Guildhall Library Manuscripts Section

Electronic Newsletter

Issue No. 12 Summer 2008


If you are a regular user of Guildhall Library, or planning to come to the library in 2009, please read the first piece on our exciting plans for the refurbishment of the Manuscripts reading room and other public spaces. Inevitably, there will be some disruption and changes, but the end result will be a better service all round.


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 over 400 subscribers. If you are not already on the mailing list, and would like to receive future issues, please email us.


EC1 + 2: the development of public spaces at Guildhall Library in 2009

Staff news

Measuring Up: enquiry service statistics for May-July 2008

Cataloguing news: Galloway & Pearson (stockbrokers); St Botolph Aldersgate Monumental Inscriptions; Matthew Clarke and Sons (wines and spirit dealers and brokers); Corfu Anglican Chaplaincy

The oldest documents in Guildhall Library (St Paul’s Cathedral royal charters)

Black and Asian Londoners in the City - an update and a new project!

More from a Place in the Sun (A Place in the Sun progress report by Isobel Watson)

Early Modern sources for Non-Londoners

Highlighting business records at Guildhall Library and London Metropolitan Archives: Sun Insurance Office (Foreign Agency books); Merryweather and Sons (fire engine and fire-fighting equipment manufacturers); Chubb and Sons (lock makers)

New Aviva Heritage website

An Insight into Community Archives at London Metropolitan Archives: the Disabled Community

Guildhall Library Manuscripts Section’s Archive Awareness Campaign 2008

Guided tours of Guildhall Library

Forthcoming events at London Metropolitan Archives

London Open House Building Tours 20-21 September 2008

London Maze 11 October 2008

Exhibitions: John Claude Nattes in London, 1765-1822 in Guildhall Library Print Room; Magic Casements – the Keats House Restoration at Guildhall Art Gallery

Archives for London seminars

We welcome your views!

Contact details

EC1+2: THE Development of Public Spaces at Guildhall Library in 2009

Guildhall Library is to be extensively refurbished for the first time since 1974, with significant improvements including more public computer workstations, a new training area, new access facilities for wheelchair users, and planned reinstatement of a dedicated entrance subject to planning permission.

The new look Guildhall Library will house the City Business Library and the existing Guildhall Library Printed Books and Manuscripts Sections. The Printed Books and Manuscripts’ holdings will remain in Guildhall Library. The Guildhall Library Prints and Maps team and collections will move to London Metropolitan Archives (LMA) permanently to unite with the rich graphic collections there.

Guildhall Library Manuscripts, the record office for the “square mile” of the City of London, will modernise its reading room, with improved facilities for readers including access to digitised family history sources. During the building work, due to start in March 2009 and last up to six months, the Guildhall Library Manuscripts reading room will close and access to its holdings will be at the reading rooms of LMA in Clerkenwell (40 Northampton Road, London EC1 OHB). Material already on microfilm in the Guildhall Library Manuscripts reading room will be available on film at LMA. All other records will be produced at LMA, but will need to be ordered 48 hours in advance, as they will continue to be stored in the City.  Guildhall Library Manuscripts staff will be on hand at LMA to give help and advice during the temporary closure of the Manuscripts reading room.

The Guildhall Library Manuscripts distance enquiry service will continue in full, before, during and after the temporary closure of the reading room. Regular bulletins about the reading room closure will be posted on the Guildhall Library Manuscripts website and enquiries can be made at any time to Readers intending to visit Guildhall Library in 2009 are encouraged to discuss their research plans at an early date.

The Guildhall Library Prints and Maps collections and team will be moving to LMA permanently in Spring 2009. Readers intending to use the collections at this time are encouraged to contact the Prints and Maps enquiry service to discuss their research plans at an early date as collections will be temporarily unavailable during the move.

Once moved, the Guildhall Library collection of prints, drawings, maps and photographs will continue to be fully accessible during normal opening times at LMA, without prior appointment, via the existing online library catalogue (a text database), via Collage (an image database) and via specialist staff at the enquiry desk.  The collections will be available through document booking systems, as of course they are now at both Guildhall and LMA, but facsimiles of all the most frequently consulted maps will remain on open access for the readers to browse. We plan to automate document production later this year, giving readers the opportunity to pre-book originals before they visit.

The LMA reading rooms have recently been refurbished to a high standard and provide a light and open working space where readers will continue to view originals. A comprehensive reproduction service will also be available and it is intended to provide complementary services by digitising the remainder of the Guildhall collection as well as the entire LMA collection, using onsite state of the art scanning equipment.

