Guildhall Library Manuscripts Section

Electronic Newsletter

Issue No. 15 Spring 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. Please feel free to forward it to anyone you think might like to read it. The newsletter now has around 470 subscribers. If you are not already on the mailing list, and would like to receive future issues, please email us.


EC1 + 2: the delivery of the Manuscripts Section’s service from London Metropolitan Archives

Staff news

News from the Print Room

The streets of Clerkenwell (Isobel Watson)

Measuring Up: annual enquiry service statistics, 2008-9; enquiry service statistics for February – 17 April 2009

Cataloguing news: cataloguing backlog further reduced; the future of the Manuscripts Section’s online catalogue; Wallace Brothers; Baltic Exchange; Institute of Chartered Accountants in England and Wales

Volunteers’ Week (1-6 June 2009)

The roots of Radicalism? (Gillian Williamson)

The latest addition to the index to Lloyd’s Captains Registers now available

Recognising bravery – the archives of the Royal Humane Society

Thomas Martyn Foundation/Watermen’s School

Caroline Crachami, the “Sicilian Fairy”

Thomas Warburton’s private madhouses (Isobel Watson)

Archives online: AIM25; trace your family history using Directgov; baptisms, marriages and burials of British subjects overseas and on board ships

The future of archives – have your say

Forthcoming events

We welcome your views!



The Manuscripts reading room closed for refurbishment at 12 noon on Friday 17 April 2009 for several months. This is to allow Guildhall Library to be extensively refurbished for the first time since 1974.

Our distance enquiry service continues.  Access to original and microfilmed records is through the reading rooms at London Metropolitan Archives (at least 48 hours’ advance notice is required for original document orders).

Up to date details of access arrangements to Guildhall Library Manuscripts collections are available.


Access to restricted collections

Where the catalogue states “Restricted access”, you will need to obtain permission from the depositor before we can order the documents for you. Please email us at the address above for further advice.

Where the catalogue states “Access subject to special conditions”, you will need to present a History Card before we can issue the documents to you. For further information and to register online please go to

Please note that access to a very few selected “iconic” manuscripts will be by appointment only.

Original Guildhall Library manuscripts available at LMA without pre-ordering

Due to their popularity, certain series of original manuscripts have been transferred to LMA for the duration of the refurbishment works. You can view the following at LMA without the need to pre-order:

Lloyd’s Captains Registers (Ms 18567)

Sun Insurance Office fire policy registers (Ms 11936 and 11937)

Sun Insurance Office policy endorsement books (Ms 12160)

Stock Exchange applications for listing card index (Ms 18001)

Index to transcripts of baptisms, marriages and burials in selected overseas Anglican chaplaincies (Ms 15061)

Further manuscripts may be transferred if demand warrants. For up to date information, please email us.

Changes to the distance enquiry service

Please continue to email us. Document orders will be acknowledged within two working days. General enquiries will be forwarded to the LMA Enquiries team and you will receive a response within ten working days.

If you are not able to visit us at LMA you may be able to take advantage of LMA’s paid research services. We can now provide print-outs from microfilmed parish registers (where exact dates are given) or more detailed research into family history sources including print-outs or scans of documents. For more information, please see

You can still telephone us on 020 7332 1862/1863; your call will be automatically diverted to LMA. Alternatively, you can ring LMA direct on 020 7332 3820. Staff are happy to provide general advice over the phone. If your enquiry is more complex, you will be advised to email us at the above address. Please note that we cannot take document orders over the telephone.

Saturday opening and stocktaking closure

LMA is not open every Saturday; for a list of Saturday dates in 2009 when we are open please see However, there are late-night openings until 7.30pm every Tuesday and Thursday.

LMA is closed on all Bank Holidays and also for a two-week annual stocktake period. In 2009, the annual stocktake will run from 4.45pm on 30 October until 9.30am on 16 November.


Manuscripts Section staff, as well as the Manuscripts Section service, have moved to London Metropolitan Archives. Principal Archivists Philippa Smith and Charlie Turpie, and Senior Archivists Matthew Payne (City Partners) and Richard Wiltshire (Business Records) have joined the newly formed Collections team, while Senior Archivist Wendy Hawke (Access and Enquiries) and Information Officers Claire Titley and Louisa MacDonald have joined the Reader Services and Enquiry teams. You may have already bumped into Claire doing sterling work in the Information Area at LMA. Archivist Stacey Harmer has just gone on maternity leave, but hopes to rejoin us next year as part of the Collections team. Last, but not least, Strongroom Assistant Paul Delaney is now working as part of the LMA Repository Management team.

The Department of Libraries, Archives and Guildhall Art Gallery has a new Director. On 11 May 2009 David Pearson replaced David Bradbury who had been with the Department since 2002. David Pearson was previously Director of the University of London Research Library Services, and before that Head of the Wellcome Library. He has written extensively on the history of books.


