Guildhall Library Manuscripts Section

Electronic Newsletter

Issue No. 16 Summer 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, please email us to receive future issues.


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

Measuring up: access and enquiry service statistics for 20 April to 31 July 2009

Staff news

All change - moving to London Metropolitan Archives - a personal perspective

Cataloguing news: Wallace Brothers (part 2); Grocers’ Company and Engineers’ Company additional

Access to the Manuscripts Section’s online catalogue

Bede Roll of the Fraternity of St Nicholas

For sale or rent - researching the archives of City-based property companies (Steven Devaney)

London Archives Online: London Screen Archives; AIM25

Black and Asian Londoners in the City project – call for volunteers!

Strange London street names (Isobel Watson)

Forthcoming events: Reel London; Open House at London Metropolitan Archives and Guildhall Art Gallery

We welcome your views!



With Guildhall Library Manuscripts Section likely to be closed for several months yet, it is worth repeating a few general points about current access and enquiry arrangements.

Ordering documents from Guildhall Library

At least two working days’ advance notice is required for the production at London Metropolitan Archives (LMA) of original manuscripts from the Guildhall Library collections. This is because the documents themselves remain at Guildhall Library. You may order up to ten items (i.e. volumes, bundles or files) per day from the Guildhall Library stores to view at LMA.

Orders should be emailed to us, to reach us by 11.30am two day’s before you wish to view the items (e.g. to see documents on a Wednesday, we need to receive the order by 11.30am on the Monday). You are also welcome to email us with lists of documents to consult over a number of days, again provided at least 48 hours' notice is given.

Alternatively, you can place your order in person at LMA. Please wait for staff to check the tickets in case there are any access restrictions or other queries.

If you would like information on access to specific collections, please do not hesitate to contact us.

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. 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 at 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 telephone. 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.

Access to the collections of the Prints and Maps Section of Guildhall Library

The Prints and Maps Section of Guildhall Library permanently transferred to LMA at the end of April. 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. To enquire further about the graphic collections at LMA, email us or telephone 020 7332 3820.


Wendy Hawke, Senior Archivist, Access and Enquiries, writes about the increasing use of Guildhall Library sources in the LMA reading room:

Guildhall Library Manuscripts Section has been running its access and enquiry services from LMA for four months now.  There have been one or two hiccups, but in general the systems we have in place are working well, thanks to great teamwork between Access, Enquiries and Repository staff.

After a quiet start, document productions from Guildhall Library are on the increase. The figures below are for the period from 20 April to 31 July. Productions of Sun policy registers and Lloyd’s Captains Registers, currently stored at LMA, have been counted too:

20-30 April 2009:  336 Guildhall productions

                             16 Captains Registers

                             8 Sun policy registers

May 2009:            323 Guildhall productions

                             38 Captains Registers

                             37 Sun policy registers

June 2009:            479 Guildhall productions

                             54 Captains Registers

                             120 Sun policy registers

July 2009:             733 Guildhall productions

                             18 Captains Registers (to 23 July only)

                             56 Sun policy registers (to 17 July only)

Visitor numbers and enquiry statistics are now recorded by LMA. However, a rough estimate suggests that over 1000 emails have been sent out in response to document orders or general enquiries about Guildhall Library Manuscripts sources since we moved in April.

With thanks to Mick Wilson, Principal Services Assistant, for the document production number-crunching!


The success of the Guildhall document production service has largely been due to the Herculean efforts of Paul Delaney, the former Manuscripts Strongroom Assistant who came with us to join the LMA Repository team. Paul has been responsible for many of the 1700-odd Manuscripts productions – collecting and reshelving them every day. As the wadges of document order slips in his hand grow steadily thicker week on week, there has sometimes been a look of quiet desperation in his eyes, but he continues to make it happen. Paul’s hard work and commitment have been very deeply appreciated, and he will be sorely missed when he leaves shortly to take up a post at Shoe Lane Library.

