The Story of London

Mediæval Towns: London  (1904) 
by Henry B. Wheatley

First published in 1904

This work was published before January 1, 1926, and is in the public domain worldwide because the author died at least 100 years ago.


The Story of London
by Henry B. Wheatley
Illustrated by W. H. Godfrey
K. Kimball, H. Railton etc.

London : J. M. Dent & Sons Ltd.
Aldine House, 10 to 13 Bedford Street
Covent Garden W.C. * * *

To the Memory


(the Legal Adivser to the Local Government Board)

I dedicate this little book as a slight expression
of the debt of gratitude I owe to him, and of
the great loss I, in common with all his friends,
have suffered by his death.
  I especially wish to associate his honoured
name with this book because he took the great-
est interest in its evolution, and I have had
the benedit of his acumen and wide knowledge
in the consideration of most of the subject dis-
cussed in its pages.               H. B. W.


  ‘ History !  What is history but the science which teaches us to see the throbbing life of the present in the throbbing life of the past.’—Hessopp’s Coming of the Friars, p. 178.

THERE can be no doubt that our interest in the dim past is increased the more we are able to read into the dry documents before us the human character of the actors. As long as these actors are only names to us we seem to be walking in a world of shadows, but when we can realise them as beings like ourselves with the same feelings and aspirations, although governed by other conditions of life, all is changed, and we take the keenest interest in attempting to understand circum-stances so different from those under which we live.

The history of London is so varied and the mateirals so vast that it is impossible to compress into a single volume an account of its many aspects.

This book therefore is not intended as a history but as, to some extent, a guide to the manners of the people and to the appearance of the city diring the mediæval period.

An attempty is here made to put together some of the ample materials for the domestic history of the city which have been preserved for us.

The City of London psossesses an unrivalled collection of contemporary documents respecting its past history, some of which have been made available to us by the late Mr. H. T. Riley, and others are being edited with valuable notes by Dr. Reginald Sharpe.

The Middle Ages may be considered as a somewhat indedfinite period, and their chronology cannot be very exactly defined, but for the purposes of this book the portion of the mediæval period dealt with is that which commences with the Norman Conquest and ends with the Battle of Bosworth.

It is impossible to exaggerate the enormous influence of the Norman Conquest. The Saxon period was as thoroughly mediæval as the Norman period, but our full knowledge of history begins with the Conquest because so few historical documents exist before that event. Moreover, the mode of life in Saxon and Norman London was so different that it would only lead to con-fusion to unite the two in one picture.

In order, however, to show the position of the whole mediæval period in the full history an introductory chapter is given which contains a short notice of some of the events during the Saxon rule, and a chapter at the end is intended to show what remains of the mediæval times were left when Shakespeare lived and Johnson expressed his opinions of the pre-eminent position of London.

It is necessary for the reader to bear in mind that London means the city and its liberties up to the end of the eighteenth century. The enlarged idea of a London in the north and the south, the east and the west, is a creationof the nineteenth century.

The City of London is still the centre and heart of London, and the only portion of the town which has an ancient municipal history.

Other cities have shifted their centres, but London remains as it always was. The Bank, the Royal Exchange and the Mansion House occupy ground which has been the ‘ Eye of London ’ since Roman times.

There is no greater mistake than to suppose that things were quiescent during the Middle Ages, for these pages at least will show that that was a time of constant change, when great questions were fought out.

The first seven chapters of this book refer to life in the Old Town. Here we see what it was to live in a walled town, what the manners of the citizens were and what was dome to protect their health and morals. The following five chapters deal with the government of the city. Some notice is taken of the governors and the official of the Corporation, the tradesmen and the churchmen.

The subject of each chapter is of enough importance to form a book by itself, and it is therefore hoped that the reader will not look for an exaustive treatment of these subjects. There is more to be said in each place, but I have been forced to choose out of the materials that which seemed most suitable for my purpose.

During the editing of this volume a vivid picture of the mediæval life has ever been before my mind, and I can only regret that it has been so difficult to transfer that picture to paper. I can only hope that my readers may not see the difference between the conception and the performance so vividly as I do myself.

I the prepatation of these pages I have recieved the kind assistance of more friends than I can mention here,but I wish especially to thank Mr. Hubert Hall, Mr W. H. St. John Hope, Mr. J. E. Matthew, General Milman, C.B., Mr D’Arcy Power, Sir Walter Prideaux, Sir Owen Roberts, Mr. J. Horace Round, Dr Reginald Sharpe and Sir William Soulsby, C.B.


