Guildhall Library Manuscripts Section

Electronic Newsletter

Issue No. 2 January 2006


Welcome to the second issue of the Manuscripts Section's quarterly free electronic newsletter. 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, Deputy Keeper of Manuscripts.

The first issue of the newsletter was well received and we have already built up a substantial mailing list. Please feel free to forward this issue to anyone you think might like to read it. If you are not already on the mailing list, and would like to receive future issues, please email us at



Staff news

Fifty-five years ago

“Noises off” in the Manuscripts reading room – extended run!

What’s in a name?

Statistics for September-December 2005

How much is that worth?

Ring in the new!

Black History Month exhibition

Cataloguing news

Prioritising conservation work in the Manuscripts Section

City Freedoms workshop at London Metropolitan Archives

Historic trade directories in Guildhall Library

Archive Awareness Campaign 2006

Guided tours of Guildhall Library

London Maze 2006

BBC London Family History Day

Ancestors magazine

We welcome your views!

Contact details



Those of you who have visited the Manuscripts Section over a number of years will have missed a familiar face recently. William Alderton, one of the assistant archivists, retired in October after over thirty years at Guildhall Library and is greatly missed.

Stephen Freeth, Keeper of Manuscripts writes: William was appointed in 1974 to work in the new Guildhall Library. His was a new post, as I believe, for the new Guildhall Library had a Manuscripts Enquiry Desk for the first time. He later took over managing Conservation from Maggie Post, who left in 1980. Conservation itself was new, for the new library as built had no workshop. The Manuscripts Section was the first to have a conservation section, in the mid-late 1970s. John Cuthbert was appointed Senor Conservator, from Grays of Barnes, and was known to the Section already through his work for the Library. William and John Cuthbert together built up the conservation side of the Manuscripts Section, on the back of foundations laid by Maggie Post. By the early 1990s they were spending around £35000 a year in outside grants, which with the Section’s Binding Vote meant £1000 a week.

Editor’s note: Matthew Payne, who has taken over William’s role with regard to conservation, describes one aspect of the work of the conservation section below.

The good news is that Wendy Hawke has just started work as William’s replacement. Wendy was archivist at the Leathersellers’ Company for eight and a half years and subsequently worked at the Royal Society where, amongst other things, she catalogued the papers of Sir Henry Dale, President, 1940-5. Most recently she has been working at Hertfordshire Archives and Local Studies on a project to computerise the accessions registers.


Fifty-five Years Ago

A former member of staff of Guildhall Library, John Harley, reminisces about life at the library over half a century ago, and how he now visits to pursue his own research:

Early in 1949, after being released from the R.A.F., I became the most junior assistant in Guildhall Library. In those days it was housed in the gothic ‘old’ library, a building still recovering from the war but possessed of considerable character, even if that did not simplify the provision of a library service. I had to grit my teeth every time I ventured on to its narrow balcony to retrieve something from the upper shelves of the reading room.

The librarian was Raymond Smith, white-haired and always, it now seems to me, dressed formally in a black jacket and striped trousers. I only once saw his predecessor, James L. Douthwaite, who looked very old to my young eyes – though I doubt whether he lived as long as Raymond Smith’s deputy and eventual successor, Arthur Hall, who reached his century in 2001. Among the readers whom I recall was W. H. Challen, the patient transcriber of many parish registers, for whose work I am nowadays grateful. I also recall the man who was obliged to explain that the Acts he wanted were those of the Apostles, not those of Parliament.

The Keeper of Manuscripts was Dr Albert Hollaender, a man of wide learning and an occasionally naughty sense of humour. Junior assistants rarely had much to do with the manuscript collection, but I was able to draw on its riches when (if my memory is accurate) I was cataloguing a copy of a play by the dramatist William Killigrew. It had annotations in a 17th century hand, and Dr Hollaender was able to produce an example of Killgrew’s writing which proved the copy in question bore the author’s revisions. It had been transferred from the British Museum Library (now the British Library) as an unwanted duplicate. As far as I can remember, the manuscripts escaped when the cellars were flooded by sewer water, volumes of periodicals printed on art paper turned to solid clay, and the leaves of an early edition of Ben Jonson’s works had to be dried on improvised washing lines.