The move will have the major benefit of uniting the Guildhall collection with the very rich and important collection of graphic materials held at LMA. Use of the Guildhall collections at LMA will be supported by the transfer of relevant reference materials and further work is in hand to ensure that essential ties between the print and maps collections and the printed books and manuscripts at Guildhall are identified and developed. The Prints and Maps team will also continue to provide a rich and varied programme of exhibitions, at Guildhall Library, LMA and Guildhall Art Gallery.

The Prints and Maps collections will benefit from direct access to one of the premier conservation units in the United Kingdom and excellent storage facilities which provide much needed space for growth and development. Original maps/prints/photographs/drawings will be given the best possible care, thus ensuring their longevity. Of course, we will also continue to build the collection through gift, deposit and purchase.  The Prints and Maps distance enquiry service will continue in full, before, during and after the move. Regular bulletins about the move will be posted on the City of London website and enquiries can be made at any time to prints&

Guildhall Library Printed Books. During the refurbishment programme, which will continue until January 2010, some of the collections in the Printed Books Section will be inaccessible at various times.  It is essential that you contact the Printed Books Section prior to making a visit in order to check availability.  (Telephone 020 7332 1868/1870 or email Staff in the Printed Books Section will be engaged fulltime in projects linked to the refurbishment programme and are unable to offer a distance enquiry service whilst refurbishment is in progress.


Guildhall Library Manuscripts: distance enquiry service as normal; holdings remain in Guildhall Library; reading room operating from LMA from March 2009 for 4-6 months, with 48 hour notice to order documents.

Guildhall Library Prints and Maps: distance enquiry service as normal; holdings moving from Guildhall Library to LMA in early 2009 to unite with LMA graphic collections permanently (some material unavailable before and during the move); reading room service permanently at LMA from early 2009.

Guildhall Library Printed Books: distance enquiry service temporarily suspended; holdings remain in Guildhall Library with some material unavailable at times; reading room service at Guildhall Library throughout.


In our last issue we introduced the work of the Pensions Archive Trust (PAT). On 30 June, Susan Gentles, took up the post of PAT archivist based at LMA. Susan writes about her background experience and her new role:

“Having come to LMA from the Archives and Records Management course at UCL, it has been great (if a little scary!) getting back to working with real archive material again after a “year out”. I carried out a year’s traineeship at Glasgow University Archive Services before coming to London, where I was involved in working with the Scottish Business Archive held within the University’s repository. This has helped me form an interest in the archives of businesses of all sorts, which I hope is going to stand me in good stead working for PAT and LMA. I will be working part-time until the beginning of September while I complete my MA dissertation, at which point I will become a full-time member of staff.

In my role as PAT archivist, I will be helping PAT to promote and develop the study of the history of occupational and personal pensions provision in the UK. I will be continuing the active programme of collection building (acquisitions, cataloguing, preservation and conservation) in line with the City of London's existing collections. Currently, I am completing the cataloguing of the archives of the National Association of Pension Funds which date from 1917. I will also be helping in running outreach and education activities and events for people of all ages, to stimulate debate and learning on a subject which affects everyone. I will be reporting progress to the Joint Liaison Committee of PAT which meets to help implement these programmes.”

You can learn more about PAT at a forthcoming talk at LMA on The Work of the Pensions Archives Trust on Thursday, 16 October 2008, 2-3 pm. The talk will highlight the research opportunities of pension-related material for family, local and social historians alike. The talk is FREE - but you must book in advance. To make a booking, find out what pensions archives LMA holds, or if you have material you wish to deposit, please contact LMA  or telephone 020 7332 3820. You can also visit PAT’s web site.



The Manuscripts Section was generally quieter in May and June than the same period last year, but July has been much busier both in terms of visitors to the reading room and remote enquiries. In spite of this, we answered 100% of written enquiries received in July within 2 days of receipt (our target is at least 85% of written enquiries answered within two days). An average of 99% of enquiries were answered within two days over the three month period (the City of London Corporation’s target is 100% within 10 days).

May 2008

565 visitors to the reading room (599 in 2007)

1249 documents produced in the reading room (1242)

240 written enquiries (305)

159 telephone calls (197)

Enquiry response time (target at least 85% answered within two days): 99% answered within two days; 82% answered on the day of receipt.

June 2008

553 visitors to the reading room (625 in 2007)

1341 documents produced in the reading room (1325)

199 written enquiries (226)

178 telephone calls (202)

Enquiry response time: 98.5% answered within two days; 85% answered on the day of receipt.

