Guildhall Library Manuscripts Section

Electronic Newsletter

Issue No. 14 Winter 2008/2009


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 around 440 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

City of London archive service awarded top rating

Measuring Up: enquiry service statistics for November 2008 - January 2009

Cataloguing news: Anglo-Portuguese Bank Ltd; All Saints Church, Marseilles

Guiding the way – St Paul’s Cathedral

More poetry please? Thomas More’s “Fortune Verses”

Lloyd’s Superannuation Fund Pensions Management Limited

Merryweather and Sons, fire engine and fire-fighting equipment manu- facturers – an update

Merchant Taylors’ 600th Anniversary of their 1408 Charter (Stephen Freeth)

Grant of arms of the Parish Clerks’ Company, 1482

The Turkish baths of 19th century London

All at sea: records of Watermen and Lightermen in the Navy

Guildhall Library and the University of the Third Age – a shared learning        project

Indexers on fire! Over 200,000 Sun fire insurance policies now available       online (Isobel Watson)

Archives online: PRONI’s online catalogue; the 1911 Census; records of births, baptisms, marriages, deaths and burials from non parish sources

Lloyd’s Captains Registers

Forthcoming events:

A monumental achievement (reopening of the Monument)

Still in love with London markets after all these years (Sandra Shevey)

We welcome your views!

Contact details

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


The Manuscripts reading room will be temporarily closed for refurbishment from 5pm on Friday 17 April 2009 (please note new date) for approximately six months. We will not open on Saturday 18 April.

Our distance enquiry service will continue as normal.  Access to original and microfilmed records will be through the reading rooms at London Metropolitan Archives from Monday 20 April 2009 (at least 48 hours’ advance notice will be required for original document orders).

For further information please see our website or email us.

The second issue of a regular newsletter dedicated to the refurbishment will be sent to all newsletter subscribers shortly.


We are delighted to report that Guildhall Library Manuscripts Section and London Metropolitan Archives (LMA) have retained their top rating under The National Archives’ (TNA) Self-Assessment of local authority archives services in England and Wales in 2008, with an improved score compared to the 2007 assessment. In all five categories (governance, documentation of collections, access and outreach services, preservation and conservation, and buildings, security and environment), Guildhall Library Manuscripts Section and LMA received the top rating of 4 stars, making them overall a 4-star service. For 2008 their overall score was 88%, compared to 76% in 2007 for Guildhall Library Manuscripts Section and 84% for LMA. This puts the City of London archive service at the forefront of the top 10% of local authority archive services in the country. The self-assessment was introduced on a pilot basis in 2006 and has now become an annual event. In previous years, the formidable questionnaire of over 100 questions, was submitted separately by Guildhall Library Manuscripts Section and LMA, but this year a joint return was submitted for the first time. This was a considerable undertaking as all the questions had to be answered from scratch. The marking was done by TNA and moderated by a Self-Assessment Panel which included representatives of the local authority archive sector. (This year, a 4 star ranking system replaced the previous system where the top rating was 3 star. Guildhall Library Manuscripts Section and LMA were both awarded 3 stars in 2007.)


Wendy Hawke, Senior Archivist, Access and Enquiries, writes about a busy three months in the Manuscripts Section’s reading room:

Readers of the last issue (and anyone who visited the reading room!) will know that business was booming throughout the summer and autumn. This continued into November and December, with visitor numbers and document productions well up on the same time last year. January has been a little quieter in terms of activity in the reading room, but remote enquiries have certainly picked up again. Enquiry desk staff continue to exceed our target of 85% of enquiries answered within two days, with 88% of enquirers in January receiving a same-day response.

The biggest challenge for the enquiry service in the coming months is the temporary closure of the Manuscripts reading room for refurbishment, but we hope to run as normal as possible a service from the reading rooms at LMA. Original document productions will obviously take longer, requiring at least 48 hours notice, but we are already taking advance orders. If you are planning to use our resources in the coming months, please do get in touch before you visit for the latest information and advice.

November 2008

708 visitors to the reading room (641 in 2007)

1772 documents produced in the reading room (1475)

303 written enquiries (317)

213 telephone calls (250)

Enquiry response time (target at least 85% answered within two days): 96.8% answered within two days; 75% answered on the day of receipt.

December 2008

470 visitors to the reading room (377 in 2007)

1187 documents produced in the reading room (916)

195 written enquiries (172)

143 telephone calls (121)

Enquiry response time: 98.7% answered within two days; 73.3% answered on the day of receipt.

January 2009

565 visitors to the reading room (571 in 2007)

1087 documents produced in the reading room (1449)

285 written enquiries (279)

199 telephone calls (206)

Enquiry response time for written enquiries: 98.6% answered within two days; 88% answered on the day of receipt.


Charlie Turpie, Principal Archivist, who manages the Manuscripts Section’s cataloguing programme, describes some recently catalogued records.


Records of Anglo-Portuguese Bank Ltd


We have recently completed the cataloguing of the archive of the Anglo-Portuguese Bank Ltd (Ms 39664-713). We hold records of several British banks operating in British (ex-) colonies, but this is the first bank concerned with Portuguese (ex-) colonies. Its origins lie in the Banco Nacional Ultramarino which was founded in Lisbon in 1864. The BNU established a branch in London in 1919 which became the Anglo-Portuguese Colonial and Overseas Bank Ltd in 1929. (Intriguingly, the Paris branch of the BNU also became a separate subsidiary bank in 1929). The bank’s name changed in 1955 to Anglo-Portuguese Bank Limited.


