produced in the reading room     15734         (17030)

Written enquiries                                          2994           (2936)

Telephone calls                                            2390           (2578)

Enquiry response times: 88% (91.8%) answered on the day of receipt; 99.5% (99.6%) answered within two days of receipt.



The Manuscripts reading room was quieter in March than the same month last year, but February and April both show a year on year increase in visitor numbers. April was much busier on all fronts.

We again exceeded our target of at least 85% of written enquiries answered within two days of receipt, with an average of 99.5% answered within two days over the three month period. The City of London Corporation’s target is 100% within 10 days.

February 2008

722 visitors to the reading room (651 in 2007)

1542 documents produced in the reading room (1544)

268 written enquiries (258)

194 telephone calls (201)

Enquiry response time (target at least 85% answered within two days): 99.8% answered within two days; 89% answered on the day of receipt.

March 2008

593 visitors to the reading room (769 in 2007)

1291 documents produced in the reading room (1491)

225 written enquiries (285)

177 telephone calls (227)

Enquiry response time: 99.9% answered within two days; 81.3% answered on the day of receipt.

April 2008

665 visitors to the reading room (573 in 2007)

1500 documents produced in the reading room (1174)

278 written enquiries (206)

197 telephone calls (161)

Enquiry response time for written enquiries: 98.5% answered within two days; 81% answered on the day of receipt.

PSQG Survey Results

Claire Titley reports:

Results are finally in from the most recent PSQG (Public Services Quality Group) survey, in which the Manuscripts Section participated for one week in November 2007. Described as the most comprehensive survey of archive users in the world by the National Council on Archives, the survey aims to assist archive services to improve their public service.

We participate in a number of surveys as a result of being part of a library (libraries and archives are monitored and assessed by different bodies). As a result, we are always pleased when readers participate in our surveys with such good grace and enthusiasm, especially when all of the other archives in the United Kingdom undertake their PSQG surveys in the same few weeks.

Our results compare favourably with the last survey, which took place in February 2006 (the results were analysed in issue 4 of the newsletter). This time round, 99% of those surveyed said our overall service was good or very good, a slight improvement on last time (96%). 100% of those surveyed said that the quality and appropriateness of the information given by staff was very good or good, and the same number found staff were helpful and friendly.

The comments section of the survey included several kind remarks, “It would be difficult to find a similar situation where the staff are as pleasant and helpful as the staff here”, said one reader, and several commented that staff were very helpful. Those of us on the enquiry desk are very pleased that our efforts do not go unnoticed! 100% of surveyed readers believed that the length of time they had to wait for documents was very good or good, so our dedicated team of Services Assistants can feel proud too.

Although our seating area has been reinstated since the completion of the building works on the lower ground level, our respondents still feel that visitor facilities are our weak spot, with 35% of those surveyed suggesting improvement is needed.  One comment summed up the results, “Some late night openings, better toilets, better eating area.” Regular readers will know how pushed for space we are here in the Manuscripts Section and sadly at present there is no available space for a rest area for readers, or increased toilet facilities other than those available on the lower ground level. Staff will always be happy to direct readers to local cafes or restaurants of which there are plenty in the immediate vicinity restaurants (and if you are lucky you will get a personal recommendation too!) There are also two vending machines (one selling cold drinks, and the other selling snacks) on the lower ground level and staff can show you where they are. The sandwich trolley (which we first revealed in issue 4) is still in operation between 11.00am and 11.30am on the lower ground level should you require something more substantial.

Another area in which readers suggested improvement is copying facilities. You may be interested to know that our copying service is likely to improve greatly in the next few months as a new scanner will be installed onsite for photographic work. A timetable for this installation has not yet been finalised, but we hope it will make the ordering of high quality copies quicker, more convenient and more efficient. More news soon!

We are also optimistic that readers will find using family history sources at Guildhall Library much simpler in the near future due to the massive digitisation programme that is in prospect (for more information go to Parish registers held at Guildhall Library and LMA will be the first records to be digitised. This is expected to greatly reduce demand for microfilms in our reading room, and as a result investment in new microfilm machines is unlikely. This will undoubtedly disappoint those survey respondents who thought our microfilm facilities could be improved. Although some of our machines appear antiquated, they work well and get quite a lot of attention (from me!) through regular cleaning and maintenance. Any problems should be raised with the enquiry desk staff, as most problems (such as a squeaky film or a blown bulb) can be fixed on the spot.