Map of London in 1588, from William Smith’s MS of the ‘ Description of England’ (Re-produced in Colours by Lithography) Frontispiece
Heading to Chapter I . . . . . 1
Norden’s Plan of London, 1593 . .facing 21
Aldgate and Priory of the Holy Trinity, from Newton’s Map of London . .facing 28
Chaucer’s Pilgrims issuing from the Tabard, from Pennant’s ‘London’. . . . . 71
Old St. Paul’s, from a Drawing by Walter H. Godfrey, reconstructed from information obtained from leading authorities . .facing 86
Visscher’s View of London, 1616 . . ,, 90
Old London Bridge from St. Olave’s Church, from a Drawing by Herbert Railton . .facing 102
The Tower of London, from a Drawing by Hanslip Fletcher. . . . . . . . 108
St. John’s Chapel in the Tower, from a Drawing by Katharine Kimball . . . . 122
Duke of Orleans in the Tower, from a copy of SM. in British Museum . . . .facing 126
North or Inside View of Traitor’s Gate, from a Drawing by Herbert Railton . . . 129
Cheapside Cross, from a Painting of the sixteenth century . . . . . . . 138
Seal of St. Bartholomew’s Hospital and Obverse of the Common Seal of the City of London, cir. 1225 . . . . .facing 180
Rahere’s Tomb in St. Bartholomew’s Church, from a Drawing by Hanslip Fletcher . . 184
St. Giles’ in the Fields, from Plan in the British Museum . . . . . . 193
‘ London Stone,’ Cannon Street, from a Drawing by Walter H. Godfrey . . . . 230
Seal of Fitz-Ailwin, first Mayor of London . 231
Seal of Robert Fitz-Walter . . . . 269
The Crypt of the Guildhall, from a Drawing by Walter H. Godfrey . . . . . 273
Cloth Fair, from a Drawing by Katherine Kimball 283
Sir William Marshal, Earl of Pembroke, Temple Church, from a Drawing by Hanslip Fletcher 330
Paul’s Cross, from an Original Drawing in the Pepysian Library, Cambridge . .facing 336
Interior of Old St. Paul’s, from a Drawing by Walter H. Godfrey, reconstructed from in-formation obtained from leading authorities . 339
Doorway, St. Helen’s, Bishopsgate, from a Draw-ing by Hanslip Fletcher . . . . 346
St Helen’s, Bishopsgate, from a Drawing by Walter H. Godfrey . . . . . 347
Bow Church Crypt, from a Drawing by Walter H. Godfrey . . . . . . 349
Church of St. Bartholomew the Great, from a Drawing by Hanslip Fletcher . . . 350
Hall of the Charterhouse, from a Drawing by Herbert Railton . . . . . 353
The Temple Church—The Round, from a Drawing by Hanslip Fletcher . . . . . 357
St. John's Gate, Clerkenwell, from a Drawing by Herbert Railton . . . . . 361
The Crypt, St. John’s, Clerkenwell, from a Draw-ing by Walter H. Godfrey. . . . 369
Charing Cross, from the Crace Collection, British Museum . . . . .facing 375
Poet’s Corner, Westminster Abbey, from a Draw-ing by Herbert Railton . . . . 377
The Gate House and Church Tower, Lambeth Palace, from a Drawing by J. A. Symington 379
Norden’s Plan of Westminster, 1593 . .facing 385
Butcher Row and Temple Bar, from a Drawing by Herbert Railton . . . . . 390
Lincoln’s Inn Gateway, Chancery Lane, from a Drawing by Hanslip Fletcher . . . 393
Gray’s Inn Hall, from a Drawing by Katharine Kimball. . . . . . . 395
Staple Inn, from a Drawing by Herbert Railton . 397
Sir Paul Pindar’s House, from a Drawing by Herbert Railton . . . . . 399

Chapter I: Introduction: Early History of London to the Norman ConquestEdit

THE question as to the great antiquity of London has formed a field for varied and long-continued disputes. An elaborate picture of a British London, founded by Brut, a descendant of Æneas, as a new Troy, with grand and noble buildings, was painted by Geoffrey of Monmouth. The absurdity of this con-ception, although it found credence for centuries, was at last seen, and some antiquaries then went to the opposite extreme of denying the very existence of a British London.

