London Viewers and their Certificates, 1508-1558: Certificates of the Sworn Viewers of the City of London. Originally published by London Record Society, London, 1989.
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INTRODUCTION (fn. 1)
Sixteenth-century London was busy, proud, prosperous, and — above all — expanding. But even a constant expansion in area could not match an ever growing population; London was also congested, noisy, and dirty. The certificates here calendared offer detailed, even official, evidence of the physical difficulties inherent in the cheek-by-jowl existence of Tudor Londoners. Many of the disputes which involved the viewers would be familiar to a modern city dweller: one man has built beyond his property line, another's chimney is about to fall down onto his neighbour's roof, a third has made a new house so close to one already standing that all access to light and air has been cut off to the old one, a fourth has directed the rainwater from his gutter onto the property next door. Other quarrels, of course, would not be so familiar because they arose from deplorable sanitary conditions long since improved, from a sudden influx of former church property into the real estate market, and from lingering medieval ideas of propriety — ideals which became more and more anachronistic as population swelled and subdivision of tenements became the norm.
For almost five hundred years, the City of London appointed master masons and carpenters, in the 16th century joined by tilers, to act in connection with these disputes; from the beginning, these men visited a site with or without other officials, examined the alleged encroachment or nuisance, and reported their findings back to the mayor and aldermen. The system was almost as old as the Mayoralty and was closely related to it. (fn. 2) The Assize of Buildings ascribed to Mayor Henry Fitz Ailwin and traditionally if improbably dated to 1189, included provisions for arranging the peaceful settlement of neighbours' quarrels. Certainly the text as it exists in later redactions speaks of many of the problems with which the 16th-century viewers would deal: noisome privies, spouting gutters, unprivileged windows. The dating of the Assize of Buildings and an evaluation of the authenticity of various texts have been dealt with extensively and authoritatively by William Kellaway and Helena M. Chew in their introduction to London Assize of Nuisance 1301–1431 (fn. 3) and need not be discussed here. Suffice it to say that at least in part the Assize appears to date from the 13th century; that it is the basis for the medieval London assize of nuisance and to some extent for 16th-century legal treatment of nuisance in London; that it prescribes a view by the mayor and 12 elected men of land and tenements for which the assize of nuisance had been demanded; and, more specifically, that it deals with party and boundary walls, gutters, windows overlooking a neighbour's land, and cess-pits constructed after 1189 about which complaint had been made. The 12 elected men are not defined as aldermen in the earliest recension of the Assize of Buildings, that in the Liber de Antiquis Legibus, (fn. 4) but they are in later texts and it is likely that aldermen were meant. There is no reason to believe that the 12 were connected with the building trades, nor are sworn masons and carpenters mentioned in early texts: the Assize, the early 13th century Lex de Assisa which lists ten men — at least some of them known to be aldermen — as jurors 'for the assize of stone walls', and the contemporary regulations (drawn up for the better prevention of fire after a disastrous blaze in 1212) which call for a view of wooden houses by the mayor, sheriffs, and 'discreet men' of the City. (fn. 5) Yet there were problems in leaving the views to the aldermen. Not all 12 had to appear at a given assize and apparently it was common for six or even fewer to be present at one. (fn. 6) But even so, given the number and variety of situations which could arise, viewing must have been timeconsuming work. More importantly, the aldermen were not particularly expert in the construction of cesspits and the condition of walls; how should they measure the depth of arches in a party wall or calculate the proper direction of a gutter? It is not surprising that sworn masons and carpenters, whose training and livelihood involved just such measuring and calculating, seem to have been associated with the assize of nuisance from at least the beginning of the 14th century and possibly as early as 1271. (fn. 7) None are mentioned in the City records, however, before a Liber Custumarum entry for the Monday before the Conversion of St. Paul, 29 Edward I (24 January 1301) noting that Richard de Wythe, mason, came before the mayor and aldermen and swore to give proper consideration to all men of the city and suburbs of London concerning ruinous, partible, and non-partible stone walls between neighbours and touching the other things pertaining to his office, as often as required to do so. On the same day Robert Osekyn and John de Britele, carpenters, were sworn in similar language to deal justly concerning boundary walls, ruined and partible walls, gutters, and other things touching their office. (fn. 8) Wythe and Osekyn were still acting as viewers almost three years later, when they found a stone wall likely to become ruinous, and they were joined by Reginald de Swafham, carpenter, sworn into office on 13 January 1310 'to do all things pertaining to assizes and divisions of tenements'. (fn. 9) But in August of 1313, three men previously unmentioned — Robert Northampton, carpenter, and Simon de Pakenham and Alexander de Canterbury, masons, said to be 'sworn to make and supervise assizes and partitions of tenements in the City' — went with the chamberlain to partition a tenement. (fn. 10) Thereafter appointments appear periodically in the records, as do references to the viewers' work and, occasionally, copies of their reports; the City's Letter-Books, the Plea and Memoranda Rolls, the Journals, and the three Miscellaneous Rolls DD, FF, and II, record the selection and activities of the sworn masons and carpenters throughout the 14th and 15th centuries.
Nor did the existence of sworn viewers end with the certificates here calendared. Apart from copies of later reports found in livery company records, there exist in the Corporation of London Records Office originals and copies of later bills, among them a series (in poor condition) for the period 1623–1636. (fn. 11) From these, it appears that the nature of the viewers' activities remained largely unchanged from what it had been in the earlier half of the 16th century, although it is hard to judge how successfully the sworn masons and carpenters functioned or how useful their efforts were; London was booming and four men, even if diligent and experienced, could do only so much. (fn. 12) There is indeed some hint of decline in the office. Either Stuart viewers were operating under a narrowed mandate and greater supervision or they had lost the selfconfidence of their predecessors, for their certificates are more deferential in tone and show little willingness to venture beyond technical comments based on professional expertise. But the Great Fire of 1666 was the event precipitating major change. There had been a proclamation of 13 September 1666, ordering the City to produce a survey of the ruins so that ownership of land could be determined; (fn. 13) the City duly appointed several men, among them Edward Jerman, a carpenter and former viewer and the builder of the Royal Exchange, to work on it with three men appointed by the king himself, one of them Christopher Wren. The Rebuilding Act of 8 February 1667 (An Act for Rebuilding the City of London, 19 Charles II, c. 3) also called for the appointment of City surveyors, and London chose four men the next month: three of them, Robert Hooke, Peter Mills, and John Oliver, eventually took office. (fn. 14) The institution of the City viewers was not abolished, but the work of rebuilding London was not under their supervision; the surveyors and the Fire Court set up under the Rebuilding Act were responsible for both settling disputes and policing compliance with the Act of 1667 and the Second Rebuilding Act (An Additional Act for the Rebuilding of the City of London, 22 Charles II, c. 11). A terse note in the Repertories in July 1668 reflects the new situation without comment: the first clerk of the Mayor's Court was in future to attend the surveyors when they viewed disputes and to draw up their presentments 'as hee useth to doe of the views of the common viewers of this Citty.' (fn. 15)
Viewers continued to be appointed and to function, however; the Repertories carry accounts of their admission to office and of their activities. (fn. 16) In the 1670s and even later, there seems to have been some division of labour between them and the surveyors, although its rationale is not entirely clear. Ordinarily, it appears that the surveyors handled matters concerning new construction alleged to be 'irregular' under the Building Acts while the viewers dealt with the complaints, made by private parties or on behalf of the City, resulting from such building — lights stopped up, encroachment — and with public nuisances such as stairs obstructed by rubbish. But the division was not consistent; on 7 August 1679, for example, an alderman, his deputy, the Surveyors of New Buildings, and the viewers were all told to view a house under construction in the Old Jewry 'and inform themselves whether the same be irregular or not'. (fn. 17) Nor is it clear how the viewers managed to perform their traditional functions since they were no longer necessarily experts in the construction trades. For reasons which are not stated in the Repertories entries, the mayor and aldermen admitted a glazier as viewer in December 1679 and, more startling still, a weaver in October 1685 and a glover in April 1695. (fn. 18) Choice of such men must have diminished the viewers' authority and in fact the Repertories entries give the impression that the post had become more or less a sinecure: in 1695, a new man was admitted to his place 'to have hold exercise & enjoy the said place with all fees proffitts And comodities thereunto due & of right belonging. So long as he shall well & honestly use and behave himself therein'. (fn. 19) There is no mention of duties or of oaths. The 1679 and 1685 entries use similar language.
Yet there are hundreds of reports existing in the CLRO archives for the period 1659–1704, and while many are by the surveyors and others by aldermen and their deputies, a substantial number were made by the common viewers. (fn. 20) Nor was 1704 the end of the viewers' existence. There are in the Corporation of London records at least five reports by surveyors and others made after that date, and the earliest (from 1718) is clearly a viewers' certificate. (fn. 21) I have not examined 18th-century Repertories, but Edward Basil Jupp, the editor of the Carpenters' Company records, wrote that the last person whose appointment he saw entered was a carpenter, John Norris, named in 1737. (fn. 22) In any event, certainly the Building Act of 1774 (An Act for the further and better Regulation of Buildings and Party Walls. . . within the Cities of London and Westminster . . ., 14 George III, c. 78), providing for the appointment of sworn district surveyors (s. 62), would seem to have left small reason for the old 'sworn masons and carpenters'. (fn. 23)
The institution had by then lasted almost 500 years. Its very antiquity may have been one reason why it was not abolished or transformed earlier; it was among the most venerable of civic arrangements. Another reason may have been inertia, of course, and a third probably lay with the livery companies themselves. Providing viewers had long been a source of prestige and power — and patronage — for the masons, carpenters, and tilers, for the office was not unimportant and it was not held by unimportant men. Master masons and carpenters were significant figures in late medieval London; their work affected the very growth and appearance of the City. (fn. 24) The addition of a master tiler to the group in 1550 followed by other appointments of tilers thereafter is itself a signal that London was changing its appearance; the tilers were closely related to the bricklayers — the two crafts amalgamated their organisations in 1568 — and in the 16th century, brick was becoming the building material of choice, replacing the stone favoured earlier by wealthy citizens. (fn. 25)
Throughout the two hundred years preceding the certificates here calendared the master masons and carpenters sworn to the City, the chosen representatives of the premier construction crafts, gradually gathered to themselves privilege and status. In 1371, they successfully petitioned to be discharged from payment of taxes, tenths, fifteenths and other subsidies due the king, as their predecessors in office had been — for the last hundred years, they alleged, taking the office of viewer back again to 1271. (fn. 26) In 1442 they petitioned, equally successfully, to be discharged from serving on juries, inquests and other offices because they were working on the great new project of Leadenhall. (fn. 27) Within the period covered by this volume, in 1522, they were voted a ray (striped) gown annually from the Chamber of London, provided that they 'geve their diligences & attendances' when called by an alderman to survey purprestures. They probably received no other salary from the City, for the grant of striped gown was conditioned on their attendance 'without enything takyng for their labors in that behalf.' (fn. 28) But there was a fee payable to them for every view they made not involving the City as a party — payable by the individuals and companies and religious bodies involved in the 'private' views here calendared — and a man's share in the 5s. commonly mentioned, multiplied by hundreds of views, must have added up nicely over the months and years.