The focus of our spending on the microfilm service in recent years has been in purchasing new microfilms to replace those which have been scratched or otherwise damaged by use. Sharon Tuff reports on our microfilm service in her article (which follows).

One final plea to those respondents who didn’t know our catalogue was available online - it is! And you can access it at home by visiting We recommend you use the “Former Catalogue” as this is slightly better suited to searching for manuscripts.

I will leave the last word to a satisfied respondent: “This is my second visit to the archive and I am extremely impressed - I will definitely be using it again for future research project. The facilities are easy to use, the environment is conducive to working and the staff are friendly and helpful.”


Sharon Tuff writes:

As regular users of the Section will know, many of our records are available for consultation in the reading room on microfilm only. This has been true for a number of years and has the advantage of reducing the handling of heavily used records and allowing simple copying using a microfilm reader-printer.

A large proportion of our manuscripts (we estimate over two thirds of our oldest material (i.e. pre-Great Fire) plus enormous amounts of later material) has been microfilmed by the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (LDS). From 1964 to 1971 and 1984 to 2002, the LDS had a camera at Guildhall Library and microfilmed records of genealogical interest, with permission of the depositor. The microfilming programme included most of the City’s parish records, together with the archives of the Bishop of London, the Dean and Chapter of St Paul’s, Christ’s Hospital, the Corporation of Trinity House and of over 60 of the City livery companies. In addition to the LDS films, the Section itself also commissioned microfilms of material where the owner refused the LDS permission to microfilm or where the manuscripts were not of genealogical interest.

The filming of manuscripts by the LDS has enabled researchers throughout the world to borrow copy microfilms of the Section’s holdings for consultation in the worldwide chain of LDS Family History Centres; and it currently forms an important part of the Section’s disaster planning as the master negatives are safely stored in the LDS’s vault in Salt Lake City.  

By 2000 the longevity of our microfilms had become increasingly apparent as many had been in the reading room since 1984 when the self service system was introduced and had begun to show their age. At that date the Section initiated a programme of replacing worn, scratched and heavily used films. To date we have replaced about 640 films at a cost of nearly £9000 including most of the parish registers, the Lloyd’s Captains Registers and some livery company records. If you notice any scratched or damaged films, please let staff at the enquiry desk know so that we can assess whether they need to be replaced.


Charlie Turpie, Principal Archivist, who manages the section’s cataloguing programme, discusses progress made in listing records to reduce the backlog of uncatalogued collections, which haunts almost all record offices:

We have recently finished the methodical work involved in compiling our annual statistics of accessions and listing for last year, and can reveal that the backlog has now decreased to 18.04% of our holdings of 10528.7 linear yards, which means that we only hold 1899.95 linear yards of uncatalogued records.

This has continued a process of reducing the backlog, which at its worst, on 31 March 2001, was 2791 linear yards. Is it too ambitious to aim to halve that figure by March 2011?

I want to thank Matthew Payne and Stacey Harmer, in particular, for their efforts this year, but its important to stress that this achievement is down to teamwork, not just by them and other cataloguers, but also by Paul Delaney who places and labels documents and maintains the finding list and keeps the Stores tidy and efficient, and to the Desk staff too.

Hot off the presses are the catalogues of two large additions to existing collections – these additional records also count as uncatalogued until they have been fully listed. The first is further material of the Sun Insurance Office and several related companies it acquired in the 20th century, including the London Assurance and Alliance Assurance Company (Guildhall Library Ms 38769-38958). Stacey Harmer writes below about records for claims and fires, some of which are part of these newly catalogued Sun records.

Secondly, we have catalogued further records of the London Chamber of Commerce. This is a fine archive, sadly hardly used, which shows the vast range of goods imported and exported into London, and the work and the concerns of the mercantile community. The additional records have all been fitted into the existing ranges of Ms numbers, Ms 16454-789 and Ms 18312-3. Wendy Hawke tells us a bit more about these additional records below.

