Guildhall Library Manuscripts Section

Electronic Newsletter

Issue No. 9 Autumn 2007


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. Please feel free to forward it to anyone you think might like to read it. The newsletter now has over 310 subscribers. If you are not already on the mailing list, and would like to receive future issues, please email us at

This issue is also available on the Manuscripts Section’s website at (it will appear in a few days’ time). You can also see back numbers there as well.

It was welcome to see the newsletter endorsed by Simon Fowler, Editor of Ancestors magazine, in his blog. Simon writes: “London’s Guildhall Library produces a quarterly newsletter full of news about the Library and its holdings with informative short articles about recently accessioned or catalogued records. If you are researching ancestors in the Metropolis or regularly use Guildhall Library or other London archives it is worth signing up.” He also recommends other useful newsletters and websites. For more information go to


Staff news: Stephen Freeth, Keeper of Manuscripts, retires

Business as usual at Guildhall Library Manuscripts Section

Measuring Up: enquiry service statistics for July-October 2007

Cataloguing news: Guinness, Mahon & Co; Major Arthur Alexander Greenwood; T. T. Curwen & Sons; Eastern Bank; and Equitable Life Assurance Society

Signs of The Zodiac (the staff magazine of Eastern and Associated Telegraph Companies)

Guiding the way (the Manuscripts Section’s Guide to its holdings)

Take care: new document handling guidelines in the reading room

Reading the impossible (news of a new scanning technique for reading documents too fragile to be handled)

More jobs for the girls: absolutely the last word! (a final response from a reader about the occupations of Christ’s Hospital girls)

Guildhall Library Manuscripts Section’s Archive Awareness Campaign 2007 (news of this year’s campaign)

Guided tours of Guildhall Library (including electronic resources and sources for family historians)

Forthcoming events at London Metropolitan Archives

Archives for London seminars

Exhibitions: Hodgson’s Juvenile Drama: The British Stage in Miniature 1821-1840 (Guildhall Library); A Visible Difference: Skin, race and identity 1720-1820 (Hunterian Museum at the Royal College of Surgeons)

London street market documentary

Temporary closure of The National Archives and permanent closure of the Family Records Centre

We welcome your views!

Contact details


As part of the restructuring process within the Department of Libraries, Archives and Guildhall Art Gallery, mentioned in previous issues of the newsletter, our distinguished Keeper of Manuscripts, Stephen Freeth, is taking early retirement from 1 January 2008.

Stephen grew up in a vicarage in Essex during his teenage years (his father having entered the church as a late entrant after the Army and personnel management). He took a BA in Classics at Cambridge (Jesus College) in 1973 and trained as an archivist at University College, London from 1974 to 1975. From 1975 to 1980 he was an Assistant Archivist at West Sussex Record Office, Chichester before moving to Guildhall Library initially as Deputy Keeper of Manuscripts and, since 1986, as Keeper of Manuscripts.

Stephen is a Liveryman of the Merchant Taylors, having gained his freedom by apprenticeship to a distant uncle. He is also an Honorary Liveryman of the Scriveners. His hobbies include church architecture and monuments, especially monumental brasses.

As the following tributes make clear, Stephen’s expertise and considerable presence is going to be greatly missed, not only by his colleagues here at Guildhall Library, but also by his many friends and colleagues beyond its doors.

Melvyn Barnes, Director of Libraries and Art Galleries, 1984-2002: I am delighted to add to the many tributes that I feel sure will be paid to Stephen on his retirement, as I knew and respected him throughout my period as Director of Libraries and Art Galleries.

From the outset I found Stephen to have exactly the qualities for which Guildhall Library staff have always been known – a thorough knowledge of his subject area, a willingness to update his knowledge continuously, and the ability to inspire his staff to give the best possible service to the public.

He was extremely helpful and supportive to me during the difficult negotiations to transfer the then Greater London Record Office (now London Metropolitan Archives) to the City on the abolition of the Greater London Council.  But there were also many occasions on which I had to meet with City institutions such as Livery Companies, when Stephen could always be relied upon to brief me thoroughly on matters relevant to the institution concerned and its archives.  A cynic might say that, whereas I got the dinners, Stephen got the hard work!

Whenever there was a tricky or delicate aspect of our relationship with a City institution, Stephen kept me in the picture and ensured I was in a good position to resolve matters.  And believe me, some City institutions can be difficult!  They each have a distinct idea of their own importance, and Stephen often provided me with the means of settling some dispute without appearing to belittle them.

There must have been countless thousands of people, from advanced researchers to ordinary people interested in family history, who have visited Guildhall Library either individually or in groups over the years of Stephen’s tenure.  All have benefited from his advice and assistance, his professionalism and enthusiasm, and from the services provided by the excellent team that he led.