The solid foundation of facts priving the condition of the earliest London are the waste, marshy ground, with little hills rising from the plains, and the sense forest on the north—a forest that remained almost up to the walls of the city even in historic times, animal remains, flint instruments, and pile dwellings. All the rest is conjecture. We must call in the aid of geography and geology to understand the laws which governed the for-mationof London. The position of the town on the River Thames proves the wisdom of those who chose the site, although the swampiness of the land, caused by the daily overflowing of the river before the embank-ments were thrown up, must have endangered its successful colonisation. When the vast embankment was com-pleted the river receded to its proper bed, and the land which was retrieved was still watered by several streams flowing from the higher ground in the north into the Thames.

Animal remains, very various in character, have been found in different parts of London. Examples of mammouth, elephant, rhinoceros, elk, deer, and many other extinct as well as existing species are repre-sented. Of man, the mass of flint instruments in the ‘ Palæolithic floor’ which prove his early existence is enormous.

General Pitt Rivers (then Colonel Lane Fox) in 1867 made the discovery of the remains of pile dwell-ings near London Wall and in Southwark Street. The piles averages 6 to 8 inches square, others of a smaller size were 4 inches by 3 inches, and one or two were as much as a foot square. They were found in the peat just above the virgin gravel, and with them were found the refuse of kitchen middens and broken pottery of the Roman period. There is reason to believe that the piles were sunk by the Britons rather than by the Romans, and General Pitt Rivers was of opinion that they are the remains of the British capital of Cassivel-launus, situated in the marches, and, of necessity, built on piles.[1] Dr. Munro, however, who alludes to this discovery in his book on Lake Dwellings, believes that these piles belong to the post-Roman times, and supposes that in the early Saxon period these pile swellings were used in the low-lying districts of London.[2]

The strongest pint of those who disbelieve in a British London is that Julius Cæsar does not mention it, but this negative evidence is far from conclusive.

We learn from Tacitus that in A.D. 61 the Roman city was a place of some importance—the chief residence of merchants and the great mart of trade—therefore we cannot doubt but that to have grown to this condition it must have existed before the Christian era. The Romans appear to have built a fort where the Tower of London now stands, but not originally to have fortified the town. London grew to be a flourishing centre of commerce, though not a place capable of sustaining a siege, so the Roman general, Paullinus Suetonius, would not run the rist of defending it against Boadicea. Afterwards the walls were erected, and Londinium took its proper position in the Roman Empire. It was on the high road from Rome to York, and the starting-point of half the roads in Britain.

Bishop Stubbs wrote : ‘ Britain had been occupied by the Romans, but had not become Roman.’ Probably few Romans settled here. The inhabitants consisted of the Governor and the military officers and Romainised Britons. When the Roman legions left this country Londinium must have had a very mixed population of traders. There were no leaders, and a wail went up from the defenceless inhabitants. In the year 446 we hear of ‘ The groans of the Britons to Aetius, for the third time Consul,’ which took this form of com-pliant: ‘ The savages drive us to the sea, and the sea casts us back upon the savages ; so arise two kinds of death, and we are either drowned or slaughtered.’[3]

In this place, however, we have not to consider the con-dition either of British or Roman London, for the Middle Ages may be said to commence with the break up of the Roman Empire. Saxon London was a wooden city, surrounded by walls, marking out the same enclosure that existed in the latest Roman city. We have the authority of the Saxon Chronicle for saying that in the year 418 the Romans collected all the treasures that were in Britain, and his some of them in the earth.

From the date of the departure of the Roman legions to that of the Norman Conquest nearly six centuries and a half had elapsed. Of this long period we find only a few remains, such as some articles discovered in the river, and some entries in that incomparable monument of the past—the Saxon Chronicle. All we really know of Saxondom we learn from the Chronicle, Beade’s Ecclesiastical History, and the old charters. The history of England for the greater portion of this time was local and insular, for the country was no longer a part of a great empire.

Professor Earle tells us that the name London occurs fifty times in the Chronicle, and Lononburh thirteen times, but we do not know wheather any distinction between the two names was intended to be indicated.

The Chronicler tells us of the retreat of the Roman legions, and how Hengist and Horsa, invited by Vorti-gern, Kind of the Britons, landed in Britain. Then comes the ominous account of the Saxons, who turned against the friends that called upon them for succor and totally defeated the British at Crayford in Kent:—

‘ 457. This year Hengist and Æsc, his son, fought against the Britons at the place which is called Crecgan-ford, and there slew four thousand men ; and the Britons then forsook Kent, and in great terror fled to Lundenbyrg.’