Congratulations to Archivist Stacey Harmer and husband Richard on the birth of Isabel.

All change - moving to LMA

A personal perspective from Information Officer, Claire Titley:

As I am sure you will know by this point in our newsletter, the Manuscripts Section has relocated to LMA while Guildhall Library is being refurbished. As a result, I have moved to the Information Area at LMA to be part of the Access team, which has the responsibility of providing advice and information in the public rooms at LMA.

So far, the most common reaction from the public at my presence in the Information Area has been surprise. Readers I’ve worked with at Guildhall tend to come through the door and do a double take. What are you doing here? I’m asked. Well, at the moment I’m part of the team from Guildhall Library Manuscripts Section working hard to provide an equivalent service from LMA. At present this involves fielding all telephone, email and postal enquiries regarding the Manuscripts Section’s collections, handling face to face enquiries, and collecting manuscripts from the stores at Guildhall to be produced at LMA.

In many ways, the experience of working at LMA is very similar to working at Guildhall. I’m realising that we share a lot of readers, and many of the enquiries are of a similar nature. I can confidently direct you to records of parishes, schools, dioceses and businesses across the archive collections as they are immediately familiar from working with the Manuscripts Section’s records.

However, there are many things here that are new, and last few months have sped by in a blur of innumerable training sessions to get us up to speed on the records of hospitals, courts and boards of guardians. This process is a reciprocal one, and we are training our colleagues here on our collections, while learning about the collections at LMA.

I have been overwhelmed by the depth and variety of collections at LMA, and have enjoyed learning about collections as diverse as the Foundling Hospital, Hampstead Garden Suburb and London County Council. I have also enjoyed seeing the connections between collections, where they overlap (the most obvious example being the records of the City of London Corporation and the City livery companies) and where they can be compared. 

As well as absorbing a mass of new information, I am learning to cope with a geographical range that has now expanded from the “Square Mile” to approximately six hundred square miles, and I am working with a map constantly within reach.

It is remarkable how quickly it is possible to assimilate new information, and I am still shocked when I hear myself confidently advising a reader on a document I didn’t know existed until several weeks ago. However, I still feel like the new member of staff, and readers must excuse me for asking for back up from my more experienced colleagues when a topic strays off my patch! Special thanks are to be extended to the Access and Enquiries team here at LMA, who have made me feel at home and who haven’t grumbled (too much), even when I disappeared for a holiday, and who have been cheerful and helpful when faced with new readers and records.


In the last edition of the Newsletter, Charlie Turpie, Principal Archivist, described the history of Wallace Brothers, its successors and subsidiaries and promised to write again giving a flavour of the archive (or at least that part which has been catalogued as Ms 40001-40277):

Wallace Brothers were not merchants themselves much beyond the late 19th century, but they were heavily involved in shipping and in exploring new areas and assisting companies to exploit their potential. In the 21st century we might call them facilitators.

In 1864 we find them agreeing with Edward Wyon of Birmingham, regarding Wyon's employment by William Wallace to set up “mint and machinery” supplied by Wallace Brothers to the King of Burma. From Wyon’s obituary in the Birmingham Post in 1906, it is clear that the Burmese government were very pleased with Wyon’s work and that Wyon then travelled the Far East setting up many other mints. (Ms 40126).

A series of reports on, and correspondence relating to, visits and tours made by directors and managers (Ms 40137) make clear the range of countries in which Wallace Brothers were interested:

1. Report on visit to timber concession at Kudat [North Borneo], 1899. 2. Reports on visits to China, Japan and the United States of America, 1903-ca. 1913. 3. Reports on visits to Malaya, Sumatra and Ceylon, 1911-16. 4. Copy of report on Chindwin gold mines [Burma], 1914. 5. Reports on visits to inspect the state of the timber industry in Burma following the departure of Japanese occupying forces at the end of the Second World War, 1945. 6. Report on visit to India and Burma, 1946-7. 7. Reports on visits to various companies in Birmingham, Bradford, London, Manchester, Middlesborough, Redditch and Wolverhampton, 1947-9. 8 and 14. Correspondence relating to, and report on, visit to investigate timber extraction in Kenya and Tanganyika, 1948-9 and 1956-65. 9. Correspondence relating to, and report on, visit to investigate timber extraction in Chile, 1948-50. 10-11. Report and correspondence on visit to investigate timber extraction and milling in British Guiana, 1950-1. 12. Report on visit to study plywood production at Pine End Works, Lydney, Gloucestershire, 1952. 13. Report and photographs on visit to study logging, sawmilling and timber disposal at the Basilan Lumber Co., Isabela, Philippines 1953. 15. Report on visit to study veneer and plywood production in the Philippines (with plan and elevation of veneer mill at Butuan, Philippines, owned by Mahogany Products (Philippines) Inc.), 1963.

They not only shipped goods on behalf of their client companies, but also for many other independent merchants. For example, Ms 40144 covering 1910-34, contains monthly tables of sales mostly on behalf of local merchants in India, but including some on behalf of the Bombay Co. Ltd, made by Wallace Brothers “on account”, i.e. where the purchaser undertook to buy the goods in advance of delivery. It gives dates, quantities and descriptions of goods (mostly wool), names of ships, names of purchasing brokers, and names of local merchants.

They had a strong interest, through the Bombay Company in tea. For example, records of the shipments from India to the United Kingdom 1919-33 with, at back, monthly totals of tea production on each of the tea estates of the Bombay Burmah Trading Corporation Ltd. These give dates, quantities and descriptions of tea, names of ships, detailed assessments of the quality of “leaf” and “liquor” of each consignment, and sale prices achieved. (Ms 40147).

Wallace Brothers were also involved in shipping rubber. Ms 40148 comprises records of rubber shipments from Java, mainly to London or Liverpool, 1913-35. They give dates, quantities and descriptions of rubber, names of ships, ports of arrival, assessments of the quality of each consignment, and sale prices achieved. Shipments to London or Liverpool are described in full; there are also brief entries (lacking full descriptions of consignments) for rubber “sales made in Java” or shipped to ports in continental Europe or North America. These records include monthly totals of rubber production on the estates of the East India Rubber Company.

The commodity for which we have the most catalogued records (so far) is teak. Wallace Brothers had a long history in teak, shown by “descriptive accounts written by Ernest Andrews, Head of the Teak Department, giving an overview of the teak trade between 1899 and 1904” (Ms 40154) and a “volume of notes on various aspects of the teak trade, compiled ca. 1927-40, but includes some historical notes about the development of the trade from the 1890s onwards, as well as notes about current business matters” (Ms 40166).

As well as many other written records of production, shipments and use of teak, we hold an album of 320 photographs showing uses of teak in numerous different settings, including doors, windows, shop fronts, floors, stairways, business premises, ticket offices, post offices, bars, restaurants, banks, libraries, public buildings, private homes, laboratories, garden furniture, church furniture, exhibitions, Burmese palaces and temples, railway carriages and ships, ca. 1938-9 and ca. 1945 (Ms 40172, with detailed contents list in Ms 40173).

The records of Bombay Burmah Trading Corporation Ltd includes files for Burma, Siam/Thailand, Sarawak (Borneo) and North Borneo/Malaysia which contain correspondence and other papers relating to business, economic and political affairs 1928-65. These include papers on the absorption of North Borneo into Malaysia and on strikes, riots and labour unrest in Burma reminiscent of George Orwell’s Burmese Days (Ms 40226-7, Ms 40232-3, Ms 40238 and Ms 40240-2).

Finally, there are some records of staff including lists of employees 1874-1971 (some of these are closed), staff magazines (called the Peacock, an interesting title) and newsletters 1926-38 and 1973-6 (Ms 40199-200).