Stephen justified his promotion to Keeper of Manuscripts, developed the service in many ways with skill and determination, worked hard on such matters as the Guildhall Yard East plans, and quite properly fought his corner when pressures began to be put on our services by “the powers that be”.  I know little of recent changes leading to Stephen’s retirement, but can only say that Guildhall Library will be losing a senior officer whose accumulated knowledge will be extremely difficult to replace.  I wish him the very best for the future, and thank him for all his work throughout my eighteen years as Director.

Dr Matthew Davies, Director, Centre for Metropolitan History and Reader in London History, Institute of Historical Research: On behalf of the Centre for Metropolitan History, I would like to pay tribute to Stephen's remarkable contribution to the work of Guildhall Library's manuscripts department and London history in general. His unrivalled knowledge of, and enthusiasm for, the archives in his care has always been matched by his welcoming attitude to inquirers and the helpful advice he has given. We were particularly grateful for the enormous assistance he gave to the St Paul's Cathedral History project and to the London/Paris medieval archives colloquium organised by the CMH. In terms of my own research, Stephen proved an invaluable colleague and advisor for the History of the Merchant Taylors' Company, which Ann Saunders and I completed in 2004, able to direct us unerringly to the right parts of the Company's archive. Historians of London of all kinds have had cause to be grateful to him for his advice and expertise.

Edwin Green, Archivist, Midland Bank (1974-93) and Group Archivist, HSBC (1993-2007): Those of us in business archives and business history are greatly indebted to Stephen.  First, he stands in that very special tradition of Guildhall archivists, taking up the challenge laid down by Albert Hollaender and Chris Cooper in collecting, protecting and developing the business and City collections. Today any historian or other researcher who is interested in the business past makes Guildhall the essential first stop. That is the measure of the world-class collection in Stephen's care.

Secondly, Stephen has been a superb ambassador for archives in the business community, especially in the City. With courtesy, charm and not least authority, he has persuaded London's business folk (a formidable breed) that archives are a serious, worthy cause. He will be sorely missed in that embassy role. His friends and colleagues in the Business Archives Council wish him well in retirement - in the sure certainty that we shall need his advice from time to time.

Isobel Watson, “A Place in the Sun”: Having been a regular user of the Manuscripts searchroom for many years, I knew Stephen as an invariably helpful presence, and as an extremely entertaining and informative speaker when addressing gatherings of the London Archive Users’ Forum (as was). Over the New Year of 2002, Derek Morris and I approached him about the possibility of launching a volunteer project to create an online index to a tranche of the Sun Fire Office policy registers. We felt that the process of searching internet databases was coming of age, and that the National Archives’ “Access to Archives”  programme afforded a platform which could enable LAUF to seek a Heritage Lottery grant to open up – if only to a modest extent - a wonderful series of records with no comprehensive easily-accessible finding aids. Stephen asked several searching questions and outlined some of the pitfalls encountered by earlier projects, but once convinced of the viability of the scheme gave every assistance to bring it to fruition, including representing its worth to the owners of the deposited records concerned, and from the outset welcoming two successive part-time project managers into the Manuscripts team. This involved no small amount of effort and commitment, both during the Lottery phase and its aftermath, when with Stephen’s encouragement the work continued with mainly Guildhall Library funding. Now that it has entered an almost wholly volunteer-managed phase, Stephen’s unwavering support and pastoral concern for the welfare of the individual volunteers has continued to contribute immeasurably to the success of the project. His will be a much missed presence, both in the searchroom and behind the scenes. The fact that Guildhall Library Manuscripts is seen by its users as one of the most approachable and generally user-friendly record repositories in the London region, is in no small measure due to his leadership.

Dr V. A. Harding, School of History, Classics & Archaeology, Birkbeck, University of London: I have the greatest respect for Stephen as a professional archivist, and an excellent head of the GL Manuscripts Section. I have had occasion to draw on his expertise - or patience - on many occasions over the past years, and he has always been outstandingly helpful and well-informed. Under his leadership the Section manages the difficult feat of being both friendly and welcoming, and well-ordered and professional, so that it's always been a pleasure to work there. I'm sure it's one of the reasons I have stayed in London history; not many other archives are as easy or agreeable to work in!  I've been particularly grateful to Stephen for allowing me to bring groups of students on a Saturday when he has been on duty, so that they could see and handle the medieval documents we read in printed editions - it's an incomparable experience for them to turn the pages of the Great Chronicle, or note the signatures and marks in the Carpenters' Company Minutes (I still get a thrill from it myself). On those occasions he's talked about the library, the collections, and even the individual manuscripts, with impressive command and knowledge, and patiently answered questions.


