January 2024 MLD Blog

Welcome to the Medieval Londoners Blog.  Please subscribe to receive updates on new material added to the Medieval Londoners Project and other items of interest to those working on medieval London. Since the last post, MLD has added over 1000 new records: 600 on Jewish Londoners, 308 on the Pinners and Wiresellers, 103 records of lawyers active in the central courts, and 58 records for clerks and lawyers serving in the courts of Common Pleas and King’s Bench. For other forthcoming datasets, see What’s New in MLD?

Medieval Jewish Londoners

There is a surprising amount of documentation about the Jews who resided in London before their expulsion from England in 1290, particularly for the wealthier Jews who paid the regular tallages assessed by the crown. Many of the new MLD records come from these royal levies in 1189, 1194, 1239 and 1241, along with other sources such as deeds, the Pipe Rolls, and debt disputes. Secondary sources, particularly by Joe Hillaby, proved an especially important source of records on London Jews. Also noteworthy are the biographies of Jews who were incarcerated or sought refuge in the Tower of London. Compiled by Historic Royal Palaces for The Jewish History of the Medieval Tower of London, this project also produced a catalogue of archival sources for studying medieval English Jews. We have included in MLD only those biographies relating to Londoners: 48 of the total 245 biographies.

The entries for Jewish Londoners relate some powerful stories about the difficulties they faced.  Elijah le Blund, for example, was a member of the wealthy le Blund family, who were so harshly taxed by the crown that in 1252 Eijah, his wife Flora, his brother Aaron and his wife Pigona, and their son Samuel attempted to flee England. They were caught, their properties were confiscated, and the men were imprisoned in the Tower of London, released only on payment of very large sums that considerably reduced their wealth. In 1264, Elijah fled to the Tower on his own, this time seeking protection from a violent attack on the London Jewry led by supporters of Simon de Montfort in which many were killed and properties burnt to the ground.  Elijah died in the Tower, likely of wounds he acquired during the attack. His nephew Samuel had difficulty paying his tallage arrears and seems to have also been a victim of the Montfortian civil war and anti-Jewish riots. Samuel’s properties were destroyed, and after he died, his treasure was supposedly dug up and taken away from his house.

Detail from a miniature showing the expulsion of the Jews. From the chronicle of Rochester cathedral priory. England, c.1100-c.1650 (BL Cotton MS Nero D II, f. 183v).

Inclusion of this dataset in MLD required adoption of naming protocols that differed from our usual practice. Jews in medieval England had Hebrew names, but usually spoke French, yet scribes recorded their names in Latin, often christianizing Hebrew names. Modern translators have also tended to anglicize Jewish names. Further difficulties arise because Jews relied heavily on matronymics and patronymics, which makes awkward MLD’s usual reliance on putting surnames first in the Standard Name field. In light of these issues, although we follow MLD practice for standardizing forenames by anglicizing them, we start the Standard Name with the individual’s forename, which mirrors current practice by scholars of editions of medieval Jewish sources. We have made exceptions, however, for individuals in well-known families that normally use a surname, such as Crespin, Le Blund, and L’Eveske. For more discussion of these issues, plus a searchable table of Jewish forenames, see MLD Naming Protocols for Jewish Londoners.

The 600 records in this dataset were entered by Rachel Podd and Maryanne Kowaleski. MLD now contains references to 313 different Jews who resided in London between 1155 and 1290. We hope to continue building this dataset by using the many other printed sources available for this work: volunteers to help are welcome!

Pinners and Wiresellers

Pin used in the head-covering of a townswoman. By Robert Campin, c. 1435. National Gallery of Art.

The Pinners officially became a craft in 1356 when their ordinances were approved by the mayor and aldermen of London. Metal pins were a ubiquitous dress accessory in medieval London, especially in the later middle ages when the elaborate head-coverings worn by wealthy women (and men) were held together by pins, as were the veils worn by nuns and most other kinds of loose or draped clothing.

The Pinners were a small and low-status craft that faced increasingly stiff competition from the massive numbers of pins imported from overseas, particularly high-quality pins from the Low Countries. In 1462 they joined other crafts in attempting to secure a ban on foreign imports. Edward IV responded with protectionist legislation that forbade the importation of a large range of manufactured goods, including pins. This favorable charter may have been the impetus behind the Pinners’ decision to start an audit book, which began with the Pinners’ 1356 ordinances and Edward’s charter of 1463.  Most of the book, however, recorded the expenditures and revenues of the craft and its affiliated relgious fraternity of St James, stretching over a period of almost fifty years. The Pinners book (BL MS Egerton 1142) has been translated by Barbara Megson, was published by the London Record Society in 2009, and is now avaialble on British History Online.

The fortunes of the Pinners did not, however, continue to thrive. Beset by financial challenges such as repair bills for the premises they rented for their meetings, unpaid loans they made to craft members, and continuing competition from foreign imports, the Pinners chose in the late 1490s to amalgamate their craft with the Wiremongers (who had joined with the Chapemakers in 1479), calling the new craft the Wiresellers.

Dr Marija Blaskovic has created a dataset of 308 records taken from the Appendices to Megson’s edition, which include the wills of 32 testators (1352-1529) and a list of the craft wardens (including the umper, the senior warden) for the period 1356-1510/11. She is now working on a second dataset that will include references to the expenses and members of the Pinners’ fraternity of St James.

London Lawyers

Lawyers, clerks, and litigants in the Court of King’s Bench. Copyright Inner Temple Library.

With the consent of Sir John Baker and the Selden Society, MLD has started a project to extract biographies of London lawyers in John Baker, The Men of Court 1440 to 1550 : A Prosopography of the Inns of Court and Chancery and the Courts of Law, Selden Society, supplementary series, vol. 18 (London, 2012). Although most medieval lawyers would have resided in London while studying at the Inns of Court, the majority eventually left London and conducted the bulk of their legal practice elsewhere. A good part of the work in constructing this dataset therefore lies in determining which lawyers continued to reside in London or spent enough of their working life in the city to justify inclusion in MLD. This work is being done by Dylan Warnasiri, a senior at Fordham University who is interested in a legal career.

An initial dataset of 103 entries (Acton to Carpenter) has been uploaded, with a second installment (C thru H) due to be uploaded in the coming months.

Clerks and Lawyers of the Courts of Common Pleas and King’s Bench

Prof. Malcolm Richardson continues to add records for the professional clerks and lawyers of the central courts in Westminster. His starting point this time was Linda Clark’s section on “Clerks and Officials of the Courts if King’s Bench and Common Pleas,” in The History of Parliament. The Commons 1422-1461, vol. 1, pp. 446-50. His dataset includes 58 men, all of whom served as MPs, but usually for constituencies outside of London. Most were lawyers who had trained at the London Inns of Chancery as young men. Although most young lawyers left London to practice law in the provinces, a number of them continued to practice law in the central courts at Westminster.  MLD counts as “Londoners” those who not only had their main residence in London, but also those who we can show regularly worked in London (or Westminster or Southwark) and owned property or were buried there.

This group includes men like Thomas del Rowe, who served as a clerk of the court of Common Pleas and keeper of writs, a position he lost to a rival claimaint who also accused him of removing writs from the great hall of Westminster. He did eventually rise to become a filazer in Common Pleas from 1449 to 1452 (a filazer was the clerk who wrote out and enrolled judicial writs, a lucrative position). Work as a filazer would have kept him in London for many months of the year. Although he served as a MP for Horsham (sussex), he held property in St George’s Lane (outside Newgate) through his wife, Thomasia, a daughter and the heir of Peter Pope, a London draper. Del Rowe also accused several prominent Londoners of being involved in the murder of his brother James (called a ‘gentleman of London’) in Yorkshire.

Another filazer, Richard Bruyn, leased property in St Clement Danes and St Dunsan in the East and likely held other properties through his wife, Joan Rickhill, a Kentish heiress. He apparently married her in c. 1431 when she divorced her first husband. For almost twenty years he provided legal counsel to the abbot of Wesminster; he was also admitted to the Merchant Taylors, perhaps for his legal help. He served as under-sheriff of London but also MP for Newcastle-under Lyme and for Stafford. He had Lancastrian sympathies since in 1460, he was pardoned for attacking the city from the Tower.