The countries or areas in which Anglo-Portuguese Bank Ltd operated (and by this name, we mean the bank in its entire existence from 1919 to 2005), included Brazil, Mozambique, India (Goa), Macao, Timor, Cape Verde, Guinea, S.Tome and Principe. As part of BNU, it was a bank of issue (i.e. issued banknotes), but it is not clear whether this function continued after 1929.


The records of the bank between 1919 and 1929 seem fuller, suggesting that the Lisbon head office of Banco Nacional Ultramarino was a harder taskmaster than the shareholders APB had to please when it became a separate (though subsidiary) bank in 1929. It would be interesting for example, to compare the annual accounts 1929-1990 (Ms 39668) with the reports of the London office [to Lisbon] 1920-9, (Ms 39682).


I am not aware of any research that has been carried out on these records and would suggest that they are worth further investigation. For readers who are primarily interested in family history, it is worth noting that they include staff record books 1919-84 (Ms 39710), although access to some of these is restricted. Bear in mind that the whole collection is on 24 hours’ call and must therefore be ordered in advance of a visit.


All Saints Church, Marseilles

We also hold the records of many overseas chaplaincies and have recently received material relating to the chaplaincy in Marseilles. Senior Archivist Sharon Tuff has the details:

There has been an Anglican presence in Marseilles since at least 1849 - the date at which the records commence. The present church at 4 Rue de Belloi was dedicated in 1902. Prior to this services were held at 100 Rue Sylvabelle. There was a Sailors' Home at Marseilles from at least the mid 1870s until 1910 which was located at 104 Rue de la Republique.

The records were deposited in the Manuscripts Section of Guildhall Library by the Diocese in Europe office in 2007 and 2008. They comprise a register of baptisms 1851-1902 and marriages 1852-85, including a baptism certificate dated 1904 (Ms 38994); a register of marriages 1951-65 and banns 1926-51 and a marriage certificate dated 1946 (Ms 38995); a register of burials 1850-1902 (Ms 38761); service registers 1944-71 (Ms 38996/1-2); church accounts 1849-75, 1982-99 (Ms 38997/1-3); and subscriptions from British ship masters collected by the British Consul from ships visiting Marseilles and given to the chaplain 1895-1908 (Ms 38762).



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


I have now completed the 24th section (out of 27) of the revamped Guide, namely the records of St Paul’s Cathedral. This very important collection has tiptoed through various issues of the newsletter, as we have looked at probate inventories, our earliest documents (St Paul’s charters), manorial records and a map of Tillingham, the Cathedral’s earliest estate.


However, this does not convey the importance of the archive. The Guide entry describes the archive in detail, but there are various highlights to pick out. We hold more medieval records of the Cathedral than of any other institution, including records of the Cathedral’s own administration, as well as records of their land-holding and tenants. These feature not only the manorial records mentioned in my previous article about the Guide, but also early charters and a large number of medieval deeds for the Cathedral’s sizeable holdings in the City of London, Middlesex, Essex, Hertfordshire and Bedfordshire.


Records are particularly full for the rebuilding of the Cathedral and the City Churches after the Great Fire of London. Some very long series of accounts include the signatures of workers and craftsmen collecting their weekly payments. (I must confess here that very early in my career at Guildhall Library, I told an enquirer confidently that we had no records of her ancestor Jean Tijou, a Huguenot ironworker who designed choir screens and grilles for the rebuilt cathedral. Mea culpa – his name occurs several times in Ms 25481.)


A surprising genealogical gem included in these records is the returns ca. 1678 from around 3300 parishes throughout England to briefs for the repair of St Paul’s Cathedral, naming thousands of individual subscribers towards rebuilding (Ms 25565-70 and Ms 25747). See our website for further details including an index of parish names,


The revised Guide entry includes our reference numbers, which will allow readers to consult catalogue entries online. For the first time, the records of the College of Minor Canons are included. The entry also includes more information about the archival history of the collection and about records held elsewhere. Incidentally, I make small revisions to Guide entries on a regular basis, so I would be pleased to hear about any corrections or further information anyone has to offer.

MORE POETRY PLEASE? Thomas More’s “Fortune Verses”

Matthew Payne, Senior Archivist, City Partners, describes a poetic discovery:

In the course of making improvements to the catalogue entry for a 16th century cartulary and rental of the Woodford family of Burnham in Buckinghamshire (Ms 1756), I recently discovered a number of stanzas of poetry on nine pages at the beginning of the manuscript, entered opposite painted coats of arms of the family. The verses are a version of Thomas More’s “Fortune Verses”, previously known only from one manuscript and two, later, printed versions. The other manuscript is at Balliol College, Oxford, and probably predates the Guildhall text by about a decade, but the newly-discovered lines do give some variant readings. It is also an important new source of information on the circulation of More’s poetry. The format of the poem in Ms 1756 suggests the possibility that it may have been copied from a now-lost printed edition.

Investigations into the Woodford family and the compilation of the manuscript suggest that the poems were copied in ca.1518. Connections with More have also been discovered. Thomas Woodford (ca.1497-1545), who was probably responsible for the insertion of the poetry, had loose family connections with Thomas More. He may also have had legal connections. He was probably training at one of the Inns of Court. His future father-in-law, Richard Blount, was a prominent member of Lincoln’s Inn (to which More was admitted in 1496), and cousin of William Blount, Lord Mountjoy, through whom More met Erasmus in 1499.