If you would like to find out more about any of the archives described above, or any of the other material mentioned in the newsletter, you can search the Manuscripts Section’s catalogues online at Just click on “Former catalogue” and enter the name of the person or institution in an Author search, or the Manuscript number in a Classification search.


Stacey Harmer writes about records for claims and fires amongst the archives of the Sun Insurance Office:

The Sun Insurance Office policy registers (Ms 11936-7) are extremely popular with researchers studying family, social or business history. The interest in these registers has exploded in recent years thanks to the A Place in the Sun indexing project (more information on this project is given on the Manuscripts Section’s website at The policy registers are an invaluable source of information about the valuation and cost of insurance of properties. However, the registers leave an important question unanswered: did the policy holder ever have reason to make a claim in the event of a fire? 

Unfortunately this is a very difficult question to answer as only a very few records relating to claims in the Sun Insurance Office archive have survived. We will shortly be producing a leaflet guide to claims papers and related records held in the Manuscripts Section. To tide you over until then, here is a summary of the most useful records, focusing mainly on the Sun Insurance Office.

A good place to start looking for information on fires is local newspapers. For London, the Gentleman’s Magazine, held by our Printed Books section, gives notices of notable fires from 1731 until the mid 19th century.

The London Fire Engine Establishment kept registers of the fires that it attended in London, 1833-65 (Ms 15729). These registers include the date, time of discovery, place, name and profession of the occupier, possible cause of the fire and insurance details, and, very importantly, are indexed by name and place.

The Sun Insurance Office has lists of fires (including property insured by other companies and uninsured property) for London 1805-21 (Ms 38877) and Belfast (Ms 38815/2).

The following lists of fires relate only to property insured with the Sun Insurance Office: London 1851-66 (Ms 11934B); “Country” (the UK outside London), 1803-66 (Ms 11937A); Belfast, 1843-58 (Ms 38815/1, pp.96-110); and Bristol, 1878-80 (Ms 38815/3).

The Sun Insurance Office archive also includes an intriguing series of three handwritten volumes containing reports of fires in the United Kingdom covering the years 1818-37 (Ms 38879). The style of these reports suggests that they were copied from newspapers, but it is not known by whom or for what reason.

There is also a scrapbook of press cuttings concerning fires in the UK, 1807-87 (Ms 38839/1). This volume was compiled by Francis Boyer Relton, Company Secretary of the Sun Insurance Office, 1873-82. Relton compiled many volumes of press cuttings, correspondence and notes on a variety of subjects, as you will see if you do an author search for Relton on the City of London Library Catalogue. He was also, thankfully, an assiduous indexer. This scrapbook is indexed by business or type of building and by place.

Let’s not forget the “similar disasters” promised in the title of this article. A photograph album of the Sun Insurance Office (Ms 38881) includes photographs of fire damage in Tabernacle Walk in 1894 and at Drury Lane Theatre in 1908, and, surprisingly, tornado damage in Birmingham in 1913.

The only “claims papers” (that is, affidavits sworn before a Justice of the Peace) that we hold for the Sun Insurance Office are for the years 1770-88 (Ms 31688). The series relates to about 500 claims and is arranged by county, and then alphabetically. The papers include a description of the premises where the fire took place and a very general description of the items claimed for. There are also a few miscellaneous papers relating to claims, 1771-88, in separate bundles (Ms 12019B, 15040, 21075).

A policy holder might appear to be particularly unlucky, suffering repeated outbreaks of fire. In such cases, alarm bells would ring. The London Salvage Corps maintained a “black list” of suspicious fires and insurance claims, 1854-1942 (Ms 15734). This “black list” has a name index. There are also two (indexed) scrapbooks of newspapers cuttings and correspondence relating to reports of actions for claims and of prosecutions, concerning various insurance companies, 1845-87 (Ms 38839/2-3), compiled by, yes you’ve guessed it, Relton.


Further records of the London Chamber of Commerce have been catalogued recently as additions to the main sequence, Ms 16454-789. Wendy Hawke describes them:

The London Chamber of Commerce was founded in 1882 to develop international trade and represent the interests of the wider London trading community. It also helped to resolve the more day-to-day trading concerns of its members. Within two years, the London Chamber was the largest in the UK and by 1892 it had a membership of over 3000. Its activities played a significant part in the consolidation of colonial markets and the expansion of the British Empire.