I think he will be very hard to replace and his retirement is a great loss to the library and to historians of London.

Cliff Webb, genealogist and joint general editor of the British Record Society: The friendly ethos of the Manuscripts Section which is so notable - and noted by the visitors - owes a lot to Stephen's own attitudes to people, and I would like to say how much I have appreciated his ever-cheerful help, support and encouraging words over the years. This has been supported by a quiet scholastic authority. More than once I have seen readers (and staff!) struggle with a paragraph (often in Latin), and he would loom up, glance at it for a few seconds, provide a perfect précis, usually adding something like, yes the word x is difficult. Of course, us lesser mortals had found it all not difficult, but impossible.

Ann Saunders, Hon. Secretary, London Topographical Society: Stephen Freeth is the most meticulous scholar I have ever known, and a remarkable palaeographer. He is also a man of great determination with a fine taste in detective literature and a wicked sense of humour – in short, a friend to be treasured.

Business as usual at Guildhall Library Manuscripts Section

Please note that the current London Metropolitan Archives (LMA) closure until 9.30am on Monday 21 January 2008 DOES NOT affect Guildhall Library Manuscripts Section which remains open as usual, Monday to Saturday 9.30am-5.00pm, except for the Christmas and New Year period, as follows:


CLOSED Monday 24-Wednesday 26 December 2007 inclusive, and Tuesday 1 January 2008.


Otherwise OPEN as usual including Saturdays 22 and 29 December 2007.

For further details of LMA’s refurbishment of its reading rooms, go to


Year on year, written enquiries and telephone calls are now on a fairly even keel with no dramatic increases. In the reading room, July was slightly busier than July 2006, but August and September were quieter without the usual large number of foreign academics descending on the reading room. This decrease may be down to the strong pound, putting (particularly American) scholars off travelling abroad for their research. October saw slightly more visitors than last year, but fewer documents produced, which suggests that more of the visitors were family historians using microfilm copies of popular genealogical sources. This may be a result of “Who Do You Think You Are?”, the fourth series of which was broadcast during September and October.

The Manuscripts Section continues to exceed its target of at least 85% of written enquiries answered within two days of receipt, with an average of 95.6% answered within two days over the three month period; over 88% of enquiries were answered on the day of receipt.

July 2007

587 visitors to the reading room (536 in 2006)

1328 documents produced in the reading room (1183)

218 written enquiries (194)

182 telephone calls (184)

Enquiry response time for written enquiries (target at least 85% answered within two days): 100% answered within two days; 85% answered on the day of receipt.

August 2007

621 visitors to the reading room (719 in 2006)

1312 documents produced in the reading room (1444)

251 written enquiries (268)

217 telephone calls (218)

Enquiry response time: 99% answered within two days; 92.5% answered on the day of receipt.

September 2007

570 visitors to the reading room (680 in 2006)

1182 documents produced in the reading room (1815)

258 written enquiries (189)

227 telephone calls (210)

Enquiry response time: 99% answered within two days; 89% answered on the day of receipt.

October 2007

653 visitors to the reading room (634 in 2006)

1498 documents produced in the reading room (1790)

269 written enquiries (266)

256 telephone calls (258)

Enquiry response time: 99.5% answered within two days; nearly 88% answered on the day of receipt.


Charlie Turpie, Deputy Keeper of Manuscripts, who manages the section’s cataloguing programme, describes some recently catalogued records:

As archivists, we tend to talk about our holdings as “the London Stock Exchange archive” or “the records of Eastern Bank”, implying that we hold all the records of the institution in question. In fact, this is not necessarily true, although for both of these institutions our holdings are quite full.

Sometimes business records come to us through an individual connected in some way with the firm. In this case, the records may not be the official records of the business (minutes, accounts, records of customers, buildings and staff), but rather those kept by that individual as part of his or her work for the company. We have recently catalogued several stockbrokers’ “archives” which fall into this category, and the records of Guinness, Mahon & Co show how this shapes the collection.

Guinness & Mahon, land agents, was established in Dublin in 1836 by Robert Rundell Guinness (1789-1857) and John Ross Mahon (1814-1887). Within a short time, banking became the firm's main concern. It was renamed Guinness, Mahon & Co in 1851 and a London agency opened in 1873.

The records mainly comprise correspondence between partners, but there are also board minutes and interim accounts for a very short period, 1966-8 (Guildhall Library Ms 38590), and papers relating to the Guinness family, 1924-69 (Ms 38612).