A transcript of the text, with a full collation and textual comparison with the other versions of the poems, and a historical discussion of the manuscript, written by me and Professor Anthony Edwards of De Montfort University, will appear in the next issue of The Review of English Studies in May.

Lloyd’s Superannuation Fund Pensions Management Limited

Susan Gentles, Archivist of the Pensions Archive Trust (PAT), announces the acquisition in December 2008 of the archives of Lloyd’s Superannuation Fund (LSF) Pensions Management Limited; a welcome edition to the PAT archives. The archives of LSF are held at Guildhall Library Manuscripts Section; other PAT archives are held at LMA.

Established in 1929 as Lloyd’s Clerks’ Superannuation Fund, LSF Pensions Management Ltd was set up for “members”, or “underwriters”, at Lloyd’s of London who wished to “establish under irrevocable trusts in connection with their said business a fund for the purpose of providing pensions for male Clerks employed in the said business on retirement…”. The role of underwriters at Lloyd’s is still the same today as it was in 1929; that is to evaluate, define and price insurance and reinsurance risks including where appropriate the rejection of such risks. The Fund continues to provide pensions services to Lloyd’s underwriters, and to work closely with its members as part of the Lloyd’s group.

The records deposited with the PAT, which extend to 26 shelf metres, cover all areas of the Fund’s administration. The original Trust Deeds and Rules, and Inland Revenue Approval documents which allowed the Fund to begin work, state its intentions and ambitions. The acquisition also includes minutes of all the major committees involved in the running of the Fund, from the Management and Finance committees, to the Board of Trustees; and correspondence and papers of various Chairmen, giving a unique insight into the running of the Fund.

The records also contain great detail about the individual underwriting companies who chose to have their staff pension scheme managed by LSF. The records include correspondence between the managers of these firms and LSF regarding their financial arrangements, and in particular their establishment or removal from LSF’s care. Annual Actuarial reports, which reported on the assets and liabilities of each individual pension scheme, have also been deposited.

As well as forming part of an archive showing the development of a very large occupational pension scheme throughout the 20th century, these records will also allow researchers to investigate a facet of the history of Lloyd’s of London which has remained out of public view until now.

The collection is currently uncatalogued, but it is envisaged that it will be fully catalogued and available for public consultation by the autumn of 2009. Until this time, access will be by prior notice only. For further information and requests for access to this or any other PAT collection, please contact the PAT Archivist, Susan Gentles at

If you would like to know more about the work of the Pensions Archive Trust, please visit our website.

Merryweather and Sons, fire engine and fire-fighting equipment manufacturers - an update

Richard Wiltshire, Senior Archivist, Business Archives, wrote previously on the history and records of Merryweather and Sons, later Merryweather and Company Limited, held at LMA. He now provides an update:

The account book, 1830-35, with later draft correspondence concerning orders, and photograph album of fire equipment supplied to customers,1920–1, formerly accession reference B06/061, has now been catalogued as LMA reference LMA/4516. It can be requested and made available for consultation in the LMA's Archive Study Area.

Guildhall Library has several additional sources on Merryweather and Sons. The Printed Books Section holds a brochure on the light portable steam pumping engine "Valiant"', published by Merryweather and Sons in April 1889 (reference Large Pam 707). The Prints and Maps Section holds an art reproduction of ca. 1900 which depicts the showroom of Merryweather and Sons Limited, fire engine makers, near the corner of Long Acre and Bow Street (reference: Pr. W2:BOW). NB: the Prints and Maps Section will close its service at Guildhall Library on 20 April and operate from LMA from early May 2009.

In December, we made contact with Mansfield Fire Museum which has since 1989 held “The Merryweather Collection”, an accumulation of fire service memorabilia, including archive material, formerly owned by Merryweather. For further information researchers are advised to contact Mansfield Fire Museum, Rosemary Street, Mansfield, Nottinghamshire NG19 6AB (telephone: 07970 656849; email: Images of the Merryweather display are available on the Museum's webpages.

Merchant Taylors’ 600th Anniversary of their 1408 charter

2008 is the 600th anniversary of the Merchant Taylors’ Company’s charter from Henry IV, dated 2 August 1408. To commemorate this, the charter has been taken out of the Muniment Room at the Company’s Hall, cleaned and photographed. The framed photograph will be displayed in the Hall at 30 Threadneedle Street in the City of London for the next 12 months and you can see it on the Company’s website. You can also consult a transcript of the charter in the Manuscripts Section at Guildhall Library (in Ms 34001).

Stephen Freeth, formerly Keeper of Manuscripts at Guildhall Library, and now Company Archivist of the Merchant Taylors’ Company (and of the Vintners’ Company too) describes the original charter:

The charter consists of a sheet of parchment (sheepskin) measuring 35 inches across and 23 inches in height. The text is in Latin, in 40 lines, commencing “Henricus dei gratia Rex Anglie et Francie et Dominus Hibernie”, the first line decorated with ornamental ascenders on many of the letters. The opening word “Henricus” also has an ornamental capital letter “H” surmounted by a royal crown and the word “Sovereyne”. The Great Seal of Henry IV is attached to the parchment by silk cords. One side shows the king enthroned, and the other the king on horseback. (The same overall design has persisted to the present day, though the present Queen Elizabeth is not shown in armour with sword!) The seal is in green beeswax, denoting a grant in perpetuity.