As well as significant business collections, Guildhall Library Manuscripts Section is also unique in holding the records of the City of London livery companies. Archivist, Janine Stanford has recently completed cataloguing a large additional deposit of records from the Grocers’ Company, and some additional items from the Engineers’ Company:

Many of London’s livery companies are ancient bodies with strong medieval roots. The Grocers' Company was established in 1345 as the Fraternity of St Antonin, although the Pepperers' Guild, a forerunner of the Company, existed from at least the late 12th century. The Fraternity was focused firmly on defending trade rights, but all members in London were obliged to attend high mass at St Antonin's church once a year.

Like other livery companies, the Grocers’ Company carries out extensive charity work, the foundations of which can often be traced back to charitable bequests from former Company members. These bequests could consist of a sum of money, but very often they consisted of property, the rent from which would be put to charitable uses.

As the second livery company in the ancient order of precedence, the Grocers’ Company has received numerous bequests over the years and, as a consequence, undertakes a lot of charity work. The records in this deposit consist of deeds relating to various properties in London and throughout England, and papers relating to the administration of a number of schools, churches and charities in both England and Wales. The majority of these records are now catalogued as Ms 39801-904, and are listed in detail in Ms 11653A.

Amongst this deposit are the records of Dame Margaret Slaney’s Charity. In her will of 1607, Dame Margaret Slaney gave £2,000 to the Grocers’ Company to be used to purchase the benefices of poor parishes throughout the country in order to restore them by paying for the maintenance of a preacher. Through this charity, in the 17th and 18th centuries, the Company purchased the benefices of Northill, Bedfordshire; All Hallows Staining; Bucknell, Shropshire; and Ugborough, Devon. In 1869, Lady Slaney’s Trust Estate Act was passed, which allowed the church of All Hallows Staining to be pulled down, and the Company used the proceeds from the sale of the site to erect three new churches in east London: St Anthony, Stepney; All Hallows, Bromley-by-Bow; and St Paul, Lower Homerton. Deeds and papers relating to the administration of all these benefices can be found in Ms 39863-81.

Victorian charity commissions and municipal enquiries kick-started a revival of livery companies, some of which had become moribund. In the later 20th century and 21st century, several new associations of trades and professions have aspired to livery company status and have succeeded in or are in the process of becoming City of London livery companies. We are interested in holding records of these new livery companies too and were pleased to receive an official copy of the Engineers’ Company royal charter of incorporation in 2004, soon after it was granted. The Engineers’ Company, 94th in the order of precedence, was created in 1983 to promote all aspects of engineering, and its members are either chartered engineers or fellows of the Royal Academy of Engineering.

The initial deposit has now been added to by a further deposit, in June of this year, of several volumes of Company records. These volumes have been catalogued as Ms 39296-300 and include court minutes 1982-2008 in Ms 39296, annual reports 1984-2007 in Ms 39297, and liverymen’s declarations 1983-2008 in Ms 39300.


Guildhall Library Manuscripts Section’s catalogues are currently available online via the City of London’s library catalogue at

This arrangement has served us well for a number of years, but the merger of the City of London’s archive services has provided us with a golden opportunity to unite all the archive catalogues in one bespoke archival catalogue. To this end, work is going on behind the scenes to prepare the Manuscripts Section’s data for uploading into LMA’s Online Collections Database. We are currently working on parish and livery company records and you may already have seen entries for these appearing on the LMA catalogue as the data is uploaded. We are making good progress and in the first month have edited the data for over 13500 items, around 11% of the final total, but we have a long way to go yet.


Only once all the Manuscripts data has been fully uploaded into the Online Collections Database will it be removed from the library catalogue. In the meantime, please continue to use the library catalogue for access to the catalogues of Guildhall Library Manuscripts Section’s collections.


The easiest way to search for the documents mentioned in this newsletter is to either enter the name of the person or institution in an Author search, or the Manuscript number in a Classification search.