Jeremy Smith writes:

Friends of the Manuscripts Section may be interested to hear news of our former Guildhall Library next-door-neighbour, the Prints and Maps Section. The permanent transfer to London Metropolitan Archives of the staff (in part), and the print and maps collection (entirely), took place at the end of April. Thanks to the superb efficiency of the whole LMA Repository Management team, and to the sterling preparatory work by the Print Room's Michael Melia and Charlotte Hopkins, 150,000 items on paper, plus a veritable mountain of “back-office” files and reference materials, were transferred, shelf to shelf, smoothly, painlessly and in perfect order.

Although the collection is already accessible via the main Archive Study Area at LMA, to say that it is fully up and running might give a slightly misleading impression in relation to speed of service. Some enquiries are currently taking a little longer than hitherto as some matters of compatibility of systems are sorted out. This is only to be expected, and we are confident that aficionados of prints and drawings will feel more than compensated by the vastly increased resources now available to them as well as the extra convenience. The two largest collections of topographical material relating to London are now combined under one roof, forming what must be one of the largest municipal graphic collections in the world.

For readers concerned by the mention earlier of a “partial” transfer of staff, we must inform all old friends of Guildhall Library that John Fisher has taken early retirement after 34 years with the Libraries, Archives and Guildhall Art Gallery Department of the City of London, latterly as head of the Prints and Maps Section. He takes with him a lightly worn expertise in matters topographical and architectural, together with a famously good natured dedication to public service. These will be sorely missed on both sides of the counter.

To enquire further about the graphic collections at LMA, email or telephone 020 7332 3820.


Isobel Watson muses on the change of scene staff and volunteers have encountered on exchanging the neighbourhood of Guildhall for that of London Metropolitan Archives, and finding ourselves in Clerkenwell rather than midway between Cheapside and London Wall:

Clerkenwell has changed much since the 1790s: notably by the driving through, in the second half of the 19th century, of first Farringdon Road and the railway, then Rosebery Avenue. But a good part of today’s street pattern can still be recognised in the familiar A to Z of Regency London. When Richard Horwood compiled this map, published in 1813, this was the very northern fringe of built-up London – separated to the north from the old village of Islington and the new suburb of Pentonville by fields belonging to the New River Company. Indeed John Rocques map of 1745 (in the companion volume of the London Topographical Society, the A to Z of Georgian London) shows the pleasure grounds laid out to the north of the edge of development at Corporation Row, a block to the south east which you can see from the LMA Archive Study Area.

There were several springs and wells here, and since time immemorial Londoners had come here for refreshment and recreation. Bowling Green Lane marks no less than three former bowling greens; Rosoman Street commemorates Thomas Rosoman, who not only ran pleasure grounds called the New Wells here in the mid-18th century, but later went on to rebuild Sadlers Wells. Though the mid-18th century was the heyday of the Spa Fields, not all its resorts had a salubrious reputation, and gradually its character changed. A place of entertainment (and low repute) called the Pantheon, to the north west, became Lady Huntingdon’s chapel, and the site, in Exmouth Market, now houses the extraordinary late-19th century Anglo-catholic church of the Holy Redeemer. The pleasure gardens north of the present Northampton Road became a non-conformist burial ground before they became gardens again, in public ownership.


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


All our numbers show a marked increase this year.

On-site visitor numbers:   7770 (7132 in 2007-8)

Written distance enquiries responded to: 3331 - 97.86% replied to within two working days (2996 – 99.4%)

Telephone enquiries received: 2676 (2390)

Document productions: 18870 (15734)


The figures for this quarter run to noon on Friday 17 April. We were due to close our doors for refurbishment on 20 March, but a slight delay in the works schedule meant that we were able to stay open for another month, and over 300 people were able to take advantage of that. March was phenomenally busy, with visitor numbers up 35% on last year and document productions up an amazing 67%. Despite the distractions of “the move”, enquiry desk staff continued to exceed all service response targets. Over 96% of enquirers received a response within two working days, and in March we still managed to turn around 73% of enquiries on the same day.

Our access and enquiry services continue at London Metropolitan Archives and many readers have already visited us there, or been in touch. More information on access arrangements and some changes to the distance enquiry service can be found elsewhere in the newsletter.

February 2009

638 visitors to the reading room (722 in 2008)

1549 documents produced in the reading room (1542)

304 written enquiries (268)

247 telephone calls (194)

Enquiry response time (target at least 85% answered within two days): 97.03% answered within two days; 79.9% answered on the day of receipt.

March 2009

802 visitors to the reading room (593 in 2008)

2162 documents produced in the reading room (1291)

363 written enquiries (227)

231 telephone calls (177)

Enquiry response time: 97.51% answered within two days; 73.82% answered on the day of receipt.

To 17 April 2009

313 visitors to the reading room (665 in whole of April 2008)

853 documents produced in the reading room (1500)

156 written enquiries (278)

112 telephone calls (197) 

Enquiry response time for written enquiries: 96.79% answered within two days; 69.23% answered on the day of receipt.


Charlie Turpie, Principal Archivist, who manages the section’s cataloguing programme, writes about a further reduction of the cataloguing backlog (numbers crunched by Senior Archivist Matthew Payne), the future of the Manuscripts Section’s catalogue, and describes some recently catalogued records:

Despite the great upheavals and extensive planning for the changes to the Manuscripts Section, we were still determined and able to carry out a considerable amount of cataloguing work during the course of 2008-2009. In that period we took in 39.1 linear metres of records, mainly comprising records of Lloyd’s Superannuation Fund Pensions Management Ltd and further records of the Worshipful Company of Farriers.