The Company would have been responsible for the writing and sealing of the charter, once the king had consented to it. As a general rule, the plainer the charter, the more worrying the time. This one is relatively plain. The ascenders and initial “H” are no more than the minimum decoration necessary. In 1408 the Tailors and Linen Armourers (as they then were) would have been foolish to spend any more money. Henry IV might have been removed at any time, just as he had removed and murdered his predecessor, Richard II, in 1399.

The Latin text is complex. Firstly, it confirms the Company’s three earlier charters, from Edward III (1327 and 1341) and Richard II (1390), all of which are recited in full. These had, piecemeal, granted the Company the right to control its trade and membership, to elect a Master and four Wardens annually, and to hold an annual feast on the Baptist’s day. Secondly, it grants new rights: corporate status, for the first time, i.e. the right to have a common seal and to go to law as a company and not as individuals; and, most importantly, the right to hold land “in mortmain” to the value of £100 per year, together with an amnesty for any such property acquired already. In the medieval period holding property in mortmain was a closely guarded privilege. Land which passed into the “dead hand” of institutions deprived the Crown for ever of feudal dues from heirs and children.

The Company already had its Hall, of course, and was beginning to acquire other property too. However the Hall was only held under a licence in mortmain from the late Richard II. There was no harm in having the right to hold property confirmed and augmented by the new dynasty. All of this cost the Company £100 – around £40,000 today – of which we know from the Company accounts that the members contributed £21 13s. What the Master and Clerk thought of this level of support is not recorded!

Grant of arms of the Parish Clerks’ Company, 1482

Guildhall library Manuscripts Section was delighted recently to receive from the Parish Clerks’ Company their wonderful 1482 grant of arms as an additional deposit. The grant has for some time been on display at the Museum of London, with other objects from the Parish Clerks’ Company. It had previously been in the custody of the College of Arms where it is recorded in 1678. The College had borrowed it from the antiquary Sir Edward Dering (1598-1644) who had the grant in his possession in 1639. After 1941 it was restored to the Company, only to disappear. It resurfaced in 1974 at Ironmongers’ Hall, at which point it was passed to the Museum of London. It has now been catalogued as Ms 39293.

Matthew Payne, describes this beautiful document:

The grant was made by Thomas Holme, Clarenceux King of Arms, at London on 16 July 1482, to the “Confraternitie founded in the Chapell of the Guyld Hall within the Citie of London in the honour of our lord god, our blessed Lady Marie the Virgin his madre & of Seint Nicholas”, afterwards the Company of Parish Clerks. The grant superseded a (lost) grant made in 1469/70 by Walter Bellenger, Ireland King of Arms, and himself admitted a member of the Fraternity in 1469, whose authority Holme disputed (although he did not alter the arms as devised). It is interesting to note that in 1487/8 Holme was also admitted to the Fraternity.

The arms granted were “a sheld Asur a chefe goules a flour deluces in the chefe the hede of a Leoparde of the same tonged goules two halywat’ sprencles of gold & silver ensautur’ upon all” [i.e. A shield azure a chief gules a fleur-de-lys in the chief the head of a leopard of the same tongued gules two holy water sprinklers of gold and silver in saltire upon all]. These arms were used for exactly 100 years, before, “being over muche charged with certayne superstition”, they were altered to remove the aspergilia (holy water sprinklers) which had previously been used in one of the parish clerks’ liturgical duties, and replaced with two “pricksong books”.

The Fraternity of St Nicholas was incorporated by royal charter on 22 January 1441/2, forming the chief parish clerks of the collegiate and parish churches of London into a perpetual corporation. Originally the parish clerk was a clerk in minor orders who assisted the priest in the preparation and conduct of church services, including the leading of the choir. But by the 15th century, the office was increasingly held by laymen, and in London it was such lay parish clerks who had established the Fraternity of St Nicholas. The magnificent Bede Roll of the Company (Ms 4889), an illuminated book recording the names of members from 1448/9 to 1521, and intended for liturgical use to remember both the living and the dead, is currently the subject of detailed conservation work, funded jointly by the Parish Clerks’ Company, Guildhall Library and the National Manuscripts Conservation Trust.

For further information on the grant of arms see J Bromley and H Child, The Armorial Bearings of the Guilds of London, (London 1960), pp.189-92; Francis Steer, The Armorial Bearings of the Worshipful Company of Parish Clerks of London, (published by the Worshipful Company of Parish Clerks, 1975), Heralds’ commemorative exhibition, 1484-1934, held at the College of Arms, (1936), pp.55-56,  plate xxxvi; A Wagner, Heralds and heraldry in the Middle Ages, (London 1939), pp.74-75; and W A Littledale (ed), A Collection of Miscellaneous Grants, Crests, Confirmation, Augmentations and Exemplifications of Arms, Harleian Society vol.77, (London 1926), pp.165-6. See also NW and VA James, The Bede Roll of the Fraternity of St Nicholas, (Loughborough 2004) London Record Society vol.39.