The Chamber established numerous sections to monitor and develop trade with particular countries and regions, including Africa, Australasia, China, Russia, Eastern and Western Europe, the Americas, Japan, Hong Kong and Indonesia. Amongst the newly catalogued records are minutes of the Middle East section (Ms 16537A), which was established in 1960. The minutes include reports on trade missions, and the situation on the ground in this frequently volatile region.

Sections were also established to look at particular trades, or legislation which might affect trade. Sectors represented include the bristle trade; civil aviation; canned goods; diamonds, pearls and precious stones; hairdressing manufacturers; patents, trade marks and designs; and parliamentary law. The newly catalogued records include minutes of the coffee and cocoa trades section (Ms 16591A). Established in 1884, the first action of the section was to soothe the fears of cocoa trade representatives that they would be overshadowed by the coffee trade by creating two sub-sections, one for each trade!

An index to the many countries and trades covered is available at the Manuscripts enquiry desk.

The archive also includes records of the constitution and administration of the Chamber itself, and we now have Council minutes from 1888-1989 (Ms 16459) and General Purposes Committee minutes from 1910-1989 (Ms 16460).

Other sources for the London Chamber of Commerce (including many under its present name of the London Chamber of Commerce and Industry) are held in the Printed Books Section of Guildhall Library. These include the "Chamber of Commerce Journal" which became accepted as a mouthpiece for the British business community.


As joint acting Head of Collections at LMA, Philippa Smith, has taken on responsibility for liaison with The Pensions Archive Trust (PAT). Richard Wiltshire is covering the role of PAT archivist and writes about the partnership between LMA and the Trust:


Established in 2005, the aim of PAT is to promote and develop the study of the history of occupational and personal pensions provision in the UK.

Together we are carrying out the following:



Philippa and Richard have joined the PAT Joint Liaison Committee to help implement these programmes. Over the Summer, a new PAT Archivist will be appointed and based at LMA.


To find out what collections the Pensions Archive consists of, or if you have material you wish to deposit, please email LMA or telephone 020 7332 3820, You can also visit PAT’s web site.


Charlie Turpie, Principal Archivist, writes about her work on the Manuscripts Section’s General guide to holdings.

Despite having completed the 21st section (out of 27) of the revamped Guide, I seem to have concentrated on the letter “a” this season, having rewritten the section on almshouses, including new entries for Merchant Taylors’ almshouses in Lee and Skinners’ almshouses in Palmers’ Green, and improved entries such as that for Dame Alice Owen almhouses in Islington.

I have also gone back to the Antiquarian section of the Guide, which I thought I had completed in early 2007, because my investigations of our early Ms numbers suggested that our holdings included more antiquarian material than the existing section of the Guide contained. A potted history of Guildhall Library might be helpful at this point – it was established under the will of Dick Whittington in 1420s, ransacked by the Duke of Somerset (perhaps to furnish his new palace Somerset House) in 1549 and re-established in 1828. The Manuscripts Section was so named because it held manuscripts – individual items or very small collections, gathered by William Herbert, the first Librarian of Guildhall Library and an antiquarian. There are a few obvious treasures from the early history of the Manuscripts Section, such as the Shakespeare deed (Ms 3738), but some of the manuscripts bought or deposited in the 19th and early 20th centuries have perhaps been slightly overlooked, given the waves of outstanding deposits of parish, livery company and diocesan archives which Albert Hollaender (see issue 7 of this newsletter) brought in after the Second World War.

The entries in the Guide to our holdings are (deliberately) tersely written. The entry in the online catalogue may be fuller, and is always worth investigating. Here is the difference between the Guide entry for Bartholomew Howlett and the catalogue entry:

Guide entry reads: HOWLETT, Bartholomew, 1767-1827. Drawings of seals of monastic bodies in London, Southwark and Westminster, with notes by John Caley. Early 19th century. Ms 42


Catalogue entry reads: Howlett,Bartholomew,1767-1827. Drawings of seals of monastic bodies in London, Southwark and Westminster. The drawings are by Howlett, the descriptions by John Caley, FRS. Undated, early 19th century. 2v[olumes]. Other drawings of seals by Howlett are held by the Bodleian Library, British Library, Suffolk County Record Office and Society of Antiquaries. See Howlett's entry in the Dictionary of National Biography for further details about Howlett and these drawings. At the front of the volume is a note by William Henry Black dated June 1871 testifying that the writing is in Caley's hand. Ms 00042.


