Guildhall Library Manuscripts Section

Electronic Newsletter

Issue No. 4 Summer 2006


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 160 subscribers. If you are not already on the mailing list, and would like to receive future issues, please email us at


Venture Abroad: images from Guildhall Library’s business collections, ca.1868-1929

Refreshment area

Fire alarms

Building work

Measuring Up: Statistics for April-June 2006

Enquiry service improvements

Drink and be merry!

Volunteer projects: A Place in the Sun; index of trades in Sun Fire Office policy registers; Lloyd’s Marine Collection

Cataloguing news: Lloyd’s of London confidential reports; access to    uncatalogued records

Conservation work in the Manuscripts Section: a dream machine?

A fantastic fund: the 125th anniversary of the MLA/V&A Purchase Grant Fund

More useful websites

A new vision for The National Archives

Archive Awareness Campaign 2006/7

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

Sources for the history of a building or site in London

Ancestors magazine

Guildhall Library Bookshop

We welcome your views!

Contact details

 "Venture Abroad: Images from Guildhall Library’s Business Collections ca. 1868-1929"

 18th September to 29th December 2006 - Admission Free - Monday-Saturday 9.30-5.00

Guildhall Library is delighted to present a free exhibition of overseas photographs from its business collections. This exhibition is an opportunity for us to display rarely-seen photographs which many of our regular readers may be surprised to know can be found in our business collections.

The photographs, all taken between ca. 1868 and 1929, have been selected from the archives of the Borneo Company, Harrisons and Crosfield, the Bank of British West Africa, Guardian Assurance, Steel Brothers and the Sun Fire Office. These companies were based in the City of London, the “Square Mile”, but active all across the world.

From Accra to Zanzibar

Taken primarily to illustrate global business activities, such as gold mining in Sarawak, rubber tapping in Malaya and teak extraction in Burma, the photographs also provide a fascinating record of local people, culture and places of interest. You can travel the world in pictures with over fifty images of street scenes and bazaars, tribal chiefs and huntsmen, icebergs and elephants. These photographs are of potential value to many researchers for they include not only images of staff, working conditions and industrial processes, but also wonderful scenes of cities and buildings such as the Great Mosque in Damascus and impressive panoramas of Constantinople and Florence.

In order to protect the fragile original photographs from over-exposure to high light levels, many images on display will be digital copies. However, readers are welcome to consult the original photographs in the Manuscripts Reading Room.


An illustrated catalogue will be on sale in Guildhall Library Bookshop from mid-September (, telephone 020 7332 1858). For more about the Bookshop, see Guildhall Library Bookshop below.


Unfortunately, as a result of work on a new security control centre in the basement, which led to an area of the lower ground floor of Guildhall Library being sealed off, there has been nowhere in the Library recently for you to eat your own refreshments. We are pleased to report that, although the building works are a little behind schedule, the refreshment area should be reinstated within the next six weeks. In the meantime, as stated in the previous newsletter, there are many cafes and bars in the vicinity of Guildhall where you can eat, and on warmer days there is always the garden in Aldermanbury on the site of the church of St Mary Aldermanbury, or seating in Guildhall Yard or next to the pond outside the church of St Lawrence Jewry.

Recent visitors may have noticed a sandwich trolley on the lower ground floor between 11.00 and 11.30 Monday to Friday. From mid August, vending machines for cold drinks and snacks will also be installed. These are intended for staff use while the Guildhall North Block is being refurbished.

Members of the public are welcome to use the vending machines and the visiting sandwich trolley if they wish. However, the same rules about eating and drinking in the library will continue - you can only do so on the lower ground floor and must not walk upstairs and through the library lobby with open food and drink. Please note that this vending arrangement is for the next two years only and is not a permanent arrangement.


Visitors to Guildhall Library, and staff, have had to leave the building on several occasions in the last few weeks when the fire alarm has been activated during the recent demolition of the North Block basement (see Building works below). The fire alarm within the North Block has now been disconnected from the system serving the remainder of the Guildhall complex, which should reduce the false alarms. We apologise for any disruption to your research that this may have caused.

Please note that when the fire alarm sounds, it is usually an intermittent bell to begin with. This indicates that you should get ready to leave the building, saving data on your laptop, and getting your belongings together. If the bell becomes continuous, you should leave the building as quickly as possible. Staff will indicate which door to use (usually the fire exit in the library entrance). You can leave microfilms on the viewers and original manuscripts on the reading room tables; they will come to no harm while the building is empty. If you decide not to return to the library, staff will put the items away. If you do decide to return, we would really appreciate it if you would allow staff to freely re-enter the building first, once the all clear has been given.