A New Book

The Medieval Hospital: Literary Culture and Community in England, 1350-1550 (University of Notre Dame Press, 2023) by Nicole R. Rice, analyzes the role played by late medieval hospitals as sites of literary production and cultural contestation. Three of the chapters focus on St Bartholomew’s hospital in London. Chapter 2 explores how the late medieval literary history of St Bartholmew’s centered around the treatment of women, highlighting the themes of corruption and purification. Chapter 3 examines the reading practices of the lay community in the hospital’s close, particularly the texs that the bibliophile and scribe, John Shirley, himself a resident, copied and assembled for his neighbors. Chapter 4 looks at collaborative devotional reading at St Bartholomew’s and St Mark’s hospital in Bristol for clerical and lay, female and male hospital residents.

Papers on London at the November 2023 NACBS meeting

Among the eight medieval sessions at the annual conference of the North American Conference on British Studies, held this year in Baltimore in November 2023, the following papers focused on London. If you are interested in giving a paper on a medieval topic at the 2024 conference, to be held in Denver, November 15-17, contact kowaleski@fordham.edu.

  • John McEwan (St Louis University): London and the Expedition of Louis of France to England: Consequences for the Men in London’s Civic Government
  • Bethany Donovan (University of Michigan): Counterfeit Leather and Craft Competition in Late Medieval London
  • Caroline M. Barron (University of London, Royal Holloway): The Drawings of the Aldermen of London in 1446
  • Nicole R. Rice (St John’s University): Widows Reading at the Late Medieval Hospital: The Case of Joan Astley
  • Katherine L. French (University of Michigan): All that Glitters is not Gold: Women Goldsmiths in Late Medieval London
  • Martha Carlin (University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee): An Emperor Visits London: Lodging and Feeding the Entourage of Charles V, June 1522
  • Shannon McSheffrey (Concordia University): Stalled Careers, Masculinity, and Xenophobia in the Early Sixteenth-Century London Skinners’ Company
  • Vanessa A. Harding (Birkbeck, University of London): Early Modern London Families: Beyond the Household

April 2023 MLD Blog

Welcome to the Medieval Londoners Blog.  Please subscribe to receive updates on new material added to the Medieval Londoners Project and other items of interest to those working on medieval London. Since the last post, MLD has added 1558 records on London Skinners and others who appeared in the printed accounts of their fraternity, as well as 612 records on London saddlers and their contacts. For other forthcoming datasets, see What’s New in MLD?

New Export and Print Functions for MLD

MLD is pleased to announce a new feature that allows users to download data in PDF format or an Excel spreadsheet. Simply click on the blue Export button located at the top of the Browse Londoners or Browse Records screen to see a drop-down menu with both options.

You can choose which columns/fields that you want to appear on your exported report by selecting fields from the Show/Hide Columns button and by clicking on one or more of the filters on the left side of the search screen (or by using the search boxes at the top of each column) to focus your search on particular records. For example, if you go to Browse Londoners and click the Occupation filter for goldsmith (which produces 468 records) and then Parish filter for St Peter Westcheap, 28 records for goldsmiths fit this parameter; the beginning of this selected dataset is shown below in an Excel spreadsheet.

To use another example, a search of Browse Records for all female orphans yields 20 records, the first three of which are shown on this PDF download.

Remember too that Londoner Profile View for each individual can also be printed out using the Print Summary button at the top of the profile view, as below.

The Skinners

Skinners, also called peleters or pelliparii in Latin, were responsible for scraping and curing raw animal skins with alum, salt, grease, and other materials to produce furs that were primarily used to line clothing. At the high end of the trade, merchant skinners focused their efforts on importing skins from overseas, especially luxury furs of ermine, fox, marten, and squrrel from the Baltic, and selling and exportng the finished fur products. They hired other skinners, who generally were not part of the livery, to dress and finish the skins. Tawyers also dressed skins, as did Greytawyers, who specialized in dressing squirrel skins.

Merchant skinners become more prominent in the thirteenth and fourteenth centuries when the wealth and political status of skinners ranked them above all the other leather crafts, although well below that of purely mercantile companies like the Fishmongers and Mercers. The Skinners craft, which was counted among the Great Twelve of the city livery companies, grew out of a religious fraternity which by the fourteenth century was called the Fraternity of Corpus Christi and began receiving royal charters that augmented the economic and political powers of the merchant skinners. Other freemen skinners formed the fraternity of Our Lady’s Assumption, which became associated with the working skinners or yeomanry, although its membership grew to include small masters and their wives in other crafts, as well as artisans and even gentry from beyond London. Their early accounts are extracted in J. J. Lambert, Records of the Skinners of London (1933), which provided 234 records for this dataset.  See also Elspeth Veale, The English Fur Trade in Later Medieval England (1966) for more on the skinners (and for the image above).

Cliff Webb has generously contributed his transcriptions of apprenticeship entries to the Worshipful Company of Skinners, taken from two sources. The main source is the Register of Apprentice Bindings and Freedom Admissions, which provided 990 records to the new dataset; they list the name and enrollment date of the apprentice, the name of his master, and usually the name, residence, and occupation of his father. The second source, the Receipts and Payments Book, was used to fill gaps (1515-21) in the Regiser of Apprentices because it covers the periods 1491-1510 and 1510-35, although the 305 records they contribute do not reference the father of the apprentice and only give the calendar year of the entry. 

The information on apprentices’ fathers is especially valuable and was exploited by Sylvia Thrupp in Appendix C of The Merchant Class of Medieval London (1948) for 1496-1500 to compare the geographical reach of the Skinners Company to the narrower catchment area at of the Tailors. John Wareing, in a 1980 article in the Journal of Historical Geography, “Changes in the Geographical Distribution of The Recruitment of Apprentices to the London Companies 1486-1750,” used an even wider tranche of the Skinners evidence (along with evidence from other companies) to argue that the recruitment area for London apprentices contracted significantly from the sixteenth to eighteenth centuries at the same time as the proportion of apprentices coming from London itself grew. By making available the medieval evidence for the migration field of Skinners apprentices, Cliff Webb and MLD now facilitate a more detailed examination of not only the geography of recruitment, but also of the family status and success of individual recruits whose records of wealth and political position are also recorded in MLD.

Saddlers and Associated Crafts

The base of a medieval saddle was a wooden “tree” padded with wool or horsehair on the top and bottom and covered in leather or some type of fabric. It had a high back (called the cantle) and front (the pommel) to prevent the rider from slipping, and usually had various leather straps to help hold the saddle onto the horse. Because of the different materials and components used, several different crafts were involved in making saddles, including fusters who made the wooden frame, joiners who put together the different wooden parts of a saddle, lorimers who made the metal bits for harnesses, tanners who provided tanned leather, and painters who decorated the final product. The saddlers covered the saddles with padding and leather and  coordinated the work of the other crafts. The cooperation required, however, often led to disagreements, some of which ended in violence. In May 1327, for example, violent clashes between the saddlers and the joiners, lorimers, and painters in Cheapside led to several deaths, which in turn generated petitions against the saddlers for their unfair trading practices and attempts to control the other crafts (Memorials, 156-62). The Saddlers also experienced internal disputes, as in 1396, when the masters of the Saddlers tried to break up the fraternity organized by their serving men or yeomanry (Memorials, 541-4).  

Renaud de Montauban, t. 2. BNF Gallica.