Guildhall Library was a good place to start my working life, and what I learned there proved invaluable in my subsequent career, first as a librarian and later as a civil servant. When, after three years, I headed for new pastures, I carried with me (and still use) some books presented to me and inscribed by Raymond Smith. Now, after nearly two decades of retirement, I regularly use the library’s collections in search of new information about Tudor musicians. It was on a Saturday afternoon, just before closing time, when I opened a book to find myself looking at the previously unrecognized genealogy of William Byrd’s family. Philip Jones, whom I knew as the Deputy Keeper of the Corporation of London’s Records Office, could hardly have guessed how helpful I should find his exquisitely neat indexes, housed among the library’s manuscripts, to the otherwise impenetrable (and almost unmanageable) membership rolls of the Fletchers’ Company, to which some of the Byrds belonged.* My current quarry is William’s elder brother John, a chorister of St Paul’s who afterwards became a merchant, a Draper, a shipowner, and a sponsor of privateering, whose vessels sailed against the Armada. His efforts on the Queen’s behalf against the Spaniards stood him in good stead when he was threatened with a (second) spell in the Fleet prison.

As a reader, I find that I can obtain books and documents more quickly and more easily in the Guildhall Library than in many other libraries, and that the successors to my former colleagues are unfailingly friendly, helpful and knowledgeable. Whether the computerized catalogue is as invariably helpful is another matter ... But perhaps I am getting too old to adjust to technological change.

*Editor’s note: Although Philip Jones was a member of staff of the Corporation of London Records Office, he enjoyed working on livery company records at Guildhall Library. As reported in the last newsletter, the CLRO’s records are currently at London Metropolitan Archives at 40 Northampton Road in Clerkenwell while the City of London Corporation’s North Block of offices is being refurbished. Further details can be found at



Back to the present day, and the peaceful atmosphere of the Manuscripts reading room, and of Guildhall Library as a whole, has continued to be disrupted by noise from building works while the Corporation’s offices in the West Wing above the library are being refurbished. Predictably, the works are taking longer than anticipated, but all should be back to normal early in 2006. Recent visitors will have noticed that the stairs between the Printed Books Section, and the Print Room and Manuscripts Section, are now swathed in gloom. The lights in this area have had to be switched off due to electrical problems, caused by a water leak connected with the refurbishments.



Guildhall Library is run by the local authority for the City of London, which until the end of last year was known as the Corporation of London. The Court of Common Council, the Corporation’s primary decision-making assembly, has agreed that, from 3 January 2006, the Corporation of London will be known as the “City of London” on a day-to-day basis. The full name will revert to “City of London Corporation” only when a distinction needs to be made from the financial City or the topographical City, “the Square Mile”.

Why has it done this?

It was felt that too many names were in use: City of London, Corporation of London, City of London Corporation, Corporation of the City of London; as well as its legal name, The Mayor and Commonalty and Citizens of the City of London. This was confusing and inconsistent, and it was felt that “Corporation” was an odd word which didn’t mean much externally.

 Why “City”?

“City” immediately means more to an external audience, and is more relevant as it covers all the City of London Corporation’s activities, not just its local government role. The City of London Corporation is not just a local authority. Her Majesty’s Government looks to it to champion UK-based financial services all over the world, and it also provides valuable services to London as a whole. It’s not easy to find one name that covers all that – but it was felt that putting the word “City” first works better in the Square Mile itself and internationally, and for London-wide services too, relating them back to their source.

So now to change the name on all those leaflets, notices, publications ……!



Record enquiry response times

In Guildhall Library Manuscripts Section we pride ourselves on our swift response times for written enquiries. In September we were really pleased that we answered a record 100% of enquiries within two days of receipt, with 87% of these being answered on the day of receipt. (We aim to answer 80% of all written enquiries on the day of receipt or the following day.) In October and November the figures were only slightly inferior, with 99%/98% of enquiries answered within two days, of which around 90%/87% were answered on the day of receipt.