Henry Samuel Howard Guinness (1888-1975), usually referred to as "S.G.", was a director of Guinness & Mahon Ltd, Dublin, and a senior partner in Guinness, Mahon & Co, London. It appears that he wrote many of the notes on the history of the firm and the Guinness family which can be found in this collection. Some of the bundles and files of papers may also have been compiled by him. These papers were donated to the Manuscripts Section of Guildhall Library in 2006 by a descendant of the Guinness family and have been catalogued as Ms 38588-612.

In other cases, the individual employee keeps records of his own work only and that is what is deposited. We have recently catalogued the record books of the dealings of Major Arthur Alexander Greenwood, stockbroker, Ms 36849. These form an unbroken run of all his transactions from February 1959 to August 1980. No other records were deposited with these record books, as Major Greenwood was a stockbroker working for various firms, rather than in business in his own right.

Before “Big Bang” in 1986, stockbrokers generally acted as partnerships, not limited companies, and therefore did not usually keep minutes or retain accounting records for long. Surviving stockbrokers’ archives are often small. An example is the archive of the firm of T. T. Curwen & Sons, which were presented in 1994 and 1999, and listed this year.

Thomas Tayler Curwen (1820-1879) went into business as a stock and share broker in around 1849. In 1878 he took his sons, Edward Spedding Curwen (b. 1852) and Thomas Cecil Curwen (b. 1854) into partnership with him, and the name of the firm was changed to T.T. Curwen & Sons. In 1974 the firm was incorporated into Wm Morris & Company.

The firm’s business of buying and selling stocks and shares is patchily recorded in a daybook, various notebooks and even a Letts’ diary for 1873. The few surviving records of the firm have been catalogued as Ms 38578-87.

This may all sound a little downbeat! However, we are glad to have these records. Small businesses tend to be represented by smaller, more fragmented collections, but these are still very valuable because large businesses are (relatively) over-represented in our holdings. If you look at a late 19th century London street directory, you will be struck by the number of businesses which existed at one address in any of our great commercial or shopping streets. These small concerns do not usually leave any records. Large companies, on the other hand, last longer, require more administration, and are more likely to have shareholders and to be a registered or limited company. If they fail, they are much more likely to go into formal liquidation. All these reasons mean that we hold more records of large businesses.

Assistant archivist, Matthew Payne describes the archive of Eastern Bank which he has just finished cataloguing:

Records of the Eastern Bank Ltd, which have been deposited at Guildhall Library since 1989 as part of the archives of Standard Chartered Bank, have recently been catalogued as Guildhall Library Ms 39001-159.

The bank was established in London in 1909 as a new Eastern ‘exchange’ bank, to help finance trade with the East. Steady growth through the first half of the 20th century meant it had particularly strong presence in India, Iraq, Sri Lanka, Bahrain and many of the Arab sheikhdoms of the Gulf. After World War II, piecemeal expansion continued in South East Asia, as well as further in the Gulf states.

In 1957 Barclays and the Sassoon family sold their controlling interest in the bank to Chartered Bank. It remained a wholly-owned subsidiary of Chartered until 1971, when it was absorbed by Chartered Bank and its name disappeared.

The records include extensive information on branches and local finances (including detailed inspection reports and balance sheets), and also correspondence, accounts and staff records. However the collection does not include the board minutes or shareholders’ records, which have been retained by Standard Chartered.

It should be noted that the records are held off-site and require 24 hours notice for access. Access to the archive is also subject to a 45 year rule, with a 70 year rule for records containing personally sensitive information.

Assistant archivist, Stacey Gee, writes about the later archives (from c1834) of the Equitable Life Assurance Society, which she has recently catalogued:

The Society for Equitable Assurances on Lives and Survivorships was formed in 1762. It was the first society to use a scientific basis for calculating life assurance. By 1797 there were over 5,000 assurances in force. In 1893, the name of the Society was changed to the Equitable Life Assurance Society (ELAS).

In November 2006 the Actuarial Profession (comprising the Faculty of Actuaries and the Institute of Actuaries) funded the purchase from ELAS of its records up to 1950 by means of a worldwide appeal. We owe many thanks to the Actuarial Profession, in particular Chris Lewin, who led the appeal for the Actuarial Profession, and David Raymont, Librarian at the Institute of Actuaries, for securing the future of these important records.

Records up to c1833 are now held at the Institute of Actuaries Library, Staple Inn, High Holborn, WC1V 7QJ. Visits to the Institute of Actuaries Library need to be arranged at least 24 hours in advance. The cut-off date of c1833/4 was chosen as William Morgan, the first actuary, died in 1833.