Charlotte Hopkins, Information Officer in the Prints and Maps Section of Guildhall Library, having been asked to dip a toe into the Turkish baths of 19th century London, shares her discoveries:

Arriving in Bishopsgate Churchyard I got a glimpse of the old entrance to Neville's Turkish Baths designed by Harold Elphick in 1894. It has since passed through the hands of a few restaurateurs and now houses Italian cuisine. Geoffrey Fletcher describes it in London Overlooked, “This Moorish building is of pale duck-egg blue and darker blue (sobered down a little by the London dirt) in tiles striped and banded and also in brown, cream and gold coloured tiles. The onion-shaped dome is topped by a crescent and star.” The original saloon was lusciously decorated with mirrors, faience, velvet carpets and a Doulton fountain. The three hot rooms had marbled mosaic floors, stained glass windows, and marbled seats lending a luxurious luxuriance to any guest that went to experience the balmy atmosphere. A little treasure that is enchanting to stumble upon.

The popularity of Turkish baths in the 19th century appears to have a direct correlation with the end of the Crimean War in 1856. A certain David Urquhart, politician and travel writer, had a political agenda in promoting them in Britain. He felt that an engagement with Turkish culture across Britain would encourage the government to promote a pro-Turkish, anti-Russian foreign policy. By the end of 19th century there were over 100 Turkish bath houses in London.

We have a wonderful selection of trade cards within the print room which led to a discovery of an earlier Turkish-style bath at “The Old Hummums” in Covent Garden. William Pulleyn, in The etymological compendium, or portfolio of origins and inventions: containing a particular account of London and its public buildings of 1830, describes the baths as "...famed for their good beds, and hot and cold baths, likewise for their general good fare. Dr Shaw, in his Travels, says, that hummums is a corruption of hammum, the Arabic term for a bath or bagnio. The first bagnio, or bath, for sweating or hot bathing in England, it is believed, was that in Bagnio Court, Newgate Street, which afterwards became a hotel, or lodging house, after which Hummums in Covent Garden were opened upon the same plan."

By the 1900s adverts were appearing for Turkish baths at home, examples of which can be found in the Illustrated London News for May 1900. It suggests that a Turkish bath is a cure for “rheumatism, a hard cold, and breaks up all symptoms of fever with one bath…Good health without medicine. Reduces surplus flesh.” Ladies are recommended to, “use the complexion steamer. Clears the skin of pimples and blotches, leaving it clean and soft as velvet.”

We may not be so lucky as to experience an actual Turkish bath at home, but if you need to warm those bones on these cold winter nights I suggest virtually plunging in to

All at sea: records of Watermen and Lightermen in the Navy

As I walked out on London Street

A press gang there I chanced to meet

They asked me if I'd join the fleet

On board of a man-o-war, boys

(Traditional English folk song)

The Company of Watermen and Lightermen did not have a livery and this meant that its members were not protected from the press-gangs, unlike those of the liveried City Companies. Unless able to claim exemption, impressment was a fate that befell many Company members from as early as the 14th century. Some records of members’ service in the Navy survive, particularly for the Napoleonic period, and these are both fascinating and easy to use. Wendy Hawke tells more:

Perhaps unsurprisingly, many of the Company’s own officials or “rulers” were protected from the pressmen (see Ms 6383 and Ms 8910 for lists). Ordinary members could sometimes be exempt by virtue of their particular jobs, such as William Anderson (waterman to His Majesty), James Broughton (fireman to the Sun Fire Office), William Kitchener (river pilot) and Samuel Nott (River Fencibles). These men are recorded in Ms 6384. Still others were able to find substitutes who would undertake Naval service for them (see Ms 6306).

Others were not so fortunate. We have alphabetical lists of watermen in the Navy with names of the ships on which they were serving "when last heard of by their relatives" (Ms 8911); members of the Company at sea and supposed to be in the King's service or prisoners in France (Ms 6385); and a list of 105 members of the Company killed in action in the Navy, or invalided in that service, naming their ships (Ms 6386). In this list we find William Price, “wounded with Admiral Nelson & discharged”, and James Green who was “imprest per Enterprise and Died on board HMS Eagle”.

Most of these men were freemen of the Company, but apprentices could be pressed too. This can sometimes be the reason for an unusually long apprenticeship, particularly at the beginning of the 19th century. The apprentice impress summons books cover 1803-1807 (Ms 6300). They are arranged by date of summons and are not indexed.

The response of the apprentices to these summons varied, as did their eventual fate. Here is what happened to just a few of the several dozen young men summoned on 15 June 1803 (the dates in square brackets are of binding and freedom admission, taken from Rob Cottrell’s indexes):

“John Groves app[rentic]e to Thos Mesnard – discharged having a Custom House protection”  [bound 27 July 1796; free 27 March 1806]

“Thos Rogers app[rentic]e to Wm Bogg – absconded” [bound 14 January 1798; free 20 April 1809]

“Sam’l Wallis app[rentic]e to Jos’h Gingell entered on board HM brigg Sheerness in the Impress service” [bound 27 June 1799; free 29 September 1814]

“Jno Hy Hardin app[rentic]e to Wm Shields – at sea 2 years” [bound 24 August 1797; never made free]

One possible claim for exemption from the impress was service in the River Fencibles, as with Samuel Nott above. Watermen and other groups of river tradesmen had first formed associations of River Fencibles in 1798 in response to the threat of invasion. They were officially established in 1803. Volunteers were assured that they would only be called upon for active service or exercise, and they were paid 1 shilling per day. Members of the London escorted the barge carrying the body of Nelson along the Thames during his state funeral in 1806, and in the following year, River Fencibles sailed to Denmark to escort prizes taken at the Battle of Copenhagen. The force was disbanded in 1813. Records of the River Fencibles comprise a book of subscriptions, 1808 (Ms 6386A); a copy muster roll, 1803-7 (Ms 6434); and account of subscriptions to a fund,1809-10 (Ms 6434A).