Construction work is beginning on the Guildhall North Block, adjacent to Guildhall Library (you can see work going on from the Manuscripts Section reading room). This will create modern efficient offices for City of London staff, and better facilities for staff and public. The work is due for completion in Spring 2008. During this time, contractors will also be refurbishing the Old Library and old museum beneath it, which will create additional space for civic and ceremonial functions.

Unfortunately, noise and disruption is an inevitable aspect of construction activities, especially demolition works. However, the contractors are aware of the problem and have even been into the Manuscripts reading room to assess the impact of the works so far (this has been minimal). The site has been registered with the Considerate Contractors scheme. This scheme, which was pioneered by the City of London in 1987, aims to encourage building contractors working in the City to carry out their operations in a safe and considerate manner. Please let us know if you experience any problems during your visit from noise from the building works, and we will pass the information on.


The number of emails continues to soar with the monthly total for May more than double that for last year with a record 389 emails dealt with. This month also saw slight increases in the numbers of letters and telephone calls. In spite of these increases, the Manuscripts Section continues to meet its target of at least 85% of written enquiries answered within two days, with a 100% record for April and May and 99% in June.

April 2006

547 visitors to the reading room (659 in 2005)

1063 documents produced in the reading room (1495)

57 letters (67)

231 emails (184)

196 telephone calls (235)

Enquiry response time for written enquiries (target at least 85% answered within two days): 100% answered within two days; nearly 95% answered on the day of receipt.

May 2006

657 visitors to the reading room (590 in 2005)

1372 documents produced in the reading room (1650)

72 letters (59)

389 emails (169)

216 telephone calls (199)

Enquiry response time: 100% answered within two days; nearly 90% answered on the day of receipt.

June 2006

633 visitors to the reading room (632 in 2005)

1510 documents produced in the reading room (1438)

47 letters (76)

233 emails (140)

200 telephone calls (214)

Enquiry response time: 99% answered within two days; over 90% answered on the day of receipt.


As part of the City of London Corporation’s drive to improve its customer focus by implementing comprehensive Customer Service Response Standards, the Manuscripts Section has introduced two new features to its enquiry service delivery.

The first is an immediate automatic acknowledgement of emails. This lets enquirers know that their email has been received and explains when they can expect to receive a reply to their enquiry. It also gives details of access to the library, and explains how to view our website and online catalogue, as well as how to subscribe to this newsletter.

The second feature is an automatic message on our two enquiry telephone lines (020 7332 1862/3). This will cut in immediately if the line is busy when a call is received, or after seven rings if the call is unanswered either because staff are busy with other enquirers or because the library is closed. The message invites callers to try again during our opening hours, but also gives our email and website addresses offering callers the option to email their query, or go to the website to see if the answer is there. Normally, if we are open, and unless we are already on the telephone, we would hope to pick up a call within the seven rings and you should not get the message. We have set the number of rings before the message at seven in order to give the archivist on duty on a Saturday, who is on their own, time to get to the telephone if they are busy with a reader at the far side of the reading room!


Charlie Turpie, Deputy Keeper of Manuscripts, gives an insight into some sources for wine at Guildhall Library.

Are you interested in wine?

Whether you prefer burgundy, claret, Chilean merlot or New Zealand sauvignon blanc, you might be interested to know more about our holdings relating to the wine trade.

The Vintners’ Company had until 1803 the exclusive right of landing and delivering all wines imported to or exported from the City of London and a three mile radius thereabout. This right was exercised by the Company’s wine porters (also known as tackle porters). The porters were not members of the Company, but employees.

Records relating to the wine porters include lists giving name, age, date of admission and area assigned to them, circa 1813-1944 (Guildhall Library Ms 15343) and some photographs of and notes about wine porters (GL Ms 36733).

My ancestor was a wine merchant in London

It is worth trying the Vintners’ Company, this time membership records. Our holdings of these apprenticeship and freedom records are outlined at

We also hold many fire insurance policies for wine merchants, which are mostly unindexed. If you have an early nineteenth century London wine merchant, you can look at our contribution to a2a, an online index to Sun Insurance Office policies 1815-34 at which includes hundreds of wine merchants.