Please note that we are not adding any new cataloguing to the Manuscripts Section’s existing online catalogue. New cataloguing for the rest of 2009 will appear only as paper catalogues in LMA’s Information Area for now, but will appear in the Online Collections Database with the existing Manuscripts Section’s catalogues in 2010.

Bede roll of the Fraternity of St Nicholas

The Bede Roll of the Fraternity of St Nicholas, later the Parish Clerks’ Company (Ms 4889) has recently been returned after extensive conservation work. This project was funded by the Department, with a major grant from the National Manuscript Conservation Trust, and a very significant contribution by the Company. Matthew Payne, Senior Archivist, City Partners writes:

The conservation work, which has taken over two years to complete, was carried out by Chris Clarkson, one of the country’s leading conservators, a specialist in medieval manuscripts, and with a long association with the Bodleian Library. A beautiful cherry-wood box has also been specially made by Bernard Allen to house the volume. The conserved manuscript not only looks magnificent, but is now far more useable by researchers than in its previous, 19th century binding, which was so tight as to inhibit access to parts of the text.

The initial dismantling of the volume by Chris Clarkson revealed that the vellum leaves were in fact mostly single leaves in more than one format, overcast into quires and then heavily glued and shaped (only a few were conjoined). This had been crudely done, and in some places the vellum (along with text or decoration) had been cut and shaped. The exquisite new binding, in which the leaves are set out on meeting guards, reveals and sets off the manuscript in all its glory.

The Bede Roll is one of the very few surviving fraternity books of pre-Reformation London. It contains the names of over 7000 members of the fraternity from 1448/9 to 1521/2. Despite its designation, it was never in fact a roll (as, for example, rolls of honour), but unfortunately the dismantling of the manuscript did not resolve the question of what exactly its original format would have been. Its leaves have probably been bound up as a volume since at least the 17th century.

For further information on the manuscript, see the published edition by NW James and VA James, The Bede Roll of the Fraternity of St Nicholas, London Record Society, vol.39 (2004). This edition is still of course the first port of call for researchers interested in the content of the Bede Roll.


Steven Devaney, Lecturer in Property at the University of Aberdeen Business School, writes about recent research using the archives of several City- based property companies:

Office buildings began to emerge in numbers in London from about the 1840s. Many of these were commissioned by insurance companies and joint stock banks for their own occupation, a trend that has been well documented in architectural studies of the City. Less explored, however, has been the speculative development of commercial office buildings for sale or rent. This activity led to the formation of several private property companies from the 1860s onwards and the archives of ten of these companies are now held by the Manuscripts Section of Guildhall Library.

I have been exploring the records of five of these companies in detail, focussing in particular on the way in which buildings were occupied and how much office space cost to rent through time. For instance, the records of the City Offices Company (Ms 24182-200) not only include financial records and board minutes, but also extensive registers of tenants and leases. From these, it has been possible to create quantitative measures that chart the rise and fall of rents and occupancy rates as the fortunes of the office market, and the City in general, have changed. These measures run from the 1860s through to the 1960s and extend earlier work of this nature by Ralph Turvey.

Aside from my use of them, the records also offer interesting insights into the fortunes of individual activities, firms and buildings. For instance, the changing scale of businesses over time is evident from the records, as is the growing dominance of financial over other types of activity in the City as the 20th century progressed. However, the 51 buildings in the assembled dataset still exhibit a rich mix of occupiers throughout the period including merchants, solicitors, railway companies, publishers and traders, the mix often reflecting the areas of the City in which different buildings were based.

The 10 companies are:

* Broad Street Estates Ltd

* City and West End Properties Ltd

* City Offices Co Ltd

* Consolidated London Properties Ltd

Corbett and Newson Ltd

Great Winchester Street Estates Ltd

* Gresham House Estate Co Ltd

Metropolitan Properties Co Ltd

Westminster and Kensington Freeholds Ltd

Woodgate Investment Trust Ltd

The ones that I studied in detail are asterisked.