However, our uncatalogued backlog was significantly reduced yet again, for over the year we catalogued 190.8 linear metres of records. The uncatalogued backlog has thus been reduced to 16.56% of our overall holdings, down 1.5% on last year (and down from 27.82% in 2000/2001, for example, whilst the size of the collections has grown by 500 linear metres in the same period). The main collections catalogued in the last year include those of the Baltic Exchange, Cazenove & Co, stockbrokers and further records of the Sun Insurance Office, Wallace Brothers, and the Grocers’ Company. The records of the Baltic Exchange and Wallace Brothers are described below.

While the Manuscripts Section’s reading room at Guildhall Library is out of action, a lot of hard work is taking place behind the scenes. We have just started preparing our catalogue data so that it can be moved into London Metropolitan Archives’ online M2A catalogue. Although we are not adding any new cataloguing to the Manuscripts Section’s existing online catalogue, you can still consult it at Only once all the Manuscripts data has been put on M2A, probably early in 2010,  will it eventually be removed from the library catalogue.


It will be very useful to have both the LMA and Guildhall Library Manuscripts online catalogues combined together in an expanded M2A so that you can remotely search across all the City of London archives.


The collections described below are available in the Manuscripts Section’s existing online catalogue and also as paper catalogues in LMA’s Information Area. (New cataloguing for the rest of 2009 will appear only as paper catalogues for just now, but will appear in M2A with the existing Manuscripts catalogues in 2010.)


Records of Wallace Brothers & Co. (Holdings) Ltd


This is a very large and complicated archive which Guildhall Library Manuscripts Section has held for a long time uncatalogued because of its size and complexity. Over the past few years, we have completed the cataloguing of the records of Wallace Brothers itself (Ms 40001-201), designed the structure of the catalogue for its associated companies, and begun to catalogue those records.


Wallace Brothers


Wallace Brothers was established in London in 1862, and remained in business until 1989 (although inactive from 1966). The company’s origins lay in Bombay, India, where the merchant company of Frith & Co. was renamed Wallace & Co. in 1848. The first partners in Wallace & Co. were Lewis Alexander Wallace and Framji Patel. They were joined from 1850 to 1860 by George, Robert, Alexander Falconer and Richard Wallace. All the Wallace partners were brothers; there was a sixth brother William who was not a partner in Wallace & Co., but traded in Burma in his own name from ca. 1856.


In their early years Wallace Brothers described themselves as East India merchants, but they rarely dealt in merchandise. Most of the company's business in London was in undertaking commissions, chartering shipping, financing trade and banking operations. Its normal practice was to explore possible areas of new business and acquire concessions, but to assign trading ventures to associate or subsidiary companies when initial findings were favourable. Many associate and subsidiary companies were established or acquired by the Wallace Brothers group between the late 19th century and ca. 1975.


All the records deposited, both catalogued and uncatalogued, were previously stored at the London office of Wallace Brothers, and all but a few of the papers were either created there or received there in the course of business. Most emanate from the core business of the Wallace Brothers partnership and its successors, Wallace Brothers & Co. Ltd and Wallace Brothers & Co. (Holdings) Ltd. These papers (Ms 40001-201) date from 1862 to 1989 and relate to all aspects of Wallace Brothers' operations, although few banking records are held, and only formal business records survive from the period ca. 1966-1989. Access is subject to a 45-year closure period (70 years in the case of personnel records).


Some records emanate from the business of Wallace Brothers’ associated or subsidiary companies which were based in London. We do not hold the archives of Wallace Brothers' associated or subsidiary companies based overseas. No lists of the archives of these overseas companies are held, and their whereabouts and accessibility are unknown. However the archives we hold do include a considerable amount of information about the activities of many of these companies, including numerous copy and original documents sent to Wallace Brothers’ London office by the companies concerned.


Records to do with subsidiary companies so far fully catalogued are those of Arracan Co. Ltd, Burma rice merchants (from 1920, Ellerman's Arracan Rice and Trading Co. Ltd) 1885-1961, Ms 40202-5 and (part of the) records of Bombay Burmah Trading Corporation Ltd, 1864-1977, Ms 40206-77. Access is subject to a 45-year closure period (70 years in the case of personnel records).


William Wallace's business in Burma was bought out in 1863 when the Bombay Burmah Trading Corporation Ltd was founded. From 1863 until the 1950s the senior resident partner of Wallace & Co. was its chairman, and Wallace & Co. largely directed its affairs. (See below for more about the Bombay Burmah Trading Corporation Ltd and its records).


In 1886, all the existing business activities of Wallace & Co. (other than the supervision of Bombay Burmah Trading Corporation Ltd) were transferred to the newly founded Bombay Co. Ltd, in which the Wallace family also held a major interest. The main business of this company was the export of raw cotton and the import and sale of manufactured textiles from Lancashire. The records of Bombay Co Ltd are not yet catalogued.