For the 16th century, at least, it is clear that the viewers were men at the top of their profession. Of the carpenters, almost all were masters or wardens of their Company and well regarded outside their own ranks. Stephen Poncheon, viewer until his death in 1535, was a warden and, in 1533, master; he was also carpenter to the Drapers' Company in 1520. (fn. 29) John King (Kyng), viewer briefly in 31–32 Henry VIII (when he died), had been a warden and master, and was carpenter to the Mercers. (fn. 30) William Walker, Thomas Pecock, Thomas Smart, and Philip Coseyn (Cosyn) were all both wardens and masters, and so was John Russell, who was also the King's Carpenter from October 1532 until his own death in 1566. (fn. 31) The masons were hardly less distinguished. The Company's records show Thomas Newell, Henry Pesemede, Gilbert Burffame (Burfame), John Hilmer (Hylmer, Elmer), and John Humfrey as prominent members of the livery of the Freemasons, and Nicholas Ellys, viewer from 1545 until he died in 1556, was the King's Mason. (fn. 32) The tilers, chosen viewers intermittently after 1550, are less easy to trace since their Court of Assistants' minutes start only in 1580. (fn. 33) But Walter Cowper, one of the two tiler viewers within the period of the existing certificates, was under contract to the Drapers in 1534, when he built them a cellar for £5. (fn. 34) Terms such as 'ancient', and 'sad' (in its 16th-century meaning of 'grave' or 'serious'), illustrate the qualities thought desirable in a viewer: he was to be mature, dignified, and of course both honest and competent. (fn. 35)
There is one puzzling exception, important for the light it throws on the entire selection process. William Coleyns (or Colyns, or Collins), carpenter, appears fairly often in the records of the Carpenters' Company, and not entirely favourably. Coleyns was chosen under warden of the Company in 1533. But in February 1534 two members of the Company 'founde a boye working on making of skrewys in a Seller' of Coleyns; he had worked two years as a carpenter but he was not an apprentice. (fn. 36) A further note on what appears to be the same incident suggests that Coleyns illegally employed two boys: the master and the upper warden had investigated on knowledge that there was a 'foryner' working on screws in a basement of Coleyns and had found the work going on; but the boy's name differs in the two reports. (fn. 37) Yet shortly after this incident, in October 1535, an entry in the Repertories notes that the names of Philip Coseyn, John King, and Richard Maddok (Madok), carpenters, were brought to the Court so that one of them might be chosen viewer in place of Stephen Poncheon, who had died; 'and by good deleberation by way of scrutynye ye sayd Wyllyam Colyns was chosen and namyd to be yn the seyd Rowme and sworne accordyngly'. (fn. 38) The carpenters reacted predictably. It was not 'ye said Wyllyam Colyns', of course; he had not been among the nominees of the Carpenters' Company. They came into the Court of Aldermen to demand that they have the nomination of a viewer 'and sayed that they by act of Parliament ought to have the same'; a day was given them to bring in their evidence. (fn. 39) Apparently their case was weak, for there is no further talk of Acts of Parliament. Instead, some four months later, in February 1536, ten carpenters — three of them viewers or future viewers — came into court and swore on oath to the truth of a 'boke of Articles of Mysdemeanors obiectyd ageynst Wylliam Colyns Carpenter'. He had, they alleged, through friends had work in hand for the Mint in the Tower and in connection with it had been given a commission to carry wood from the king's wood at Enfield Chase; he had tried, by virtue of his commission, to compel men of Cambridgeshire to take the wood to London in their carts, knowing that they would pay him to escape the duty. He had been discovered by 'wise and discrete men' and sent to the Marshalsea. Moreover, they said, he had once told the Court of the Company under oath that Thomas Sherys — one of those testifying against him — owed him £30 whereas it was found that instead Coleyns owed Sherys five marks (£3 6s. 8d.). Finally, he had once refused payment for three loads of timber taken for the king's works and had later sworn that 20 loads were involved. (fn. 40) This scarifying recital did not, apparently, move the Court of Aldermen as strongly as the Carpenters had hoped; perhaps there was some question in more than one official mind as to why the Carpenters would elect such a scoundrel to high office in their Company. In any event, there is a laconic entry in the Repertories for 24 February 1536 to the effect that Coleyns' answer had been read 'and upon the submyssyon of the sayd Coleyns to Master & Company of Carpenters [they] shall remytt all theyre displeasures to the said Colyns & accept hym ageyn ynto their Company.' And later the same day was added the dignified, official note that the Carpenters of London had presented to the Court John Sampson and William Walker to be viewer in place of Stephen Poncheon and that Walker by way of scrutiny was elected and sworn. Coleyns was therefore discharged of the office by his own agreement and the record discharged. (fn. 41) But he had indeed assumed office and acted for as long as four months: by chance, one certificate (115) survives showing Coleyns as a viewer.
Despite the Carpenters' claims, the earliest records do not make clear who had the right of presentation of candidates for the viewers' positions; the Letter Book entries generally simply state that X and Y were elected and sworn. The one exception, in October 1383, suggests that the viewers did the nominating: Thomas Mallyng, Richard atte Churche, masons, and Stephen Warde, carpenter, the three surviving viewers, 'elected' (elegerunt) William Dudecote, carpenter, in place of Thomas Fant who had recently died, and presented him to the mayor who accepted him; Dudecote was sworn in on the same day. (fn. 42) However, in the first half of the 16th century — whether by right or otherwise — the Carpenters' and Masons' Companies apparently did ordinarily present candidates when a viewer's post became vacant and, with the one exception of William Coleyns, one of their nominees was elected and sworn. The Repertories for the period occasionally show four names of carpenters or masons, with two — presumably the unsuccessful nominees — crossed through. (fn. 43) But the Companies' freedom of nomination could be circumscribed by the unwillingness of the Court of Aldermen to consider certain candidates and by the Court's concern for its own rights. When the Carpenters presented only one candidate in November of 1540, the Court noted that 'the Wardens of the Carpenters have presented to this Court one Richard Maddok, Carpenter, to be one of the vyewers . . . whose admyssyon was respyted for that they presented not ii hable persones of theyr Company accordyng to the lawes & auncyent Customes of this Citye'; a month later, when the Carpenters brought in the name of John Russell in addition to Maddok's 'to the intent that this Court should elect & chuse the one of them', the Court 'dyd elect & chuse neyther butt dyd stay the same untyll the next Court day'. Another month later, the Carpenters named Maddok and John Arnold 'to the intent that this Court accordyng to an Auncyent Custome & lawe in that behalfe shulde electe & chuse one of theym'. The Court chose John Arnold; Maddok was never a viewer. (fn. 44) The refusal to choose between Russell and Maddok certainly suggests an objection to both men; yet when John Arnold died in 1546 and the Carpenters once again presented Russell as one of two candidates, he was elected. Apparently even the mayor and aldermen could yield to pressure; John Russell was the King's Carpenter. The suspicion of intervention by outside forces becomes a certainty in the election of Nicholas Ellys, the King's Mason; he was admitted to the liberty of the city in March 1546 and his fine remitted, and he was nominated as a candidate to be a viewer in early April of the same year. The Court chose instead Gilbert Burffame. The next opening occurred in July 1548 and the entry in the Repertories is blunt: the letter to the mayor from an unidentified 'Right Honorable greatt Maister' asking that Ellys be 'admytted to the same or lyke Romes [places] within this Cytie as John Hylmer, mason, lately deceased had' was read and for 'dyvers reasonable & greatt causes & consyderations movyng the Court lovingly accorded & agreyd that he the said Ellys' should have the office. Ellys was sworn forthwith. (fn. 45) The next election, that of Thomas Pecock, carpenter, in May 1553, was once again in the usual form and in November 1556 the Court agreed to be 'advysed of the Contents of the bill exhybyted here this day by the wardens of the fremasons' concerning election of a viewer to succeed Ellys, who had recently died; John Humfrey was elected. (fn. 46)
Whatever the basis for their claim in 1535, the Carpenters' right to choose members of their fellowship to be named viewers was not regularised until February 1607, when new ordinances — granted under the seals of the Lord Chancellor, Lord Treasurer, Lord Chief Justice, and Chief Judge of Common Pleas — set out that 'viewers carpenters' were to be elected and chosen by the Master and Wardens of the Fellowship, 'they to name such persons as shalbe hable aswell in cunnynge as otherwise' for the office. (fn. 47) The basis of the Masons' claim to choose a viewer is even less clear; they apparently did not consider their right as secure as the Carpenters' since they asked the Court to 'be advised by' their nominations. As for the Tylers — not yet amalgamated with the Bricklayers during the period covered by the certificates — there is no suggestion in surviving City records that they were consulted at all in July 1550 when 'for reasonable consideracions movyng the Court, John Cowper, tyler, was this day admytted and sworne one of the common viewers of this Citie in the place of Gylbert Burfame, freemason, lately deceased'. (fn. 48) Neither, apparently, were the Masons a party to the decision, though the admission of a tiler in place of Gilbert Burffame cut their representation on the panel of viewers in half. But the Carpenters' triumph of 1607 was of short duration; several post-Fire Repertories entries simply report the admission of new viewers by the Court of Aldermen, suggesting that the three livery companies had lost whatever power of selection they had held. Indeed, they must have: none would have been likely to present a glazier, a weaver, or a glover as candidates.
At least by the middle of the 15th century and probably before that, appointment was for life or until advancing age or other physical incapacity made it impossible for a viewer to perform his duties, with termination earlier only for unexcused nonfeasance. On 2 April 1459, William Robert, carpenter, became a viewer for the purpose of removing nuisances of buildings between neighbours in the City 'quamdam se bene gessit etc.': during good behaviour. (fn. 49) Entries in the Letter Books, Journals and Repertories concur. John de Totenham was discharged for age in 1369, on his own petition; he was, he said, old and his eyesight was failing. He had served since June 1325. (fn. 50) Thomas atte Barnet was discharged in 1377 because he neglected his duties; one entry mentions that he had been absent from London for a long time and that the Masons agreed to his replacement. (fn. 51) In 1553, within the period of the certificates here calendared, William Walker 'because of continual sickness' wished to surrender his place into the hands of the mayor and aldermen; the chamberlain was instructed to take his surrender and Thomas Pecock was chosen in his stead. (fn. 52) But generally a new viewer replaced one recently deceased. John de Totenham himself took the place of the dead Adam de Rothynge; in 1383 William Dudecote was elected for Thomas Fant, deceased; John Lovebond replaced the late John Burton in 1504. (fn. 53) During the first half of the 16th century, first William Coleyns and then William Walker were chosen in the stead of Stephen Poncheon, deceased. (fn. 54) Henry Pesemede replaced the dead Thomas Newell in 1539; John Arnold replaced the late John King in 1541 and on his own death was succeeded by John Russell. (fn. 55) Only days before, in April 1546, Gilbert Burffame had been chosen to replace Henry Pesemede, deceased; Burffame died in July 1550, and was succeeded by John Cowper. (fn. 56) Nicholas Ellys' death in 1556 opened a place for John Humfrey, freemason. (fn. 57) Viewers' terms thus varied greatly. John Hilmer was already serving at the opening of the reign of Henry VIII, having been appointed in February 1509; (fn. 58) he died, still a viewer, between July and October 1548. Perhaps only John de Totenham's 44 year tenure exceeded his record. John King, on the other hand, lasted only from 1539 to 1541, and Gilbert Burffame from 1546 to 1550; even a guarantee of tenure quamdam se bene gessit could not prevail over the limits imposed by mortality.