Then for a century and a half there is no further men-tion of London in the Chronicle. We are not told what became of the fugitives, nor what became of the city ; as Lappenberg says : ‘ No terrirory ever passed so obscurely into the hand of an enemy as the north bank of the Thames.’

It is as difficult to suppose what some have supposed—that the city was deserted and remained desolate for years—as to imagine that trade and commerce continued in the city while all around was strife. There may have been some arrangement by which the successful Saxon who did not care to live in the city agreed that those who wished to do so should live there. But all is conjecture inthe face of this serious blank in our history.

In there had been a battle and destruction of the city we should doubtless have had some account of it in the Chronicle. Gradually the Saxons settled on the hithes or landing places on the river side, and at last over-came their natural repugnance to town life and settled in the city. When London is again mentioned in the Chronicle it appears to have been inhabited by a population of heathens still to be converted. Under the date 604 we are told :—

‘ This year Augustine consecrated two bishops ; Mellitus and Justus. He sent Mellitus to preach bap-tism to the East Saxons, whose Kind was called Sebert, son of Ricole, the sister of Ethelbert, and whom Ethel-bert had then appointed King. And Ethelbert gave Mellitus a bishop’s See in Lundenwic, and to Justus he gave Rochester, which is twenty-four miles from Canterbury.’

The Christianity of the Londoners was of an unsatis-factory character, for after the death of Sebert, his sons, who were heathens, stirred up the multitude to drive out their bishop. Mellitus became Archbishop of

Chapter II: The Walled Town and its StreetsEdit

Chapter III: Round the Town with Chaucer and the Poets of his TimeEdit

Chapter IV: The River and the BridgeEdit

Chapter V: The King’s Palace—The TowerEdit

Chapter VI: MannersEdit

Chapter VII: Health, Disease and SanitationEdit

Chapter VIII: The Governors of the CityEdit

Chapter IX: Officials of the CityEdit

THE chief of the officials of the City of London was for many years after the Conquest the Castellan and Bannerer. When William the Conqueror obtained possession of London he built a castle on the river at each end of the city, to intimidate the Londoners. The Tower was at the east end, and at the west was what according to Dugdale was called at first The Castle. This was placed under the charge of Baynard, one of the Conqueror’s followers, after whom it came to be known as Baynard’s Castle. The hereditary office of Castellan was held by the family of Fitz-Walter, by virtue of their possession of Baynard’s Castle, the key of the city. The duties attached ot this office are among the most important and interesting in the story of mediæval London, and it is to be presumed that Baynard held the various privileges afterwards possessed by the family of Fritz-Walter, but no notice of this is recorded.

Robert Fitz-Richard was the first baron by tenure. He is said to have been the younger son of Richard Fitz-Gilbert, ancestor to the Earls of Clare. He was steward to Henry I., from whom he obtained the barony of Dunmow, and the honour of the soke of Baynard’s Castle, both of which had been forfeited to the Crown in 1111 by reason of the felony of William, Baron of Dunmow, son of Ralph Baynard, the Norman associate of William the Conqueror, after whom the castle was named.

in connection with this soke Robert held the heredi-tary office of Standard-Bearer on the city, the duties of which will be stated further on. He died in 1134, and was succeeded by his son, Walter Fitz-Robert. The latter’s son was Robert Fitz-Walter, the most famous member of the family, and the one who transmitted to his descendants the permanent surname of Fitz-Walter.

This Fitz-Walter was styled ‘ Marshal of the Army of God and Holy Church.’ He was one of the twenty-five barons appointed to enforce the observance of Magna Charta obtained from King John.

An ‘ agreement [dated 15-25 June 1215] between King John, of the one part, and Robert Fitz-Walter, Marshal of the Army of God and of Holy Church in England, siz earls and siz barons named, and other earls, barons and freemen, of the other part,’ is preserved in the Public Records Office, and the following description of the document is given in the Catalogue of MSS., &c., in the Museum of the P.R.O. (1902) : ‘The earls, barons and others shall hold the City of London, saving the royal revenues, and the Archbishop of Canterbury shall hold the Tower of London, saving the liberties of the city, until the Feast of the Assumption in the seven-teenth year of the reigh. In the meanwhile, oaths shall he taken throughout England to twenty-five barons, as is contained in the charter for the liberties and security of the realm, and all things shall be done according to the said charter ; otherwise the city and the Tower shall be held as above, until all the said things shall be done.’ It is said in a note to this document that ‘none of the thirteen persons who are thus entered into an agreement with the Kind are mentioned amonf those upon whose advice he granted the great charter.’