Visitor numbers

The tragic events of 7 July 2005 continue to have an impact on the number of visitors to the Manuscripts reading room. You will see below that the figures for September are particularly striking, with a sharp decrease in visitors from last year, but a corresponding rise in email enquiries. However, the December figures seem to be getting back to normal. Saturdays are especially quiet at the moment, so if you like to research in peace please don't forget that the Manuscripts Section is open every Saturday (except Bank Holiday Saturdays) from 9.30am until 5.00pm.

September 2005

470 visitors to the reading room (719 in 2004)

876 documents produced in the reading room (1476)

96 letter enquiries (56)

244 email enquiries (132)

197 telephone enquiries (240)

October 2005

541 visitors to the reading room (679 in 2004)

1156 documents produced in the reading room (1298)

49 letter enquiries (54)

178 email enquiries (126)

220 telephone enquiries (226)

November 2005

558 visitors to the reading room (622 in 2004)

1242 documents produced in the reading room (1355)

54 letter enquiries (74)

197 email enquiries (142)

183 telephone enquiries (206)

December 2005

382 visitors to the reading room (368 in 2004)

958 documents produced in the reading room (1021)

100 letter enquiries (103)

112 email enquiries (107)

139 telephone enquiries (156)



A frequent question at the enquiry desk, when a user finds a sum of money mentioned in a manuscript, is: “How much would that be worth today?”

Help is now at hand at www.EH.Net. Click on “How much is that?” under EH.Net Features and then on “Purchasing Power of the British Pound, 1264-2002”. You can then type in the year of the document and the amount of money, and be told what it is worth today. For example, £100 in 1800 would be worth £4701.67 today.



A regular visitor

At the beginning of each year, we here in the Manuscripts Section receive a visit from a representative of Lloyd’s of London. They will leave weighed down with an enormous volume which will be taken back to Lloyd’s in Lime Street and displayed in “The Lloyd’s Room”, the main under-writing area of the insurance market. The volume will be the Lloyd’s Loss and Casualty Book for 100 years ago (1906), which will go on display next to the current volume which is still written up using quill pen and ink. The former is therefore not available at Guildhall Library during the year in which it is on display. You can take “A Walk around The Room” and see the volumes on display at

Lloyd’s Loss and Casualty Books (Guildhall Library Ms 14932), compiled 1837 to date, contain reports of ships lost or damaged, entered daily as received. They give the names of each ship's master, type of vessel, cargo and source of information (press agency or shipping agent, for example). From 1837 to 1913 the Loss and Casualty books were entitled "Loss Books"; from 1914 they have been known as "Casualty Books". The early volumes, apart from volumes four and five, include indexes by vessel name. From July 1852 a separate series of indexes exists (Ms 14933).

New releases

Another thing that happens at the beginning of the year is the release of records previously closed for confidentiality reasons, in this case up to the end of 2005. The catalogue has to be updated to remove notes referring to the restriction against each affected item, the physical label removed from each and every one of the released items, and the finding list updated. Note that the computer catalogue uses the phrase “Restricted access: enquire at Manuscripts Desk” to indicate closed material. This should not be confused with the phrase ”Closed access”, library terminology (rather confusingly) used in the catalogue to indicate an item held in the store, rather than on the open shelves.

Most commonly, records are closed by their creators for 30 years from the date of their creation to ensure confidentiality. This means that many of the records released on 1 January 2006 date to 1975. This year they mostly comprise business records, such as minutes and membership files of the Accepting Houses Committee and Issuing Houses Association, minutes and files of the British Bankers’ Association and Committee of London Clearing Bankers, and financial records and other material relating to the Corporation of Foreign Bondholders. Some businesses close their records for longer periods. Also released on 1 January were records dating to 1960 of the British Bank of West Africa, which are subject to a 45-year rule, and records of the Fire Offices’ Committee dating to 1930, which are subject to a 75-year rule. These dates are set by the depositors, who feel that the confidentiality of their records needs to be protected for a longer period. However, enquirers are welcome to apply to the depositor for permission to view closed material. Such requests are usually sympathetically received. The Manuscripts enquiry desk has details of whom to contact. 