The Letter Books and Miscellaneous Rolls and later the Repertories and Journals suggest a function essentially related to settlement of private disputes between neighbours, albeit disputes which City courts might be called upon to decide. (fn. 59) But there was a more public side to viewers' duties; from early on, they were to report nuisances in which the City had an interest. (fn. 60) The 16th-century records of views involving public nuisance focus on purprestures and encroachments on the public streets and other public lands — bay windows, porches, stairs, fences, cellar doors and those constant problems, pentices and jetties, as well as entire new structures — and require the sworn masons and carpenters to report their findings to the chamberlain. (fn. 61) Nor was that main highway of London, the Thames, to be ignored: the viewers were to note encroachments on the waterside or into the river and report them to the aldermen. (fn. 62) The expectation was that London would be under the watchful surveillance of its sworn masons and carpenters, whether or not there had been a specific complaint.
The viewers' oath over the years reflects the obligation to deal with both public and private nuisance, with emphasis shifting gradually toward the first. An early 14th-century oath calls on the sworn carpenters and masons to 'trewly serene the Right be twene party and party' in all manner of nuisances, without showing favour, and to report to the mayor and aldermen 'aftir yowr witt and connyng so help yow god and holydom and by the book'. Squeezed in after 'book', in a different colour ink, there is added 'and other edifying within this Citee of London that ye shal be charged of by the Maire . . . and trew Report therof make . . .' . (fn. 63) There are what appear to be paraphrases of an oath in the Liber Custumarum entries concerning the oaths of Richard de Wythe, Robert Osekyn, and John de Britele. (fn. 64) Edward Stone, who took office in 1455, swore that he would well and faithfully oversee judicial investigation of nuisance between neighbours and do and carry out all and singular other things which pertained to his office, reporting to the mayor for the time being. (fn. 65) But a late 16th-century text in the 1586 Book of Othes appears to reflect the emphasis on public nuisance, an emphasis no doubt brought about by the unparalleled building and unstoppable expansion of Elizabethan London: 'Ye shall sweare that ye shall truely present from tyme to tyme to the Maior and Aldermen of this Cytye for the tyme beinge or to the Chamberleyne, All such buyldings and purprestures as ye shall fynde sett or made uppon anye parte of the comon grounde of the saide Cytye And from henceforth ye shall not make nor suffer to your knowledge to be made any newe buyldinge in anye place within the libertye of this Cytye but ye shall the same shewe unto the said Maior and Aldermen or Chamberleyne for the tyme beinge, to the entent that reformation thereof maye be had. And allso ye shall truelye and indifferentlye searche all maner of noysaunces, buyldyngs, and edyfyenges betwene partye and partye, when ye shalbe charged by the Maior of the Cytye of London so to doe, without anye favor shewinge to anye partye, And true reporte make to the said Maior for the tyme beinge uppon the premisses. And thus ye shall doe. As God helpe you.' (fn. 66) Whether the emphases reflected in the oath were paralleled by the activities of the viewers is unclear since the great majority of the surviving certificates deal with private quarrels. (fn. 67) Moreover, most of the surviving records which deal with the background of litigation are also private: livery company records and churchwardens' accounts can be pieced together to provide a comprehensive (if often less than objective) picture of how the viewers fitted into the litigious activity of 16th-century Londoners and their multitude of religious and trade or craft associations.
As a result, it is possible sometimes to reconstruct the events leading to, and often much of the procedure of, a 'private' view while references in the Repertories and Journals provide a far less detailed outline of the viewers' activity when the City itself was a party. An individual, or the individuals in a corporate body, who felt wronged by a neighbour or who wanted certainty about the extent of land could and did 'call in the viewers' before taking other legal action. 'Agreed that the Master with the Wardens and with Mr Cremor and Mr Burton and Mr Carter shall doo call in the Vewers to vewe our house that Appleyard dwellyth in', says an entry in the Drapers' minutes, and again, concerning a gutter made by the Abbot of Stratford upon the Drapers' ground, 'that the Wardens at the Cost and Charge of thys house shall have the Vewers of the Cetye to vewe hyt and afterwards they shall by theyr advyse of lerned Counseyll folowe the extremyte of the lawe ageynst the sayd Abot hys officers and tennants excepte they reforme yt'. (fn. 68) The application seems to have been made in person, by appearance at Guildhall before the mayor himself. At least that is the suggestion in the Mercers' Company Acts of Court; one entry notes that the viewers 'by the commaundement of the Lord Maire upon a complaynt made unto hym by the prior of Seynt Mary Spitall' viewed a sewer, and another directs the Wardens to be at the Guildhall on the following Tuesday to 'requyre of my lorde Mayre that the Vewers like as is aforesaid may oversee and vewe' ground in dispute. (fn. 69)
Grant of a view appears to have been a matter of course; certainly I have seen no statement anywhere that a request was denied. Possibly there was a fee payable for the grant alone, but the evidence is unclear. Two certificates (386, 394) are endorsed 'debet pro impositione huius visits', with no sum mentioned, and there is a note in the records of the St. Mary Magdalen Milk Street churchwardens' accounts to the effect that they paid 22d. to 'the Judge of the Mayor's Court for the allowance of the view'. (fn. 70) But both the impositio and the allowance could refer to a later stage in the proceedings and 22d. is an odd sum for a standard fee. In any event, the grant did not mean that the view was assured. One could specify that it be 'at once' or 'within this sennyght' as the Mercers and Drapers sometimes did, but sometimes the viewers did not come as expected. The Mercers' minutes note that a tenement 'hath ben ordeyned by severall actes of this Company to be vewed by the Vewers of this Citie and entered uppon, and not yet done', adding yet again that it be ordained that the view be taken 'in as short tyme as may be'. (fn. 71) That delay may have been due to the master and wardens, but there is no such possibility in another entry: the Grocers paid 12d. 'for wyne that was dronk when Mr Petit and others taryed for the vyewers and they came nott'. (fn. 72) Perhaps they had not been 'warned' or 'brought'. The parish of St. Mary at Hill paid 10d. to 'the ofeser' who 'warneyd the vewars' in 1509, while 23 years later, in connection with a 1532 lawsuit, St. Mary Magdalen Milk Street paid double that to the 'Mayors offeser' who performed the service. (fn. 73) The fee paid by St. Mary at Hill was 12d. in 1535, and the money was paid to 'the servaunt'; that the 'servaunt' was in fact the mayor's serjeant becomes clear from entries in the Quarter and Renter Wardens Accounts of the Clothworkers' Company concerning 'Wefer the Mayres serjeant' who both warned and brought the viewers — twice, for a total of 16d. (fn. 74) The 'bringing' cost money, too. The Clothworkers on another occasion paid 'Wefer' 12d. for that service; the Drapers paid a total of 10s. to the viewers and William Nycolson, the mayor's serjeant who accompanied them, 'for their pains' in the dispute with the Abbot of Stratford; the Skinners paid one Broke, identified as 'the Mayor's Serjeant to them [the viewers] assined' 12d. 'for his Reward'; the parish of St. Mary at Hill paid an undefined person an undefined sum 'for bryngyng the vewers to Foster Lane'. (fn. 75) Once they had been warned and brought to the site, there was more money to be spent. The churchwardens of St. Margaret Pattens laid out 13d. at a tavern to entertain the viewers when they settled a quarrel concerning the church steeple; the wardens of St. Stephen Walbrook fed them breakfast at 'the Myter' for 9d.; St. Mary at Hill made a habit of spending small sums 'at the taveryn' on them. (fn. 76) The livery companies' records show similar payments. (fn. 77)
There were, of course, fees to be paid as well. There is no table of fees; recorded payments suggest that in a view not involving the City the amount was ordinarily either 5s. or 10s., the latter representing payments of 5s. by each party. In 1542 and 1546, a 5s. charge was mentioned in the certificates (176, 200). In 1524, the Grocers paid the mayor's serjeant 5s. 'for the one halff for the labarres and costes for the iiii vewers for there Labours for Mr Lamberdes house betwene Anthony Vivolde and my masters the grocers' and 6s. for another view with a copy of the verdict. (fn. 78) The Clothworkers paid 10s. for two views in 1534 and three years earlier, in 1531, the parish of St. Mary Magdalen Milk Street paid 5s. for a single view. (fn. 79) St. Margaret Pattens likewise paid 5s. for a view in 1549, as did St. Mary at Hill in 1509. (fn. 80) Sometimes higher sums of money paid clearly represent additional work done by the viewers or their clerk. The Skinners gave 20s. when the viewers also measured ground for them; the Grocers gave an additional shilling for a copy of the 'verdict'. (fn. 81) In fact, with or without his performing additional work the clerk who came with the viewers was also 'rewarded', and sometimes the payment is noted separately; for example, the Skinners gave an otherwise unidentifiable 'Symon Lorimer theyre [the viewers'] clerk' 4d. (fn. 82) Possibly some undifferentiated payments higher than 5s. include such payments to clerks and serjeants. But sometimes the additional payment is less easily explained. In their major quarrel with the Abbot of Stratford of 1532–1533, the Drapers paid the viewers and Nicolson, their serjeant, 10s.; (fn. 83) it is unlikely that the serjeant's portion alone accounts for a sum double the usual amount. In 1540, they paid 20s., again double the usual amount, for two views of houses in Aldermary and Mark Lane which were subjects of serious concern and, in one case, protracted litigation. (fn. 84)
Some payments to 'viewers' which appear to be much lower than the common 5s. fee result from performance of less than a standard view. Sometimes the view was apparently not official, although a sworn viewer was involved. Between May 1543 and June 1544 the Grocers paid 2s. to John Hilmer, a sworn viewer at the time, 'in reward to view the wyndowes and hall Roffe' at their hall; one of the City viewers joined a Company carpenter and tiler to measure ground which the Drapers were effectively subdividing; St. Stephen Walbrook paid 12d. to 'one of the vewers for his advise' about a brick wall in 1522. (fn. 85) Sometimes, indeed, the unofficial view may have been made by a team of carpenters and masons, sworn or otherwise, chosen by the party or parties; 'viewing' was a common method used to settle uncertainties about metes and bounds or other technical points and craftsmen, often employed on a retainer basis by organisations such as livery companies, frequently made such inspections. (fn. 86)
But payments did not end when the viewers and their entourage left the premises. Four certificates (60, 152, 154, 160) from the reign of Henry VIII state or imply that a fee was paid to a named common clerk, apparently when a certificate was presented in court and presumably for that presentment: that is, probably, for its reception as an official document and its filing. Twenty others speak of a fee paid (or not paid) to 'the common clerk'; with few exceptions, the amount specified is 2s. Before 1533, endorsements read that the billa or recordum or visus 'insertatur', 'certificatur', 'infertur' or 'importatur', sometimes by one of various named officers; but the fee seems still have to have gone to the common clerk. Certainly William Paver, at least, felt able to dispose of 'his fee' as he chose; the endorsement to a 1524 certificate (60) recording a dispute involving the abbess and convent of Minoresses says 'Importat' in Cur' te' Baldry 3.8. Mr. Paver hath gevyn the Abbesse his fee'. (fn. 87) During the tenure of William Blackwell — after 1540 — the connection is made even clearer. 'Infert' iste visus etc. ij.12 . . . tunc prox' etc. Hayward solutum feodum communis clerici' (153), he writes, or '2s. pro feod' meo pro presen' 7.11 Ao 33 H8 super recepcione. Blak" (154) or 'r' 2s. 16.11 ao 33 h8 super recepcione istius visus hunc Curiam. Blackwell' (158).