The records covering the period c1834-c1950 have been deposited in Guildhall Library, and have recently been catalogued as Ms 38646-85. They comprise: minutes 1834-1951, and indexes 1830-89 (Ms 38646-52); financial records, 1831-1972 (Ms 38653-62); policy records, 1803-1976 (Ms 38663-76); correspondence, 1833-61 (Ms 38677); and policy forms and other operational records, [1870?]-1931 (Ms 38678-85).

Only a few stray policy registers for the period after c1834 have survived (Ms 38664). The registers are labelled “1” and “2” (compiled 1908), “51” and “52” (compiled 1927), and “181” (compiled 1961). The policy registers are subject to a 70 year closure period, so only the first volume (which dates up to 1936) is open to public access.

The purchase of the ELAS records included records of the Reversionary Interest Society and the Equitable Reversionary Interest Society, taken over by ELAS in 1919 and 1920 respectively. Some records of these societies were deposited in Guildhall Library at the same time, to add to the archives of these societies already held by the Manuscripts Section.

Guildhall Library also holds records of University Life Assurance Society, which was acquired by ELAS in 1919. These records are now held as a deposit from Reliance Mutual Insurance Society Limited, which acquired University Life Assurance Society from ELAS in June 2007.

Editor’s note: If you would like to find out more about any of the archives described above, you can search the Manuscripts Section’s catalogues online at Just click on “Former catalogue” and enter the institution’s name in an Author search.


Assistant archivist, Wendy Hawke explores The Zodiac, staff magazine of Eastern and Associated Telegraph Companies:

In 1746 Abbe Nollet took the first steps towards electric telegraphy by administering a mild electric shock to a mile-long chain of unsuspecting monks. Another century of experimentation was required to achieve a working telegraph system, but at that point the world was soon wrapped in cable.

In 1865, Scottish-born former textile merchant John Pender stepped in to rescue the ailing transatlantic telegraph cable project with £1/4 million of his own money. He went on to build up the Eastern and Associated Telegraph Companies group. At its peak, the group owned over 73,000 nautical miles of cable, covering the Mediterranean, Australia and the Far East, Africa and South America.

The Zodiac, a monthly magazine for staff in the group’s submarine cable service, was launched in March 1906. Staff in the service were based at cable stations across the world, often in remote and thinly populated regions. Not for nothing did they call themselves ‘The Exiles’.

The magazines must have brought a sense of community, and perhaps a little bit of home too. They contain an entertaining mix of editorial comment, sports and social news, stories, poems, sketches, staff postings, letters, personal announcements, staff profiles and obituaries, with a light sprinkling of technical and company news, all generously illustrated with photographs.

The Zodiac is a useful resource for finding out about staff and their lives. Postings between stations (but not new appointments) are recorded from October 1906. Together with staff profiles and obituaries, they are a great way to trace the development of a career within the service.

When not working, staff took advantage of their postings to explore the locale, and there are vivid accounts of picnics in Egypt, climbing in the Andes, exploring Angkor Wat, motor cycling in St Vincent and firewalking in Colombo. Sport was a major pastime: football, rugby and cricket were popular, but we also have accounts of three-legged races on Fanning Island and pillow fights on Ascension. Ping-pong became something of an obsession, even warranting a mention in the chairman’s speech! Other diversions included amateur dramatics, dances and dinners.

Most issues carry a couple of articles of a technical nature, such as an account of dismantling the wireless masts on Ascension, or laying cable from Peterhead in Scotland to Alexandrovsk in Russia during World War I; or an explanation of how to detect damaged cable or retrieve marker buoys. One edition has news of the audacious theft of cable from the sea bed off Hong Kong by pirates!

The magazine was also a way to keep staff in touch with developments within the group, such as the mergers to form Cable and Wireless Ltd in 1934, and the nationalisation of that company by the British government in 1947. Indeed, by the 1970s the magazine had become quite a glossy, corporate affair.

The Zodiac was also a window on the world outside the Eastern and Associated Telegraph Companies group, recording national and global events: Derby Day in 1922, the visit of the Crown Prince of Saudi Arabia to London in 1935, the capture of Singapore in World War II, the Cuban revolution in 1959 and even space exploration, with several members of staff receiving awards from NASA for assisting with communications during the moon orbits.

Guildhall Library has an almost unbroken run of The Zodiac magazines from 1906 to1971. They form part of the archive of Globe Telegraph Trust Company (which owned a chunk of Cable and Wireless Ltd) and have been catalogued as Guildhall Library Ms 24226A. Please note that these records are kept off site, and we need at least 24 hours notice to produce them.


Charlie Turpie, Deputy Keeper of Manuscripts, writes about her work on the Manuscripts Section’s Guide to its holdings.

“What are all these people doing?”