Records for 175 saddlers and 438 of their family members and associates who appeared in the Calendars of Letter Books and Ancient Deeds (TNA E40) were recently entered into MLD by Petyton Seabolt, whose doctoral research has centered on medieval equine culture. Many of these records show peaceful interactions between the saddlers and other artisans associated with the manufacture of saddles. For example, in 1336 the saddler John de Shoredych and his wife Hawisia leased a tenement in St Alphege to a fuster named William Payn and his wife Juliana. Hawisia was herself the daughter of a fuster, Hugh de Blithe. Another saddler, Gilbert de Tauntone, entrusted the guardianship of his seven-year old son Thomas to a fellow saddler, William Pikerel, along with household goods including a silver cup, nine silver spoons, a dish and ewer, a brass pot, and a gilt girdle; his sureties included two saddlers, a lorimer, and a goldsmith. This dataset, when combined with other records on the saddlers and their associated crafts, offer many opportunities to explore the interlocking commercial, financial, and personal relationships of the crafts centered on the manufacture of saddles in medieval London.

Building Accounts and Contracts

A new sub-section listing building accounts and contracts has been created under the Trade and Finance section of Written Resources. It includes recent editions of the building accounts of St Stephen’s Chapel, Westminster, 1292-1316 (Boydell, 2020) and of the Savoy Hospital, 1515-20 (Westminster Abbey Record Series, 2015), as well as the well-known Westminster Abbey building accounts in Howard Colvin’s Building Accounts of Henry III (1971), and less-known extracts about medieval glazing from a variety of accounts for London and Westminster buildings. The section also lists building contracts involving carpenters, masons, an alabasterer, and a marbler who were employed to construct domestic, commercial, and ecclesiastical buildings, as well as for work on paving, plaster work, roofing, tombs, and wharves. If you know of other London, Southwark, or Westminster building accounts and contracts in print or online, please contact us with the details.

Forthcoming Book

Shannon McSheffrey and Ad Putter, The Dutch Hatmakers of Late Medieval and Tudor London (Boydell and Brewer, August 2023). This volume focuses on migrant hatmakers from the Low Countries who introduced new techniques for making brimmed felt hats in England.  In the early sixteenth century, the so-called ‘Dutch’ hatmakers formed their own London craft association, the fraternity of St James, although within ten years they were forced to submit to the powerful London company of the Haberdashers. This volume includes an edition of the texts in the Hatmakers’ guild book, including their bilingual ordinances, which regulated their craft. This book can be pre-ordered in advance in hardback and paperback, but will also become available via open access.

December 2022 MLD Blog

Welcome to the Medieval Londoners Blog.  Please subscribe to receive updates on new material added to the Medieval Londoners Project and other items of interest to those working on medieval London. Since the last post, MLD has added 114 records about London nuns (mostly prioresses) and c. 1150 records of Mercers who were Staplers or Merchant Adventurers. For other forthcoming datasets, see What’s New in MLD?

Nuns and Prioresses

Seal of Matilda, Prioress of Holywell, c. 1220 x 1230. From John McEwan, Seals in Medieval London 1050-1300: A Catalogue (London Record Society extra series vol. 1, 2016) citing TNA E42/419, pt.I, verso.

MLD recently added a dataset of London nuns compiled by Olivia Geraci (with contributions by Morgan McMinn); most of these records relate to prioresses in four female religious houses: St Mary Clerkenwell, Holywell (Haliwell), St Helen’s Bishopsgate, and the Minoresses without Aldgate. The references to prioresses were taken primarily from listings in the three volumes of The Heads of Religious Houses: England and Wales, edited by David M. Smith and others (Cambridge, 2001-2008). But the Calendars of Letter Books also provided some interesting references to London nuns. In 1363, for example, the executor of the Tailor Robert Westmelne was summoned to the Guildhall to answer for money bequeathed by Robert to his three under-age sons and his two daughters;  Margaret married a Mercer, and Isabella, a minor, was a nun at Holywell priory, an Augustinian house in Shoreditch, outside the city walls. In rendering his account, the executor, John Madefrey, a Pepperer, noted that he had paid to Dame Elena, the Prioress of Holywell [Ellen Gossham], the sum of £46 13s. 4d, £40 of which was bequeathed to Isabella by her father, plus 10 marks that she inherited on the death of one of her brothers. But there was a condition attached to this bequest: if at the age of 14 Isabella wanted to leave the convent, all this money should be returned to her, minus the cost of her expenses while residing at Holywell. If she died before reaching 14, then one-half of the money was to be returned and expended for the good of her father’s soul, and the other half was to be distributed to the remaining children of Robert. Since medieval nuns were cloistered, the extant records for nuns below the rank of prioress are very scarce, so we do not know if Isabella stayed in the convent or left, but this entry does provide insight into how young girls of the merchant class could be when they entered the convent.

The Get to Know Medieval Londoners Project

Please check out a new Medieval Londoners digital project called  Get to Know Medieval Londoners, which uses a crowdsourcing platform called Zooniverse to bridge the gap between the academy and popular enthusiasm for the middle ages while simultaneously advancing the study of London. Created by Grace Campagna, a Contributing Editor of MLD, as part of her master’s thesis in Medieval Studies at Fordham University, this project draws on over 3000 medieval property records from London’s Husting Court that were part of a project called The Social and Economic Study of Medieval London c. 1100-1666. This initiative ran from 1979 to 1988 and examined the history of property ownership in thirteen London parishes, especially those centered on the market area of Cheapside. The lead researchers, Derek Keene and Vanessa Harding, with help from Martha Carlin, David Crouch, Joanna Mattingly, and John Stedman transcribed and translated property transactions onto large index cards that were recently digitized in a collaboration between Fordham and the Institute of Historical Research.

Volunteers on the project help with data collection through workflows, which provide prompts to identify people and geographic locations in the property transaction. One task, for example, asks volunteers to record the name, gender, occupation, citizenship status, and other identifying characteristics of each person recorded on the index card. Zooniverse is an ideal platform for this work because it is free of cost for both participants and researchers, runs on all major browsers, and already has an extensive and dedicated volunteer base. All of the data produced during the course of the project will become part of the Medieval Londoners Database, which also governs many of the data collections standards used in this project. Volunteers will receive credit for their work through a cataloguer field in each database record they contribute.

Example of a digitized index card with an English transcription of the Latin text in a Husting Court plea dated 26 February 1397, regarding property in the parish of St Christospher, as used in the Get to Know Medieval Londoners crowdsourcing project (Husting Court roll 125, case no. 78).

After several months of testing and development, Get to Know Medieval Londoners officially launched on June 28th, 2022. In its first few months, the project attracted over 1,300 volunteers who have made nearly 17,000 data classifications. The site features extensive discussion boards for asking questions and sharing findings. Through dialogue with each other and the project team, participants have added dozens of new abbreviations to reference guides, helped each other translate phrases from Anglo-Norman, found rare examples of women admitted to the freedom of the city, and much more.

The project has already garnered considerable attention. Indeed, Get to Know Medieval Londoners has been asked to partner with Who Do You Think You Are? Magazine, the UK’s premier genealogical magazine, to participate in their annual Transcription Tuesday event on Jan. 31, 2023. In prior years, this event has helped projects transcribe over 100,000 pages of historical material. For instructions on how to join in, head over to the project event page.

If you are interested in participating, you can also check the Get to Know Medieval Londoners announcement board for more updates.

Anne Sutton and the Mercer-Staplers and -Merchant Adventurers

Those of us at MLD were sad to hear that Anne Sutton passed away in June 2022. Anne was our first major contributor, giving MLD over 3500 biographies that she had assembled for her book on The Mercery of London (2005). With the help of Liz Duchovni, we have recently processed another dataset of over 1150 records donated by Dr Sutton: 255 refer to  Mercers who were wool merchants or members of the Merchant Staplers, a special group of merchants given exclusive right by the crown to purchase English wool for export through and to appointed markets (or staples). Most of the staples on the continent were in the Low Countries; the best known and longest serving staple was at Calais. About 930 of the new records deal with Mercers who were members of the Merchant Adventurers, a regulated company that exported cloth in exchange for a variety of imports from northern Europe. The London company received a royal charter in 1407, but smaller companies of Merchant Adventurers also formed in other ports, such as Bristol and York. The London Mercers who dominated the company focused most of their trade on Antwerp and the cloth fairs in the Low Countries in the fifteenth and early sixteenth century. In later centuries the London company came to focus more on Hamburg.