A major part of Wallace Brothers' business was to act as the London agents of Bombay Burmah Trading Corporation Ltd, developing markets in the United Kingdom and continental Europe for shipments of timber and providing finance to bring the cargoes from the Far East. A separate Teak Department was established within Wallace Brothers from 1905 to ca. 1955, with responsibility for arranging, overseeing and promoting sales of timber. Wallace Brothers also purchased machinery and equipment in London on Bombay Burmah's behalf.


In practice, however, since the Wallace family were the senior partners in Wallace & Co. of Bombay, who in turn were managers of Bombay Burmah, Wallace Brothers were more than Bombay Burmah's London agents. Until the 1950s, Wallace Brothers had the power to exercise control over Bombay Burmah's policy and operations. In the late 19th century Bombay Burmah's dividends and staff pay were decided in London, and until ca. 1960 its senior (European) staff were selected and appointed there.


Bombay Burmah Trading Corporation Ltd’s head office was in Bombay, but its initial operations were in Burma and branch offices were opened in Rangoon and Moulmein in the 1860s or 1870s. It expanded its operations into Siam/Thailand in 1884, Java/Indonesia in 1905-6, South India in 1913, North Borneo/Malaysia in the late 1940s and East Africa in 1955. Its trading interests were in teak (and later other timbers too), and in other commodities including rubber (from ca.1907), tea and coffee (from the 1930s) and tapioca (from 1954). The timber trade declined in the mid 20th century and by the late 20th century the company's business was mainly in manufacturing and Indian tea plantations. The records of Bombay Burmah are large. We have catalogued constitutional records, important correspondence and reports and financial and legal records so far (as Ms 40206-77).


If any reader is interested in consulting records of Wallace Brothers itself, you can search the catalogue for more information and order records by email. If you are interested in Bombay Burmah, as well as easily consulting the online catalogue, you are welcome to ask for information on further uncatalogued records (the uncatalogued records may be made available at our discretion). In the next newsletter, I will pick out some catalogue highlights from this great collection, to illustrate the topics and sources it can offer.


Baltic Exchange


Archivist Stacey Harmer describes the archives of the Baltic Exchange held by the Manuscripts Section which she has recently finished cataloguing:

The 20th century Baltic Exchange was the world’s largest shipping market. It was the meeting place for those wanting to ship a cargo from one place to another, and for shipowners wanting to find cargoes for their ships to carry.

The origins of the Baltic Exchange are traditionally dated from 1744 when the “Virginia and Baltick Coffee House” became a meeting place for merchants in the Virginia or Baltic trade. In 1823 a “subscription room” was set up in the newly-named Baltic Coffee House, which contained newspapers and commercial information for those who paid a subscription. The number of subscribers (called “members” from 1837) was originally restricted to 300, but this was increased in later years.

In 1866 the Baltic moved to South Sea House. In 1903 the Committee of the Baltic merged with the London Shipping Exchange and the Baltic Mercantile & Shipping Exchange Ltd (which had been incorporated in 1900 to manage the building project) and moved into new premises in St Mary Axe. The newly amalgamated body was known as the Baltic Mercantile & Shipping Exchange Ltd. In 1981/2 the name was changed to the Baltic Exchange.

On the evening of 10 April 1992 an IRA bomb went off outside the Exchange, killing three people and causing extensive damage to the Exchange building. Today, the tower known as the “Gherkin” occupies the site and the new Baltic Exchange building is adjacent to the 1903 site.

The Baltic Exchange archive deposited in Guildhall Library includes various series of membership records, 1837-1963. By 1890 the number of members had increased from the original 300 to over 1,500. Firms exercised the privileges of membership through representative principals, who had to be the director, manager or secretary of the firm. Clerks had rights of admittance if at least one of the partners in the firm was already a member, but they themselves were not classed as members.

If searching for a particular individual, start with Ms 39546 for the years 1857-1903 or Ms 39547 for the years 1903-60. For firms, see Ms 39550 (1903-25 only). You can get an idea of the geographical spread of membership through the registers of members’ addresses, 1872-1903 (Ms 39552). There are also registers of substitutes, temporary members and visitors to the subscription room.

There are various series of correspondence (Ms 39526-9) covering the period 1858-1950, which mainly relate to membership, share-holding and administrative matters.

Most of the operational records of the Baltic Exchange relate to the activities of the Baltic Exchange Chartering Committee which was set up to charter tonnage on behalf of the Ministry of Food after the end of the Second World War. It received no payment directly from the Ministry of Food, but instead received a commission of 1% of the freight from the shipowners. The Committee also gave market information, fixtures and market tendencies to organisations such as the International Wheat Council.

The records of the Baltic Exchange Chartering Committee include a large series of charter parties (contracts specifying the terms in which a charterer would take over the use of a vessel from the shipowner for a certain amount of time or for a certain voyage), 1945-64 (Ms 39579). The charter parties record the transport of goods (mainly grain and sugar, but also fertilizers, fruit, rice and soya beans) between the United Kingdom, United States of America and Canada, Australia, South Africa, the Black Sea, Egypt, Taiwan and Indonesia. The charter parties are arranged by cargo, and then by country. If searching for a particular vessel, it would be advisable to start with the lists of charter parties, 1947-57 (Ms 39578) or the series of fixture books, 1945-55 (Ms 39587) which give the charter party number, date, name of vessel, voyage and broker. “Fixtures” were the agreements on rates negotiated between the shipowner and the owner of the cargo.