There were also fees for getting 'a copy' of what was often called the 'verdict'. The appearance here of two separate charges produces some uncertainty. Possibly one was for the common clerk's grant of permission to a party to have a copy and the other the fee for the actual physical writing of the report by another clerk. Thus St. Margaret Pattens' churchwardens paid 3s. to Master Gibbes, the mayor's clerk, 'for the copie of the vewers verdyt and the Engrossing thereof and the Grocers paid 'Mr Towne Clerke' 2s. for a copy of the report and Rutland, his clerk, 12d. 'for writing thereof, which would come out to the same amount. (fn. 88) Similarly, the Drapers noted that the viewers 'gave up in wrytyng' their view and that they paid one of the clerks 16d. for the copy of it and Mr. Pavyer, the Town Clerk, another 2s. 'for the allowance'. (fn. 89) In 1549–1550 the Skinners paid the standard 3s., presumably receiving a copy, and the Grocers paid 3s.4d. — as the Drapers had — to 'Master Blackwell's clerk' for the copy of yet another bill. (fn. 90) On the other hand the smaller fee, usually 12d., may have involved simply the formal copying of the report — presumably from notes taken by the clerk on site — for the official files. (fn. 91) The Mercers' records note that the viewers are to make a record of their view to the intent that it appear in the Mayor's Court and are to be recompensed as appropriate, and in 1543 the Goldsmiths paid Gibbs, a clerk of the Mayor's Court, 7s. for 'recording of divers views and serches for divers evidence'. (fn. 92) It is possible, then, that only such copying for the record was involved when the Clothworkers gave 'Pykeryng the mayors clerk' 12d. for a copy of 'the byll that the vewars delivered uppe' and the Drapers paid 12d. for the 'first copy of the award of the iiii vewers' in 1524/5. (fn. 93) Neither hypothesis explains the Drapers' entry noting payment of only 8d. for a copy of the viewers' award concerning a wall, or the Skinners' 1512 report that they had paid John Halle of the Mayor's Court 7d. for copying the verdict, or the Merchant Taylors' note that in 1549 or 1550 they paid 4d. for a copy of a view in the parish of Little St. Bartholomew. (fn. 94) All that can be said is that the explanation for such sums is not self-evident and is no longer traceable. There is no question of inflation; not only does the 4d. payment date from late in the period, but the Merchant Taylors paid the more standard amount shortly thereafter, in 1551/2, when they gave 12d. 'for the copie of a view'. (fn. 95) It is difficult to determine whether there was a fixed fee and harder to know what such a fee covered even in routine transactions. But it is almost impossible to understand exactly what was being paid for where the language is out of the ordinary or imprecise: what does it mean, for instance, that in 1541 the Drapers gave the Mayor's officer and the viewers 6s. 'at there Report makyng of the vew in Aldermary parishe'? (fn. 96)
Performance of unusual services by the viewers meant payment to them of less usual 'rewards'. When three of the four came before the Drapers' Court of Assistants to affirm that they would abide by their view, they cannot have received a set fee. (fn. 97) Nor can they when they agreed to speak with both the Residencers of St. Paul's counsel and the Goldsmiths' counsel to gather evidence before giving a verdict. (fn. 98) Such activities may go far to explain some of the more mysterious 'rewards' and payments which rise up to puzzle and trouble. But these special services themselves — the informal advising, the affirmation of intent to maintain an opinion — together with the funds spent on drinking and eating; the retaining of the mayor's clerks at an annual fee, as the Clothworkers did, or of his serjeant, as the Skinners did; (fn. 99) and the selection of men already viewers or likely to be chosen to that office as Company carpenters on an annual retainer (a practice common to many of the livery companies), do not make for unbounded confidence in the system. The 16th century apparently found acceptable or at least tolerable what the 20th considers inappropriate conduct in its governmental officials.
One reason for the tolerance may have been that the public/private distinction was much less sharply defined. This becomes obvious in looking at the fewer than two dozen extant views which might be considered 'public'. It is clear from the Letter Books, the Journals and Repertories, and the certificates themselves that for various reasons the mayor and aldermen periodically ordered the viewers to look into a situation and to report their findings; hence the comments in Letter Books and Journals about remuneration for such work. (fn. 100) The aldermen, the chamberlain, the recorder, even — rarely — the mayor might go along. (fn. 101) Sometimes it is not certain how officials learned of the problem, although there were periodic surveys of their wards by aldermen for the purpose of bringing to light purprestures and encroachments and similar forays by viewers, while in other cases it appears that the viewers simply brought in information based on their own observations, or that another official or an aggrieved party introduced the matter. (fn. 102)
But leaving aside questions of how a public view was commissioned or how it was carried out or even to whom and where it was reported — and not only the Repertories entries but the certificates themselves roughly outline what was done — the issue is in trying to understand what a public view was. The fewer than two dozen extant certificates in which the City appears to have had an interest may be divided into three categories. First, and clearly public, are the certificates which reflect the everyday issues of governance which preoccupied the mayor and aldermen: the control of public nuisance, public safety, sanitation, safeguarding of public land, administrative decisions. A house encroaches on public ground, a common way is stopped up or a ditch filled in, two wards quarrel over a boundary line (4, 45, 87, 121, 144 and its duplicate, 145, 157, 174, 251, 348, 384). Second are the matters in which the City appeared in a proprietary capacity, and the line begins to blur. The Masters of the Bridgehouse appeared very much like any private owners of property, as both plaintiffs and defendants, to protest about encroachments, to insist on repairs to houses, to explain why their own houses were in decay and causing injury to neighbouring buildings (35, 164). During the reigns of Edward VI and Mary, the Masters of the Hospital of St. Bartholomew, identified as 'aldermen and others', similarly represented the City's proprietary interests (298, 393). And the chamberlain very commonly represented such interests when he called for a view for the purpose of determining the metes and bounds of property adjoining ground owned by the Chamber of London (and leased to a third party), or acted against encroachment onto such property by a neighbouring building (39, 42, 348). (fn. 103) Third are the cases in which a dispute originally between two private parties suddenly took on a quasi-public aspect because of findings made by the viewers. When John Brugge complained of John Sabbe's wharf into the Thames, the City was not a party. But the viewers nonetheless found a public nuisance, which they ordered abated (68, 71). A discussion about cleaning and repairing a jakes took on public overtones when the viewers discovered that a shop of one party encroached on the king's highway and commented that it ought not of right to stand there and that the chamberlain should pull it down (267).
Other quarrels involved the City even more remotely; six tenants of properties owned by the Chamber refused to pay tithes on several small buildings erected by the Chamber on the grounds that they were outbuildings of existing tenements, not income producing units. Obviously a finding on the nature of the buildings would have some economic effect on the Chamber, but the viewers did not take specific note of its interest (141). Still other certificates are hard to pigeonhole because it is not clear whether named City officials are acting in a private or official capacity. Three aldermen and the common clerk moved against Thomas Bates, concerning the measurement of certain houses in Birchin Lane and obligations of both parties concerning gutters (314). There is no suggestion at all that the City had an interest, and yet it is highly unlikely that the plaintiffs would have been co-owners of a property in their private capacities. On the other hand, when the chamberlain in 1555 became a defendant because of a wall on his ground which overhung plaintiffs ground, it seems likely that he owned the wall personally (407). (fn. 104) Officials' constant shifting about from one role to another both within the structure of government and between their official and personal lives must have made it difficult for observers to be certain which of the City's interests were involved and when. And, except in cases of blatant misconduct, it must have been almost impossible to be certain when various roles came into conflict.
Nevertheless, the wearing of many hats by relatively few men was built into the structure of City government. City officials — most particularly the mayor and aldermen — had no clear jurisdictional limits to the several roles they played. The same men sat in more than one body. They dealt with different problems in different rooms of the Guildhall on different days, but they were the same men. The rather protean nature of their functioning is well illustrated by the viewers' reports: the certificates are directed to the mayor and aldermen, but what actually happened once the viewers had dictated their findings? Where was a certificate deposited? More significantly, how did it come to the attention of the men to whom it was so elaborately addressed? Where were those men sitting when the report — and often the viewers themselves — came to them? Written evidence, much of it from casual statements made in other contexts, is contradictory. The clear view of government at work afforded by Journals and Letter Books, churchwardens' accounts and livery company records, suddenly dims once the viewers have left a site. But it is not impossible to follow the procedure a little further, in part by piecing together the offhand remarks and making what seem to be warrantable inferences, and in part because the certificates themselves offer a guide. Evidence of what happened between the time of the view and the time reports were brought to the mayor and aldermen, together with some glimpse of court procedure in a matter in which there had been a view, comes from the certificates' physical condition and from the subscriptions and endorsements recorded on them. Thus — at the risk of appearing to catalogue holes, tears, and dampstains — it is necessary to give some description of the 400-odd pieces of vellum which make up the Corporation of London's collection of 16th century viewers' reports.
The certificates in the collection vary widely in size. The earliest, those in an envelope marked 'Viewers' Certificates Circa 1508' in CLRO Misc. MSS Box 91 (1–5), are on heavy vellum, carefully cut into long, narrow rectangles ranging in length from 15½" to 22" (39.4 to 55.9 cm) and in width from 2¼" to 6" (5.7 to 15.2 cm). All are intact, with no tears at the margins although there are holes at or near the centre folds of several, but they are badly worn and damp-stained and portions of each are illegible. The handwriting in all five is very small and careful and some ruled guidelines are still visible. Each certificate has two holes at the left margin except 4, which has four; 1 also has a spindle slit in the centre.
The 200 certificates for the reign of Henry VIII (6–205), are now bound into a hardcover volume with the file name 'Viewers' Reports 1509–1546' (CLRO MS Bound Volume 204A). Initially they are shaped more or less like those described above, but over the course of the reign the certificates become less long — some are only 10" in length — and, necessarily, wider; the average is between 12" and 14" (30.5–35.6 cm) long and 5" and 6" (12.7–15.2 cm) in width. They are not as carefully cut, they are on lighter vellum, and the handwriting is larger than that of the five certificates filed as 'Circa 1508'. Handwriting does not vary greatly over the period, although it is possible to note where different clerks have been at work. For the years 1509–1541, almost all certificates appear to bear two holes at the left margin and a spindle slash in the center; for the period between 1541 and 1546, fewer than ten appear to have a slash. However, extensive repairs and rebacking may have obscured both holes and spindle marks in a number of cases.