For MLD, we have  included only those Staplers and Merchant Adventurers who resided in London before 1520. We have also expanded many of the abbreviations to make the information more user-friendly; see Sutton lists: Abbreviations, Sources, Editorial Practice for details. The lists are especially valuable for the references to the overseas trade of individual Mercers, as detailed in the national port customs accounts (TNA E122). Although Sutton’s list gives only the accounting year when the Mercer appeared as wool exporter or as an importer of cloth and other goods, users can now access a complete transcription of the entries in the online editions of TNA E122  medieval London customs accounts edited by Dr Stuart Jenks for the Hansischer Historical Society.

MLD records for the Mercer John Abbot, compiled from information provided by Anne Sutton in her lists of the Mercers who were also Staplers and Merchant Adventurers.

Many of the obituaries for Anne Sutton emphasize her work on behalf of the Richard III Society, especially her long tenure as the editor of The Ricardian, the Society’s journal, and her many publications about Richard III, including her last monograph, The King’s Work: The Defence of the North under the Yorkist Kings 1471-85 (2021).  But let’s not forget that Anne was a formidable scholar of medieval London who served as assistant archivist of the Corporation London from 1973 to 1980 and as archivist of the Mercers Company from 1981 to 2002, when she retired.  She authored many books and articles about medieval London, especially material on the Mercers and women, including her magnum opus, The Mercery of London : Trade, Goods and People, 1130-1578 (2005) and Wives and Widows of Medieval London (2016).  She was also co-editor with Caroline Barron of Medieval London Widows 1300-1500 (1994), and one of her most recent articles was “Nicholas Alwyn, Mayor of London: A Man of Two Loyalties, London and Spalding,” in Medieval Londoners: Essays to Mark the Eightieth Birthday of Caroline M. Barron (2019).

Anne Sutton at a 2001 conference in Durham [photo: M. Kowaleski]

As an archivist, Anne Sutton was especially skilled at finding new records and hunting down multiple sources and references; her footnotes were themselves a work of art and offered a comprehensive bibliography to readers of her work. As a trustee of the Richard III and Yorkist History Trust, Anne was an enthusiastic supporter of its grants to support research and publications on the period of the late middle ages.Donations in Anne’s memory can be given to the Richard III and Yorkist History Trust (to whom cheques should be payable) and sent to: PO Box 6302, Newbury, RG14 9QU. To Gift Aid your  donation, please download the form from the Trust’s website. Queries can be emailed to christian.steer@york.ac.uk

Presentations on Medieval London at the NACBS

The following talks on medieval London were delivered at the annual conference of the NACBS (North American Conference on British Studies) in Chicago, Nov. 10-12, 2022.

Kate Kelsey Staples (University of West Virginia): Appraising Reputation in the Secondhand Trade in Late Medieval London

Bethany Donovan (University of Michigan): All that Glitters is Not Gold: Fraudulent Goods in Late Medieval London

Grace Campagna (Fordham University) and Maryanne Kowaleski (Fordham University): Crowdsourcing the Medieval Londoners Project

Katherine French (University of Michigan): The Afterlives of Apprentices in Late Medieval London

Shannon McSheffrey (Concordia University): Strangers in the City: Dutch Hatmakers and their Rogue Guild in London circa 1500

September 2022 MLD Blog

Welcome to the September 2022 posting of the Medieval Londoners Blog.  Please subscribe to receive updates on new material added to the Medieval Londoners Project and other items of interest to those working on medieval London. Since our last post, Medieval Londoners has added a new page on London Family Trees, and we have uploaded three new datasets to MLD: all of the merchant biographies compiled by Sylvia Thrupp, records dealing with embroiderers and their associates, and records dealing with properties: mostly deeds, but also c. 80 entries from the 1461-2 rental of London Bridge. To see the datasets we plan to upload in the coming months, see What’s New in MLD?

Sylvia Thrupp’s Merchant Biographies

Sylvia Thrupp in 1943-44, when she was awarded a Guggenheim Foundation Fellowship.

Scholars of medieval London have long mined the some 400 biographies compiled by Sylvia Thrupp for her classic book, The Merchant Class of Medieval London, c. 1300-1500 (Ann Arbor, 1948). With the help of Frances Eshleman, the full text of Thrupp’s biographies are now available in MLD. This is the third set of records that we have culled from Thrupp’s work. Two years ago, we included her list of London taxpayers in 1436 (appendix B in The Merchant Class) and the names of masters and clerks of the Bakers in Appendix III of her A Short History of the Worshipful of Bakers of London (Croydon, 1933). Other important works on London by Thrupp include “The Grocers of London, a Study of Distributive Trade,” Studies in English Trade in the 15th Century, ed. E. Power and M. M. Postan (London, 1933); and “Aliens in and around London in the 15th Century,” Studies in London History Presented to P.E.Jones, ed. A.E.J. Hollaender and W. Kellaway (London: Hodder, 1969).

Thrupp was born in Surrey in 1903 but grew up in Canada from the age of five. She received her BA and MA from the University of British Columbia, and after teaching high school for two years, moved to England to study at the University of London, where she received her Ph.D. in 1931 and stayed until 1935 as a post-doctoral researcher. After teaching at the University of British Columbia (1935-1944) and the University of Chicago (1945 to 1968), she was named to the newly established Alice Freeman Palmer Chair at the University Michigan. In 1958 she founded the journal, Comparative Studies in Society and History, in 1973-4 she served as president of the Economic History Association, and in 1981 she received the AHA’s Award for Scholarly Distinction. Well after her retirement from Michigan she moved to Princeton when she married a fellow medievalist, Joseph Strayer, and after he died, moved to California, where she passed away in 1997.

For full details on Thrupp’s career and scholarship, see the 2006 issue of Medieval Feminist Forum, which drew on papers given at a session on Thrupp at the 2004 meeting of the Medieval Academy of America. It includes articles by Caroline Barron on “The Making of an Early Social Historian;” Joel Rosenthal on “The Chicago Years 1946-61;” Barbara A. Hanawalt, “Feminism? If I Made It, So Can You,” and  Michelle M. Sauer “Finding Syvlia Thrupp.”

The Embroiderers

Detail from the 14th century Syon Cope, an example of opus anglicanum that used gold and silver thread with the underside couching technique to make the threads shimmer. Victoria and Albert Museum.

A type of English embroidery called opus anglicanum achieved international renown in the high middle ages. Usually employed in church vestments, this elegant embroidery used rich materials like damask and velvet fabrics, gold and silver thread, and precious or semiprecious stones. Embroiderers added decorations and designs to an otherwise finished piece of cloth, such as church copes, orphries, and chasubles. Gold thread was carefully sewn  by embroiderers into the design to catch the light using the couching technique, as illustrated in the fourteenth-century Syon Cope, which can be explored in detail here.

Some of the most well-known and accomplished embroiders worked for the royal household. Henry III, for example, commissioned Mabel of Bury St Edmunds at least twenty-four times. She created a chasuble and orphrey that Henry later requested to have ornamented with pearls and gold. These vestments were completed only after other embroiderers appraised and approved her work. She last appeared in 1256 when the king gifted Mabel a rabbit fur for her service. In later centuries, Queen Philipa and Elizabeth of York ordered bedspreads that required large teams of embroiderers and designers that were headed by a chief embroiderer.

A dataset with 180 records referring to professional embroiderers in London and another 140 records of Londoners associated with these embroiderers (such as their spouses, children, and business associates) was recently uploaded to MLD. The dataset draws on printed collections, including the Plea and Memoranda Rolls, Letter-Books, and Calendars of Close and Patent Rolls, among other sources. One of the earliest entries is from 1244, when Henry III commissioned Edward Fitz Odo to create a red silk dragon embroidered with gold and a tongue that “should be made to resemble burning fire and appear to be continually moving.” The majority of the records, however, are from the fifteenth century when the embroiderers became a recognized Lesser Mistery, called the Broiderers.