For further information, the following are available in the Printed Books Section of Guildhall Library: J. A. Findlay, The Baltic Exchange (London, 1927); Hugh Barty-King, The Baltic Exchange: the history of a unique market (London, 1977); Hugh Barty-King, Baltick Coffee House to Baltic Exchange, 1744-1994 (London, 1994); W. M. Clarke, The City in the World Economy (London, 1965). The Printed Books Section also holds printed lists of members, 1919/20-1990 (incomplete date coverage), and copies of the Baltic Exchange magazine.

Institute of Chartered Accountants in England and Wales

Further records of the Institute of Chartered Accountants in England and Wales, which were deposited at Guildhall Library in May 2007, have recently been catalogued. They comprise 75 volumes of the minutes of various committees of the Institute, including additional minutes of the applications committee, 1947-66 (Ms 28413/9-14), and the finance committee, 1950-1969 (Ms 28415/9-16), as well as various education and training committees, the research committee, technical committee, and many others (Ms 28412/13, 28430/3, 35862A and 39160-187).

Editor’s note: Advanced notice is required to see all the catalogued records from the collections of Guildhall Library Manuscripts Section described above. They are on 48 hours call and will be produced for consultation at London Metropolitan Archives (see access arrangements above). You can search the Manuscripts Section’s catalogue online at Just click on “Former catalogue” and enter the name of the person or institution in an Author search, or the Manuscript number in a Classification search.

Volunteers' Week 2009 - Rewarding, recognising and recruiting volunteers

Volunteers' Week (1-6 June) is a national celebration of volunteers and volunteering. This year Volunteers' Week is celebrating its 25th anniversary.

Volunteers contribute to many organisations throughout the United Kingdom, donating their time and effort year on year. This week is used to recognise their valued contribution to society, as well as encouraging others to consider getting involved.

To find out more about volunteering at the City of London, come along to London Metropolitan Archives at 40 Northampton Road, London EC1R 0HB between 1-6 June 2009 (tel: 020 7332 3820 or email). 


“A committee to obtain redress of the grievances occasioned by select vestries”, minutes and loose papers, 1742-1743, (Guildhall Library Ms 3778) examined by Gillian Williamson  

Historians of both popular and élite 18th century politics have tended to focus on the issues and evidence from general election campaigns.  However, this underestimates the importance of the local stage of parish government.  Before the expansion of the parliamentary franchise in the 19th century, this was necessarily an arena where power and authority were contested at the popular level. In my 2008 dissertation for the degree of Master of Arts in Historical Research at Birkbeck, University of London, I examine this overlooked archive of papers in Guildhall Library Manuscripts Section to shed fresh light on how political activism at this level interacted with national events and politics of the mid-century and suggest that it was one of the factors which enabled “middling sort” men to acquire cultural capital and fashion a political identity which would later develop more fully into the London Radicalism of the final decades of the century.

Past neglect of these papers in the historiography, where the limited references to the 1742 select vestry campaign are based on the official records, is probably due to the committee’s lack of success in achieving its aim of obtaining legislative reform of the select vestries (consisting of appointees who co-opted new members, in contrast to “open” vestries elected by common law and custom by parishioners at large in open meeting) which governed those parishes. Their  petition was presented to the House of Commons on 11 March 1742 and the five parish groups gave evidence before a Commons committee during May, but on 28 May the House voted by 160 to 131 against a motion for leave to bring in a bill.   The vestry committee limped on, meeting occasionally until 23 January 1743 and the issue then more-or-less died away until the following century.

Recovering the significance to the participants of even a failed foray into national political affairs is a useful corrective to this rather Whiggish historical approach. The select vestry committee was a self-appointed group of 81 men from the five largest parishes in the City of Westminster (St. Anne Soho, St. George Hanover Square, St. James, St. Margaret and St. Martin-in-the-Fields). There was no apparent impetus or leadership “from above”, although there were some links to opposition groups such as the Westminster Society of Independent Electors (formed during the bitter 1741 general election campaign in that constituency) and the circle around Frederick, Prince of Wales. Instead, poll book and parish data indicate a strong bias towards “middling sort” occupations (retailing, skilled crafts and emerging professions, especially that of attorney).

The minutes themselves are brief and formal with no record of discussions or disputes within the group although various manuscript versions with amendments of the petition and draft bill show some of their thought processes.  However, taken as a whole, the papers provide evidence of a conscious move away from direct action as a means of protest and of organisational ability, often along lines reminiscent of other voluntary associations of the period such as Freemasonry:  meetings held in rooms of inns and coffee houses, funding raised by the subscription method and sub-committees formed for specific tasks, for example. The loose papers demonstrate that the group was historically aware - there are precedents from past attempts to reform the select vestry system - and careful in its preparation for cross-examination in the Commons. Read in conjunction with other contemporary commentary - such as pamphlets and the press - the archive also indicates knowledge and deployment  of helpful political concepts, themes and language in which their claims for reform might be framed:  liberty and property and corruption, for example.