Wine merchants are also listed in the extensive collection of trade directories held by the Printed Books Section of Guildhall Library

I’m interested in the history of the London wine trade

We have records of 18 individual firms of wine merchants, the most famous of these being Corney and Barrow, and Sandeman and Sons. You can see a list of these firms in our subject index to collections by trade on our website at This list is somewhat out of date and does not include records of James Vickers & Co (GL Ms 24588-605), Cossart, Gordon and Co (GL Ms 32991-33000, see below), William Coare & Co (GL Ms 34691-77) and two very recently catalogued collections,  Dixon, Morgan & Co (GL Ms 38311-5) and Matthew Clark and Sons (GL Ms 38316-70). Dixon, Morgan & Co imported wine and spirits mainly from Oporto, while Matthew Clark and Sons imported port, sherry, madeira, cognac, and Bordeaux and Rhone wines. Both firms were based in the City of London from the early 19th century.

We have a fantastic series of letters and accounts of Cossart, Gordon and Co, who purchased wine from local suppliers from which they produced and bottled madeira and shipped it round the world (particularly to Britain and its colonies in India and West India and North America). These bundles (GL Ms 32992/1-183) contain thousands of letters and bills dating from 1754 to 1898, and are imbued with a delicate odour of madeira suggesting that they were stored in a lodge in Funchal close to the enormous pipes of madeira wine being “baked” by heat to caramelise the sugars and oxidise the wine. This process, known as “estufagem”, artificially recreates the changes in madeira wine naturally caused by barrels being exposed to heat and air on long sea voyages. 

Madeira was popular in the United States for many years. It was one of the few European products exempt from the 1665 ban on European imports to the American colonies unless shipped in British ships and from British ports. The signing of the Declaration of Independence was toasted in madeira.

Can I found out more about who drank what?

We also have records of wine consumption. As well as the customer ledgers and other records of the wine merchant firms referred to above, we hold “cellar books”, “wine books” or “bin books” for several City organisations. (Use the phrases in quotations as keyword searches of the catalogue*.) Not unexpectedly, the Vintners’ Company kept fine cellars, as did many other livery companies, the Gresham Club and Sion College.

Was what they drank any good?

Well, I have wondered that myself and some of my suspicions were confirmed by legal case papers about “filling up” in the records of Matthew Clark and Sons (discussed above), which showed that bottles of well-known brands of Cognac and spirits were filled up with inferior wines and spirits by publicans (GL Ms 38358, if you want to know more).

Of course, there are many great wines and many great wine writers. Guildhall Library Printed Books holds three important collections of writing about wine, the Andre Simon collection, the International Wine and Food Society Library and the Institute of Masters of Wine Library. These are described in “Wine and food collections at Guildhall Library” at and you can also search the catalogue* using an author search (omit “collection” and “library” to do so).

*You can search the Manuscripts Section’s catalogues online at Just click on “Former catalogue”.


A Place in the Sun: July 2006

As shown in the table below, the indexes to 60 Sun Fire Office registers are already available online through the Access to Archives (A2A) database run by The National Archives. Twenty-five more registers will be added at the next update (expected within the next two months). Our team of volunteers is currently working on a further 20 registers, which we expect to go online in 2007.


Covering dates

State of progress

451-453, 455, 457*



Indexing / checking in progress

459, 461-469*



Expected to go online within two months




Available online via A2A website, except volumes 526-30, expected within two months




Expected to go online within two months





Indexing / checking in progress



Indexing just started


*Volumes 454, 456, 458, 460 and 470 are missing.

To use the database, go to, click ‘Search the database’, choose ‘Guildhall Library’ from the Location of Archives drop-down menu, and enter your search term. Alternatively, you can enter it on the ‘Extended Search’ menu if you select ‘A Place in the Sun’ as the A2A theme. Numbered insurance policies identified through the index can be ordered from, or consulted at, Guildhall Library Manuscripts Section (, telephone 020 7332 1863/2).

For further information about the project, please contact the Project Manager, Brenda Griffith-Williams (, telephone 020 7332 1863/2).

Index of trades in Sun Fire Office policy registers

Myrtle Mumford writes about another Sun indexing project which has been going on quietly and steadily for many years:

“In about 1986, Francis Collard, then head of the Furniture Department at the V&A museum in South Kensington, asked Stuart Turner, a fellow NADFAS* member for help in compiling information about cabinet makers and joiners ca. 1730 for a nationwide index of such trades for publication. His input was derived from the policy registers of the Sun Insurance Office held in the Manuscripts Section of Guildhall Library. As his work became known, other curators and interested parties asked for the trades with which they were particularly involved to be added to this list. There are now about 600 trades researched.