It’s not only business records that are closed. 1 January saw the release of files relating to Anglican chaplaincies within the Diocese in Europe dating to 1975, and curates’ licensing papers for 1975, both closed under a 30 year rule. Also released were Diocese of London ordination papers for 1955, closed for the slightly longer period of 50 years as they contain more personal information.

In special cases, where the information in the records is very personal and sensitive, records are closed for 100 years. This is often the case with school pupil records, and this year has seen the release of a girls’ character references book for King Edward’s School, London, 1889-1905 (Ms 33163/2). The book gives the age of each girl, her length of time in school, her conduct, the name and address of her employer, and the position to which she was appointed. It is the details of conduct which were found to be especially personal and which led to the extended closure period.


Black history month exhibition

In our last newsletter we reported on our project to find “lost Londoners” by identifying probable Black and Asian people in parish registers and other sources. To date our readers have found 219 entries, and the list is available on our website at

We decided to base our Black History Month exhibition for 2005 around two of the entries found in our parish registers. These entries were of the adult baptisms of Jonathan Strong and James Somerset, whose names were well known to their contemporaries because of the legal cases in which they were involved. The cases, brought by an abolitionist, Granville Sharp, and with a famous judgment by Lord Mansfield, helped to change public opinion about slavery in Britain. Our exhibition also looked at the change in the way newspapers reported or featured runaway or kidnapped slaves. The exhibition ran from October to November 2005, although at time of writing (January 2006) one case is still set up with exhibits in our reading room.  The text of the accompanying leaflet, and the exhibition captions, are available on our website at



Charlie Turpie, who manages the section’s cataloguing programme, describes recent progress:

There has not been as much new cataloguing as usual over the last few months, apart from further inputting and checking of the mammoth Harrisons and Crosfield archive described last time (Guildhall Library Mss 37001-38277).

This collection has now been completely placed and can therefore be consulted easily. We decided to put it in our main store as we expect demand to be quite high – usually, of course, large business collections are placed in an out-store. Eighty per cent of the catalogue entries have now been input online, and the rest are being entered as quickly as possible and may be consulted in draft in the reading room.

Thorne and Co

This company exported cotton, linen, hemp and wool worsted goods to Shanghai and Hong Kong from London in the 19th and 20th centuries. Although it is a fairly small collection (Guildhall Library Mss 36472-88), it is significant because we do not have many records of companies exporting to China.

Union Discount Company of London

The Union Discount Company of London was formed in 1885 by the amalgamation of two discount houses, and soon became the largest discount house in London in terms of turnover and deposits. Unfortunately very few of its records appear to have survived. Amongst the few which have, and have been deposited with us (Guildhall Library Mss 36496-8A), are fifty-two boxes of notes on the financial position of businesses and individuals with whom the Union Discount Company had contact. The notes, which span just over a century from 1886 to 1988, are on capital, debentures, ratings, directors and general financial position, and sometimes include press cuttings and business cards.

Vintners’ Company

Many livery companies have retained their late 19th and 20th century records in their halls. Recently the Vintners’ Company deposited a large number of these additional records, which have been catalogued as Guildhall Library Mss 36713-837. The Vintners are renowned for their swans. By a royal grant in the 15th century, they share rights to swans on the Thames with the Dyers’ Company and the Crown.

The ceremony of swan upping still takes place on the Thames, from Monday to Friday in the third week in July, starting at Sunbury and finishing at Abingdon. The junior warden of the Vintners’ Company, known as the Swan Warden, wearing a green jumper, is rowed along to inspect and identify the new cygnets as Vintners’ swans. He is accompanied by the Court and livery, who observe on their “Swan Voyage”. Papers relating to swan voyages from 1902–1990 were recently catalogued as Ms 15403A, and join many other documents and volumes about the swans and the Vintners’ interest in them.

Incidentally, the swans are identified now by rings round their legs, but the Vintners used to mark their swans with a nick on either side of the beak (the Dyers used only one nick and royal swans were unmarked). Apparently, this is the origin of the house sign and pub name “A Swan with two necks”. There were several of these in the City of London, including the Swan with Two Necks in Lad Lane (later part of Gresham Street). This was a busy coaching inn and parcel office, and Pickfords were based there from as early as 1777. The inn was demolished in 1859 but its sign survived at 65 Gresham Street until 1920.