Foreign expertise is also evident in the craft. There were six alien embroiderers residing in Southwark in 1436: two from the Netherlands, two from Austria, and two from France (Liege and Picardy. In the mid fifteenth-century alien subsidies, four other German and Dutch embroiderers were recorded, two in Cripplegate ward, and one each in Castle and Cheap wards. In 1444, the Dutch embroiderer William Outcamp, who resided in Southwark, formally became a denizen of England.

The dataset is predominantly male, except for one female apprentice, Alice Catour, and a few known female royal embroiderers like Mabel. The data are likely skewed because female embroiderers often operated under different occupations, such as seamstress and silkwoman, who specialized in decorating fine linen, or they were servants in the households of embroiderers who took on some craft work. Women embroiderers in the workshops often conducted specific tasks, such as lining, trimming, and mounting, as illustrated in the woodcuts below from an early sixteenth-century pattern book, showing women transferring embroidery designs (Alessandro Paganino, Il Burato, Libro de Recami (1518, from 1527 reprint), Leiden, Textile Research Center).

Embroiderers worked closely with other cloth trades, particularly tailors, haberdashers, mercers, and drapers. These working relationships could cause confusion. In 1395 foreigners William Tiller and Terry Drypsteyn requested translation to the Broiderers after they mistakenly entered the Tailors craft. Embroiderers also provided social and professional security to others within and without their craft. In 1364 John Hyndale mainperned to protect the goods of the tailor Richard Pecock. In 1496 John Maidenwell entered into a bond with a pewterer, a butcher, and a grocer to provide for the three girls of the deceased John Uttersall, a stationer. A small number of embroiderers also took part in civic governance. Robert Ashcombe, for example, served as the Broiderers’ representative on the common council and later as a representative for Cripplegate. While employed as the king’s embroiderer (1396-99), Ashcombe was elected as a MP for London and also served as an auditor for the city. The expertise of embroiderers was also recognized by other crafts, as when John Daunde, as a warden and master of the Mistery, testified on the condition of silk in a skinner’s complaint against a Florentine merchant.

-Morgan McMinn

London Family Trees

In addition to providing biographies of individual merchants, Sylvia Thrupp also sketched out three family trees in a narrative format. She is only one of the scholars and family historians who have created a wide range of useful family trees and histories about individual kin groups in medieval London. We have attempted to disambiguate this material for entry into MLD, but have now created a London Family Trees page to provide links to the full family histories so that users can see the material as presented by the original compilers. These family trees come in a variety of formats, but are usually diagrams showing kinship ties through marriage and progeny. The family trees noted below include redrawn and newly drawn diagrams, as well as copies of the original family trees when we have permission to reproduce them. We welcome contributions of other family trees or histories that cover the period c. 1100 to 1520 for those residing in London, Southwark, or Westminster; please use the contact form to send us the material or the link.

Detail of a scene of Thomas Becket and his family journeying on foot, after the family was banished from England by the king. From the Queen Mary Psalter, British Library, Royal 2 B VII, f. 293v .

Family of Abigail of London (from Hillaby, Dictionary of Medieval Anglo-Jewish History)
Cely/Sely family (from Thrupp, Merchant Class of Medieval London
Frowick/Frowyk family (from Thrupp, Merchant Class of Medieval London)
Gisors/Gisorz, Jesors family (from Thrupp, Merchant Class of Medieval London)
L’Eveske family (from Hillaby, Dictionary of Medieval Anglo-Jewish History)
Family of Leo I le Blund (from Hillaby, Dictionary of Medieval Anglo-Jewish History)
Family of Master Moses of London (from Hillaby, Dictionary of Medieval Anglo-Jewish History)
Family of Rabbi Josce (from Hillaby, Dictionary of Medieval Anglo-Jewish History)
Shordych family (compiled by M. Kowaleski)
Tate family of St Dunstan in the East parish (from Sutton, A Merchant Family… The Tates
Tate family of All Hallows Barking parish (from Sutton, A Merchant Family… The Tates)
Tate family of St Dionis Backchurch parish and St Anthony’s Hospital (from Sutton, A Merchant Family… The Tates)

Search Tips for MLD—or How to Find Girdles and Hermits

MLD’s Search for Londoners page lists four different ways to search the database. Most users go straight to the Browse Londoners or Browse Records options, both of which allow you to search on names or a whole other range of fields, some of them conveniently filtered on the right-hand pane. But these options only allow you to find Londoners for whom we have made a separate record. It is important to know that MLD does not make a separate record for each person named in all records (particularly wills); to do so would unduly lengthen the time needed for data entry as well as the space reserved for records on the MLD platform. For deeds, for example, we often omit the names of witnesses. So the quickest way to find these individuals is to enter their name in the white text box above the Activity field in the Browse Records screen, which will find all names mentioned in the master record, not just those for whom we have made a separate record.

But searching on the Activity field can also be used to look for types of people (like hermits) or things (like girdles).  Placing the word ‘hermit’ in the white box above the Activity column yields 23 records, most of them bequests to hermits.  Placing ‘girdle’ in this box produces 147 records from a variety of sources, as noted in the screenshot below.

Users can also search the Activity field with words like ‘dower’ (272 records) or ‘jewel’ (81 records) or ‘quitclaim’ (84 records).  But there are limits to this type of search. For example, a search on ‘rape’ brings up 25 records, but they mostly include references to drapers because the search just looks for the string of letters in the word, not the word by itself.  Similarly, the search on ‘girdle’ also brings up records with ‘girdler’ in the Activity field.

New Publications on Medieval London

Records of the Jesus Guild in St Paul’s Cathedral, c. 1450-1550. An Edition of Oxford, Bodleian Ms Tanner 221, and Associated Material, ed. Elizabeth A. New, London Record Society 56 (Woodbridge: Boydell, 2022).  Prints the extant records of the fraternity of the Holy Name, known as the Jesus Guild, which was based in the crypt of St Paul’s cathedral. Founded in the mid-fifteenth century, the guild was re-organised in 1506 after problems involving the misuse of funds. Accompanied by a thorough introduction, this edition prints (1) licences, two sets ordinances (the earliest is dated 1506 ) and letters of protection gramted to the Guild and (2) the Guild’s annual accounts from 1514/15 to 1534/5.  The bulk of the Guild’s income came from farming out its right to collect membership fees and donations for prayers and pardons (indulgences). Expenses were more varied and included the costs of its lavish liturgical celebrations and work on the Jesus Chapel. The appendices contain the 1555 inventory of St Faith’s church, which included items that may have belonged to the adjoining Jesus Chapel, and short biographies of the guild wardens in this period.  The text is in Middle English, with a select glossary.

Marcus Meer, “Heraldry, Corporate Identity, and the Battle for Symbolic Capital in Late Medieval London,” The London Journal (Aug. 2022)DOI: 10.1080/03058034.2022.2059232. Abstract: This article analyzes grants of arms obtained by London guilds between 1439 and 1530 to argue that corporate heraldry was not just a convenient means of identification but was meant to be seen as a semantically dense visual communication of corporate identity. The heraldic signs conferred by such grants, confirmations, and augmentations of arms served as official acknowledgments and visual representations of their recipients’ symbolic capital of honour. By prominently displaying corporate arms on central stages of corporate self-representation such as halls, churches, and rituals, guilds reinforced the connection between heraldry, identity, and corporate honour. This proud heraldic display of corporate identity, just like the pursuit of grants of arms, reflected a need for weapons in an intensifying battle for symbolic capital that the guilds of late medieval London faced, perhaps as a result of economic difficulties that marked the later fifteenth century.