The group now working at Guildhall Library copy the full details of policies from the registers and transfer them on to cards for filing at various museums and other organisations where they are used for research into a wide variety of topics.

We are always pleased of people to join us. We cannot offer expenses, but the tools of the trade are supplied. We usually work at the library on Tuesday mornings, although this is not essential.”

Myrtle and her team have undertaken a massive task as they are going through all the Sun policy registers, covering the years 1710-1863, a total of 1262 volumes (GL Ms 11936-7). Of the trades researched, some are covered countrywide, others are only included if they relate to London.

For further details contact Myrtle Mumford on 020 7607 4865 or Donald Green on 020 8466 1130.

*NADFAS is the National Association of Decorative and Fine Arts Societies. For further information go to

Lloyd’s Marine Collection

Are you interested in maritime history? Guildhall Library looks after the Lloyd’s Marine Collection, containing some of the world’s most important maritime records. We are looking for volunteers to help with sorting a unique collection of Voyage Record Cards. The project is intended to make the collection more accessible. If you are interested please contact Declan Barriskill in the Printed Books Section (, telephone 0207 332 1869) for further information.


Charlie Turpie, who manages the section’s cataloguing programme, describes one particular series of records, and talks generally about access to uncatalogued material.

Amongst the records recently catalogued are “confidential reports” of Lloyd’s of London, 1908-46 (GL Ms 36855). These are reports sent to Lloyds by the Registrar General of Shipping and Seamen to convey decisions about particular captains arising out of official enquiries into casualties.

If you are very familiar with the mercantile navy holdings of the National Archives, you may have come across the Registrar General’s “Black Books”. The information in our “confidential reports” was derived from the “Black Books”. The reports are referred to in Lloyd’s Captains Registers which we also hold (GL Ms 18567-9) under casualties, being indicated by numbers in blue ink within an oval – the numbers do not have “confidential report” written by them, but nonetheless they do lead you to the report of the same number.

Unfortunately, we only hold reports numbered 500-699: as far as we know, no earlier or later numbered reports survive elsewhere. Readers have asked us over the years about these reports and some have been allowed to see nos. 500-699, uncatalogued. It will be much easier for enquirers to consult the reports now that they have been catalogued as they are in our main store and, like the “Black Books” at Kew, do not have any access restriction.

I’m interested in other records which I think you might hold, but cannot find on your online catalogue

From time to time we receive emails from hopeful enquirers who have searched our catalogue online and not found what they were looking for, wondering whether we have “obscure” archives not in the catalogue. It is always worth asking, as we may be able to offer advice, especially as to the form of name you should use to search. However, be assured that we have all our catalogued records online (apart from a few miscellaneous medieval to 18th century City of London deeds, known as the Additional Manuscripts or Add Mss), so there is nothing missing from the catalogue. What you might be interested in is our uncatalogued records.

Well, how can I find out about them?

We make an annual return of accessions to the National Register of Archives, so if you search the online NRA database you will find out about our accessions. We also put the annual returns from 1994 to date on our website in the News section at There you will find references such as Ms 36687 (which indicates that the material has been catalogued and will be online with the rest of our catalogued holdings) and Acc. 2005/004. This latter reference is an accession reference which means that, at the time of reporting, the material was uncatalogued. It may have been catalogued since – we do not update the accession returns – so do ask us for advice.

We will then check our accessions register and let you know whether it has since been catalogued. If not, we will give you what further information we can about the accession, so that you can see whether you are interested in pursuing it further.

But if the accession is uncatalogued and I do want to see the records?

We do produce uncatalogued records, but only sometimes, and entirely at the Keeper of Manuscripts’ discretion. This is because uncatalogued manuscripts are very time-consuming to produce and, especially, to put back in the right place. There is a danger of items going missing and often it is difficult to identify the items in which the enquirer is interested. We consider that our time is better spent cataloguing records so that they can be available for everyone to consult without appointment or prior formality. However, please do ask. We will do what we can to help you.

We set cataloguing priorities which reflect historical importance/user demand/staff availability, ability and development needs/depositor’s wishes (for example, a collection which the depositor has asked to remain largely closed will often not be catalogued until the passage of time allows access to most of the records).