Quite often, someone will wander up to the Manuscripts enquiry desk, look around and either say to me (or think to themselves) “What are all these people doing?”, feeling that if only they knew the right question to ask, they too could be sitting there happily consulting documents.

I sympathise. Before I came to work here, I had only a very sketchy idea of what Guildhall Library was about. Our holdings are very diverse and our name does not give many clues. Our collection policy is actually very simple – we take in the records of institutions and individuals based in the City of London. The complicated bit is that those records can include individuals living or working anywhere in the world (for example, merchant navy captains sailing the globe from Lloyds’ Captains Registers, or baptisms, marriages and burials of Britons living overseas from the chaplaincy records of the Diocese in Europe); and institutions, such as Eastern Bank mentioned above, which were based in the City of London, but whose business was mostly outside the United Kingdom.

Another complication is that the City does not equal London, so whether someone might be represented in our holdings depends on which side of Chancery Lane they lived on, whether their business was in Fleet Street (yes) or the Strand (no), and so on.

So, I will attempt to explain all this to the person who wonders what everyone is doing. They will then look at me and say (something like) “Okay then, so what have you got?”

What have you got?

This is the million dollar question. In fact, with each enquirer who asks in person, I try to establish what they might be interested in and talk about specific sources. The overall answer, however, is that everything we hold is listed in our Guide. Its full title is General Guide to records held in the Manuscripts Section of Guildhall Library. We wrote the Guide in the late 1980s and published it in 1989. We compiled an update of the Guide current to November 1994 and this is the version of the Guide which has been on our website ever since August 1995. This version of the Guide was only ever published as part of Guildhall Library’s entry in Greater London History Sources Volume 1, the City of London in 2000, and even then in a revised format which fitted the needs of that publication.

We have kept a manually updated version of the Guide at the enquiry desk, but have been conscious that the website Guide was increasingly failing to show the richness and diversity of our holdings. So last Autumn I began a long campaign to update the Guide and, assisted by my colleagues, I have now updated 15 sections out of 27. These updates are posted on our website as soon as they are complete, and are also printed out for our enquiry desk.

So what’s new?

We have added all the significant new catalogued collections since November 1994. In the Business section, for example (the largest section), we’ve added 239 entries. We have also removed entries for items which have been transferred elsewhere or which we now consider too minor for inclusion in the Guide. In the Business section, we’ve taken out 82 entries.

Just as importantly, we’ve amended entries to indicate additions to existing collections or to reflect recent research and/or work to improve catalogue entries.

In addition, we want to make the relationship between the Guide and our online catalogue as close as possible. (In the future we would like you to be able to click on the Guide entry to be taken into the catalogue, but we are not there yet.) We have added in Ms numbers for each collection, with instructions for carrying out classification searches online using those Ms numbers. We have changed the form of name of collections in the Guide so that they are exactly the same as the catalogue.

We are not intending to publish the new Guide in hard copy when it is finished, as it will be out of date as soon as it is printed! However, we intend to update the website with further changes on a regular basis. Apart from the copy at the enquiry desk, the website Guide will therefore continue to be the most up-to-date and complete version – a familiar situation for many of our readers, I’m sure.

Why does the Guide matter?

For two reasons. Firstly it has everything we hold (of any significance), presented in a logical way. Other finding aids and publications pick and choose (parish registers, livery company records, business archives and so on). The catalogue has more detail, but you have to find collections by searching; the Guide shows you everything we hold.

Secondly, the entries are found by Google (other search engines are available!); catalogue entries are not. So, if you are sitting in Australia wondering where the records of P. W. Flower and Sons (merchants of London and Sydney) are held, you might put “P W Flower” into Google and, lo and behold, you would find an entry in our Guide’s business index coming up as the first result.

How can I be involved with the new Guide?

We welcome your thoughts – please email us at The changes we have made have included information from readers about collections – often you know more about specific records than we do. Most of all, do use the Guide.

TAKE CARE: New Document Handling Guidelines in the Reading Room

Archives assistant Claire Titley reports:

The manuscripts in our care are unique and irreplaceable. Many of them are fragile and require careful handling to avoid damaging them. Even modern items need to be handled correctly, to protect the pages and the bindings for future users.

In the Manuscripts Section we try to balance the need to protect our collections with our commitment to making them available for readers. We attempt to make it as simple as possible for readers to handle documents without too much practical obstruction.

One way in which we have tried to communicate best practice to our readers is by producing a series of Document Handling Guidelines. These provide general advice on handling manuscripts, for example the need for readers to have clean hands, to use pencils and to avoid leaning or resting on manuscripts.