July 2008

637 visitors to the reading room (587 in 2007)

1542 documents produced in the reading room (1328)

268 written enquiries (218)

248 telephone calls (182)

Enquiry response time for written enquiries: 100% answered within two days; 84.5% answered on the day of receipt.


Charlie Turpie, Principal Archivist, who manages the section’s cataloguing programme, describes some recently catalogued records:


In Newsletter no. 9 I wrote about stockbrokers’ archives, particularly how the nature of these firms affects their recordkeeping and record survival. Recently we catalogued the records of Galloway & Pearson (Guildhall Library Ms 38959-67). These were deposited by a former partner of the firm and are, like the other stockbrokers’ records we hold, somewhat patchy. They include accounts from 1922-84 (Ms 38964-5) and minutes from 1966-84 (Ms 38962, 38967). Unfortunately, the partnership kept no minutes prior to 1966. We believe that all clients' and jobbers' ledgers were destroyed when the firm's record-keeping was computerised in the 1970s.


As I’ve hinted before, these records are worth having because they capture the work of stockbrokers who enable the City of London to operate as the world’s pre-eminent financial centre, even if the records aren’t as full as we would wish.


There are two other small items I wish to highlight, the first one a legacy from Stephen Freeth, the recently-retired Keeper of Manuscripts, who has a great interest and expertise in monumental inscriptions. In 2004, Stephen compiled a list and transcript of monumental inscriptions discovered during building works in St Botolph Aldersgate in 1995 when the floors and pews were removed. Parts of a wall monument to Michael Crude, perpetual curate, who died in 1604 were found, as well as eleven floor slabs commemorating various parishioners who died between 1755 and 1785. The fragments of Crude's memorial are now on display in the church. The floor slabs on the other hand were all covered over again in the course of the building works, so Stephen’s notes are all we have. The notes and a diagram have been preserved and catalogued as Ms 38973.


Secondly, I recently uncovered a page of wine tasting notes in a memorandum book of Matthew Clark and Sons. Long-term readers may remember my article in Newsletter no. 4 surveying Guildhall Library’s records of the wine trade. One of the firms I mentioned was Matthew Clark and Sons and I alluded to the “filling up” practice whereby shady publicans substituted inferior products in Cognac and other spirit bottles. I was pleased, therefore, to find a record of some very fine wines in a miscellaneous memorandum book recently deposited and catalogued here (Ms 38340A).


The notes were made at a wine tasting on 18 April 1866 and concern Chateau Lafite 1865, Chateau Latour 1863, 1864 and 1865 and Chateau Margaux 1864 and 1865. So which of these great wines made the grade and which might as well have been an inferior product? Well, the anonymous taster found Chateau Latour 1864 to be “perfect, having flavor, softness, fruit & body” (the spelling of flavor is the one given in the notes and he also used what we would think of now as the “American” spelling of color). To find out which wines he judged “harsh” or “thin”, you’ll need to order up Ms 38340A!


Senior Archivist, Sharon Tuff, reports on a recent deposit from overseas:

The Manuscripts Section holds the records of many overseas Anglican chaplaincies and we have recently received additional records from the chaplaincy in Corfu. Holy Trinity Church was consecrated on 2 October 1870, although there had been an Anglican presence in Corfu prior to that date. The new material comprises a register of baptisms 1865-1977 (Ms 38969), a register of marriages 1866-1946 (Ms 38970) and a register of burials 1865-1912 (Ms 38971). These important records join a notebook of information about the chaplaincy, [1975?]-1983 (Ms 23728); chaplains' books, 1974-84 (Ms 23729); chaplains' diaries and log books, 1972-84 (Ms 23730); regulations, 1883 (Ms 23878); and a list of subscribers to the church endowment fund, ca. 1910 (Ms 23879), to provide a picture of the Anglican community in Corfu.

The oldest documents in Guildhall Library

Senior archivist, Matthew Payne, writes:

For the next few months we will be displaying, in our display case in the Manuscripts Section’s reading room, Guildhall Library’s oldest documents, five royal charters making or confirming grants to St Paul’s Cathedral (Ms 25241/4, 6-9).

The charters were issued by William II and Henry I, the earliest in 1099 or 1100, the last at some point between 1107 and 1129. They are therefore not quite as ancient as the earliest City charter, the grant by William I of 1067 currently at LMA, but they do allow us also to claim an 11th century start to the collections here.

