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:

 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).