The third person was himself in trade, and he owned wine ships. He recieved special privileges form John, and the story of that King’s treatment of his daughter Matilda is supposed to be an unfounded tale.

In the year 1215 the insurgent barons entered the city at Aldgate, largely owing to the assistance of Robert Fitz-Walter, whose position was of a commanding character. He died in 1235.

Walter Fitz-Walter succeeded his father Robert, and died in 1257. He was succeeded by his son Robert Fitz-Walter, the fifth baron.

It is of the latter’s duties and priveleges that we possess an account, written by Robert Glover, Somerset Herald in the reigh of Elizabeth, extracts form which are given by Dugdale in his Baronage of England, 1675, i. 200:—
 ‘In time of war [he] should serve the city in manner following, viz.: To ride upon a light horse, with twenty men-at-arms on horseback, their horses covered with cloth or harness, unto the great dore of St. Paul’s Church, with the banner of his arms carried before him ; and being come in that manner thither, the Mayor of London, together with the sheriffs and aldermen, to issue armed out of the church unto the same dore on foot, with a banner in his hand, having the figure of St. Paul depicted with gold thereon, but the feet, hands and head of silver, holding a silver sword in his hand.
 ‘And as soon as he shall see the Mayor, sheriffs and aldermen come on foot out of the church, carrying such a banner, he is to alight from his horse, and salute him as his companion, saying Sir Mayor, I am obliged to come hither to do my service, which I owe to this city. To whom the Mayor, sheriffs and aldermen are to answer, We give to you, as our banner-bearer for this city, this banner by inheritance of the city, to bear and carry, to the honour and profit thereof to your power.
 ‘Whereupon the said Robert and his heirs shall receive it into their hands, and the Mayor and sheriffs shall follow him to the dore, and bring him an horse worth twenty pounds. Which horse shall be saddled with a saddle of his arms, and covered with silk, depicted likewise with the same arms ; and they shall take twenty pounds sterlinf, and deliver it to the chamberlin of the said Robert, for his expenses that day,’ etc.[4]

There was a vacant ground opposite the great west door of St. Paul’s where this interesting ceremony took place. The folkmoots were held in the churchyard at the east eng of the cathederal.

In 1275 (3 Edw. I.) Robert Fitz-Walter obtained licence from the Crown to convey Baynard Castle and the Tower of Montfichet to the Archbishob of Canter-bury for the purpose of the foundation of the House and Church of the Friars Preachers or Blackfriars.[5] In the following year Edward I. confirmed the grant of two lanes adjacent to ‘Castle Baynard and the Tower of Montfytchet for the purpose of enlarging the aforesaid place on condition that the said archbishop should provide the citizens with a more convenient way as he had now done.’[6] In 1277-1278 an alteration was made in the wall of the friary.[7]

When Sir Rober Fitz-Walter conveyed Baynard Castle to the Archbishop he specially reserved all his rights and privileges in the following terms : ‘Provided that by reason of this grant nothing should be ex-tinguished to him and his heirs which did belong to his barony, but that whatsoever relating thereto as wel in rents, landing of vessells and other liberties and priviledges in the City of London or elsewhere without diminution, which to him the said Robert or to that barony had antiently appertained, should be thenceforth reserved.’[8]

We know very little of this Tower of Montfichet, but it must have been closely connected with Baynard Castle, There is a reference to it and its owner in the Chronique de la guerre entre les Anglois et les Ecossois en 1173 et 1174 per Jordan Fantosme (Howlett’s Chronicles of Stephen, Henry II. and Richard I, iii. 339. Rolls Series) :

“Gilbert de Munfichet has fortified his castle,
And says that the Clares are leagued with him.”

As Mr. Round points out to me this reference to the Clares must relate to the proprietors of Baynard’s Castle, who, as previously noted, were of the same family as the Clares. Walter Fitz-Robert is also referred to in this metrical chronicle.