You can help set these priorities!

Small collections can be catalogued specifically because a reader has asked for them (and is able to wait for as long as it takes – cataloguing is never a swift process). Large collections can move up the list of priorities if enquirers ask in number.

We do have different ways of tackling long-term uncatalogued collections which otherwise would just sit in the store for many years. For example, we have listed the branch balance sheets series of Chartered Bank (GL Ms 31519) from 1858 to 1972. This is a very large and consistent series of records which gives lots of information. It has been used by a number of enquirers who have extracted a good deal of data. The other records of the Bank are voluminous and will be catalogued at some point, but this is a good compromise.

Another solution, which was suggested by the depositor, was applied to long-term uncatalogued records of St. Paul’s Cathedral. These needed to be available for researchers contributing to the recent history of the Cathedral – St Paul’s: The Cathedral Church of London 604-2004. The Cathedral paid for a researcher to compile a box-list of the uncatalogued records with advice from the Keeper of Manuscripts. We regard these records as not fully catalogued since they are not included in the St. Paul’s archival classification and arrangement scheme or in the online catalogue, but the box-list is available at the Manuscripts Enquiry desk and can easily be used to order material without having to order in advance or by appointment.

We are also employing a contract archivist to catalogue the records of Wallace Brothers, merchants, agents and bankers, of Crosby Square, a very large and exceedingly complex archive. He is working on tranches of records, fitting in with his main paid employment elsewhere and with what we can pay him. This means that it will take several years for the collection to be completed, but at least the central records have been largely listed, and the volume of uncatalogued material is being steadily reduced.

How do we tackle the backlog?

Our main strategy has been to make cataloguing a top priority for the Section. (It’s gratifying to see that this has been recognised recently in the archival sector as an access problem – cataloguing needs to happen before the records are truly available.) This strategy has been very successful – our uncatalogued backlog in 2000-2001 was 27.82% of our total holdings and at the end of 2004-2005 it was 23.95%. (For everyone who really likes figures: at 31 March 2005 our uncatalogued material occupied 2455.15 linear yards or 1.395 linear miles; and our total holdings occupied 10252.1 linear yards or 5.83 linear miles. The figures for 31 March 2006 are still in preparation.)

Its important to stress that these collections have been catalogued to an exacting standard, based on national and international standards, and that the increased cataloguing has been achieved while taking in a good deal of new accessions each year – the current average is 117.5 linear yards each twelve months, but it has sometimes been several times that if we have taken in an unusually large amount of material in one or more years. These new accessions will themselves become uncatalogued backlog if they are not listed within the accession year. I am grateful to all of my colleagues who work and have worked very hard to reduce the backlog.

conservation work in the Manuscripts Section: A DREAM MACHINE?

Jonathan Burton, an archives assistant in the Manuscripts Section, was lured from his normal duties on the enquiry desk to help with an experiment in the Manuscripts store and reports back here:

During June, Guildhall Library had the use of a book-cleaning machine for two weeks, one week for the Book store and one for the Manuscripts store.  Rented from Conservation by Design, and designed in Italy, the Depulvura Book Cleaner is similar to ones used by the British Library and the Bodleian Library. 

In terms of volume, the experiment worked well, with 8,000 books and 4,500 manuscripts being cleaned over the two-week period.  The machine performed its task well on books with a light film of dust, but often struggled to make an impact on items that were particularly dirty.  On the whole, it also coped well with the variety of differently sized documents kept in the Manuscripts store.  The only real difficulty arose with particularly large items (such as Lloyds’ Captains Registers), which were unable to go through the machine.

The main problems were to do with the size of the machine.  Its bulk made it difficult to manoeuvre around the Manuscripts store, which necessitated volumes being brought to the machine rather than vice-versa.  This resulted in a three-man team (which was where I came in) being the best way of carrying out the task.  While one person was loading a trolley with volumes, one was feeding volumes through the machine, while another was collecting volumes from the other end, ready to be taken back to the shelf.

Our Conservators, Ann Stewart and Paul Humphreys, plan to perform a manual clean in the future to compare the end product against that of the machine.  A smaller version of the machine is available (which conversely can clean larger books!), and were we to repeat the process, we would probably go with this version, and hope it provided better manoeuvrability.


This summer, museums, archives and specialist libraries round the country are marking the 125th anniversary of the MLA/V&A Purchase Grant Fund. Guildhall Library Manuscripts Section is no exception, with a small exhibition in the reading room.