Some other antiquarian entries which I have added to the Guide are given below:


BOLTON, Edmund (Mary), 1575?-1634?, antiquary and historian. Manuscript history of London, Vindiciae Britannicae, compiled at some point during 1628-34. Ms 3454


GILBERT, Jeffray (Sir), judge and legal writer, 1674-1726. NB entered in online catalogue as Gilbert, Geoffrey. Manuscript history of the Court of the Exchequer comprising text of his Historical View of the Court of Exchequer with additional material. 1738-1828. Ms 210


SMITH, William, circa 1550-1618, herald and playwright; citizen and haberdasher. Treatise on government and constitution of the City of London, 1575, and 3 copies of the coats of arms of members of the 12 Great livery companies who served the office of Lord Mayor, Alderman or Sheriff, 1232-1609. Compiled  1575-1609.  Ms 2077, Ms 2463-4


We again invite readers of this newsletter to try their hands at our quiz. All the answers to the questions can be found by going to our website at and clicking on the appropriate Section highlighted in bold below. Please email your answers. The first three readers with the correct answers whose names are drawn out of the hat on 30 June will win a COLLAGE print of their choice. COLLAGE can be found at

(Sorry, but staff of the Department of Libraries, Archives and Guildhall Art Gallery are excluded). Good luck!

Question 1. News - What is the title of Matthew Payne's article about St Paul's briefs, published in Ancestors?

Question 2. Leaflet Guides to records - what records of King Edward Schools do we publish a leaflet about?

Question 3. City of London Parish Records - how many St Botolph parishes do we hold records for?

Question 4. Genealogical Sources at Guildhall Library - what do the International Memoranda contain?

Question 5. Livery Company Membership Guide - what kind of freedom registers do we hold?

Question 6. Indexes to Lloyd's Captains registers - have we indexed captains whose surnames start with P?


Isobel Watson writes about progress in A Place in the Sun, the project to index the early 19th century Sun Insurance Office fire policy registers:

In the month of February, another 11 registers went online. This takes the projects total to 111, ranging across the years 1808 to 1839. The new postings comprise the last of the register indexes planned for the 1830s, as in the foreseeable future we intend to concentrate exclusively on taking the indexing back towards 1800. This is likely to proceed at a good pace, all being well, in part because there are gaps in the sequence of registers for this period.

The total number of policy entries online has now reached over 193,000, and taking account of work in progress we must be getting very close to the impressive total of 200,000 altogether. Well done to all the volunteers.

The database is searchable via TNA’s website. Choose “search the archives” then “how to search the archives online”. Enter your search term in the box, but to ensure that the Place in the Sun records are given priority in the search, include the word “insured in the box with your specific search term.


Richard Howell describes how his research has been enhanced by the records indexed by the A Place in the Sun project:

My research into my family history had been making slow, but steady, progress. Through an extraordinary stroke of good fortune I had come across a trial at the Old Bailey in 1791, in which my 3x great-grandfather, William Howell, had appeared as a witness. It was recorded that he was apprenticed to a slop-seller called Robert Martin, of Wapping. Through the directories of the time, I discovered that the address of the business was 8 Little Hermitage Street, Wapping, and that around 1824 William had somehow taken the business over from Robert Martin.

According to Chambers’ Dictionary, a slop-seller was someone who sold “clothes and bedding issued to seamen”. The word slop comes from the Old English “sloppe” meaning a loose fitting garment and is, I believe, the origin of the word “sloppy” i.e. when someone is untidily dressed. In time the term meant someone who was selling cheap, ready-made garments: the range of what might be sold is shown by the trade cards of the 1750s to the early 19th century. By the mid-19th century the trade received a very damning investigation from Henry Mayhew, who reported at length in The News Chronicle about the appalling conditions that those who produced the garments worked under. By the 1880s the term had virtually died out.