A vellum frontispiece to the bound volume was once apparently a wrapper for a bundle of certificates. It is at its greatest length 19¼" (48.9 cm), but is irregularly shaped and torn away at the edges. It is marked:
Two holes at the lower left margin, 1" (2.5 cm) apart, correspond to holes in the certificates which are usually at the upper left margin, suggesting that the vellum was a back, rather than a front, cover. The dorse of certificate 116 (irregularly shaped, between 16½" and 17" (41.9–43.2 cm) long and 3½" and 4" (8.9–10.2 cm) deep) is marked:
Two holes at the left margin, 1" (2.5 cm) apart, correspond to holes in the certificates and, from their placement, indicate that this certificate was also at one time used as back cover for a bundle, probably sometime after 1558.
The surviving certificates for the reigns of Edward VI and Philip and Mary (206–404), are loose in CLRO Misc. MSS Box 91. They vary greatly in size but overall are both smaller and more irregularly shaped than earlier certificates and they are on still-lighter vellum. Only two or three have been spindled in the centre, but all bear holes, some in pairs, at the left; two, three, four, even seven and eight holes and slashes exist in the margin. The handwriting is clear, although two certificates for 8 May 1554 are written in a sprawling, careless hand different from any before or following them. Many of the certificates for the reign of Philip and Mary are rotted and blackened at the margins, particularly those from 1554.
Fragments of 11 certificates (405–15) from the same reign are collected in an envelope marked 'Viewers' Certificates Circa 1554', also kept in CLRO Misc. MSS Box 91. They are held together by a string, apparently not contemporary, through a hole in the upper left corner of each; they are not strung in chronological order. Each has at least one other hole and most more than one. In most cases, at least half the certificate is missing. Those for which a date is legible in the text or endorsement in fact date not from 1554 but from 1555, suggesting that the 1554 and 1555 certificates were damaged at the same time and probably by the same agency. Later certificates for the reign are in better condition although several from 1557 lack the upper right corner.
The size of the certificates and the placement of holes, in themselves of less than compelling interest, are nevertheless of some importance because they suggest the way in which the certificates were handled. The earlier ones, at least, must have been brought into court individually, perhaps spindled at the time of their presentation, and then filed with many others on a thong or wire threaded through the two holes at the left so that they would lie flat on a shelf. An entry in Miscellaneous Roll FF explains that the viewers came to court to deliver their certificate which is now 'in filac' inter billas assis' noc' de hoc anno'. (fn. 105) The certificates for the later years of Henry VIII, still bearing only two holes and with or without spindle marks, also seem to have been bundled only once and were probably handled the same way. (fn. 106) But the certificates for the reigns of Edward VI and Philip and Mary, with their many holes and slashes at the left margin and sometimes with tears from those holes to the vellum's left edge, as if the certificate had been ripped out of a bundle, may have been brought into court already strung together and then rebundled and restrung through other holes at a later time. I have been unable to find any correlation between the existence of an endorsement to a certificate — showing that the certificate had been brought into court — and the number and position of holes it bears. It is unlikely that all certificates came to the court's attention; party views, for example, probably required no further official action. But it is possible that an entire bundle was brought in and that endorsements were then made to individual certificates without removing them from the file or, in some cases, by tearing them out of it.
There is no definitive internal evidence to show by whom the certificates were handled or where they were kept once they had been set down by the clerk to whom they must have been dictated, who was almost certainly the First Clerk of the Mayor's Court. Certainly the senior clerk of that court was the clerk of 'bails and views', and, as noted above, after the Great Fire there is a reference to his drawing up and entering views for the surveyors as he had formerly done of the views of the common viewers. (fn. 107) Probably they were kept by that clerk, although possibly they remained with the viewers, who were after all sworn officers of the City, until such time as the court heard a report of the view. Certificates were brought into court by a variety of officials including, for the reign of Henry VIII, the Serjeant at Mace (65); a clerk of the Mayor's Court (37, ?88); other unidentified serjeants (e.g. 29, 30); (fn. 108) the clerk of the Compter in the Poultry (85); one of the sheriff's clerks (e.g. 66, 77–8, 80, 184,185); once possibly a party to the action, although the wording is not entirely clear (164); and, particularly during the earlier years of the reign, the viewers themselves (8, 12, 14, 27, 81–3, 86, 88, 90–2, 95–8, 160), for whom others are sometimes stated to be acting (78, 80). Clearly, not everyone was authorised to 'bring in' a view; one notation comments that a certificate was brought to court by one 'Ru . . . Spenfold. . .' but that the court had been unwilling to receive it by his hand and that afterwards John Hammond, one of the sheriff's clerks, had presented the view in the name of the viewers (78). Similar evidence for the reigns of Edward VI and Philip and Mary unfortunately does not exist; certificates from the middle of the 1540's to the end of the period — all during the tenure of William Blackwell as common clerk — either lack endorsements, or these are limited to brief notes that a certificate has been received and payment made (or not made) to the common clerk.
No matter who produced the certificates in court, endorsements were apparently made there by the common, or later town, clerk. There are references in the endorsements to the three common clerks of the period —William Paver (1514–1533), William Ryshton (1533–1540) and William Blackwell (1539/40–1570) — and even more references simply to the unnamed 'communis clericus'. At least twelve endorsements are signed by the common clerk (78, 92, 96, 98,150–2,154–5,158–60); occasionally a certificate appears to have been signed by him in two places, following the endorsement and elsewhere. It is probable that endorsements were at times made by the first clerk of the Mayor's Court, the common clerk's deputy in the Mayor's Court and secondary of that court. (fn. 109)
Physical custody of the certificates once in court probably rested with the clerks of the Mayor's Court, all of whom were among the clerks of the common clerk. (fn. 110) Thomas Hayes, William Hayward, William Dummer, William Pykering, and Robert Christopher, clerks of the Mayor's Court at one time or another between 1508 and 1558, are mentioned in six endorsements in varying capacities other than the one of bringing certificates to court. Hayes and Hayward are said to have been paid the common clerk's fees (41, 88, 153). Christopher apparently made a copy of a view for a party (279), and Dummer and Pykering were listed, in the margin of a certificate reproduced in a Journal entry, as being present in an official capacity: a certificate was delivered to the chamberlain of London 'in plena curia in presenc[ia] W Pykering et W Dummer clericorum et alii' (419). (fn. 111)
Much of the evidence from the endorsements and elsewhere suggests that the court in which the certificates were presented, and any further action taken, was the Mayor's Court, held in the Outer Chamber at the Guildhall. The Assize of Buildings had specified that an assize of nuisance was to be demanded in full Husting and assigned a day there; if the court was not then sitting, as at harvest time or during various fairs, the assize was to be granted at a congregation of the mayor and aldermen. (fn. 112) Based on the limited sittings of the Husting, on the rolls of the Husting of Common Pleas and Pleas of Land, and on the Plea and Memoranda Rolls for the 14th and 15th centuries, Kellaway and Chew have concluded that it was more common for pleas to originate in Congregation; particularly after 1448, they are noted only rarely in the Husting records. (fn. 113) By the 16th century, practice had apparently altered again; the court of Husting still retained jurisdiction over nuisance using the procedure specified by the Assize of Buildings, but apparently few applied to it. (fn. 114) Nor is it likely that a congregation of the mayor, aldermen, sheriffs, and commonalty was taking up the overflow; by the 16th century, Congregation met almost solely to elect various civic officers. More fundamental still, the assize of nuisance can no longer have met the needs of Londoners, if only because it was limited to freeholders at a time when more and more citizens were tenants. Many cases of nuisance may have been handled by the action of trespass on the case, commonly brought in the Mayor's Court, so that the viewers' certificates would have been taken into that court. There can be no certainty; for the period between Henry VI and Elizabeth, the Mayor's Court records are largely missing. (fn. 115) But there is again internal evidence: fourteen endorsements specifically mention that the certificates to which they were appended were taken into the Mayor's Court (9–13,15–17,19,49,64–6,113): (fn. 116) 'importatur ista billa in Curia[m] Maioris' is common, although a few say 'Certificatur in Curiam Maioris' and one refers to the Lord Mayor: 'In curiam Domini Maioris' (66). A number of endorsements begin with the name of the Mayor, as 'Tempore Spencer Maioris, in Curia his . . .' (77). One, from 1519, adds 'Certificatur ad Curiam Domini Regis tent' xix die Marcii anno x Henrici VIII coram Maiore et Aldermanis', which certainly was the style used at a later time for the Mayor's Court (41). (fn. 117) Moreover, one certificate (416) has been found among the surviving original bills of the Mayor's Court, where it did not belong, to be sure, but exactly where it might have been left by oversight if it had been brought into that court in connection with an action there. Additionally, an entry in the Mercers' Company Acts of Court in 1556 notes that the Company's court had agreed that the wardens would ask the mayor for a view by the sworn viewers, representatives of the Company to accompany them, 'to thentente a recorde thereof may be made to appere in the Mayors Courte.' (fn. 118) Similarly, as noted above in another context, the churchwardens of St. Mary Magdalen, Milk Street, paid 22d. 'to the Judge of the Mayor's Court for the allowance of the view' and those of St. Mary at Hill paid 4d. to 'Palmer, the Attorney in the Mayors Courte' in connection with their suit in that court against one John Banastre, in which there had been a view. (fn. 119)
Yet the constant references to views presented to the Lord Mayor, both in the certificates themselves and in other records, (fn. 120) provide certain problems. By the middle of the 16th century, the mayor no longer presided in the Mayor's Court; the recorder did. The mayor did preside, however, in another court: that of the Mayor and Aldermen sitting in the Inner Chamber, the later Court of Aldermen — basically an administrative rather than judicial body. It seems likely that a substantial percentage of certificates came before the aldermen in the Inner Chamber. By the 17th century, it is clear that the Court of Aldermen was receiving views and dealing with the issues they presented, (fn. 121) and certainly after the Great Fire it was responsible for supervision of surveyors. I have seen no viewers' certificate for the period 1508–58 copied into the Repertories, which, beginning with the first volume in 1495, contain the proceedings in the Inner Chamber. But the Repertories do contain snippets of evidence which, pieced together, suggest that the aldermen sitting there were exercising the same functions in the 16th century. The 1542 dispute between the Drapers and St. Mary Aldermary, in which there was a view (159), was brought to the Inner Chamber early on by the Drapers' petition and continued to claim the aldermen's attention as attempts were made at mediation. (fn. 122) The view of adjoining houses between Richard Felde and the Masters of the Bridgehouse (164) was ordered in the Inner Chamber and the viewers told 'to make report thereof to this Court'. (fn. 123) The variance between the parish of All Hallows the Great in Thames Street and the parish of St. Michael Crooked Lane was before the aldermen, (fn. 124) who must have seen the certificate made concerning it (165). The Merchant Taylors' account books show payments of 'Expenses in the Law in the Defense of the Mistery against the Wrongfull Suit made by the Company or the Mistery of Cloth workers'; one, for 12d., was for a copy 'of the decree of the Court of Aldermen in the Clothworkers' case'; there had been a view. (fn. 125) Moreover, a comment in the Repertories more than 30 years earlier, in 1510, suggests that the Court received such certificates as a general rule; a report by four wardens of the Carpenters' Company refers to 'the viewers byll remaynyng upon the file of billes of viewers [in] this Court of Record'. (fn. 126)
Only very hesitantly do I suggest that the viewers could have reported in yet a third forum: the Court of Common Council, which handled legislative matters. The evidence here is sparse and uncertain, but it exists. There are in fact six Henrician viewers' certificates (416–21) copied into the Journals, which from 1495 onward report mainly the work of the Court of Common Council. Moreover, a record in the Drapers' archives of the 1541/2 dispute between themselves and the parish of St. Mary Aldermary may mean that Common Council, as well as the aldermen sitting in the Inner Chamber, was involved in settlement of the quarrel, so that it, too, would have seen a view in that connection. The Drapers' entry notes that a view was brought to the mayor and aldermen and that the mayor offered the opinion that the parish would do well to settle the matter. The Drapers straightaway sent their clerk to urge an agreement, as advised by 'my lord the Mayre on Tuesday last in the Counsell Chamber at the Yeld Hall'. (fn. 127) There is a similar entry in the Merchant Taylors' records; the action against them by the Clothworkers was decided in the Court of Aldermen, but their expenses for 1551–2 show a payment of 43s. 6d. 'for pleading before the Mayor and Aldermen and Common Counsell'. (fn. 128) It is not clear why the mayor and aldermen sitting in the Court of Common Council would have concerned themselves there with a private dispute between a livery company and a parish or between two companies; Common Council was primarily a legislative body. But it was, after all, related to Congregation, whose mandate to hear the assizes of nuisance went back to the Assize of Buildings. And, as A. H. Thomas noted for an earlier period, (fn. 129) and as was true in so many other instances, in the first half of the 16th century there were no hard and fast boundaries, no rigid demarcations of jurisdiction. Perhaps it is once again a question of the mayor and aldermen conducting essentially judicial activities when sitting in primarily legislative or administrative bodies because the same men who sat as judges sat also as administrators and legislators, albeit in a different room of Guildhall. But the key words are 'possibly' and 'perhaps'; the evidence does not justify any unqualified hypotheses, let alone conclusions.