A government grant scheme for regional art schools to buy replica works of art for students to study was re-launched in 1881 with a budget of £1,500 to help the recently-founded municipal museums to build their collections. 

Operated and financed by the South Kensington Museum, now called the Victoria and Albert Museum, the scheme has always formed a key part of the Museum’s nationwide work.  The Museums, Libraries and Archives Council currently provides £1,000,000 a year for the grants, as part of its framework to support collections development.

Grants are given to museums, archives and specialist libraries in England and Wales towards acquisitions relating to the arts, literature and history for the benefit of the public.  Only those which demonstrate the ability to care for their collections and make them publicly accessible are eligible for support.

The Purchase Grant Fund is the only fund which regularly supports significant but more modest purchases which are not necessarily major heritage items nor works of art.

Each year over 300 applications from some 140 organisations are considered.  In the last 125 years, many thousands of objects have been acquired with the Fund’s help, ranging from paintings and Roman coins to designer jewellery and botanical specimens.

From the beginning, the Purchase Grant Fund has also been a conduit for expertise and advice. This is often as valuable to applicants as financial support.  Expert advice is provided by curators at the V&A, other national museums and The National Archives.

Guildhall Library Manuscripts Section has received funding from the V&A Purchase Grant Fund on several occasions. In 1996, we were delighted to purchase an impressive Papal bull, with attached instrument of the Bishop of London, 1514 (GL Ms 30756) with assistance from both the V&A Purchase Grant Fund and from the Friends of the National Libraries. The bull was granted by Pope Leo X permitting the marriage of Henry Somerset, Lord Herbert and Margaret Courtney, not withstanding the canonical prohibition due to their consanguinity (they were second cousins), and is attached to a letter from Leonard, Cardinal of Susa and an instrument of Richard Fitzjames, Bishop of London authorising the marriage. The Papal bull is important because it demonstrates both the close relationship between England and the Papacy at the time, and the significant political role of the Bishop of London.

The Fund's administration is very efficient - the paperwork is manageable and straightforward and they make decisions quickly. This cannot be said of most grant funding bodies!

We particularly appreciate the Fund's flexibility and speed when we are considering an auction bid for documents. Time is usually of the essence and we need to be sure of funding before bidding. The Fund is able to give a response at short notice, which enables us to bid confidently.

Most record offices have small or non-existent funds to buy documents. We have no such funding from the City of London Corporation, but are very lucky to have appreciative enquirers who donate to our Special Purchases Fund, and some depositors who also help us in this way. The MLA/V&A Purchase Grant Fund will give us up to 50% of the purchase price, which means that potentially they will match the money we raise from donations. Without the Fund, we would have had to turn down some important records which were only available through purchase. We are very grateful and hope that the good work of the Fund continues for another 125 years.


The Inner Temple Admissions Database, 1547-1850

The Inner Temple Admissions Database is a unique resource providing online biographical information about past members of the Honourable Society of the Inner Temple, one of the four London-based Inns of Court. The Inner Temple's members have included courtiers, politicians, writers, adventurers and overseas students, as well as barristers and the judiciary.

The database covers admissions to the Inner Temple between 1547 and 1850. It may be searched free of charge at or via the main Inner Temple website at

You can search by surname, date, address and occupation. The site also includes useful accompanying notes about membership of the Inns of Court, legal education to 1850, the legal profession to 1850, other biographical sources for lawyers, and the history of the Inner Temple.

Online currency converter

In previous edition of the newsletter we have drawn attention to the excellent beginners’ palaeography and Latin tutorials on The National Archives website. Another useful tool available there is a currency conversion program at For the period between 1270 and 1970, it converts values in pounds, shillings and pence from a particular decade into today’s values. For the post decimalisation period from 1971, it converts the value from a particular five-year period into today’s values. There are also notes for each century on the standard of living, transport and currency. These contain all sorts of useful pieces of information. For example, did you know that in 1489, Henry VII minted the first gold piece of 20s to be called a sovereign?

Anglo-Norman Dictionary

Another online resource for archival research was launched at the beginning of March 2006 and was even featured on BBC Radio 4! The Anglo-Norman Dictionary can be found as part of The Anglo-Norman Online Hub at As well as the dictionary itself, the site includes a detailed introduction to Anglo-Norman or, more accurately, Anglo-French, the form of French used in Britain between 1066 and the middle of the 15th century. The site also makes available scholarly articles in the area of Anglo-Norman studies, as well as the source texts on which the dictionary is based. The latter include the French language items from the Liber Albus of the City of London which was published as volume 1 of the Munimenta Gildhallae Londoniensis edited by Henry Thomas Riley (London: Longman 1859-62).