Four of the charters have the remnants of royal seals attached to the vellum tongues. All the charters are surprisingly small, reflecting the high cost of vellum in early medieval Britain.

The documents have recently been beautifully remounted and boxed by Paul Humphreys of our Conservation Section, enabling their easy and effective display. For those whose medieval Latin is a little rusty, I have also put a full transcription and translation of the earliest charter alongside it.

Black and Asian Londoners in the City - an update and a new project!

Information Officer, Claire Titley, reports:

In the very first issue of this newsletter (way back in September 2005!) we invited readers to participate in our attempts to record entries relating to Black and Asian people in the manuscripts held at Guildhall Library. This project has quietly continued under its own steam, and the full list of entries so far discovered (now around the 300 mark) can be found on our website at

Contributions to the list of entries come from readers who have visited the Library and found relevant entries in the sources they were using while carrying out their own research. They submit a green form, in which we ask for a brief description of the record and, most importantly, the manuscript number. The entry is checked and then added to the list, which is made available online to be shared by interested parties.

Finding individuals and populations of Black and Asian Londoners can be difficult. The vast majority of records created about individuals do not note racial origin, or physical descriptions which might indicate race. Family historians, quite rightly, prize those records which include physical descriptions of their forebears as these records are rare.

The majority of entries we have gathered so far come from the City’s parish registers. These provide the most consistent record of the number of Black and Asian people within the City’s population over time. Parish registers (before the advent of civil registration of 1837) are the primary source for studying the population of London as, historically, most people were baptised, married or buried (or all three) in a church at some point in their lives. 

Early parish register entries tend to provide the most detail, though not all are as in-depth as the remarkable entry in the parish clerk’s memorandum book of the parish of St Botolph Aldgate:

“Robert a negar being servant to William Mathew a Jentelman dwelling in a garden being behynd Mr Quarles his howse and neare unto Hogg Lane in the libertie of Eastsmithfield was buried in the owter church yeard being withowt the crosse walle before Mr Soda his tenementes ... [date follows]. Yeares xxvi.” “He had the second cloth and fower bearers.” [In the margin the word “plague” is marked]. (Ms 9234/4).

Later entries, especially those before the abolition of slavery, tend to be briefer, with the individual’s name (usually the name given to them, but sometimes their previous name as well) and their role (almost always described in relation to their owner or employer):

St Olave Hart Street: 14 February 1682/3, burial of “An Indian slave boy of Mr Charles Gray was buryed in church yard” (Ms 28869);

St Edmund the King and Martyr: 9 November 1690, baptism of “Joan Hill, a black of about 30 years, servant to Lt. General Hill, of the Cariby Islands” (Ms 20204).

The entries found by readers have shown concentrations of entries in particular parishes at certain dates and there are all sorts of reasons why this is the case, such as a new clergyman who seeks to ensure his parish are all baptised, and the erroneous belief that circulated during the 18th century that individuals who were baptised would automatically become free. (Many black Londoners at this time would have been slaves.) Certain parishes have also revealed more entries than others. As you might expect, these tend to be the parishes on the edges of the City, particularly its eastern boundary, and those along the river.

Despite the frequency of entries in the parish registers, readers recently have found some fascinating entries from other types of records. A receipt and payment book from the Worshipful Company of Skinners is crammed with insights into the spending habits of a wealthy livery company during the mid 17th century. Livery companies worked hard to demonstrate their power and prestige to each other and to the City by investing in elaborate floats for the annual Lord Mayor’s Show. The Lord Mayor’s shows included a procession by water from the City to Westminster, where the new Lord Mayor would take his oath. The Show traditionally included all manner of entertainments, including pageants, and the floats could include streamers, cannons and playing minstrels. The Skinners’ Company paid 12 shillings to two Black performers to ride two lynxes on their float (Ms 30727 p.448) to celebrate the inauguration of Sir Robert Tichborne in 1656. We think the lynxes would have been constructed out of skins, and researchers have found examples of other such constructions on the Company floats. These performers were free men, rather than slaves, because they were being paid for their work. Entries like these shed light onto the lives of Londoners whose activities generally go unmentioned in the official record.

We have been pushing the project further by taking on several volunteers to search the parish registers of the City of London in a systematic fashion. We are beginning with St Botolph Aldgate on the basis of a tantalisingly high number of entries currently in our list of finds. The plan is to work through the parish registers for each parish in order to find where Black and Asian people were to be found in the City and the dates where these concentrations occur. We believe this will be a significant achievement and will be of great value to scholars who can use these finds to inform their own work.