David Mason, “The Role of London’s Urban Foundation Legends in Late-Medieval Historical and Political Cultures,” The London Journal (Feb. 2022). DOI: 10.1080/03058034.2022.2028451. Abstract: In 1442, the authorities of London issued a formal prohibition against the spread of a lie that the first and best mayor of London was a cordwainer (shoemaker) named Walsh. This article investigates the context for this story by examining contemporary uses of foundation narratives for important institutions of London life, including the city, corporation and mayoralty. These foundation legends grew from a distinctive urban ‘historical culture’. This article argues that historical culture and foundation legends were important means of cultivating cultural prestige, defining the purposes of institutions, discussing the power relationships between different political institutions and engaging in political communication. By comparing the ‘Walsh’ legend to other variants of the London mayoral origin story, we can discern contemporary political debates about the purpose, powers and political control of key institutions in London life.

April 2022 MLD Blog

Welcome to the third posting of the Medieval Londoners Blog.  Please subscribe to receive updates on new material added to the Medieval Londoners Project and other items of interest to those working on medieval London. Since our last post, MLD has added around 900 records on London Goldsmiths, 300 records on the London tapicers, 350 records of fletchers in London, and 130 records of Chancery clerks active in the reign of Henry V. For other forthcoming datasets, see What’s New in MLD?  

In addition to highlighting these datasets, this issue of the MLD Blog starts off by focusing on the single largest contribution to date of records to MLD.

Biographies of the London Mercers

One of the first contributions to MLD was from Dr Anne Sutton, who generously donated more than 3,300 biographies of Mercers that she had compiled over decades of working on this London company. Her biographies were stored in fifty separate Microsoft Word files, which MLD’s Data Analyst, Liz Duchovni, was able to electronically harvest for upload into the MLD structured data format.

The full text of the biographies was placed in the Activity field of MLD, although relevant data was also placed in such fields as Identifier (which distinguishes apprentices and masters), Craft Office, and the Year of the first reference to the individual, among other fields.

Sutton’s biographies usually start with variant spellings of the Mercer’s surname, followed by a chronological list of references to the individual Mercer and his dealings. Much of the information involves payments and fees in the Wardens’ Accounts, which allow us to track the Mercer’s appearance as an apprentice, his acceptance into the craft, and sometimes his rise to such positions as liveryman, master, and warden. Sutton also drew heavily on the Acts of the Court of the Mercers, the Repertories, Husting and PCC wills, and other archival material to which she had access as the Archivist (1981-99) and Historian (since 1999) of the Mercers Company.

The MLD biographies reproduce the abbreviations employed by Sutton, which parallel those she employs in her pathbreaking book, The Mercery of London: Trade, Goods and People, 1130–1578 (Routledge, 2005). We have also provided a short guide to Sutton’s editorial practices and a select bibliography of her publications on London’s Mercers.

To find all the MLD records contributed by Dr Sutton, go to the Browse Records page and write Sutton in the search box at the top of the Source column. You can further refine the search by using the filters on the left side of the screen.  You can, for example, find all the Mercers in a certain parish or ward, or who were listed as masters, or who was active in a certain range of years. Clicking on the code for Woman in the Identifier filter brings up the 24 women associated with the Mercers, most of them silkwomen, whose marital and working lives Dr Sutton has done much to elucidate in a series of articles.

The Tapicers

In February 2022, Lesley Fraser contributed 305 references to London tapicers that she had gathered in the course of research on her dissertation, “Material Culture in Fifteenth-Century England: The Case of Sir John Fastolf (1380-1459)” in the department of Art History at the University of Edinburgh.  Her London references came from a wide range of sources, including the Letter Books, Plea and Memoranda Rolls, Coroners Rolls, and the national Calendars of Close Rolls and Patent Rolls, among other sources. Her familiarity with the names of the tapicers allowed her to spot many references that others would have missed.

Luxury tapestries in the background of a meeting between King Charles VI of France, and Richard II of England to sign a truce in 1389. From BL Harley 4380, Jean Froissart’s Chronicles, f. 10v, southern Netherlands, between 1470 and 1472.

The tapicers used a loom to weave woollen tapestries depicting colorful images such as heraldic arms, religious or secular scenes, animals, plants, and a variety of other themes. The process was very time-consuming and the final product could be expensive, although a variety of  records show that modestly-priced tapestries were also widely available. The most artistic and high-priced medieval tapestries were imported from the Southern Netherlands. Very little is known about the tapestry industry in medieval England, and the only surviving examples of English work come from York. The 1331 ordinance of the Tapicers confirmed by the city focused primarily on regulating the quality of the product, which could be used as wall hangings, cushions, and on beds—all mentioned in the wills and probate inventories of well-off medieval Londoners—and even as blankets and rugs.

The craft’s role in maintaining quality can be seen in their accusation in 1374 against Katherine Duchewoman in Finch Lane, who had woven a tapestry that was about 4 yards long and almost 2 yards wide, but had used a linen rather than a wool base (likely a reference to the warp). Her tapestry was called a “coster,” which often referred to a woven hanging on the valence or sides of a bed. Katherine failed to appear before the four master wardens of the craft to answer the charge. After examining the so-called “false work,” the masters ordered that it be burned, a standard punishment in cases like this. Yet the master and other men of the craft who conferred on the case ended up not going through with the punishment, perhaps a recognition that Katherine—likely an immigrant and not a member of the guild—was unfamiliar with the craft’s regulations.  It is also possible that they recognized the skill and tremendous investment of time that this tapestry must have entailed, and were perhaps eager to hire Katherine themselves since the case makes clear that it would be difficult for her to operate on her own in London.

The Fletchers

This year the London Fletchers celebrate their 650th anniversary. The earliest extant reference to the company is in March 1371, when leaders among the Bowyers and the Fletchers agreed that their craft should split into two. This early history is detailed in a recent book by Dr Hannes Kleineke (himself a member of the company), who has kindly contributed c. 350 references to London fletechers that he had collected for his new book (see below for details). His dataset includes many references from the craft’s quarterage accounts, which survive from 1519 and record quarterly payments by members of the craft, the name two wardens each year, and (increasingly) the names of widows taking over when their husbands died. The first ordinance of the Fletchers was proclaimed in 1403, which gave the crafts rights of search over all arrows, arrow-heads, and quarrels (bolts for crossbows) made in the city by citizens or non-citizens in order to ensure that their products were of good quality. Also included are references to Fletchers in the WAALT Indices, the Letterbooks, Plea and Memoranda Rolls, Journals, PCC and Commissary court wills, and national calendars of Close and Patent Rolls.

This scene shows two fletchers making arrows, some of which are already stored in a barrel. The worker on the right is making the shafts of the arrow using a knife (in front of him) and a small plane (at his back). Bodleian Library MS. Bodl. 264 (Romance of Alexander), f. 123v, 14th century.

Chancery Clerks in the Reign of Henry V

Depiction of the Court of Chancery, c. 1460. Copyright Inner Temple Library

The Chancery was the government office that wrote official documents issued under the king’s Great Seal. Its business was so voluminous by the fifteenth century that the office employed about 120 Chancery clerks in any one year. They wrote out charters, letters patent, writs to initiate legal actions, appointments of sheriffs and other officials, powers of attorney, acknowledgements of debts, diplomatic agreements, Parliamentary proceedings, and inventories of the king’s jewels, among other items of business. In 1999, Malcolm Richardson published The English Chancery under Henry V (List and Index Society vol. 30) in which he examined the Chancery bureaucracy and the wide range of tasks assigned to the clerks. A large part of the volume were 131 biographies of the Chancery clerks who served in the period 1413-22, which Richardson has not only contributed to MLD, but also updated when appropriate.  Prof. Richardson has also provided an introductory essay on “The Royal Chancery and Chancery Clerks in the Late Middle Ages.”

Most Chancery clerks were minor clergy who were rewarded for their work with benefices that did not require them to administer sacraments. They also found ways to make extra money from private citizens for entering deeds, bonds, and other legal resolutions on the backs of official rolls, or by serving as sureties (mainpernors) for litigants in the central courts of Westminster. Richardson also identifies how they profited from ‘insider trading’ by capitalizing on their first-hand knowledge of confiscations and reversions of property to the crown by securing appointments to supervise lands and revenues for the king or by investing in properties that became available. Between 1350 and 1417, Chancery clerks also leased or managed a number of legal inns in the Holborn area, where the majority of them lived since their administrative headquarters was in the old Domus Conversorum (the House of [Jewish] converts) in Chancery Lane. Richardson also identifies “syndicates” of Chancery clerks, groupings often based on their home regions (such as Yorkshire and Norfolk), who worked together to profit from moneylending, mainperning, and investing in real estate.