If you would like to find out more about the archives described above, you can search the Manuscripts Section’s catalogues online at


Prioritising conservation work in the Manuscripts Section

Matthew Payne, who manages the section’s conservation programme, writes about how conservation priorities are determined.

The Manuscripts Section, in conjunction with the conservators at Guildhall Library, oversees continuing conservation and preservation work on the collections in its care. This involves the regular monitoring and maintenance of the atmospheric and other conditions in the stores and reading room, as well as the programme of cleaning, repair and rebinding work on specific items in need of attention.

The schedule of work on damaged material is determined by a number of factors. For some collections on deposit at the Library, and where a great deal of work may be required, the depositor may fund an individual programme of conservation work. This will mean that all the urgent repairs for that collection will be dealt with in a relatively short period.

For other items, we consult with the Senior Conservator, Ann Stewart, to draw up priority lists of items for ongoing work. In this process, we try to accommodate comments and requests from members of the public concerning material on which they wish to work, especially if it is currently completely unavailable for consultation due to disrepair (we try to limit these restrictions as far as possible).

In addition, notes are kept by staff at the enquiry desk of issued items that have been seen to require treatment. This should ensure that heavily used material does get bumped up the pecking order.

Should you have any comments on particular manuscripts, or notice that any items are suffering wear and tear, please feel free to notify a member of staff at the enquiry desk.



Saturday 28 January 2.00pm - 4.30pm
£7.50 including tea and coffee

A joint event with Guildhall Library exploring the Freedom records of the City of London and City of London livery companies, invaluable sources for family and social historians. Elizabeth Scudder, Principal Archivist at London Metropolitan Archives, and Philippa Smith, Deputy Keeper of Manuscripts at Guildhall Library, take a step-by-step look at the key sources.

To book, please email or call 020 7332 3820 and quote the name of the event. You can also write to Event Bookings, LMA, 40 Northampton Road, London EC1R 0HB. If you enclose a cheque it should be payable to ‘The City of London’. You can also pay by debit/credit card.


Historic trade directories in Guildhall Library

 Guildhall Library is pleased to announce the publication of "Historic trade directories in Guildhall Library", available from the bookshop, price £18.95. You can purchase it online at

 To promote the book, the Printed Books Section of the Library is holding a session on 24th January 2006 at 2.00 p.m for people to view some of the directories and learn of their history. The event is free and should be pre-booked in person, by telephoning 020 7332 1866 or by e-mailing



Guildhall Library Manuscripts Section is holding a series of free events as part of the Archive Awareness Campaign 2006. The series aims to encourage the use of archives by family and local historians. These free events commence in the Guildhall Library Lecture Theatre at 2p.m. The remaining events are fully booked, but if you would like to be put on the reserve list, please telephone 020 7332 1863/2 or email Alternatively, you are welcome to come on the day and see if there are any places available. (There often are!)

18th January 2006: Behind the scenes tour of the Manuscripts Section store and Conservation workshop. (1hr 15 minutes)

16th February 2006: “Marriage licence records and the St Katharine by the Tower indexing project”, Stacey Gee, Assistant Archivist. (45 minutes)



If you are interested in finding out more about Guildhall Library in general, tours will take place on:

Wednesday February 1st

Wednesday April 5th

Wednesday June 7th

Each visit will start at 1.00 p.m. and will last for one hour. You will hear about the history of the Library, see the collections, and visit behind the scenes. Tours are free but you must book in advance by phoning 020 7332 1866 or e-mailing

Electronic resources in Guildhall Library

Would you like to know more about our computer-based resources and receive help in using them? Practical sessions will take place on:

Wednesday March 1st

Wednesday May 3rd

Wednesday July 5th

Each session will start at 1.00 p.m. and will last for one hour. Sessions are free but you must book in advance by phoning 020 7332 1866 or e-mailing



London Maze will be returning on Saturday 18 March 2006 from 10.00am to 4.00pm at Guildhall, and we look forward to seeing you there!

This free event devoted to London and its history will be opened by Peter Ackroyd, author of London: the biography, and will include over 50 stalls from London's museums, archives, local history libraries and historical groups and societies, as well as talks and guided walks.