While we have a small team of volunteers already participating in this project, we would be interested in hearing from readers who would like to join in. We are looking for readers experienced in palaeography who are familiar with parish registers, either through researching their own family history or through more formal research routes. The registers being searched range from 1538 to our end date of 1837, so being comfortable with the styles of handwriting across this date range is essential, as the amount of supervision volunteers receive will be minimal. (Transcription of entries will be checked, of course.)

We are looking for individuals who are able to make a regular commitment to working on the project (two hours a week, or an afternoon fortnightly, for example). If you are interested in volunteering as part of this project, or any of the other projects run by Guildhall Library, please contact us for further details.

We are still continuing to use the green forms to collect entries found by readers in the course of their own work, so please make a note of any entries relating to Black and Asian Londoners you find in the records and pass them to the staff at the Enquiry Desk so they can be added to our list.


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:

Seven further registers have been completed and checked so far this year, and three others are currently at various stages of checking. The next batch will be sent to the National Archives when there is a run of at least 10 in sequence, without gaps (representing between 18,000 and 20,000 additional policy entries). This probably will not be before the autumn.

As reported in the last issue, the total number of policy entries online must be very close to the impressive total of 200,000. 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.

Early modern sources for non-Londoners

Senior Archivist, Matthew Payne, writes:

A reader’s enthusiastic response to our recent note about the parish returns to the rebuilding of St Paul’s Cathedral as a Guildhall source for non-Londoners in the late 17th century (Newsletter no. 10) prompted me to consider other material that falls into this category. These sources might be broken down into two categories: those recording people coming to London, and London recording people elsewhere. The following thoughts are of course by no means exhaustive, but meant merely as a prompt, and concentrate in this newsletter on people coming to or through London.

As London was for centuries seen as the place where fortunes could be made, many people came (or were sent) to London in search of work. Apprentices in the livery companies came from all over the country (although the majority were Londoners). A handy way to search by place is by using Cliff Webb’s indexes to apprentices, also available through English Origins (, which contain place indexes. Cliff Webb has now indexed the surviving apprenticeship records, up to 1800, of 52 of the London livery companies, which include references to over 300,000 individuals. A quick glance at any one of these individual company indexes shows the remarkable range of places represented, many at a considerable distance from London.

Many people came to London to get married, either because it was fashionable, or perceived to be more discreet. It was possible to marry almost anywhere with a licence from the appropriate church court. The applications for licences, called allegations, often contain information about the place of origin of the parties getting married. In the City, churches such as St Gregory by St Paul, St Faith under St Paul, St Benet Paul’s Wharf and St Mary Magdalen Old Fish Street, many of which were close to licence-issuing offices, all did a brisk trade in marriage by licence. Some churches, like St James Dukes Place, Holy Trinity Minories, St Botolph Aldgate and St Katherine by the Tower would marry anyone from anywhere, even without a licence. After a crackdown on these “clandestine marriages” in the 1690s, the number of marriages by licence rose, and parish registers also began to record more details of the bride and groom’s place of origin.  Unfortunately none of these records are indexed by place.

Because of London’s pre-eminence as a centre for overseas trade and travel, by the 16th century the Bishop of London had taken on the care of Anglicans abroad. This meant that many seamen and other travellers, having set sail from London and if they were unfortunate enough to die whilst overseas, would have their wills proved in the Commissary Court of London. The indexes to these wills, which have been published by the British Records Association up to 1700, include hundreds of mariners and merchants. These volumes contain useful place indexes, reflecting the proving of wills from all over Europe, the Americas and Asia, as well as countless individuals with interests throughout Britain.

As part of his role overseeing overseas Anglicans, the Bishop of London also had jurisdiction over Anglican chaplaincies abroad which began to be established from the early 17th century, as trading centres were developed. Unfortunately, few records from these places survive before the 18th century. As a natural consequence of this role, from at least the 1670s the Bishop of London also licensed naval chaplains and clergy heading off to serve abroad.

These are just a very few examples of how people from localities throughout England, and beyond, have left an impact on the records of the City of London in the early modern period. In a subsequent newsletter I hope to touch on a few sources recording London institutions reaching out from the metropolis to manage and survey estates, schools, almshouses, lighthouses and a range of other bodies around the country.