Leaving aside the City itself — and its various agencies such as the Bridgehouse — almost all parties to views can be divided into three general categories: religious bodies, livery companies, and individuals. The list of those who used the viewers' services ranges from the most wealthy and powerful members of London society to those who must have been close to the bottom of its marginally respectable layers. It should be said at the outset that any attempt to categorize parties to views is beset with problems innate in the data base. First, a total of 26 of the 415 certificates in the CLRO collection have been damaged so that the name or nature of one or even in a few cases both parties is illegible; of the 26,16 are Marian and seven date from a period beginning sometime in 1554 and ending sometime in 1555. Probably more important, other certificates, particularly from the reign of Edward VI, do not identify one or both parties beyond giving their names, so that the occupation or status of 67 individuals is unknown. (fn. 130) Moreover, comparing litigants during the reign of Henry VIII with those during the reigns of his son and daughter means comparing 205 Henrician views stretching over a period of 40 years with 134 Edwardian views covering six and 76 views surviving from 1554– 58. Either there were fewer views per annum during Henry's reign or many more of them have been lost, and there is no way of knowing which possibility is correct. Obviously, then, conclusions based on existing data must be subject to careful scrutiny and evaluated in the light of other records and related evidence.
Keeping in mind this caveat, one can still see fairly clear patterns in the nature of litigants emerge and shift, and can draw conclusions about what the shift meant for London government and society. Above all, Henry VIII's Reformation, the violent re-shaping of the English church, is mirrored in the lists of plaintiffs and defendants. Of the 205 certificates from his reign surviving in the Corporation records, 70 have a religious body as a plaintiff, 62 as a defendant. Parishes, a bishop, religious confraternities, St. Paul's cathedral and its component entities, chantry priests, religious foundations centred outside London but with holdings in the City, and above all the great London religious foundations, litigated endlessly. The priory of St. Bartholomew West Smithfield; the house or hospital of St. Thomas of Acre; the Minoresses of the convent of St. Clare without Aldgate; the Hospital of St. Thomas the Martyr in Southwark; the Charterhouse; the priory of St. Mary Overy, also in Southwark; Elsing Spital; Austin Friars; the convent of Haliwell; St. Mary Spital; the priory of St. Helen's; St. Mary Graces, the 'new abbey on Tower Hill'; the priory of Holy Trinity Aldgate: all are there, together with their not-far-distant neighbour, the Free Chapel of St. Stephen, Westminster, attacking and defending property rights with considerable zest. The prior of St. Bartholomew was the moving party in four views and the defending party in three; no other religious figure quite matched that, although the master of St. Thomas of Acre ran a close second with involvement in six views. Religious bodies acted against each other — 29 views record their quarrels — and to a lesser extent against livery companies, with nine views. In 32 instances, the defendant was an individual and individuals returned the interest: 22 views record their complaints against various parishes, St. Paul's cathedral, and the occasional priory or hospital.
But the picture changes abruptly during the last decade of Henry's reign, and of the 134 certificates surviving for the reign of Edward VI, only four involve religious bodies — all parishes — as plaintiffs while five show a variety of religious groups as defendants (241, 280, 266, 213, 331). Religious bodies had disappeared from the certificates as a meaningful presence. Priories and convents had been dissolved, brotherhoods and chantries followed soon after. Only the parish churches and St Paul's cathedral survived, and these had lost much of their property. They had little inclination to embark on litigation; surviving churchwardens' accounts and vestry books show parishes struggling to keep pace with government-mandated changes in practice and in fabric, demolishing altars and accounting for plate. They cannot have wished to draw further attention to their remaining possessions and rights. Nor did the picture change during the reign of Mary, suggesting the permanency of the alteration. The sample is small, but out of 76 certificates for the years 1554–8, only two involve clergymen or religious bodies as plaintiffs and two as defendants. Yet, again, the certificates provide an accurate mirror of political life: while three of the Marian views involve parishes and individuals, the fourth shows the abbot of a briefly-revived Westminster Abbey, John Feckenham, disputing with the bishop of London, Edmund Bonner, over sanctuary ground (397).
The change in parties to certificates over the 50 year period here under discussion reflects more than religious upheaval, however. It could be characterised as a shift from corporate to individual litigants. None of the limitations inherent in the evidence vitiates the suggestion that the livery companies, the second great group of corporate litigants, were — like religious bodies — less active participants in views at midcentury than they had been earlier. The difference is not so evident in the number of views they sought; the companies, particularly the great companies, were plaintiffs in 25 of 205 certificates from the reign of Henry VIII and in 13 of 134 from the reign of his son (although the 76 certificates from the years of Mary — too few to be relied on — offer a very different picture with only three companies appearing as plaintiff). (fn. 131) But the companies disappear as defendants. They were defendants in 23 extant Henrician views, in two from Edward's reign, in none from the Marian period. (fn. 132) The loss of certificates for all three reigns would have had to be very selective to produce those figures if in fact there was no shift in parties. The meaning of the change is another matter, by no means as obvious as the meaning of the decline in litigation involving the church. The position of the livery companies was not static between the beginning and end of the 16th century. Keene and Harding, in their Survey of Documentary Sources for Property Holding in London before the Great Fire, point out that many companies lost property which they had held for chantry purposes in 1548, when chantries were finally dissolved, or else found it necessary to sell some holdings to raise money to redeem the chantry charges on the rest. (fn. 133) Other sales may have been made in order to consolidate holdings in one area. Are either or both of these circumstances reflected in the certificates? Did the companies, like the churches, for a time move less aggressively against their neighbours than they once had, thereby prompting less litigation? Or, on the other hand, had they solidified their holdings in a way which provoked fewer challenges? Did the decrease in litigation mirror a decrease in other company activity? Or had some litigants simply turned to other methods of settling some disputes?
In any event, it is individuals who make up the majority of litigants after 1547. In 97 of the Edwardian certificates, both parties are individuals; three have individuals acting against religious bodies; two have individuals against livery companies. Individuals were defendants in three views requested by parishes, in 12 asked for by livery companies. For the reign of Mary, 58 certificates show plaintiffs as individuals while 59 show them as defendants; the number might be still higher if several damaged Marian certificates were more legible.
What sort of person 'called in the viewers' or faced them? Almost anyone of fixed abode and regular income. Except as already noted, the certificates commonly identify parties by company membership, occupation or status: mercer, grocer, gentleman, widow, alderman, mariner, latener, innholder. Noblemen were scarce as parties; two appear during the reign of Henry VIII — both as defendants — and only one thereafter, also a defendant. Knights (and their ladies) were more often parties: apart from knights who were also aldermen, of whom there are five named, seven are plaintiffs, six defendants. (fn. 134) Gentlemen were present frequently in views throughout the period and became more so towards midcentury: 14 plaintiffs and 15 defendants during Henry's reign, seven plaintiffs (but eight certificates: one figures in two views) and four defendants during Edward's, and a surprising six plaintiffs and seven defendants during Mary's. They are joined by a handful of squires — eight over the 50 years covered, half plaintiffs, half defendants. Almost onefifth of the views, then, concern men and women who neither belonged to livery companies nor, apparently, practised any gainful occupation within London. Others identified by status probably did; ten certificates show aldermen acting in a private capacity, and all those men necessarily belonged to a livery company. It is very likely that the landlords, tenants, and executors mentioned without further identification did also. (fn. 135) Widows probaby did not. Twenty-four women who appear in the certificates acting alone are specified to be widows — and they appear overwhelmingly as defendants. Of the nine who were parties to views from the reign of Henry VIII, three were not defendants; of the 11 from 1547 through 1553, two were not. Only the Marian certificates show a reversal of the pattern; among five widows mentioned, four were plaintiffs. Women identified as 'lady' or 'dame' or 'mistress', but not as 'widow', did better overall; during the period 1508–47, one was a defendant and one a plaintiff while during 1547–53 two were plaintiffs, one later being a defendant against the same party. Between 1554–8, one lady was a plaintiff, one a defendant. (fn. 136) One does not wish to draw extensive conclusions from scanty data, but it is hard to avoid the impression that a woman of modest circumstances and alone perhaps presented her more litigious neighbours with the prospect of easy advancement of their property interests; simply calling in the viewers might have been enough to force a compromise. But the prospect might well have grown dimmer when the woman in question was My Lady Damice (106) or the Worshipful Lady Dame Johanna Morgan (391), whatever her marital status!