London Goldsmiths

In early February MLD uploaded c. 900 records of London Goldsmiths, including Wardens and Renters of the craft from 1335 to 1510, and biographical notes of prominent Goldsmiths, taken from T. F. Reddaway, The Early History of the Goldsmiths’ Company, 1327-1509 (London, 1975).  This dataset was compiled by Ellie O’Dwyer, a high-school student in Kingston, NY, as part of an independent research project. She is continuing this work by creating records for Goldsmiths who were not the subject of one of Reddaway’s biographies and did not serve as a craft official.

Mid 15th-century gold ring found on the Thames foreshore at Bankside. It’s called a ‘posy’ ring because of the French inscription around the outside which reads pour amor, say douc, meaning ‘for love, so sweet’. Rings like this were made by the London goldsmiths. Museum of London 80.33.

Goldsmiths ranked fifth among the Twelve Great Livery Companies of late medieval London. They worked with precious gold and silver to fashion rings, brooches, and containers such as cups, platters, and chalices, among other ornaments. They were a large group. In 1465, a Bohemian nobleman who visited London commented: “In that city are a great number of goldsmiths, more than I have ever seen. The masters alone, without the journeymen, amount to four hundred, but they are never idle, for the size of the city and its wealth provide them with work in abundance” (Letts, ed., The Travels of Leo of Rozmital, Hakluyt Soc, 1957, p. 54). One of the London Goldsmiths at this time was Edmund Shaa, who arrived from Cheshire to take up an apprenticeship with a London Goldsmith.  In 1462 the king appointed him engraver to the mints in the Tower of London and Calais, a position he held for twenty years until his nephew, John Shaa, took over.  Edmund served as warden, renter, and prime warden of the Goldsmith’s Company, as well as alderman, sheriff and eventually mayor of London in 1483, when he was elevated to a knighthood and became a Privy Councillor because of his support for Richard III. He had business dealings with both Edward IV and Richard III. His activites can be tracked in his MLD profile.

New Books on Medieval London

Charlotte Barry. The Margins of Late Medieval London, 1430-1540. London: University of London Press, 2022. This study of medieval London’s urban fringe offers a detailed and novel approach to understanding London beyond its institutional structures. Using a combination of experimental digital, quantitative, and qualitative methodologies, the volume casts new light on urban life at the level of the neighbourhood and considers the differences in economy, society, and sociability which existed in different areas of a vibrant premodern city. It focuses on the dynamism and mobility that shaped city life, integrating the experiences of London’s poor and migrant communities, while also exploring the strategies they employed to mitigate their precarious position (summarized from the publisher’s website). This book is published in New Historical Perspectives, an Open Access monograph series for Early Career Scholars from the Royal Historical Society and Institute of Historical Research.

Hannes Kleineke.The Worshipful Company of Fletchers of London: The Early Centuries, c.1371-c.1571. London: Worshipful Company of Fletchers, 2021. Paperback, ISBN: 9781399901666.

This new history, commissioned by the Fletchers Company as part of their celebrations to mark the 650th anniversary and based on extensive archival research, traces the first centuries of the Company’s history. It explores the Company’s early commercial activities and its role in the life of the cty, while also shedding light on some of its early members, including several women. An Appendix provides the texts and translations of the company’s early ordinances up to 1592. All proceeds from the sale of the publication to go The Fletchers Trust, a charitable trust chiefly dedicated to supporting archers with disabilities.  Grants are also made to newcomers to archery, experienced and elite archers, and to archery clubs. To purchase a copy of his book (£10 plus postage), contact clerk@fletcher.org.uk. Also available from Waterstones.

December 2021 MLD Blog

Welcome to the second posting of the Medieval Londoners Blog. Please subscribe to receive updates on new material added to the Medieval Londoners Project and other items of interest to those working on medieval London. Since our last post, MLD has added the full text of the 3,908 Husting Court wills and 112 deeds from A Descriptive Catalogue of Ancient Deeds in the Public Record Office, ed. H. C. Maxwell-Lyte, 6 vols. (London, 1890-1915). Currently being processing for upload are 900 records of London Goldsmiths, including Wardens and Renters of the craft from 1335 to 1510, and biographical notes of prominent Goldsmiths, taken from T. F. Reddaway, The Early History of the Goldsmiths’ Company, 1327-1509 (London, 1975). For other datasets, see What’s New In MLD?

Husting Court Wills Now in the Medieval Londoners Database (MLD)

Many London citizens (those who belonged to the freedom of the city) enrolled their wills in the Court of Husting. These wills are copies that primarily record rents and tenements in the city, so they rarely include a testator’s properties outside of London, nor the full bequests of chattels or personal goods. Nonetheless, the Husting wills offer significant details about the wealth, status, occupation, craft affiliations, families, and colleagues of the 3,473 men and 435 women whose wills were enrolled in 1258-1578.

The original Latin text of these Hustings wills was translated and summarized in a calendar published in two parts by R. R. Sharpe, Calendar of the Wills Proved and Enrolled in the Court of Husting, London (London, 1889-90). Thanks to the efforts of Dr Liz Duchovni, the full content of the calendar of 3,908 wills for 1258-1578 have now been structured and placed in MLD under the name of the testators. Sharpe’s text includes all names and bequests, but he sometimes summarized descriptions of property bequests in the later wills, which tend to be far longer than the earlier wills. The text of all wills and their footnotes have been reproduced exactly as in the print text, though we worked originally from the XML of the British History Online text, except for 8 entries on pp. 589-94 and some scattered footnotes, which had been inadvertently left out of the BHO online version.

Testators who used this court were generally well-off Londoners who owned property in the city. Given the large number and many details included in the wills, we have not made MLD entries for individual beneficiaries noted by the testators, although it is possible to find their names by searching on the Activity fields, using any of the three search functions in MLD.

We are now working on including in MLD a list of 2,350 wills and inventories of those living in London, Southwark, or Westminster up to 1540 that were enrolled in the Prerogative Court of Canterbury (now in The National Archives).

Maps of the Common Law Inns in Medieval London

Thanks to the work of Malcolm Richardson (text) and Gabriele Richardson (cartography), maps are now available of the changing location of London’s “legal inns,” which provided legal training and a residence for men pursuing careers in the common law courts. There were two types of legal inns: (1) the “major” Inns of Court (including Lincoln’s and Gray’s Inns, and the Inner and Middle Temple), and (2) the “minor” Inns of Chancery, which through the seventeenth century were preparatory for the major Inns of Court.

Common law was based not on written laws but on case law, that is, rules made by judges. This focus on legal precedents meant that students were trained by observing and taking notes of the judges’ discussions at the royal courts at Westminster and then staging disputations (moots) and mock trials and attending lectures (readings) in the legal inns when the courts were not in session. Even practicing lawyers attended the courts as part of “continuing education,” and annually collected notes about trials, called “Year Books,” which were widely circulated among lawyers. Although legal training in the UK now occurs in universities, the Inns of Court continue to serve as the major credentialing agencies for barristers (trial lawyers).

The series of maps published here illustrate the location of legal inns in London at several points in their history from about 1292 to the end of the fifteenth century. Clustered in London’s Holborn district, Fleet Street, and the Strand, the legal quarter then and now was situated just outside the city walls. Holborn was also home to the Chancery, an important royal office which authorized and produced by hand voluminous official documents in the king’s name. The maps focus on the locations of the “minor” Inns of Chancery, since the four “major” Inns of Court have remained at the same locations since 1422.