They also provide more specific advice for certain types of manuscripts. When using bundles or gatherings, readers are advised to keep papers in order and to avoid unclipping any fastenings that have been used to hold papers together. When using volumes, we recommend that readers use a book rest to avoid straining the bindings, and use “snake” weights to hold pages down if necessary.

There are plenty of book rests in the reading room, but more are available at the enquiry desk, along with cushions if more appropriate for the particular item. Readers can also help themselves to a series of weights from the enquiry desk, and staff will provide acetate sheets for making tracings, and paper strips for place markers, on request.

Most importantly, we stress that readers should ask at the enquiry desk if they require any advice about the best way to handle the particular manuscript they have been issued. Some manuscripts can be difficult to handle, for example our popular Captains Registers, which are large and heavy. We have many examples of large deeds and charters which are awkward to unfold and read, and loose papers are often tied together in bundles which require rewrapping when finished with: enquiry desk staff are more than willing to offer an extra pair of hands if necessary.

We also welcome readers’ comments about the condition of particular manuscripts. With over 6km of records in our stores, there are inevitably things that are not picked up by routine conservation practice. If readers find torn or stuck-together pages, damaged bindings or anything else of concern, they should let staff at the enquiry desk know. We will report it to our Conservators who can schedule repairs as necessary.

The National Archives have a useful section on their website about handling documents made from different materials, which is clearly illustrated and even includes a series of videos at

I recommend these webpages to anyone interested in good document handling, but readers should note that we do not encourage the use of white gloves here in the Manuscripts Section unless volumes are particularly dirty! (For more about the white glove issue please see “What not to wear or ‘Stop the White Glove’” in Newsletter no 5 from Autumn 2006, available on our website at

Our Document Handling Guidelines are available for readers to consult in the reading room, copies are available at the enquiry desk for readers to take away, and they can be viewed on our website at


News that manuscripts that are too fragile to be handled at all could soon be read without being opened, using a new scanning technique, has certainly aroused some interest here. Senior Conservator Ann Stewart, says, “It is a very exciting new technology that would have tremendous use here, particularly with the burnt documents damaged during the Blitz. However, it is still being developed and there has not been any specific announcement to the Conservation community.” You can read more about this at


In the Winter 2006/7 issue of the newsletter, Amy Erickson, Senior Research Associate of the Group for Population History at the University of Cambridge, and a Senior Research Fellow at the Institute of Historical Research, University of London, challenged our assumption that Christ’s Hospital girls invariably went into domestic service in the 19th and early 20th centuries. This generated a lot of interest, and the contributions of several readers were published in the last two issues of the newsletter. We have had one final thought about this from John Barnard:

I was very interested to see the snippet in your newsletter concerning the career prospects of the girls of Christ’s Hospital at Hertford in the 19th century.

My great grandmother, Charlotte Bigg, was a pupil at Christ’s Hospital from 1846 until August 1852. Her brother, John Ebenezer Bigg, had also been a pupil at the school from 1844 until 1849 when he died. Charlotte was discharged from the school at the age of 13 on the request of her father, who proposed to take the whole family to Australia. (This information was all obtained from Guildhall Library Ms 12818/16.) At first sight I thought it unlikely that he would have taken the family to Australia, because he had pleaded poverty in order to have the two children taken into Christ’s Hospital. However, I checked the entry records for the State of Victoria and found that the Biggs, all seven of them, father, mother and five children, had indeed arrived in Melbourne in November 1852 on the ship Admiral. Even more surprising was the fact that they left Australia and headed back to England in December 1852 on the ship John Taylor. I have no idea why they did not remain in Australia.

Charlotte Bigg was recorded in the 1861 census living at 59 Burgate Street, Canterbury, Kent, in the household of William Moore, a draper. She was described as a draper’s assistant. I don't know if you would describe this as being in service, but her occupation makes sense in the light of the mention in your newsletter that the girls were set to work making clothes for the boys. It probably also explains how she came to meet my great grandfather, since he was also a draper's assistant in Canterbury. The following year, on 1 January 1862, Charlotte married Benjamin Clark, and three weeks later they set sail again on the ship Lincolnshire for Melbourne, and thence travelled on to Falmouth, Tasmania. They stayed there for about 18 months, during which time their first child was born, and then decided to travel home.

So, before she was 25, my great grandmother had been to Australia and back twice. I imagine that must have been unusual, even for a pupil at Christ’s Hospital!


Guildhall Library Manuscripts Section has been holding a series of free events as part of the Archive Awareness Campaign 2007. All the talks have been very popular and the following is now fully booked:

6 December 2007: Behind the scenes tour of the Manuscripts Section store and Conservation workshop.

Newsletter subscribers are among the first to be told about our programme of talks and tours, but please remember to book early so as not to be disappointed.