The talks include one at 11.00am on "The Buildings of the City" by the Keeper of Manuscripts at Guildhall Library, Stephen Freeth, and a colleague from London Metropolitan Archives.

Further details can be found at

Can you help with London Maze 2006? Volunteers required for the refreshment stall

Visit the fair and volunteer for an hour or two while you are there!

The last London Maze was a huge success and the refreshment stall, like all the others, was very busy.

This year we are looking to have enough volunteers to enable short periods of duty, so please think about helping even for an hour or two. Whatever time you can spare, you will be welcome with open arms and free refreshments!

Duties will mainly involve making teas and coffees, restocking the table displaying our wares, and some clearing of tables. All the food is being bought-in from outside suppliers and we will be using disposable cups, so there will be no washing up duties. It sounds mundane, but it’s great fun, and you’ll be making a valuable contribution to the day too!

Please contact Chris Hall or Janet Williams to register your interest:

Chris Hall: telephone 0207 332 1075, email;

Janet Williams: telephone 0207 332 1138, email



BBC London Family History Day is taking place on Sunday 12 February 2006 from 11.00am-5.00pm at the British Library.

The event builds on the success of the family history event held at The National Archives in 2005, which attracted nearly 2000 visitors. It is hoped that this year’s event will attract an even greater audience.

Admission, although free, is by ticket. Tickets will be available shortly from the British Library box office.

There are three main strands to the day:

Stalls in the entrance foyer of the British Library from London's archives, local history libraries, and family history societies;

A Meet the Experts Surgery; and

Lectures in the British Library Conference Centre by a number of high profile speakers from the British Library and The National Archives.

If your organisation would like to reserve a stall, please contact Penny Wrout at BBC London ( Space is limited, so you will need to act quickly. Organisations may be asked to share a stall which will have the advantage of allowing the stall holders more flexibility in their duty sessions.

The Family History Day is one of a number of events linked to the BBC series Who Do You Think You Are? which starts a new six-part series on Wednesday 11 January 2006 at 9.00pm on BBC2. Look out for City livery company records from Guildhall Library Manuscripts Section, and possibly an appearance by our very own Matthew Payne, in the programme on Sheila Hancock, on Wednesday 18 January. The programme was filmed at London Metropolitan Archives.



Ancestors magazine has completed the publication of a first series of six articles contributed by the Manuscripts Section of Guildhall Library about its records:

"Where there's a will", by Philippa Smith, about probate records at Guildhall Library, in the March 2005 issue;

"Born or buried abroad", by Philippa Smith, about records of births, baptisms, marriages, deaths and burials overseas at Guildhall Library, in the May 2005 issue;

"The answer to your prayers", by Dr Stacey Gee, about sources for tracing clergy at Guildhall Library, in the July 2005 issue;

"A Burning Issue", by Dr Stacey Gee, about fire insurance records at Guildhall Library, in the September 2005 issue;

“Back to the Classroom”, by Matthew Payne, about schools records at Guildhall Library, in the November 2005 issue; and

“The Sailors’ Shining Beacon”, by Charlie Turpie, about Corporation of Trinity House family history sources at Guildhall Library, in the January 2006 issue.

We are now working on a second series of articles, on:

Records held at Guildhall Library of bravery awards, particularly those made by Lloyd’s Patriotic Fund and the Society for the Protection of Life from Fire, by Matthew Payne;

St Paul’s Briefs, original returns held by Guildhall Library from parishes throughout England and Wales recording collections towards the rebuilding of St Paul’s Cathedral after the Great Fire, on a brief dated 26 February 1678, by Matthew Payne;

Lloyd’s Captains Registers, by Dr Stacey Gee;

The marriage licence records of the Royal Peculiar of St Katharine by the Tower, 1720-1802, held by Guildhall Library, by Dr Stacey Gee;

Business records for family historians at Guildhall Library, by Charlie Turpie; and

City of London livery company records at Guildhall Library, by Philippa Smith.

Details of Ancestors magazine can be found 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 January 2006

Guildhall Library Manuscripts Section