One day, while idly tinkering about on the A2A website (I’m sure that those who have ever been involved with family history research will know what I mean), I tapped in the words “Little Hermitage Street”. Up popped a list containing some 60 entries. I scrolled down the list and much to my excitement came across a reference which read “Insured: William Howell, No. 8 Little Hermitage Street, Wapping, slopseller, tailor and salesman. Other property or occupiers: 21 Great Hermitage Street”. There was also another reference dated the following year.

Needless to say I took the first opportunity to make the journey to London to visit Guildhall Library. I discovered that William had insured his property, household goods and stock for the not inconsiderable sum of £4,000.

This was my introduction to the A Place in the Sun project. In time, the incredible Sun archive would enable me to fill in some of the gaps explaining how William Howell had gone from apprentice in 1791 to taking over the business in 1824. In brief, Robert Martin had died in 1821. In his will he left the business to his wife Elizabeth, which she was to continue to run “under the superintendence of my slop man, William Howell”, at least until their son, also called Robert, reached the age of 21. Through the insurance records I discovered that Elizabeth was quite a wealthy lady in her own right, owning a number of properties, and that she had insured her musical instruments for £50 and her china and glass for £100. This suggested that she was from a genteel background, and had probably never been involved with the business.

William was undoubtedly hard-working and dependable, but also had a streak of ambition. Again the insurance records tell the tale. On 19 April 1824, he acquired the business and on 3 May Elizabeth took out separate insurance on the premises “in the tenure of Howell”, for £1500. Thus the Martin family retained the premises and would receive a rent, and William would have the business. Indeed the Howell family continued to run it for the next 30 years.

The details of the policies are amazing. But they are more than just bald facts and figures. By being able to join up some of the dots, as it were, personalities begin to show through as well.

References: Guildhall Library Ms 19936/494/1016834; 496/1016504,

1005111; The National Archives PROB 11/64.

Author’s note: Thanks to Derek Morris for his assistance. The accounts of a slopseller, John Bonus, are held by Guildhall Library Manuscripts Section (Ms 35197-8). Guildhall Library Prints and Maps Section holds an extensive collection of slop-sellers’ trade cards and similar documents.


Angela Shire describes the insights she has gained into the history of British Jewry from her own family history research:

Figures for the Jewish population of England in the 18th century are somewhat speculative. From the sources available - quoted by Lipman, Endelman and others - we might put the total at around 6-8,000 ca.1750, of which one might suppose the London population would perhaps be 4-6,000. From the earliest times, post their resettlement in the mid-1650s, Jews from the Sephardic tradition - of Spanish and Portuguese origin - maintained excellent records [now held at LMA: access by prior appointment and with permission only], but, prior to 1791, records for the Ashkenazi community - originating mainly from Holland, Germany and Eastern Europe - are virtually non-existent. A search of my own databases published on the British-Jewry website produced 19 births and no marriages. Universal civil registration was not introduced until Autumn 1837 and, except on very rare occasions, Jews did not figure in the parish records: in the face of such a void, the Jewish genealogist must look outside the community. Guildhall Library Manuscripts Section has proved a most productive source.

A combination of George Rigal's exhaustive abstracts of Jewish names from the Sun Insurance Office fire insurance registers (Ms 11936) and the microfilmed Land Tax Assessments (Ms 11,316) had been instrumental in verifying dates and addresses of several ancestors in the second half of the 18th century. They had also provided, or confirmed, names of wives where these had succeeded to policies or dwelling places on widowhood. However, it was a casual query to a member of staff that produced by far and away the most interesting and surprising document.

A genealogy prepared by the late Arthur P. Arnold, stated that a mutual ancestor, Abraham Jacobs, had been appointed overseer to the poor in the parish of St. James Duke’s Place for the year 1745/6, but I could find no note in his papers regarding his source.  At the suggestion of a member of staff, I ordered the first vestry minute book for the parish of St. James Duke’s Place (Ms 1218/1) where I found both him and his son Moses. How long Abraham had been settled here before his "election" to this office is unclear. From 1742, he can be found in the Land Tax Assessments for the seventh precinct of Aldgate Ward, in a house adjacent to "The Jews Synagogue". These records show that, although the Jewish population of Duke Street was growing rapidly, there were still large numbers of the host community living alongside them, and it seems improbable that such an approach would have been made to a non-Christian unless he had been in the country for more than the two to three year interval between the first Land Tax record and his appointment.  That in 1742, his neighbour, Richard Sparkes, was a churchwarden, may have been a contributory factor!  Abraham Jacobs was preceded in the office of overseer by at least two apparent Jews; Benjamin Alexander in 1741 and Daniel Garcia in 1743.