My dissertation considers the involvement of the 15 members from St. George Hanover Square in greater detail, locating them within the social and political context of this parish usually noted for its close association with the town houses and life-styles of the aristocracy and leaders of fashion from whom its select vestry was formed.  The group’s engagement with parish government and conflicts on this stage appears to confirm the suggestion that the select vestry campaign did indeed represent a step-change in their political experience and identity which they shared with men of similar standing across Westminster.  A future research exercise will be to look at the other four groups and 66 men in this way to build a fuller picture of the roots of Radical London.  And, tantalisingly, one of those roots is almost literal:  one St. Anne’s member was John Horne, father of John Horne Tooke, six years old at the time of this campaign, and a second, Martin Clare, his future first schoolmaster at the Soho Academy.


Claire Titley, Information Officer, reports that the index for surnames beginning with the letter F has been added to the online index to the Lloyd’s of London “Captains Registers” available at The index for surnames beginning with the letter G is nearing completion and will be uploaded soon. Paper copies of both indexes will be bound together and placed in the Information Area at London Metropolitan Archives in due course.

The “Captains Registers” give details of the careers as captain and/or mate, on those vessels whose voyage details were transmitted to Lloyd's, of merchant sea captains who held British or British colonial master's certificates. You can find further details at

The index relates to Ms 18567, which covers the years 1851-1911 only. Captains still active after that date will be found in Guildhall Library Ms 18568 (covering 1901-1948) or 18569 (covering 1885-1948), with some entries possibly to be found in Ms 18570 or 18571; these series are unindexed.  All the records have been microfilmed, although we produce the original volumes of Ms 18567 as the film is of poor quality. The Captains Registers have been transferred to LMA for the duration of the refurbishment because they are so popular.


Nicola Avery, Principal Archivist, writes about the archives of the Royal Humane Society, recently acquired and catalogued by London Metropolitan Archives:

The Royal Humane Society was founded in London in 1774 by two doctors, William Hawes (1736-1808) and Thomas Cogan (1736-1818).  Both men were concerned at the number of people wrongly taken for dead - and, in some cases, buried alive; they wanted to promote the new, but controversial, medical technique of resuscitation and offered money to anyone rescuing someone from the brink of death. The reward of 4 guineas paid to the rescuer and 1 guinea to anyone allowing a body to be treated on his premises soon gave rise to a widespread scam among the down-and-outs of London: one would pretend to be rescued and the other the rescuer - and they would share the proceeds. Monetary rewards were therefore gradually replaced by medals and certificates. A network of “receiving houses” was set up in and around the Westminster area of London where bedraggled bodies, many of them pulled out of London's waterways, could be taken for treatment by volunteer medical assistants. The first of these stood in Hyde Park, on the banks of the Serpentine.

Today the aim of the Society is to recognise the bravery of men, women and children who have saved, or tried to save, someone else's life. The Society operates solely from its headquarters in London, but gives awards to people from all over the country, and sometimes from overseas.

The main historical archive of the Royal Humane Society was given to LMA in October 2008. The archive consists of series of minutes, annual reports and case books, all dating from the society’s foundation in 1774. Due to the sensitive nature of the information contained in the case books, this particular series is not available for general consultation under the Data Protection Act, but the other series are available for consultation through the catalogue now available at LMA. An additional deposit, received in January 2009, includes historical material relating to two main themes - the Hyde Park Receiving House and the “Stanhope Gold” medal.  The latter is the society’s most prestigious award, granted to an existing medal winner nominated by the Royal Humane Society itself or one of its sister societies within the Commonwealth.

The society’s archive is a very welcome and important addition to the History of London collection held by LMA and Guildhall Library and it complements two collections already held by the Manuscripts Section, namely Lloyds Patriotic Fund, which includes awards of medals for saving life at sea, and the Society for the Protection of Life from Fire. You can find out more about these at


Nicola Avery looks at another archive recently acquired by London Metropolitan Archives with links to the collections held by Guildhall Library Manuscripts Section:

Thomas Martyn was a wealthy gentleman who lived in Putney in the late 17th century.  In his will, made shortly before his death in 1684, he granted his estate to his niece Lucy Cook, with the proviso that if she died without children the proceeds of the estate should be used to endow a school for the sons of watermen. Although Lucy married, she died childless in 1701 and the trustees of the will established a Watermen’s School in 1718. Scholars were provided with a uniform and tuition in reading, writing and arithmetic.  From 1817 the trustees also provided a sum of money towards the apprenticeship of school leavers, to watermen and other trades. The Watermen’s School continued in Putney until its closure in 1911, but the charity, now known as the Thomas Martyn Foundation, still exists as an educational trust making financial grants to the sons and daughters of licensed watermen.

The archive of the school and foundation was housed at Wandsworth Museum until the museum’s closure at the end of 2007. The charity has now given the collection to LMA. The records include some apprenticeship indentures for pupils 1878-1932, minutes of the trustees from 1716 to 1972, financial records and correspondence for the 18th to 20th centuries, and some legal documents.