Senior Archivist, Richard Wiltshire, highlights a selection of archives held on both sites which demonstrate the rich history of businesses in the capital:

London has always been one of the most important business capitals in the world. Consequently our business collections are numerous, extensive, and cover a multitude of subjects. The wide geographical remit of London’s companies ensures that the records are of international significance as well as important to economic, social and family historians alike.

Guildhall Library Manuscripts Section’s major strengths lie in City-based insurance (for example, Lloyd’s of London and the Sun Insurance Office), banking (for example, the merchant bank Morgan Grenfell), stockbroking (including the London Stock Exchange), global trade and industry (for example, companies involved in rubber, tea and tobacco, transport and communications, and mining), and country specific business (such as the Russia Company which dates from 16th century). There are also good collections for clock making and other trades.

LMA’s strengths lie in the brewing industry (Whitbread, Truman Hanbury, Canon Brewery, Watney Coombe Reid and others) and also in utility companies covering the supply of electricity, water and gas through predecessor company archives of the London Electricity Board, Thames Water, and the Gas Light and Coke Company. There are also a growing number of collections documenting the world of 20th century publishing such as Pollinger Limited (literary agents for D H Lawrence, H E Bates and others), Bogle L’Ouverture Publications Limited (Black publishers), and Hansib Limited (Asian and Black publishers) which complement the publishing archives held at Guildhall Library (such as Hodder and Stoughton, and Butterworths).


The Sun Insurance Office’s series of Foreign Agency books are a particular highlight of the collections at the Guildhall Library which deserve special attention.

These memorandum books were compiled by Foreign Department staff in London from 1830 (Ms 31522/1-309). Prior to deposit, they were held in the Sun Insurance Office’s library for the company’s own reference. The volumes contain reports from agents abroad on the potential for providing fire insurance in countries across the world. Much can be gleaned on the growth of foreign settlements in the 19th century, and on the type, structure and condition of buildings within them. The books often act as “diaries” recording the agents’ experiences in foreign lands. There are also related printed leaflets, newspaper cuttings and early photographs depicting the places they visited, some of which date from the mid 19th century.

For example, the volume for Napier, New Plymouth (Taranaki), New Zealand (Ms 31522/187), dating from 1877, contains photographs showing tantalising views of the new colonial settlement with shops and other businesses in the main streets. These images are important: Napier was only colonised 20 years before the photographs were taken and none of the original buildings survive as they were levelled by an earthquake in 1931!

Unfortunately, the vast majority of business archives have not survived to tell the tale of their company’s creation, development and contribution to society. Merryweather and Sons, fire engine and fire-fighting equipment manufacturers, is an example of a company whose records fell foul of a succession of corporate takeovers, a common threat to business archives.

Merryweather was originally established around 1690 by a Nathaniel Hadley, manufacturing pumps and fire-fighting apparatus. The first fire engine factory was built in 1738. In 1791 Henry Lott joined the firm and later took over full control of the company handing it over to his nephew by marriage, Moses Merryweather, when he retired. Moses and his sons continued to manage the business and in 1862 built a new factory in York Street, Lambeth, for the manufacture of steam engines. This closed in 1879, but by then another factory had been built in Greenwich Road in 1876.  By the later 19th century Merryweather had become Fire Engine Makers by Appointment to the Royal Family and sold fire-fighting apparatus across the world. By the 1910s machines were being distributed as widely as South Africa, Australia, New Zealand, Burma, Egypt, India and Singapore and China.

Sadly, out of this impressive history only two items survive at LMA (Accession B06/061): an account book, 1830-1835 giving detailed information on supplies of products to clients including many of the London vestries and the aristocracy; and one photograph album of fire equipment supplied to clients in Britain, Japan, the US, Europe and Africa,1920–1921. The former contains an account for the Duke of Devonshire’s two blue fire engines for Chatsworth, Derbyshire, with measurements, cost and details of their transportation by canal to Chatsworth.

They were donated to LMA in 2006 by a former engineer of C D Gormans of Gwent, Wales. He had saved them from skips at a factory store in Ebbw Vale, Wales, owned by Siebe Gorman, the firm which had taken over Calamite, which in turn had absorbed and moved Merryweather from the Capital to Wales in the 1980s.

I am currently sorting through the 100 metres of archives of Chubb and Sons, lock makers from 1818, and associated companies, prior to embarking on cataloguing. This business is relevant on a daily basis to almost everyone in the UK and beyond who has a Chubb key in their pocket, or lock at work or at home. The archives include lock and safe registers which are already proving useful for enquirers hoping to date antique furniture from the late Georgian and Victorian periods and beyond. Microfilms of the safe registers are available for consultation in the Guildhall Library Manuscripts Section reading room. Access to the remainder of the archive is limited while cataloguing is in progress.