The Barons Fitz-Walter possessed may privileges in time of peace, which are set out by Dugdale, among which was the right of punishing by drowning at Woodwarf persons guilty of treason, but it was as constable of Bar-nard Castle that they enjoyed these privileges as well as the office of bannerer to the City of London. A beautiful seal inscribed ‘ Sigillum Roberti Filii Walteri’ was found at Stamford, Lincolnshire, in the reign of Charles II., and is the subject of a paper by John Charles Brooke of the Heralds’ College in Archæologia (vol. v. pp. 211-215): ‘ In this seal we see [Fitz-Walter’s] horse elegantly engraved and covered with trappings of his arms, so exquisitely represented, that they evidently appear to be of a much finer texture than those commonly used, the muscles of the animal being seen under them, and as much as engraving can represent drapery, appear to be silk, as described by Glover ; and what is remarkable his arms are carved on the rest behind his saddle, which is a rare instance, and evidently alludes to that which the Mayor was to present to him.’

On the seal are represented the arms of Fitz-Walter’s second wife Eleanor, daughter of Robert de Ferrers, Earl of Ferrers and Derby. She was marries in 1298 and dies in 1304, therefore the date of the seal is fixed within six years. Mr. Brooke refers to another seal of Baron Fitz-Walter which he used, 28 Edw. I (Anno 1300), and in which the dragon occurrin in the former seal beneath the horse is used as a supporter. Robert Fitz-Walter died in 1325, and in 1328 the wardship of his son John was granted by the Mayor and aldermen to his window Johanna.[9]

In 1347 Sir John Fitz-Walter still claimed to have franchise in the ward of Castle Baynard, but the city entirely repudiated the claim as ‘altogether repugnant to the liberties of the city.’ He caused stocks to be set up in the ward of Castle Baynard, and claimed to make deliverance of men there im-prisoned. In consequence of this action, a conference was held by the Mayor, aldermen and commonality, at which ‘it was agreed that the said Sir John Fitz-Walter has no franchise within the liberty of the city aforesaid, nor is he in future to intermeddle with any plea in the Guildhall of London, or with any matters touching the liberties of the city.[10]

The Recorder, the chief official of the city, is appointed for life. He was formerly appointed by the city, but since the Local Government Act 1888 he is nominated by the city and approved by the Lord Chancellor. His duties and his oath are recorded in the Liber Albus. In 1329 Gregory de Nortone, the then holder of the office, obtained an increase of salary—100 shillings yearly, as also his robe of the same pattern as the alderman’s robes.[11]

The Common Serjeant was formerly appointed by the city, but since 1888 by the Lord Chancellor. He is the recorder’s principal assistant.

The next great official is the Town Clerk, who is appointed by the Common Council and re-elected annually. John de Batequell, clerk of the city, is referred to in Letter Book A, and this is the first recorded mention of the office afterwards known as the common clerk, and later as town clerk. Next to the recorder the town clerk was the chief officer in the local courts of law called the Hustings and the Mayor’s Court.

Among the distinguished men who have held the office two names stand out, viz., John Carpenter and William Dunthorn.

Carpenter, town clerk in the reigns of Henry V. an Henry VI., was elected in 1417. He was called also secretary of thecity, a title not applied to any other town clerk. He is best known as the compiler of the Liber Albus, and as founder of the City of London school.

Dunthorn’s (1462) name is associated with the Liber Dunthorn, which contains transcripts from the Liber Albus, Liber Custumarum, Letter Books, etc.

The Chamberlin or Compiler of the King’s officer, and the office was probably in-stituted soon after the Conquest. It is mentioned in documents of the twelfth century. On June 28, 1232, the office of ‘King’s chamberlin of London ’ was granted for life to Peter de Rivallis. His duties and priveleges as stated in the grant are very extensive and important. ‘ He shall have for life the custody if the King’s houses at Southampton, and the King’s prise of wine there,’ ‘ custody of the King’s Jewry, of the mint of England,’ and ‘ all other things pertaining to the office of Chamberlin of London.’ By another grant of the same year the said Peter, Treasurer of Poitiers for life, was given the custody of the ports and coasts of England, saving the port of Dover.’[12] When the office is mentioned in 1275 it was combined with the offices of Mayor and coroner.

The functions of coroner were often exercised by the chamberlian and the sheriffs, and when the chamberlian was called away from the city by the King he appointed a deputy coroner. The office was sometimes held by the King’s butler, to whom appertained the office of coroner.