If anyone is interested in more details of what the records of these companies contain and possible links with their own research, I am happy to be contacted at



Laurence Ward, Principal Archivist, introduces an exciting project to which the City of London archives services are contributing:

The London Region Film Archive London's Screen Archives has just “soft launched” it's You Tube channel. LMA currently have five films available to view on the channel including “The Living City” and “Green Islands”. The pages, at, are a beta version, and further changes will be made before a full launch later this year. The films will also be available from the public PC's at LMA and links will be added to the OPAC in the coming weeks.


Katharine Higgon, Archivist, updates us on progress with AIM25, another important project with which the City of London archives services are involved:

There are now 1470 descriptions of LMA records “live” on the AIM25 website. These include the records of the Corporation of London, London hospitals, non-conformist chapels, and the records of the London County Council, the Greater London Council, the Middlesex County Council and other local government bodies such as the School Board for London and various Boards of Guardians and Poor Law institutions. The records are proving very popular, with over 96,300 hits to the LMA descriptions between March and July. The next batches of records being prepared includes London dioceses, businesses and livery companies, and will include Guildhall Library Manuscripts Section records.

Black and Asian Londoners in the City project - call for volunteers!

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 describes recent progress and invites you to participate:

Our volunteers working on the Black and Asian Londoners project have been making steady work in searching the parish records of the City of London for evidence of Black and Asian Londoners, despite the upheaval of our move to LMA. As if moving to another record office isn’t enough to worry about, the parish registers of St Katharine by the Tower and St Sepulchre have presented specific challenges. Nevertheless, the volunteers are to be praised for their persistence and patience, and I am pleased to be able to report that these parishes are nearing completion.

The records of St Katharine by the Tower have proved quite difficult to use, some registers are duplicated, others are inverted (i.e. written from the front of the book and from the reverse) and many have entries in some form of disorder. Volunteers have worked around these difficulties to provide an interesting range of entries about this unusual parish on the very eastern edge of the City. Some of these entries are starting to go online on this website  Manuscripts Section’s website, along with all of the previous entries found by volunteers so far.

The entries from St Katharine are varied in nature, and show the range of information that can be obtained relating to county of origin, occupation and the individual’s relationship to other people in the City. For example, volunteers have found the baptism of George Robins, described as “a Black aged about 27 year[s,] a seaman” (Ms 9666 f.142v) and in the next year an unknown man described as “a Black…his name not known died feavor [sic] at Mr Howells in the Street” (Ms 9666 f.167r). We hope that small details such as these can be used by researchers to build a clearer picture of the lives of Black and Asian Londoners.

The volunteers have also made excellent progress on the parish of St Sepulchre, a large and heavily populated parish on the western side of the City. In contrast to St Katharine, the numbers of Black and Asian Londoners found so far has been small. When the project was started, we suspected that there would be more entries found in the parishes on the eastern side of the City, and the results coming from St Sepulchre appear to confirm this. It will be fascinating to see if the results from parishes across the centre of the City continue to show this trend.

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

Now that we are based at LMA, volunteers are able to work in the newly refurbished reading rooms and take advantage of the improved visitor facilities. Volunteers are also able to choose to visit on late evenings (Tuesdays and Thursdays until 7.30pm), as well as every other Saturday, providing more flexibility than was previously available at Guildhall Library.

We are looking for individuals who are able to make a regular commitment to working on the project (i.e. two hours a week, or an afternoon fortnightly, for example).  If you are interested in volunteering as part of this project, or would like to receive more information please contact me at for further details.


Isobel Watson writes about strange street names found during the course of A Place in the Sun, our long-running and continuing project to index the early 19th century Sun Insurance Office fire policy registers (Ms 11936):

Quite often in capturing the data in the Sun registers, the name of a street will strike us as odd, leading us to wonder if we can believe our eyes (because, of course, the basic rule is that we put into the database what we think we see there, however old-fashioned and however strange). Often the oddity is actually correct.