After a general introduction to the history of the legal inns in medieval London, the site provides links and explanatory text about six maps, including the location of the earliest inns (Map A) and a summary map of all legal inns up to 1500 (Map C). Two maps illustrate the investment of Chancery clerks (many of relatively low status) in shops, dwellings, and inns in Holborn after the Black Death up to c. 1425 (Map D); thereafter these investments virtually stopped (Map E). The location and names of the inns as they were in 1470, when Sir John Fortescue, Chief Justice of the King’s Bench, famously described them are illustrated in Map F. Another nineteen maps are available upon writing to Prof. Richardson.

The maps, which can also be downloaded as high-quality 1200 dpi images, are based on the map from The City of London from Prehistoric Times to c. 1520, edited by Mary D. Lobel (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1989). The Tudor-era map used here was created by Col. Henry Johns. It has since been revised by Caroline Barron, Vanessa Harding, and others and published by the Historic Towns Trust in 2018; The City of London from Prehistoric Times to c. 1520.

For biographical information on the clerks of Chancery, see Malcolm Richardson, The Medieval Chancery under Henry V, List and Index Society Special Series vol. 30 (London, 1998). We hope to add these data to MLD in the near future.

New Book on Medieval London

The London Jubilee Book, 1376-1387. An Edition of Trinity College Cambridge MS O.3.11, folios 133-157. Ed. Caroline M. Barron and Laura Wright. London Record Society, Boydell and Brewer, 2021. The so-called ‘Jubilee Book,’ long believed lost, was a collection of reforming measures produced by a committee of leading London citizens set up to examine civic ordinances in 1376, the jubilee year of Edward III’s reign. The reforms caused so many controversies and disputes that in 1387 the Jubilee Book was publicly burnt. This volume prints the original text and translation of a fifteenth-century copy of the ‘Jubilee Book’ that most likely represents an early draft. It is accompanied by two introductory essays: one by Caroline Barron that discusses the dating and scribe and contextualizes the reform measures in the Book, and a second by Laura Wright analyzing the language of the manuscript.

New Digital Project: Living and Dying in Late Medieval London

Living and Dying in Late Medieval London: Stories from Register 7 of the Commissary Court” is a digital project put together by six students in the History Lab class of Prof. Katherine French at the University of Michigan in the Fall 2021 semester. The project focused on 368 wills in Register 7 (covering 368 wills, 80 per cent from Londoners and most of them dating to 1484-89) of the Bishop of London’s Commissary Court, which was digitized by the London Metropolitan Archives. Using the Story Maps digital platform, the students focused on 41 wills from nine Grocers and from the two parishes of St Sepulchre without Newgate and St Magnus Martyr. The students also looked closely at the occupations and immigrant status of these testators, as well as their bequests of household goods. For more details on the student assignments involved in the course, see the Pedagogy page of Medieval Londoners

Talks on Medieval London at the NACBS conference

The annual meeting of the North American Conference on British Studies occurred in Atlanta, November 10-14, 2021.  There were four medieval sessions, which included the following papers focusing on medieval London.

 “Women, Seals, and Identity in Thirteenth-Century London.” John McEwan, St. Louis University

“Marrying Up or Down? Marital Patterns among Mercantile Families in Late Medieval London.” Grace Campagna, Fordham University

A House in the Country: London’s Merchants and their Houses.” Katherine L. French, University of Michigan

The Rise of Inns in Medieval London: Sources and Evidence.” Martha Carlin, University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee

New Perspectives on the Medieval London Port Customs Accounts.” Maryanne Kowaleski, Fordham University

The London Jubilee Book 1376-1387: Lost and Found.” Caroline Barron, Royal Holloway and Bedford New College

Welcome to the Medieval Londoners Blog

Now that the Medieval Londoners Project is 14 months old (we launched in June 2020), a regularly published blog seems to be a good way to alert users to new features of the website, especially new data in the Medieval Londoners Database (MLD for short).  If you are interested in receiving these monthly posts, please click this link: Subscribe.

As of 5 August 2021, MLD has almost 20,000 records for 13,127 different Londoners who lived between c. 1100 and 1520.  In recent months we have added :

  • All London MPs from 1290 to 1558
  • Southwark residents who paid the poll tax in 1381
  • Southwark manorial officials
  • Medieval Londoners who are the subject of articles in The Ricardian (especially women)

For other recent and forthcoming additions (including c. 4000 testators in the Husting wills and c. 9000 people mentioned in the Coroners’ Rolls), see What’s New in MLD.

MLD and Layers of London

Location of London properties mapped onto Layers of London by Fordham University students, Fall 2020 semester.

In addition to providing content of value to students, scholars, and the general public, one of the main aims of MLD is to offer opportunities for digital training and experience.  For example, a digital assignment for a course on Medieval London at Fordham University required students to structure information about the parties to a medieval deed using the MLD data entry spreadsheet, then map the property in the deed on the Layers of London mapping platform, and finally provide hyperlinks to the deed parties who were already in MLD. In turn, MLD records of these deeds allow users to link to the Layers of London record for that property. See the Layers collections named Medieval Londoners and  Medieval Londoners 2 for examples of the students’ work . For detailed instructions and resources needed for the assignment, see Digital Pedagogy: Medieval Londoners Mapping Project.

Portraits of London Aldermen

Simon Eyre, Draper:  Alderman, Sheriff, and Mayor of London. MLD Person ID 264. Image copyright London Picture Archive, London Metropolitan Archives.

Another project undertaken by students is a new website called Visual Sources of Medieval London, which offers a a curated guide to medieval and modern paintings that depict (1) medieval Londoners and their surroundings, (2) early modern engravings of medieval buildings before the Great Fire, (3) modern drawings that reconstruct medieval structures from archaeological evidence, and (5) seals owned by medieval Londoners and their civic and religious institutions. The work is done largely by undergraduates who are awarded a Digital Historical Images Internship to do research on a specific group of images and learn how to enter metadata on the OmekaS platform. Check out, for example, the Portraits of London  Civic Officers collection, a group of 25 pen, ink, and watercolor drawings done c. 1446-47 by Roger Leigh, Clarenceux king of arms.  The collection features a short but fully referenced essay about the portraits, full metadata about each portrait, and a high-quality downloadable image, thanks to permission granted by the London Picture Archive of London Metropolitan Archives, which owns and holds copyright of the images.

Recent Scholarship on Medieval London

Charlotte Berry,Guilds, Immigration, and Immigrant Economic Organization: Alien Goldsmiths in London, 1480–1540,” Journal of British Studies 60:3 (2021): 534 – 562

Immigration was essential to trades reliant on fashion and high skill in London around the turn of the sixteenth century. This article explores the patterns of migration to the city by continental goldsmiths between 1480 and 1540 and the structure of the communities they formed. It argues that attitudes to migration within the London Goldsmiths’ Company, which governed the trade, were complex and shifted in response to evolving national legislation. A social network analysis of the relationships between alien masters and servants indicates how the alien community changed and adapted. Taking a view across the traditional late medieval and early modern period boundary allows for a deeper understanding of how attitudes to migration and to migrant communities changed as London’s population began to grow (abstract from JBS). DOI: https://doi.org/10.1017/jbr.2021.2

 Katherine L. French, Household Goods and Good Households in Late Medieval London
Consumption and Domesticity After the Plague
, University of Pennsylvania Press, August 2021.

In the long aftermath of the Black Death, wages in London rose in response to labor shortages, many survivors moved into larger quarters in the depopulated city, and people in general spent more money on food, clothing, and household furnishings than they had before. This book looks at how this increased consumption reconfigured long-held gender roles and changed the domestic lives of London’s merchants and artisans for years to come. Drawng on surviving household artifacts and extensive archival research, Prof. French examines how changes in material circumstance reshaped domestic hierarchies and produced new routines and expectations. Recognizing that the greater number of possessions required a different kind of management and care, French puts housework and gender at the center of her study. Historically, the task of managing bodies and things and the dirt and chaos they create has been unproblematically defined as women’s work. Housework, however, is neither timeless nor ahistorical, and French traces a major shift in women’s household responsibilities to the arrival and gendering of new possessions and the creation of new household spaces in the decades after the plague (from the publisher’s website).