Thomas Martin School

Staying with Watermen and Lightermen, readers may be interested to know that LMA have taken in the archives of the Thomas Martyn Foundation formally held by Wandsworth Museum. Thomas Martyn established a school in Putney in 1684 for the sons of 20 local watermen. For more information, please contact LMA. 

Guildhall Library and the University of the Third Age - A Shared Learning Project

In previous newsletters, we have written about the Manuscripts Section’s efforts to trace Black and Asian Londoners through the City’s parish registers. With the help of our readers and through the efforts of our team of volunteers, the list of relevant entries from the parish registers has continued to grow.

Information Officer Claire Titley and Charlie Turpie describe Guildhall Library’s participation in a Shared Learning Project with the Greater London branch of the University of the Third Age during the autumn of 2008.

The aim of this project was to search the baptism, marriage and burial registers of three parishes to increase the number of complete parishes whose registers have been searched. The results were to be presented in a public presentation at Guildhall in December 2008.

The project was advertised in the U3A newsletter and a group of 11 volunteers were selected because of their experience of researching their own family history or of their academic research or involvement in previous U3A projects. They all therefore had slightly different skills and expectations of the project. The group was led by Wendy Mott, who was the first point of contact for the volunteers and who focused the group to the task at hand.

We arranged some introductory sessions for the group on secondary sources (from librarian Peter Ross), document handling (from conservator Hilary Ordman), and palaeography (from Nicola Avery, Principal Archivist, Acquisitions and Cataloguing at LMA).

The initial parishes chosen were St Olave Hart Street, Holy Trinity Minories and St Mary Woolnoth. St Olave Hart Street was chosen because of the number of entries that had already been uncovered by readers working on their own studies in the reading room. Holy Trinity Minories is a parish on the eastern edge of the City, traditionally a place of settlement by new communities.

St Mary Woolnoth was searched because John Newton (1725-1807), the abolitionist, writer and hymnist, was rector there from 1779 until his death. It was already clear from the entries found that many black people in late 18th century registers were baptised as adults (partly influenced by a belief that slaves were freed by baptism). We had found groupings of several people within a few years in a couple of City parishes in the late 18th century. We had hypothesised that an incumbent might gain a reputation as willing to baptise adult black people and were interested to see if Newton’s time as rector saw a number of Black people appearing in the parish registers.

The 11 volunteers visited the Library as a group, every other Friday, for 12 weeks. On their visits to the Library they searched the original parish registers, which we made available from our out-stores especially for this project. Baptisms, marriages and burials of individuals who could be identified as being of Black or Asian origin (either by the words used to describe their ethnicity, such as blackamoor or negro, or from the information about where they came from, for example “native of Jamaica”) were recorded.

The volunteers were asked to search the parish registers for baptisms and burials from 1538, when parish registers became a requirement in parish churches, through to the introduction of civil registration in 1837. Marriage registers do not often mention ethnicity, but we had found one entry already and so we decided to search the marriage registers up to 1700.

Progress through the registers was surprisingly swift for many volunteers, although the early registers provided challenging examples of palaeography which meant they could take much longer. Registers were assigned to individual volunteers on the basis of their own skills and experience. 

We expected there to be only a few entries per register and indeed some volunteers had sessions where they found no relevant entries. This was undoubtedly disheartening, especially when they were working with particularly tricky early registers. We tried hard to provide encouragement and support and to prepare volunteers by stressing that a negative result was just as worthwhile as a positive one. We found that as more entries were found, morale lifted as the group could see that the searching was worthwhile.

The group demonstrated remarkable tenacity, and completed the registers for the three parishes before the target date. We extended the project including the registers of St Andrew Undershaft and All Hallows London Wall, two parishes in the centre of the City of London.

In total, 44 registers were searched, and 151 relevant entries found. The U3A volunteers spent 244 hours searching approximately 123,500 entries in the 12 weeks of the project. Although the number of entries found may sound modest, it should be seen as a significant achievement, not least because it increases the number of entries found as part of our search to identify “lost” Londoners by approximately 50%.

It is not only the number of entries that were of interest. There are local variations between the parishes that cannot yet be explained. The number of baptisms far outweighed the number of burials in Holy Trinity Minories and St Andrew Undershaft, yet for St Mary Woolnoth and St Olave Hart Street baptisms and burials were roughly equivalent. There were no relevant burials in All Hallows London Wall.

The highest number of relevant entries came from Holy Trinity Minories, and the lowest, interestingly, came from St Mary Woolnoth. Despite the installation of John Newton at St Mary Woolnoth, there does not appear to be a corresponding increase in baptisms for example, that one might expect from this slave-trade abolitionist. These variations prompt questions about the lives of the Black and Asian population of the City that deserve further study.

The content of the entries provides valuable information about the origin, status and lives of Black and Asian Londoners who rarely appear in the official record of London history. There are many possible areas for further research. Many adults were buried or baptised from a named person’s house. Sometimes they are clearly stated to be a servant, other times this address might be a lodging house, for example, 14 June 1681 “Loreto an India Woaman was buryed in the New Church Yard in Seething Lane from Mr Pewseyes” (Ms 28869 p.101); and 24 January 1683/84 “Marea a Female Neager from Mr Pewseyes was buried in the New Churchyard” (Ms 28869 p. 107).  Other sources held at Guildhall Library, such as rate books and wardmote minutes, might reveal more.