The Liber Albus, one of the ancient books of the City of London, was compiled under the auspices of John Carpenter, Town Clerk of the City, and completed by November 1419. It reflects medieval life in all its varied aspects during the century from Edward I to Richard II, and deals with the customs, laws, social conditions, trade and general conduct of a municipality. You can find a copy of the published volume, which contains the full transcript, at L 70:112 on the open shelves in the Printed Books reading room.


Readers of this newsletter may not be aware that The National Archives has announced significant changes as part of its new vision for the next five years. The new vision includes plans to relocate The National Archives family records services and staff from the Family Records Centre in Islington to its main site in Kew by the end of 2008, in order to consolidate its reading rooms and public services on one site. It also intends to further develop online access to records, either pre-digitised or digitised on demand, and, with the General Register Office, to provide joint services online in the way it has done at the Family Records Centre. A full strategy statement will be published in October 2006. You can find out more at and comment using the online enquiry form at

Archive Awareness Campaign 2006/7

The Archives Awareness Campaign programme of talks for Autumn 2006 is currently in preparation. Subscribers to this newsletter will be sent details once they have been finalised.


In the meantime, if you are interested in finding out more about Guildhall Library as a whole, tours will take place on:

Wednesday 4 October

Wednesday 6 December

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 6 September

Wednesday 1 November

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

Sources for family historians

You will be shown resources for tracing family history in the Printed Books Section, and then view a selection of original documents in the Manuscripts Section.

Tuesday 12 September

Tuesday 7 November

Tuesday 9 January 

Each visit will start at 1.00 p.m. and last for one hour. Tours are free but must be booked in advance by phoning 020 7332 1868/1870 or by emailing .


Just published is London buildings and sites: a guide for researchers in Guildhall Library (Guildhall Library Publications, 2006) which outlines the sources most useful to anyone researching the history of a building or site in London. The emphasis is on material held at Guildhall Library and on sites in the square mile of the City, but reference is also made to relevant records held elsewhere. A case study on a site in Crutched Friars aims to show the wealth of information that can be found about any street in London.

Copies can be obtained from Guildhall Library bookshop for £6.95 plus £2.50 p&p in the UK (, telephone 020 7332 1858). For more about the Bookshop, see Guildhall Library Bookshop below.


The Manuscripts Section of Guildhall Library is contributing a further series of articles about its records to Ancestors magazine. The first is to be published in the September issue, which will be on sale in early August. The article is by Assistant Archivist Matthew Payne and is about the St Paul’s briefs, the late 17th century returns from parishes throughout England and Wales recording collections towards the rebuilding of St Paul’s Cathedral after the Great Fire. This will be followed by a series of other articles on (in no particular order):

City of London livery company records by Philippa Smith;

Captains registers of Lloyd’s of London by Dr Stacey Gee;

Bravery awards: records of awards made by Lloyd’s Patriotic Fund and the Society for the Protection of Life from Fire by Matthew Payne;

Business records for family historians by Charlie Turpie; and

St Katharine by the Tower Marriage Licence Records by Dr Stacey Gee.

Details of Ancestors magazine can be found at


Those who come to Guildhall Library will be familiar with the well-stocked Bookshop which all visitors pass (or rather, we hope, patronise!) on their way in and out of the Library. The name Bookshop does not do it justice, as it sells many other things besides books, including postcards and greetings cards, wrapping paper, maps, prints, even playing cards and jigsaw puzzles, mostly London-related.

However, did you know that you can purchase some of its merchandise, and some additional items besides, online on the City of London’s website at Currently available are not only publications from the Department of Libraries, Archives and Guildhall Art Gallery (including many of the Guildhall Library publications which have been mentioned in the newsletter), but also publications from Planning, the City of London Cemetery and Crematorium, and the City of London open spaces in and around London. There is also merchandise from Keats' House in Hampstead and from Tower Bridge. New additions are planned for the future, so keep visiting to check out what is available.

Guildhall Library Bookshop open Monday – Friday 9.30am – 4.45pm (Closed Saturdays, Sundays and Bank Holidays) (, telephone 020 7332 1858).


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 August 2006

Guildhall Library Manuscripts Section