More than 100 years would pass before the Jewish Disabilities Bill was passed allowing Jews to take their seats in Parliament but, at a time when across mainland Europe they were frequently confined to Ghettos or subject to draconian restrictions, that a Jewish inhabitant of London might serve in what may loosely be described as a branch of local government is surprising.  Even more astonishing is that a few were permitted to sign their names in Hebrew script in the vestry minute book of a parish church. Only imagine the furore that would erupt today were it even mooted that signatures in Gujarati or Punjabi be appended to a meeting of a local or parish council! 

Apart from being an interesting contemporary social document, the vestry minute book of a London parish church has provided a wealth of solid genealogical data, unavailable through Jewish records.  I am grateful to the staff of the Manuscript Section for their positive response to enquiries and look forward to finding yet more hidden treasure among their archives.  

Author’s note: The subject matter of this piece is due to appear, in a future issue of Shemot, the magazine of the Jewish Genealogical Society of Great Britain, as part of a much longer article on non-community sources for early Anglo-Jewish research.

Clockmakers' Museum Talk and Tour – new for 2008

Thursday 24 July 2008 2.00 - 3.00pm, Guildhall Library.


Explore the Clockmakers' Museum in Guildhall Library with the Consultant Curator, Sir George White, and follow the fascinating story of time from the perspective of the Clockmakers of London.


FREE - but you must book in advance: 020 7335 1868/1870; email:


For details of all forthcoming events at Guildhall Library, including behind-the-scenes tours, and the popular sessions on sources for family history and electronic resources, go to


For a calendar listing the events and exhibitions held in all the City of London Libraries and Guildhall Art Gallery for the next three months go to



For details of forthcoming events at London Metropolitan Archives go to


LAST CHANCE TO SEE: FACES IN the VICTORIAN CITY – photographs of people who worked in the City of London, 1850-1900 at Guildhall Library Print Room until 7 June 2008, free admission. See the last issue of the newsletter for further information.

Essex Paints London - An Exhibition By and About The Essex Art Club at Guildhall Art Gallery, 21 April - 15 June 2008.


The association between Guildhall Art Gallery and the Essex Art Club goes back to 1949, when the Club held its 50th exhibition in the utilitarian gallery erected on the bomb damaged site of our original building. Exhibitions have also been held in the Royal Exchange and in Bishopsgate Institute. Now the Club now returns to Guildhall for the first time since 1986 with 108 specially selected paintings, prints, watercolours and drawings of specifically London subjects by current members.


For more details and admission charges go to


COMING SOON: John Claude Nattes in London, 1765-1822 at Guildhall Library Print Room, 23 June - 27 September 2008, free admission.

John Claude Nattes, ca. 1765-1839, was a French topographical draughtsman and watercolour artist who lived in London for many years, and was a founder member of the Society of Painters in Water Colours.


This exhibition will feature over 50 drawings from the collections at Guildhall Library and LMA.


Magic Casements - the Keats House Restoration at Guildhall Art Gallery, 6 August - 14 September 2008.


The Heritage Lottery Fund has made it possible for the restoration of Keats House in Hampstead to be completed this year. This exhibition will chart the progress of this exciting project.


For more information about Keats House go to

Editor’s note: Talks, workshops, poetry readings, exhibitions, walks, conferences, tours, children’s activities and many other events at the City of London’s Libraries, Archives and Guildhall Art Gallery are listed in its regularly published events brochure. If you would like to receive a copy, please let us know (at and we will add you to the mailing list.


Archives for London organises a number of events, including a series of free seminars held, usually, on the first Thursday of the month at 5.30 pm at London Metropolitan Archives. For details of forthcoming events go to


Do you have any comments about this newsletter, about the Manuscripts Section itself or the records it holds? Do you have anything to contribute about your research, or experiences of working with archives that you would like to share? If so, please email the editor, Philippa Smith

Last updated June 2008

Guildhall Library Manuscripts Section