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 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