William Trente, a wine merchant of Bergerac, was appointed King’s butler on the 25th November 1301 (30 Edw. I.)[13] He became also the King’s chamberlain of the city and coroner of London.[14] Andrew Horn, a fishmonger by trade, who kept a shop in Bridge Street, held the office of chamberlain for several years. He was the compiler of Liber Horn, which contains charters, statutes, grants, etc. To him also has been attributed the authorship of the law treatise of mediæval times entitled the ‘ Mirror of Justice.’[15] He died in 1328.

Many attempts were made by the citizens to get the coronership into their own hands, and at last Edward IV. sold the right to appoint a coroner of their own, independent of the King’s butler, for £7000.[16]

The Rememberancer or State Amanuensis is appointed by the Common Council. The office was held from 1571 to 1584 by a distinguished man, Thomas Norton, M.P., who was joint author with Thomas Sackville, Earl of Dorset, of the tragedy Gorbaduc. He left a manuscript on the ancient duties of the Lord Mayor and Corporation, an account of which was published by J. Payne Collier in Archæologia (col. xxxvi. p. 97).

The Common Hunt was an official mentioned in the Liber Albus, where we learn that John Courtenay was appointed to the office in 1417.[17] The office was abolished in the year 1807

Of officers in immediate attendance on the Maoyr may be mentioned the sword-bearer and the sergeant-at-mace.

The first notice of the office of sword-bearer occurs in the Liber Albus (1419), and the first record in the minute books of the appointment of a sword-bearer is in 4 Hen. VI., 1426. Mr. Hope remarks that ‘the absence of earlier notices is most probably due to the fact that the sword-bearer was appointed, according to the entry in the Liber Albus . . . as propres costages du Mair, and not at the cost of the city.’

The sword-bearer is remarkable on account of the distinctive head-covering of ‘cap of maintenance’ which is appropriated to his office.[18]

It is not known when the City of London first possessed a mace or maces, but Mr. Hope refers to the Liber Custumarum to prove that as early as 1252 there were sargents who carried staves of some kind as emblems of authority. ‘ We know this from the claim put forth on the occasion of the Iter of the pleas of the Crown held at the Tower in 1321, that the Mayor and citizens of London should have their own porter and usher, and their own sergants with their staves. As it was shown that the same claim had been successfully made in 1276-1277, and in 1252 it was allowed.’ Mr. Hope quotes from Letter Book F as a record of the appointment of Robert Flambard as mace-bearer in 1338, and from this it is clear that the office was not then a newly created one.[19]

For the due carrying on of the business of the Corporation several new offices have at various times been established, but the foregoing are the officials who carried on the work of the city during the Middle Ages. Much of interest might have been added of these men, but it is only necessary here to refer to them generally as those to whom so much of the history of London was due.

The chief business of the city has been carried on for many centuries in the Guildhall, which is of unknown antiquity. It is almost certain that the building was in existence on the same spot as early as the twelfth century. It was rebuilt in 1411, and has been greatly altered at different times since then. The most interesting portion of the old building will be found in the extensive Gothic crypt which is shown in the illustration of page 273. The open timber roof of the Hall was not added until the alterations of 1866-1870 by the late Sir Horace Jones.

Chapter X: Commerce and TradeEdit

Chapter XI: The Church and EducationEdit

Chapter XII: London from Mediæval to Modern TimesEdit


  1. Journal, Anthropological Society, vol. v. pp. lxxi.-lxxx.
  2. Lake Dwellings in Europe, 1890, pp. 460-464.
  3. Elton, Origins of English History, p. 360.
  4. Archæologia, vol. v. pp. 211-213
  5. See Liber Custumarum (Rolls Series), Introduction, p. 1xxvi.
  6. Cal. Letter Book C, p.71.
  7. Cal. Letter Book A, p. 222.
  8. Dugdale’s Baronage, i. 220.
  9. Ridley’s Memorials, p. 178.
  10. Riley’s Memorials, p 236.
  11. Cal. Letter Book A, p. 161
  12. Calendar of Charter Rolls, vol. i. 1903, p. 163
  13. Liber Custumarum (Rolls Series), vol i. p. 243.
  14. Calenars : Letter Book A, p. 128 ; Letter Book C, p. 116
  15. Letter Book C, p. 157 (note).
  16. Letter Book B, pp. vi, x1.
  17. Riley’s Memorials, p. 650.
  18. Corporation Plate and Insignia of Office of the Cities and Towns of England and Wales, by Llewellyn Jewitt, ed by W. H. St. John Hope, 1895, vol. ii, pp. 100, 109
  19. Ibid., p. 91.