In the parishes of Holy Trinity Minories and St Olave Hart Street, the names of the sureties required for adult baptisms are given, sometimes referred to as witnesses or sponsors. For example: 21 January 1692 baptism of “A Moor formerly called by the name of Roger Fuller aged 18 years. Gilbert Cuttler and Richard Meller and Hannah Barton his surtys.” (Ms 9238 p.89); and 1 December 1751 baptism of “Peter King a Black and Native of Guinea. Witness John Akorman, Alice Hamersley” (Ms 9239 p.60). Who are these people? Each of the early sureties’ names appears only once, but John Akerman (this spelling is more frequent) and Alice Hamersley appear several times.

Most frustratingly/intriguingly, most of the people in the entries appear by themselves, without family connections, so it would be difficult to fit them into a family tree. Much more work could be done to try and link the names we have found with sources here, such as churchwardens’ accounts and workhouse registers and sources elsewhere, such as parish registers at LMA and Westminster. Another source which would be well worth looking at are the records of the ill-fated Sierra Leone scheme held at the National Archives, which include lists of names (some available digitally).

Some of the most interesting entries were the marriages. Previously, we had evidence of only one marriage where one or both of the parties could be identified as being of Black or Asian origin. Now we have ten, all in the 16th and 17th centuries (because we set a limit of 1700), which suggests that further work in the 18th century could be worthwhile. Most came from Holy Trinity Minories, a centre for irregular marriage, and the parties come in all instances from other parishes; St Mary Whitechapel, St Stephen Coleman Street and Stepney.

At the end of the project, the volunteers gave an interesting and entertaining talk in the Basinghall Suite to an appreciative audience, with a display of original documents to show examples of the entries found. Although the volunteers were understandably nervous about the presentation, they received good feedback from those present and should be proud of their contributions.

We are immensely pleased with the work of the U3A volunteers and were impressed by their commitment. This project demonstrates how much original research can be conducted in a short, intensive project and has opened up other areas of research, which we hope can be picked up by researchers working in this area.

Wendy Mott, who acted as a team leader for the project, gives her insight into the project:

“For those of us who had done parish register research before it was wonderful to be given the chance to use original records. Normally now one is only allowed to use transcripts or microfilm/microfiche. One member, who is a churchwarden, was thrilled to be given the churchwardens’ accounts for St. Mary Woolnoth to search.

Searching through the early registers was very difficult as only one member had palaeography skills.  For some registers this was not a great problem as the entries followed a strict format and one could see at a glance any deviation from this. One register in particular, though, had only 4 or 5 entries on a page with great detail given for each entry. This applied whether the entry was about a lord or a foundling.  The writing was very beautiful to look at but very difficult to read. This register alone (Ms 7635/1) took one member approximately 15 hours to search and, at the end of it, no result.

From being very excited about the project, enthusiasm faded for one or two as they searched early registers for hours and found no relevant entries. There were slight signs of discontent from some members. Then, having searched over 10,000 entries with no results, one member found 7 relevant entries in 10 minutes and the mood changed.  Apart from medical problems, no one dropped out of the project and mostly the mood was very positive.

We were always made very welcome at the Library and our thanks must go to the staff, especially Charlie and Claire, who had tested the project in advance so that our role was very clear and also arranged for talks on document handling and palaeography.

Giving the final presentation in the Basinghall Suite was a daunting but very memorable experience.”

The entries found by the U3A volunteers have been combined with, and added to, the other entries collected by the Library. Together, with the work of our permanent volunteers who have been working on the large parishes of St Botolph Aldgate and St Katharine by the Tower, an impressive body of research is forming.

The list of all entries found in the Manuscripts Section’s records (including entries found in records other than parish registers) can be found on here

We are still recording entries found by readers during the course of their own research, on green forms.

If you have any queries about the project, or are interested in participating as a volunteer, please contact the Manuscripts Enquiry Desk.

And finally, the last word from Jennifer Anning from the University of the Third Age: “U3As in London are always looking for opportunities for Shared Learning Projects involving research in archives and elsewhere.  If you have a project which you think we could assist you with, please contact  Jennifer Anning, the SLP London Co-ordinator, tel:  020 8330 6931.”

More information about the University of the Third Age can be found at


Isobel Watson updates us about recent progress on A Place in the Sun: the online index to Sun insurance policies at Guildhall Library, 1800-1839:

Another batch of 14 register indexes has recently gone online. This takes to 125 the total of Sun Fire Office policy registers from Ms 11936 included in the National Archives’ Access to Archives (A2A) database, and the policies covered to more than 218,000. The coverage now extends to 1800, so that the names and addresses of insured individuals and businesses, and the locations of the property they insured, as well as (in some cases) occupiers of the property, can be captured online for policies issued during the first four decades of the 19th century. Having identified the register and policy number, the searcher can read, or order a copy of, the original document at Guildhall Library (email for an order form).

Recent changes to the TNA search pages have also restored the very useful facility to narrow the search to the place of deposit. Using an “advanced search” option (either via the link to A2A on the “search the archives” drop-down menu, or the comprehensive search tool at the top right-hand corner of the home page at it is now possible once again to isolate the search to records at Guildhall Library.