Talks, workshops, poetry readings, exhibitions, walks, conferences, tours, children’s activities and many other events at the City of London’s Libraries, Archives and Guildhall Art Gallery are listed in its regularly published events brochure. If you would like to receive a copy, please let us know (at and we will add you to the mailing list.


Each session starts at 1.00 p.m. and will last for one hour. Sessions are free, but you must book in advance by phoning 020 7332 1868/1870 or by emailing

General tours: You will hear about the history of the Library, see the collections, and visit behind the scenes. Tours will take place on:

Wednesday 5 December 2007;

Wednesday 6 February 2008;

Wednesday 2 April 2008.

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 2 January 2008;

Wednesday 5 March 2008.

Sources for family historians: You will be shown resources for tracing family history in the Printed Books Section, and then view original documents in the Manuscripts Section. Talks will take place on:

Tuesday 8 January 2008;

Tuesday 11 March 2008;

Tuesday 13 May 2008.


For details of forthcoming events at London Metropolitan Archives 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


Hodgson’s Juvenile Drama: The British Stage in Miniature 1821-1840, at Guildhall Library Print Room until 2 February 2008, free admission.

The English toy theatre – or juvenile drama – far from being merely a child’s plaything, offers a unique record of the actors, scenery, costumes and spectacle experienced by the London play-going public of the early 19th century. As a barometer of popular taste of the period it is unsurpassed, and well deserves its 1820s epithet of “The British Stage in Miniature”.

Although the English toy theatre dates back to 1811, it was not until the emergence of Hodgson & Co as theatrical print publishers in 1821 that it became a practical toy. In Hodgson’s hands, this diminutive art form, hitherto consisting merely of a few printed souvenir sheets serving as a memento of a play, was transformed into paper productions of epic proportions. These could run to as many as 32 plates of characters and up to 29 scenes, which were then supplemented by vast processions, grand cars and battle scenes. All of these were designed to be hand coloured, pasted on cardboard, cut out and performed in wooden toy theatres as a drawing room entertainment.


Hodgson & Co’s repertoire was dominated by historical dramas and exotic epics with far-flung settings, although Shakespeare was not neglected and contemporary life was vividly represented by “Life in London”. This was the stage adaptation of Pierce Egan’s novel which, in its scenes of high life and low life, caused a sensation when presented as a “Burletta of Fun, Frolic, Fashion and Flash!” at the Adelphi Theatre in 1822.


The exhibition has been arranged by theatre: Covent Garden, Drury Lane, The Coburg (today’s Old Vic), and Astley’s Amphitheatre, each represented in the exhibition as a miniature stage, set with an appropriate production.

Other exhibits include a unique surviving early nineteenth century toy theatre, original watercolour drawings by Robert Cruikshank, playbills, theatrical portraits, and plates of characters and scenes from public and private collections, most of which have never been exhibited before.

The exhibition will be supplemented by a grand toy theatre performance of “Life in London” on 30 November.

A Visible Difference: Skin, race and identity 1720-1820, at the Hunterian Museum at the Royal College of Surgeons, 3 July – 21 December 2007. Open to all, Tuesday to Saturday, 10am to 5pm, free entry.

There is still time to see this exhibition exploring the forgotten histories of black Africans living with skin pigmentation conditions. It includes an item loaned by Guildhall Library Manuscripts Section: the Piepowder Court minute book, 1790-1854 (Ms 95), which records the attractions, stalls and amusements at Bartholomew Fair, including references to the ‘Negro’, the ‘White Negro’, the ‘Spotted Indian’ and the ‘White Indian’. For further information go to


Street Market historian Sandra Shevey has joined up with filmmaker Steve Beer to put together a 30 minute film about four of London's oldest street markets: Spitalfields, Covent Garden, the Borough and Smithfield. The intention of the documentary is to raise awareness about what is happening to these ancient market areas. You can see a five minute trailer at

Sandra Shevey has been writing in support of London street markets since 1990, when she first began her company specialising in guided street market walks. She has also run walks in tandem with Westminster City Archives and the Museum of London. Further information is available from


The Family Records Centre (FRC) in Islington is closing. The National Archives (TNA) at Kew is making changes to enable it to integrate the services it offers at the FRC. This entails building works at Kew until Spring 2008. During the building work there will be noise and disruption and TNA will be completely closed to the public from Saturday 1 to Sunday 16 December 2007 inclusive, and from Monday 21 to Sunday 27 January 2008 inclusive.

For up-to-date news about this, and a link to information about the future of the Office of National Statistics services at the FRC, 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, at

Last updated November 2007

Guildhall Library Manuscripts Section