Widows may have had neither recognized occupation nor membership in a company; clergy at least had the former. Identified variously as clerks, priests, clerics, and parsons, they did not often appear as individuals rather than as representatives of a parish or other religious body; I have counted ten acting for themselves in the reign of Henry VIII, divided evenly between plaintiffs and defendants, and two for the reign of Edward VI, also equally divided. (fn. 137)
People who might be characterised as royal officials or courtiers form another discrete group of potential litigants who were not entirely fitted into the structure of London society: William Cheynes, gentleman, acting 'as in right of the King'; Richmond Herald; Garter King of Arms; the Lord Chief Justice; Somerset Herald; Edward VI's secretary; the King's fletcher; the yeoman of the Queen's larder are found, three times as defendants and five times as plaintiffs. William Cheynes, alone of the group, seems to have been acting in the King's behalf rather than as a private person (76). As already noted, the same question of role arises with those litigants identified as municipal officials — the Mayor and Aldermen, the Common Clerk, the Chamberlain, the Master of the Bridgehouse. It is a question which seems to have escaped the 16th century clerks who wrote up the certificates, because the desire to draw such lines escaped both the officials who called for views and the craftsmen who made them.
But gentlemen and widows, royal and municipal officials, clerics and tenants, all together account for only a minority of individual parties to certificates. The majority of individual litigants were identified by their companies. The twelve great companies are well, but unevenly, represented: for example, during the reign of Henry VIII, members of the Goldsmiths', Skinners', Salters', Ironmongers', Vintners', and Clothworkers' companies litigated infrequently and Haberdashers not at all, while Merchant Taylors were party to a total of 16 views and Drapers to 15. Mercers, Grocers, and Fishmongers came in the middle with eight, nine, and six appearances respectively. Nor did the general pattern change over the course of the next reign.
One would expect to find members of the great companies in the certificates, just as one would expect to find gentlemen and aldermen and priests. Views were concerned with real property and rights in it; property owners, leaseholders for terms of years, and others with an interest worth defending tended to be men of substance. Moreover, views and the whole procedure they involved were not cheap; the 5s. fee alone must have deterred more than one individual who thought he had been put upon by his neighbour. It would be harder to predict the extent to which the lesser people of London were involved in the procedure and the capacities in which they were: were they present at all in significant numbers? Did they actively seek views, were they plaintiffs? Or did they appear primarily as defendants? If the latter, were their appearances related to their occupations? The certificates offer at least tentative answers to such questions. In fact, men from a range of trades and crafts and professions of varying profitability and respectability appear in a substantial minority of certificates. For the entire period 1508–58, 113 parties to views are identified as members of one or another of the minor companies and associations. There is at least one armourer, baker, barber-surgeon, blacksmith (blacksmith spurrier), bowyer, brewer, butcher, carpenter, cook, cooper, cordwainer, currier, cutler, dyer, embroiderer, fruiterer, girdler, glazier, innholder, joiner, lorimer, painter stainer, pewterer, plumber, poulterer, saddler, scrivener, shearman, stockfishmonger (the last two not yet amalgamated into the Clothworkers' and Fishmongers' Companies), tallowchandler, tiler, waxchandler, weaver, and woodmonger. Another 22 men are identified as members of professions, trades, or other groups which were not represented by a livery company, although several — like lawyers, physicians, cobblers, and at least some of the otherwise-unidentified 'merchant strangers' — enjoyed organisation, and were indeed regulated as a body. Others, like the men identified simply as 'yeoman', did not and were not; still others, like waterbearers (not watermen) and sandmen, tailors (not Merchant Taylors) and crossbowmakers, lateners and mariners, are difficult to fit into the companies as their membership then stood. (fn. 138)
The fact of these men's appearance, of course, is less significant than the capacity in which they appeared: however unwilling to participate one might be, he had no choice in whether to be a defendant. Forty-six such people were plaintiffs, 89 defendants. What produced the disparity? At the start, one might hypothesize that some trades might by their very nature be likely to involve their practitioners in litigation. Did, for example, practising butchers, brewers, dyers, and curriers appear frequently simply because of the nature of their work, which created unpleasant odours or other offences to their neighbours? Clearly, butchers' scalding houses and their disposal of entrails had presented a serious nuisance since at least the beginning of the 14th century and probably before that; early records mention actions brought against those who threw animal blood and filth into the highways and ditches. (fn. 139) At first sight, butchers appear to conform to the expectation. Men identified as 'butcher' were defendants in six of the nine extant views to which a butcher was a party in the reigns of Henry VIII and Edward VI, but none of the causes shown appears to have any relation to the defendant's trade. Moreover, men belonging to other potentially offensive trades were actually as often plaintiffs as defendants; and like the butchers, none of the quarrels involving dyers or curriers seems to have been connected with premises used in a defendant's practice of his metier: they concern measurements, encroachments, repairs, and other common causes of action. As for the brewers, while the premises involved in several certificates are identified as brewhouses, only one view (85) stemmed from defendant's use of those premises in his trade. It is true that by the 16th century company affiliation did not necessarily indicate one's actual trade or occupation, so that possibly some defendants did not practise the craft or trade by which they were identified. But someone must have been a practising butcher, brewer, dyer, currier — and his work gave rise to no complaints which necessitated a view.
The same lack of connection between occupation and dispute exists with regard to views brought by or against members of the two other crafts most frequently found in the certificates, bakers and carpenters. Bakers' ovens often encroached, but neither ovens, encroachment, nor heat were at issue in the five appearances that men shown as bakers made as defendants, and indeed only one (88) involved a structure identified as a bakehouse; nor is a bakehouse or oven mentioned in the two instances in which such men were plaintiffs. Similarly, work done by carpenters themselves does not play a prominent part in the six certificates in which they were defendants and their craft is not involved in the four in which they were plaintiffs.
Always bearing in mind the possibility that great numbers of relevant certificates are missing, it still seems fair to conclude that use of one's premises in connection with one's occupation was not a significant factor in determining the frequency with which one would meet the viewers, even though that use created heat, stench, or noise. The conclusion receives support from the work of Kellaway and Chew, who found a 'strikingly small' number of 14th and 15th century nuisance actions arising from practice of a craft. (fn. 140) A comparison of two 16th-century groups engaged in noisome occupations points in the same direction and, additionally, offers evidence of what factor might be significant: for the period 1508–58, members of the Curriers' Company (a minor company engaged in dressing leather) were parties to four views, in three cases as plaintiffs. Members of the Skinners' Company, a major company whose avowed trade was not much more pleasant than the curriers', were involved in ten views, with four skinners as plaintiffs and six defendants. But no case involving a skinner was based on practice of that occupation, and in fact, by the 16th century many members of the Company probably did not practise the skinning trade.
Looking beyond occupation, one might hypothesize that 'lesser men' appearing as defendants in views did so primarily in connection with violations of the terms of their leases — particularly concerning repairs — since they must have frequently been tenants. The certificates do not bear out that assumption. Only a total of nine of 89 such defendants — or at most 11, as two certificates are ambiguous — were the objects of complaints by lessors about the condition of leased premises. (fn. 141) Moreover, complaints about tenants were not directed only at one group. At least six gentlemen and members of the great companies were defendants in similar matters, more if some quarrels about repairs were actually based on a lease as they appear (but are not stated) to be. Tenancy and the stringent obligation to repair under which most tenants held their leases cannot account for the disparity of participation in views between 'greater' and 'lesser' men or even for incidence of defendants among one group as opposed to the other. In fact, a careful reading of the certificates indicates that the issues most commonly leading to a view do not vary greatly according to the circumstances of the parties or their position in society: gutters, encroachment, party walls and the like concerned every element of the population.
Given that fact, a comparison of the 199 members of the great companies plus the 94 noblemen, knights, ladies and gentlemen, squires, courtiers, royal officials, and aldermen present in the certificates with the 135 parties who were members of lesser companies or unofficial organisations or of no organisation at all suggests strongly that the most significant factor bearing on whether one would meet the viewers was social status, often reflected in official status. Small as the numbers are, the comparison above between skinners and curriers is a striking demonstration of the point. Still more convincing evidence is the overlap between parties and London officialdom. Among others, Robert Fenrother, Michael Dormer, William Roche, John Lowen, Andrew Judde, Humfrey Baskerfeld (or Baskervile; here 'Berskerdfeld'), Thomas Kytson, William Butler, Christopher Ascue, Christopher Draper, Thomas Whyte or White, Thomas Curtes, Henry Dacres, Richard Rede, John Brugge or Bruge, Robert Trappes, Richard Dobbys or Dobbes, William Locke — each was a party to at least one private view and each was at one point in his career an alderman; some also held the mayoralty. (fn. 142) Moreover, they were most often plaintiffs and when they were not, their opponents were of stature equal to their own. Thus the executors of a late Lord Mayor asked for a view in an altercation with William Roche, a merchant taylor asked for one against John Lowen, the Merchant Taylors against Humfrey Baskerfeld, the abbot of Rowley against Thomas Kytson, another alderman against Christopher Ascue, the Fishmongers against Thomas Curtes (28, 297, 308, 104, 89, 236). The only exception seems to have been when Thomas Whyte found himself opposing one Peter Baker, 'citizen and scriver', whom the viewers in fact found to be in the right (398). 'Lesser men' did not casually take on officialdom.
But they were disproportionately often defendants. To equal the plaintiff/defendant ratio of members of the great companies, the 135 'lesser men' would have had to produce 99 plaintiffs instead of the 46 they actually did; to equal that of the noblemen/knight group, they would have had to produce 101. Moreover, the only significant factor I have found which can account for the disparity is socio-economic status. (fn. 143)
It is not necessary to conclude that the well-born or well-to-do made a habit of attacking their less able or well-off neighbours through the mechanism of the view. They may have, indeed, but it is also possible that the disparity is not so much in numbers of defendants as in numbers of plaintiffs. That is, the less wealthy and powerful may simply have preferred to settle differences without calling in officials of the City; they may have been reluctant to appear before the mayor even to request a view, hesitant to set in motion an expensive proceeding which might embroil them further with a government they preferred to keep their distance from whenever possible.
In any event, the pattern is no surprise. Sixteenth-century London was not run by or for its fruiterers and blacksmiths and scriveners and the remarkable thing is that they and others like them appear as often as they do, not only as defendants but to challenge their neighbours and even their betters in defence of their watercourses and walls.