A number of the major insurance company collections held in Guildhall Library (including those of the Hand-in-Hand Fire and Life Insurance Society, the world’s oldest fire insurance office established in 1696), are on deposit from Aviva plc of St. Helen's, 1 Undershaft, London. Aviva have now launched a new heritage website with information on 98 of their constituent companies and their records. For those companies which have material held at the Guildhall Library a link has been provided to the City of London Library Catalogue search engine. For more information please visit


Nicola Avery, Prinicpal Archivist, Acquisitions and Cataloguing at LMA, writes about an important and growing area of archives held there:

LMA holds several collections relating to charities and groups set up by and for the disabled community.  It is a growing area in terms of LMA’s collecting policy as we try to reach out to minority communities to make our collections more representative of 21st century London.

The majority of the collections already held are charities for people with specific disabilities, are Victorian in origin, and, unusually for LMA, the majority are also national in scope, not restricted to London. 

Some examples of major collections are outlined below, including two charities for the blind, two for the deaf and John Grooms Association for the Disabled which began as a charity for crippled flower girls, but is now very much more wide-ranging, catering for people with all kinds of disabilities.  The struggle of disabled people to be accepted and integrated fully into London society can also be found in many other collections held at LMA, and our archives tell both sides of the story. Local government was often on the receiving end of the campaigns fought by charities and organisations such as those mentioned below, and there is a great deal of material within the London and Middlesex County Council, and the Greater London Council’s archives on issues of interest to disabled people, particularly regarding the provision of special housing and accessible transport. This story will continue as LMA continues to take in archives relating to campaigning groups responsible for effecting these changes.

John Groom’s Association for Disabled People (reference: LMA/4305) began in 1866 when John Groom, a London preacher, founded the Watercress and Flower Girls’ Christian Mission in Clerkenwell. He built a factory in Sekforde Street where disabled and crippled girls and women could make and sell artificial flowers. The factory expanded and moved to Edgware in 1932, and during the 1970s the charity expanded its remit by setting up separate branches to develop and promote special housing for the disabled, and also special holidays for disabled people and their carers. During the 1980s John Groom’s initiated touring demonstrations to schools, to give children practical knowledge of what life can be like in a wheelchair.

The archive of John Groom’s held at LMA contains records for the charity itself and also for its various branches and projects, including publications, a large collection of photographs, films and videotapes produced by the charity to raise awareness of the problems facing disabled people. It also contains dozens of samples of the flowers made in the John Groom’s factory, of all sizes and varieties, fashioned in plastic and fabric, as well as samples of the tools used to make them.

Gardners Trust for the Blind (reference: ACC/3006) was set up in 1879 under the will of Henry Gardner.  The charity grants scholarships to national institutions and schools for the blind, grants to institutions for building and maintenance and grants and pensions to individuals. 

LMA holds full administrative and financial papers for the charity, including details of grants, scholarships and their beneficiaries, conference reports and newsletters. The records date from the founding of the charity in 1879 to early 1992, when the collection was deposited at LMA, but the charity is still in operation today.

Greenwich Workshop for the Blind (reference: GWB) began in 1875 to provide training and employment for local blind men. It ran a shop making and selling household goods such as brooms, baskets, rugs and mattresses.  Among the workshop’s many customers were several of London’s poor-law unions and hospitals, which purchased their mattresses from the shop.

The collection deposited at LMA includes minutes, annual reports and financial documents for the charity, as well as orders for goods, dating from 1875 to 1958.

LMA holds the records of two of the UK’s most important organisations working on behalf of the deaf:

The Royal Association for Deaf People (reference: LMA/4172), which began in 1841 and is still very active today, aims to promote the social, spiritual and general welfare of deaf people. In the early days its work included establishing churches for the deaf, which conducted all their services in British Sign Language, and during the 1920s it was influential in challenging the misdiagnosis of deaf children as mentally subnormal, resulting in the removal of many deaf children from mental asylums to special schools for the deaf. 

Today the organisation provides clubs and self-help groups; interpreting services; religious and cultural activities and training and education in British Sign Language and deaf awareness, including regular sessions for LMA staff. 

The archive of the RAD held at LMA includes corporate and financial records and also some registers and records from the churches set up by the organisation – namely Saint Barnabus Church for the Deaf, Lewisham, Saint Bede’s, Lambeth and All Saints Church for the Deaf, Croydon.