The records of the Company of Watermen and Lightermen are held by Guildhall Library. For more information go to

Caroline Crachami, the “Sicilian Fairy”

Charlotte Hopkins, Information Officer, opens a window into the past from the Prints and Maps collection of Guildhall Library, now permanently housed with the graphic collections at London Metropolitan Archives:

I would like to share with you a story behind one of our engravings. Caroline Crachami’s story is a tragic tale of exploitation in the “freak-shows” of the 19th century. The Victorians suspension of reality through visions of fairyland stemmed from an imbalance in the familiar world when Darwin’s theory of evolution in 1859 began to emerge. Without a divine Creator at its centre, beliefs were no longer stable and this inevitably caused people to reach out for a nostalgic and immovable past.

Nicola Bown discusses this idea in, Fairies in Nineteenth Century Art and Literature (Cambridge University Press, 2001): “The Victorians could take solace in imagining fairies because fairies showed them a perfect version of themselves on a scale small enough to confirm their dominance in the world. If the Victorians could no longer be certain that they were a miniature of God made in his image...they could at least assure themselves that they were the magnification of the fairy which was, in an ideal form, made in their image.”

I too participated in the show of Caroline Crachami, now at the Hunterian Museum, her tiny skeleton staring out from the glass cabinet and still on display 185 years after her death. I tried to imagine when faced with this child the spell she cast upon her spectators as the “Sicilian Fairy”. Miss Crachami’s double portrait, positioned above her in the cabinet, depicts her accentuated features and what has since been referred to by Helmut Seckel as “bird-headed dwarfism”.

Her appeal was in part due to the fact that she was believed to be nine years of age and only 19.8 inches in height. It has been proposed that she was a little less than three years old, but still extremely small compared with other children of three. The Literary Gazette gave a spellbound report: “ is the fairy of your superstition in actual life...”

Allegedly, Miss Crachami was born at Palermo, Sicily in 1815 when her Italian parents moved to Dublin to work at the Theatre Royal. In 1823, Miss Crachami’s health declined at which point she met Dr. Gilligan who convinced her parents that a trip to England would be beneficial for a “healthier atmosphere”. Miss Crachami’s parents were not able to support her financially and so agreed that she might be exhibited infrequently. Her exhibition spanned Liverpool to London and a few weeks later she died in the carriage on her way home from a performance after suffering from what was thought to be tuberculosis.  Upon her death a lengthy newspaper report in the Morning Chronicle recounts the story of how her father came to find her, “Mons.Crachami, in a state bordering on insanity, hastened to Surgeon’s Hall...thinking he might prevent his child from being anatomised...He was shewn into a room wherein the first thing that caught his view was the body of his darling progeny mangled in a most dreadful manner.”

We hold an engraving of the Hunterian Museum, Royal College of Surgeons (record no: 8188 on ). On the right-hand side of the image is Charles Byrne known as the Irish giant and placed next to him are two small bell jars. To the right, I believe, is the very small case containing the skeleton of the “Sicilian Fairy”. In 1843, this engraving appeared in the monthly publication known as London Interiors, with the following description, “...the skeleton of Charles Byrne – commonly and better known as O’Brien, the Irish giant, who measured eight feet four inches, when dead. In juxta position and strange contrast to this, is the skeleton of a Sicilian dwarf – a girl ten years old, measuring twenty inches in height.”

Today, she no longer appears next to the Irish giant, yet a cast of her face, casts of her arm, left foot and ankle are displayed in the Hunterian Museum alongside a miniscule ring and stockings. Further examples of “freak-shows” are apparent in the playbills, now at LMA with the reference SC/GL/PPC, and also within the Miscellaneous Entertainments collection. If you are interested in looking at these collections please email us as they are currently available by appointment only.


A Place in the Sun, the index to Sun insurance policies at Guildhall Library, 1800-1839, has led to many interesting discoveries. Isobel Watson has looked further in to the history of “Thomas Warburton, Bethnal Green, keeper of lunatics” mentioned in policy 832541 issued in July 1809 (Ms 11936/446/832541).

Warburton was no ordinary “keeper of lunatics”. He earned such notoriety that his career, more than that of any other single practitioner of the early 19th century “trade in lunacy”, is said to account for the reform of provision for mental illness, following public and Parliamentary revulsion at his practices.

Warburton had two establishments in Bethnal Green. One, the “Red House”, was purpose-built in the 1830s. The other, the “White House”, the subject of the policy, was a group of very old buildings once known as “Kirby’s Castle”, converted for the purpose during the 18th century. It specialised in “farming” pauper lunatics (more than 350 at any one time) sent by City and West End parish authorities for whom the “farmers” provided economy of scale. Warburton bought the Bethnal Green business in 1800, having already become owner of a select asylum for paying patients at Balmes (formerly Whitmore) House on the Hoxton/Hackney border (its grounds became De Beauvoir Town).