15 volunteers continue to work on the registers - many of them have been involved with the project since it was begun by the former London Archive Users’ Forum in 2003. It is hoped that a further batch of indexes, for the 1790s, will be ready for uploading by the end of 2009.


PRONI’s online catalogue

The Public Record Office of Northern Ireland's electronic catalogue is now available on the web. It can be accessed via the PRONI website at

Over a million entries are available for searching and browsing. The entries include records relating to several of the City of London livery companies. 30 livery companies had Irish estates derived from their participation in James I’s scheme for the colonisation of Ulster known as the “Plantation of Ulster”. The records relate to the county of Londonderry which was divided into 12 parts each being assigned to a group of companies, and generally, like those held at Guildhall Library Manuscripts, date from the 17th to the 20th centuries. Search on “Skinners’ Company” to get a taste of what is available.

The Skinners' Irish estate was known as the Pellipar estate, after the Latin for skinners, pelliparii. If you want to see what Guildhall Library holds for this estate, go to and search by Title on “Pellipar”.  For more background information see J. S. Curl’s The Londonderry Plantation 1609-1914 (Phillimore, 1986) which has a chapter on the Irish estates of each of the Great Companies and their associated minor companies.

The City of London established The Honourable The Irish Society to oversee the City's role in the “Plantation of Ulster”. The records of the Irish Society are held at LMA. The Irish Society, which helps to maintain the City's close connections with Derry and Northern Ireland, will be marking its 400th anniversary in 2013. It will be participating fully in the commemorative events planned for Derry for that year, which also marks the anniversary of the building of Derry's city walls. Staff at Guildhall Library and at LMA are currently pursuing ways that the historical records can be incorporated as fully as possible into these commemorative events, and develop closer cultural connections with Northern Ireland. 

More TNA sources online

Records from the 1911 census are now available online at, after an ambitious project undertaken by in association with The National Archives.

Thirty-six million people were recorded in the census taken on the night of Sunday 2 April, 1911. It was the most detailed census since UK records began and the first for which the original census schedules have been preserved, complete with our ancestors' own handwriting. It was also the first time in a British census that full details of British Army personnel and their families in military establishments overseas were included.

Over 27 million people's census entries - 80 per cent of the English records - are now online. A further nine million records of people from the remaining counties of England, Wales, the Isle of Man and the Channel Islands, as well as the naval and overseas military records, will be made available over the coming months.

This exciting new resource will be showcased at Who Do You Think You Are? Live at London's Olympia between 27 February and 1 March 2009. For more detailed show information, visit

More than 600,000 records of birth, baptism, marriage, death and burial taken from non parish sources have been added to the searchable online service at BMDRegisters. These records were previously only viewable on microfilm as the RG 8 series. Among the collections you can find are: maternity records from the British Lying-in Hospital, Holborn, 1749-1868; registers of burials in the Victoria Park Cemetery, Bunhill Fields Burial Ground, Bethnal Green Protestant Dissenters Burying Ground and many more; and the archive of the Russian Orthodox Church in London, 1721-1927.

Marriage and baptism records from the Fleet Prison, covering the period 1667-1777 (RG 7), are also now fully searchable online at BMDRegisters. These include the marriage records of some 800,000 people, the majority of whom were from London and the surrounding counties, with a further 2,400 baptismal records.

lloyd’s captains registers

Guildhall Library held a series of events as part of the Archive Awareness Campaign at the latter end of 2008. Those of you interested in sources for mariners might be interested to know that the text of Stacey Harmer’s talk on Lloyd’s Captains Registers is availiable here.


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

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 be added to the mailing list, please contact us.

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

A Monumental achievement

The Monument reopened to the public on 16 February 2009 after an extensive programme of improvements and restoration. See, for the first time, where Hooke and Wren did experiments, marvel at the beautifully-restored crowning orb - now reflected on a stunning new mirrored pavilion - and, of course, take in impressive views of London from a new and improved viewing gallery.

For more information go to

Still in Love with London’s Markets after all These Years

Sandra Shevey writes about her very personal relationship with London markets and describes what she has been up to during the last year:

Well, for starters, I have made a film about four of my favourite London street markets: Smithfield, Borough, Spitalfields and Covent Garden with the intention of raising awareness about the effects of transport expansion and commercial redevelopment. The 28-min DVD, entitled London’s Ancient Markets: Their Struggle for Survival is not a documentary, but a threnody in the style of poet laureate John Betjeman, which I wrote, directed, produced and also narrate.

Another innovation in 2008 was the pro bono blog about England’s charter markets which I did for Enjoy England. This undertaking not only allowed me the luxury of visiting charter markets all over England, but changed my opinion about the incursion of Farmers’ Markets. A lot of the markets in London are held in rural, nostalgic settings such as the grounds of an old church or adjacent to a park. All of the markets sell farm-fresh produce and there are regular cooking demonstrations and lots of tasters.

I also ran a series of walks for the 2008 Open House weekend around Smithfield and Borough markets.  Participants enjoyed rare views of the Smithfield tunnels, remnants of the old London Bridge, and the old Victorian Leather Exchange which still exists intact and in its original location within proximity of Borough where at the old fairs leather goods were sold.

Sandra Shevey runs daily walks around England and London street markets. For more information go to The DVD is available for purchase online at


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 contact the editor, Philippa Smith, at

Last updated February 2009

Guildhall Library Manuscripts Section