The British Deaf Association is the United Kingdom’s largest national charity for the deaf. They campaign for the rights of British Sign Language users and for official recognition for the language itself. It achieved a major success in 2003 when BSL was recognised as one of the official languages of the UK, but the BDA are still campaigning for more legal protection for the language.

LMA accepted around 30 metres of archival material on deposit when the charity moved from Old Street to the Midlands. This material includes full administrative and financial files, educational films and videos relating to British Sign Language and many publications. The collection is in the process of being catalogued and is currently available to view at LMA only with 48 hours’ advance notice.


Guildhall Library is holding a free series of events as part of the Archive Awareness Campaign 2008.

The events will take place in the Whittington Room, Guildhall Library, and all begin at 2pm. Numbers are limited. Please book in advance by telephoning 020 7332 1863 or email However, you are welcome to come on the day and see if there are any last minute places available.

9 October 2008: Behind-the-scenes tour of the Manuscripts Section store and a current conservation project. (1hr 15 minutes). 16 people maximum.

Come and see how the manuscripts are stored. Meet the conservators and see the current conservation volunteer project, preparing original wills for digitisation. Discover how to care for your treasures.

4 November 2008: The Lloyd's Marine Collection at Guildhall Library. (1hr). 20 people maximum.

The Lloyd's Marine Collection is an outstanding collection of merchant shipping records held at Guildhall Library. This talk introduces the collection and gives an overview of the main sources that can be used to trace the history of individual vessels and their voyages, as well as the sources that can be used to trace the careers of master mariners. The talk will also introduce some of the lesser used records from the collection, such as the records relating to signal stations and the medals awarded by Lloyd's.

19 November 2008: “A Place in the Sun: fire insurance records for local and family history”, Brenda Griffith-Williams, A Place in the Sun. (1hr). 20 people maximum.

An introduction to fire insurance records as a source of information on London householders and traders in the early 19th century (i.e. pre 1837), of interest to family, social and business historians.

10 December 2008: Searching for Black and Asian Londoners in the Parish Registers of the City of London. (1hr). 20 people maximum.

The University of the Third Age (U3A) are participating in a project in conjunction with the Manuscripts Section of Guildhall Library to search the parish registers of the City for evidence of Black and Asian Londoners (see article above). The project will run from September to December and will involve volunteers searching the original parish registers from the 1530s to 1837. In this talk, the project's participants will discuss their work and describe the results of their investigation.


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


Guildhall Art Gallery

20 and 21 September 2008 FREE TOUR

Combine a visit to the historic mediaeval Guildhall with one to Guildhall Art Gallery. Programme of walks starting from Guildhall Yard and free guided tours inside the Gallery throughout the day.

London Metropolitan Archives

Sunday 21 September 2008 10.30 am, 12 noon, 2 pm, 3.30 pm GUIDED TOURS

The current LMA building was purpose-built in the late 1930s for the Temple Press. The tour gives visitors a rare glimpse of original features which remain in the building, an introduction to its important history as a local landmark and a chance to see how the building is currently used to house, and give access to, a thousand years of London history.

FREE - but you must book in advance at London Metropolitan Archives, 40 Northampton Road, London EC1R 0HB (Tel: 020 7332 3851; Fax 020 7833 9136; Email; Web

My Place, Your Place, Our Place! at London Metropolitan Archives

Sunday 21 September 2008 1 - 5 pm FREE FAMILY FUN EVENT, but you must book in advance as above.

An Open House event with art and craft fun activities for all ages led by a professional artist. Using drawings, plans and photographs of houses old and new including the Golden Lane Estate and the Barbican in the City of London make your own fabulous Open House creation to take home.

London Maze

Saturday 11th October 2008 10am – 4pm FREE

Entrance via Guildhall Art Gallery

Come along to London Maze, London’s premier local history fair for a fun day. There will be stalls showcasing London’s museums, archives, local history libraries, historical groups and societies as well as walks, talks and activities. Speakers will include Ann Saunders, the noted London historian.

Visitors can gain free entry to the Gallery, including the 2,000 year old Roman Amphitheatre. The Gallery displays a renowned collection of Victorian paintings and sculpture.

Discover London’s history in the unforgettable setting of the Old Library and the Great Hall.

New this year – young people will be showcasing their Youth Maze culture projects.

Further details will appear on the London Maze web page,


LAST CHANCE TO SEE: 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 features 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 August 2008

Guildhall Library Manuscripts Section