According to one of his critics, an ex-patient at Balmes, Warburton was a runaway butcher’s boy who fled to London to evade responsibility for fathering a bastard; got work in a menial capacity at Balmes; and by craft and cunning made money supplying inmates with alcohol. Allegedly he took the business over by marrying the owner’s widow. According to another pamphleteer, the story is slightly different – but as Professor Elaine Murphy has said, “the general theme of a vulgarian promoted by luck and cunning is much the same”.  He – mostly vicariously, through his keepers - was accused of extreme brutality, bribery, and neglecting and starving the inmates. And that was the private establishment. Paupers weren’t so lucky: they might also be kept in chains.

Ex-patients had an axe to grind. We make what we can of the allegation that when Warburton was brought in to offer a diagnosis of the ailing George III (the inference is that the royal court was desperate by this stage) the King didn’t take to him at all. ‘”Take away that fellow with the long nose! Take him away – away – away!” George is said to have cried.

In 1827, not for the first time, a Parliamentary select committee looked into the treatment of pauper lunatics. It is difficult to read Warburton’s evidence to the committee without realising there must have been a substantial basis for many of the charges. He was evasive, implausible (he insisted that the Bethnal Green house had a medical attendant, but that he could not remember his name) and showed every sign of laxity and laziness. He admitted that such medical advice as he had was casual, and came from his son-in-law. He admitted that pauper lunatics might be shackled (but never the gentlefolk at Balmes, who might object). Certainly the committee were not impressed. Their report led to the establishment of the first publicly-funded psychiatric establishment for the deranged poor, at Hanwell.

The madhouses went on, however. Thomas’s son John Warburton qualified as a medical practitioner in 1815 at Cambridge; his dissertation was titled “On insanity”. Though his performance in support of his father before the Parliamentary committee was not impressive, he managed in later life to convince the inspecting Commissioners that the Bethnal Green asylum complex was properly run – and it ran until 1920. The Bethnal Green public library and gardens are on the site.

Sources: W. Ll. Parry Jones, The Trade in Lunacy , 1972; Victoria County History of Middlesex, XI; Select Committee on Pauper Lunatics in Middlesex, Parliamentary Papers 1826-7, vol. 6, f 137 (microfiche at Guildhall Library); Elaine Murphy, “The madhouse keepers of Hackney” 8 Hackney History (2002), 18;  Crimes and Horrors in … Warburton’s Private Madhouse, anon., attributed to John Mitford, 1825.

125 Sun Fire Office policy registers from Ms 11936 are included in The National Archives’ Access to Archives (A2A) database, covering more than 218,000 policies. 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. 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.



Katharine Higgon, Archivist, writes about an exciting project to which the City of London archives services are contributing:

AIM25 is a permanent web-accessible database of collection-level descriptions of the archives and manuscript collections of more than one hundred of London's higher education institutions, learned societies, cultural organisations and City livery companies. Between them, the participating institutions care for some of the premier collections of archives in the country relating to anthropology, politics, law, economics, education, languages and literature, religion, military, social and cultural history and the history of science and medicine. The website receives an average of 1.5 million hits a month, from a wide range of researchers including academics, students, genealogists and local historians.

Work began in September 2008 to prepare descriptions of the Guildhall Library Manuscripts Section and London Metropolitan Archives archive collections and upload them into the AIM25 website. At the time of writing there are over 500 descriptions “live” on the AIM25 website, including the records of the Corporation of London, London hospitals and non-conformist chapels. Descriptions currently in preparation include the records of the London County Council, Greater London Council, Middlesex County Council, London dioceses and livery companies.


There are some useful web pages on the Directgov website (a government information website) about tracing your family tree at Most usefully, the page includes a list of libraries that have copies of the General Register Office indexes. Westminster Archives is the only central London archive to have a complete copy, though there are bits and pieces at the Society of Genealogists (a list of institutions who have parts of the index are provided in a downloadable document). The pages also compare the online resources, and are all together very helpful if you are looking for a clear "how to" guide.

births, baptisms, marriages, deaths and burials of British subjects overseas and on board ships

In the last issue of the newsletter we mentioned that over 600,000 records of births, baptisms, marriages, deaths and burials taken from non parish sources at The National Archives had been added to the searchable online service at Since then more than 100,000 records of births, baptisms, marriages, deaths and burials of British subjects overseas and on board ships have been added to the website. The records mostly date from the 19th and 20th centuries; if your ancestors travelled the world or married at sea during this period, you may find them here.

Guildhall Library Manuscripts Section also holds records of births, baptisms, marriages, deaths and burials overseas. For more information go to In addition, The British Overseas: a guide to records of their births, baptisms, marriages, deaths and burials available in the United Kingdom (3rd edition, 1994) published by Guildhall Library gives full details of sources held by: Guildhall Library; The National Archives; the Society of Genealogists; and other record offices and libraries throughout the United Kingdom. It is available in the Guildhall Library Bookshop and online at


The Government is asking people for their views on its proposed new policy on archives.


Archives for the 21st century seeks to build the foundations for a sustainable future for archival services. The consultation addresses the challenges of the digital age and the opportunities to make archives accessible to a wider range of people.


You can read the consultation document and have your say on the future of archive services at


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. To download a copy go to

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 contact the editor, Philippa Smith.

Last updated July 2009

Guildhall Library Manuscripts Section