One of these is “Of Alley”. This runs off the top of Villiers Street in the Strand. A street sign giving the modern name – York Place – adds “formerly Of Alley”. This name dates from the first building development, in the 1670s, of the land belonging to York House, the property of George Villiers, Duke of Buckingham. According to tradition, the Duke insisted in his building agreement that each part of the ducal name be represented on the streets created: hence the inclusion, for the avoidance of doubt, among George, Villiers, Duke and Buckingham Streets of the suitably diminutive “Of Alley”. George and Buckingham streets now lie mostly under Embankment Gardens, and Duke Street has become part of John Adam Street, after one of the brothers who built the Adelphi, to the east. In the Sun registers the area round the site of York House is referred to as York Buildings (sometimes adding “Strand”).

Another, more obscure oddity is Torment (sometimes St Torment’s) Hill. This was the common 18th century name for St Ermin’s Hill, off Broadway in Westminster: both versions (and others such as Hermon Hill, St Armin Hill) seem to be corruptions of the name of an ancient Welsh saint, St Armel. The street itself was once much more extensive, but its obscurity has been ensured by the obliteration of most of it, along with all trace of any significant hill, originally by the District Railway, and later by the megalithic Transport for London headquarters at 55 Broadway.

“Monster Row” now seems odd in the extreme. It reflects “the Monster” tavern and tea gardens, which stood near what became Sutherland Row in Pimlico, and was in business until at least the 1820s. Though 19th century antiquarians liked to think “monster” derived from “monastery” farmland hereabouts, it seems more probable that the name referred to a form of contemporary entertainment: the collection of mechanical contraptions secreted in the gardens. The stroller would step on a pressure-pad, and be deliciously alarmed by a grotesque animated figure springing out of the bushes. This sort of thing seems to have been something of a fad in this area in the early 19th century: similar experiences were on offer at a pub called Jennys Whim, near Ebury Bridge (which is also mentioned in the registers, described as Chelsea), and the Gun tavern in Buckingham Gate.

As for the innumerable alleys and courtyards that seem to proliferate in the earlier registers: many of them also seem to derive from nearby public houses, or other signboards: but how about Bandy Leg Alley?

Sources: The London Encyclopaedia (re “York House, Strand”); Michael Robbins, “Whoever was St Ermin?”, London Topographical Record XXIV (1980), 113; Isobel Watson, Westminster and Pimlico Past (2002), 29-31. Thanks to Tony Smith for suggesting this topic.


Reel London - Communicating to the Masses: Advertisements from the LMA collections


Amongst the film collections kept at LMA are various advertisements and commercials commissioned by businesses or government agencies. We have selected some interesting and intriguing ads to start off the programme of film clip screenings held at the LMA on a monthly basis. Included in this selection are some cinema and television clips that were used for advertising the work of the London County Council and Greater London Council, as well as more familiar adverts for well known companies, such as Tetley Tea.


The film clips will be shown on a rolling loop on Friday 18 September from 1 - 4 pm. This is free and there is no need to book in advance so please drop in if you’re passing.


Open House events at London Metropolitan Archives


Come and join us for one, or all, of our open house events on 19 September 2009:


Building tours of LMA. At 10.30 am, 12 noon, 2 pm and 3.30 pm there will be the opportunity to tour the building which was built in the late 1930s for Temple Press.


Remembering Temple Press. From 2 to 4 pm you are invited to drop in and share your memories of the current LMA building from 1939 to the present day.


My Place! Your Place! Our Place! Explore drawings and designs and create your own fabulous building with the help of an artist during this family activity.


These events are all free, but you must book in advance on 020 7332 3851.


Open House at Guildhall Art Gallery


There will be regular tours of the Gallery throughout Saturday 19 and Sunday 20 September. Details of access can be found at


Other events

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 September 2009

Guildhall Library Manuscripts Section