Despite the formal humility of the certificates, it is clear from early in their history that the viewers were doing more than simply reporting fact. They were applying law, law in the form of binding custom. In September 1373, in a dispute over fixtures removed from a leased tenement, they listed the fixtures which should not have been removed 'following the usage of the City'. Likewise in January 1408, in a matter between a widow and her son or stepson, they examined utensils and household goods to determine which were removable and which not under City custom. In March 1409 they declared that John Crosseby had built a stone wall 'against law and reason and against the custom of the said City'. (fn. 144) There are, however, no specific recommendations for action to be taken, only the occasional formulaic 'through which may it please you to ordain a remedy', which, by the early 15th century, had evolved into the cautious 'On which may it please you to ordain a remedy if it be that neither of the said parties is able to show any evidence or specialty to the contrary.' There are not enough certificates extant from the 15th century to trace either the growing self-confidence of the viewers or the gradual expansion of their activities. Certainly there is no authorisation for either development in the Letter Books, the Plea and Memoranda Rolls, or the Journals. Yet the certificates in the CLRO collection show that by the 16th century viewers were both unafraid to tackle questions going well beyond simple craft expertise and confident of their ability to apply legal rules to the facts they found. Nor, apparently, did they regard their reports as simply informational. It is worth noting that the prayer for remedy had disappeared; the viewers simply stated their conclusions as to what should be done, adding 'unless there be any evidence or specialty to be shewed to the contrary.' By 1508, in fact, their decision was enough to settle many disputes out of court. This was, of course, more likely when two parties were trying to resolve a dispute arising from uncertainty about boundaries or obligations, but it happened also when there were true adversary proceedings. The Mercers' records show the procedure at work: a view made at the request of the prior of St. Mary Spital had declared that a sewer should run through the Mercers' gardens and that the Mercers should keep it in repair (87). 'Wherefore,' says an entry in the Mercers' Court Book for 1529, 'it is ordained that the said watercourse or sewer shall be made at the costs charges and expense of this Fellowship according to the view and report before expressed'. (fn. 145) There had been a transformation of a group of expert witnesses into something like an administrative tribunal.
Decisions carrying this kind of authority were arrived at in a variety of ways. Certainly the viewers and their retinue went out and measured boundaries and poked mortar and stared out of windows and watched water pour from gutters. They relied not only on their instruments and the established measuring units of the day: feet, inches, and, less commonly, ells —'. . . 6 ells and 3/4 ell by the standard of the ell that is now used', says a 1538 certificate (130) — but on their own practised hands and eyes: 'the iiii viewers say in the judgement and sight of a man's ie [the garden ground] belongeth to the said plaintifes', explains a 1542 view (167). But they were not limited to on-site evidence. They could and did examine and interpret documents: leases, deeds, earlier views, 'other writings', even the Husting Rolls (29). When they were puzzled by evidence or lack of it and when no documents were shown them, the viewers gathered information in other ways, apparently without first seeking the guidance of any court. Sometimes they called the parties to them; sometimes they interviewed witnesses, particularly 'ancient men' with a recollection of earlier roads and boundaries (233). In August 1536, in a dispute between two London wards, the certificate records that 'they have viewed and seen' and have acted 'upon their diligent search, inquisition, and deliberate examination of the oldest men and longest dwellers within the said wards now living' as well as on 'good and substantial other evidence and proof (121). In April, 1543, they 'herd, examined, and well considered the depositions, evidence, and testymony of iiii old inhabitantes and dwellers thereby . . . being sworne as afore a judge to give true evidence unto the said viewers in that behalf (179). No statement of theory could better reflect their actual status and function. Sometimes despite all they might do there was uncertainty, and then there was resort to talk about experience and to vague hints about good and sufficient proof, or to remarks about conscience. (fn. 146) But their decision was frankly part guesswork: they drew a line between Henry Mynge and John Howe, who did not know the limits of their properties, bounding the ground 'that ys most Doubtfull that belongeth to the said Henry Mynge' (386) — by which they apparently meant that it was most likely to be his.
Occasionally, the evidence necessitated a decision which the viewers regretted. In such instances, there is a recognition of their own limitations, but the language still sounds magisterial: in August 1549 for example, they discovered a door from a defendant's house into a plaintiffs garden and a right of way from there into a neighbouring alley. The which dore we cannot denie hym,' they acknowledged mournfully, 'but we thinke that there may evyll inconveniences growe by yt if that dore do stonde there. Unto all this we the said viewers ar agreed' (257). One remembers that John Stow, in the Survey of London, remarks that Empson and Dudley, Henry VII's notorious henchmen, met secretly via just such a door to further their schemes. (fn. 147)
In only two instances in the CLRO collection did the viewers find themselves unable — or unwilling — to come to a conclusion. One was when six tenants of the Chamber of London refused to pay a tithe to the parson of All Hallows Staining for six little buildings recently erected by the Chamberlain and occupied by them. Although the reasoning is not spelled out, the tithe apparently depended on whether the buildings were houses or sheds. The viewers determined 'that they be houses, and no sheddes, and that also the said Tenantes do not lete oute the said houses nor any of theyme to ferme', but they would go no further: 'As touching the said tithes or parsons dutye the said viewers sayen that it ys no parte of their charge nor nothyng appurteynyng unto theym to discusse or medle with' (141). They would not become involved in ecclesiastical matters. (The certificate also provides an unintentional glimpse at Tudor domestic attitudes: the new buildings are 'made for houses of easement & necessary Rowmes for withdraughtes, for lodgyng of servantes, & to ley in wood & coles or any other thing . . .'). The second occurred when Christopher Ascue took down certain entries and rooms of easement belonging to Richard Dobbys (Dobbes) in July 1530. The viewers were willing but unable to say how much space Dobbys had had 'for as moche as every thing is taken downe there that myght lede them to any further knowlege in that behalf. Therefore, they said on their consciences, Dobbys should have what he could prove that he had had before 'by triall and witnesse of neighbors and other that have seen and knowen the same . . .' (89). But the 'triall' did not take place in court; Letter-Book O contains an entry marked 'Viewers Award' and dated October of the same year, showing that the parties had asked the four men to act as arbitrators in the matter. How they arrived at their decision is unclear — they speak of 'right good knowlege and profe' of the existence of a cistern for a withdraught — but the viewers ordered the construction by Ascue of a new cistern and vault and a new entry, all of specified sizes and materials. They were not recommending; the language is 'awarde, iuge & ordeyn' and 'awarde ordeyne & deme' and they set their seals to the award, expecting it to end the matter, as it did. (fn. 148)
But they were careful to note that they did so as arbitrators; acting simply as the common viewers, however confident and competent, they could not have so foreclosed review of their decision by the mayor and aldermen. The form of the certificates leaves open the possibility that City officials will overrule the findings set out and the viewers' conclusions must have been subject to review, although neither the procedure nor the forum are ever set out. I have seen only two examples of anything like a challenge to their decisions. In the first, in May 1510, the wardens of the Carpenters' Company came before the Court of Aldermen. There had been a dispute between the Mercers and the Abbess and Convent of the Minoresses; the viewers had found that a wall belonged to the Mercers and had presented their bill to that effect. (fn. 149) Then at some later time, 'for the more perfet knowleage of the trouth of the premises' the wardens of the Carpenters were charged and commanded by the Court of Aldermen 'to serche and examyn the trouth in that behalf. The wardens saw the wall and reported back only 'that the presentment of the said viewers ys true, as ys aforesaid in their said bill'. (fn. 150) The matter apparently ended there.
The second group who attempted to challenge the viewers' findings were dealt with less gently. In the celebrated quarrel between the Drapers and St. Mary Aldermary (159 reflects only one stage of it) the Drapers complained of encroachments and nuisances done in the building of a new house by the parish. The Drapers' records give the story in detail, with some relish: on 25 September 1542, the wardens of the Company went to the mayor and asked that he send for the parson and churchwardens of Aldermary to hear their answer to the complaint. The next day, all went before the mayor and aldermen and both the plaintiffs' 'bill' and the viewers' report were read. The churchwardens acknowledged that they had no writing to support their position, but 'sayd that xxxii masons Carpenters and bricklayers had sene and vewed theyr sayd new tenement and that they had found and could prove that our [the Drapers'] tenement there ys incroached uppon theyr grounde.' To which the mayor replied — and the rhetoric of the Book of Job comes irresistibly to mind — 'Who appointed or gave any commandement to the sayd xxxii persons so to do, or before whom were they sworen? For suche bysnes my brethern and I have appointed iiii master vewers whiche be sworen in all suche matters to be indyfferent and we must geve credence unto theym and not unto suche as you have appoynted thereunto.' And then, in a broad hint as to how any decision would go, recorded with some satisfaction by the Drapers' clerk, the mayor concluded, 'Wherefor I wold advyse you, (sayd my lord), to commune with the drapers and aggree with theym.' (fn. 151)
It must have been a gratifying moment for the four master masons and carpenters, who had, after all, appeared before the Drapers' Court of Assistants only a few months earlier, in November 1541, to affirm that they would abide by the view they had presented to the mayor and aldermen in August of the same year. It was an unusual performance and suggests that both the Drapers and the viewers expected a challenge. (fn. 152)
Even if reversal, or at least review, by municipal authorities was a less than likely occurrence, there were still other constraints on the viewers' freedom to make decisions; they were not free to work a kind of rough equity based on their perception of simple right. The custom of London, altered at times by statute, ordinarily formed the basis for their decisions. Sometimes, though, even revered custom had to give way to extra-legal considerations. By the fourth decade of the sixteenth century, social and political events disrupted the even tenor of the certificates; here is a point at which social, political, and legal history not only intersect but collide with the intrusion of the Reformation. Some 21 certificates attest, in one way or another, to the religious upheaval taking place; 18 specifically mention that property in dispute between two individuals had once been church land. Following the dissolution of the monasteries and chantries and the subsequent influx of lands onto the real estate market, many purchasers of former church properties apparently did not know what they held. They were sometimes uncertain of the existence of rights of way or other easements, unclear about what was in the leases of people who were now their tenants. But alleging a right in oneself derogating from one's adversary's enjoyment of his property, or alleging anything which might look like a defect in his title, was a touchy thing: purchases had been made 'of the king's grace'. Moreover, the king was essentially the guarantor of the buyer's title, since the present owner's right was, as the viewers declared solemnly, 'in as ample manner and forme as the same and every parte therof to our said soveraign lorde the kinge dyd come and belonge by Acte of parliament' (239). The trick was to do justice without giving offence, all the harder when the purchasers were persons of standing, like the Lord Chief Justice of England (324) or Sir Robert Chester, who bought the Parish Clerks' Hall (375).
Fortunately, Henry's and Edward's activities did not touch the bases for decision of a majority of disputes in which the viewers were involved. But change came from other sources. London was growing and becoming ever more crowded; the mayor and aldermen railed against it, monarch after monarch issued proclamations to try and stop it, but London went on expanding. The certificates, again, reflect that development. For the first 25 years of the reign of Henry VIII, from 1508 to the mid-1530s, the viewers were most frequently active settling boundary disputes, acting essentially as surveyors. During the reign of Henry VIII as a whole, 75 variances were concerned with the boundaries of either void ground or land with a structure on it; 32 involved measurement of a wall, often a party wall which may or may not have been a house wall. Thirty-five dealt specifically with encroachments and another 24 with overhang — early Tudor walls seem to have leaned rather dramatically. (fn. 153) Thirty-one had to do with fences or pales, made or to be made. Obviously, drawing boundaries of neighbouring properties was important; doing so, in one form or another, involved almost three-quarters of the 205 extant certificates. (fn. 154) But of the 210 certificates extant in the CLRO collection for the period 1547–58, 45 were concerned with boundaries of void ground or land with a structure; 28 measured a wall, often a party wall; 13 dealt with encroachments and only one specifically with overhang. Thirty-eight had to do with fences or pales. Given that some views dealt with more than one variance or used several descriptions of the same variance, the total adds up to fewer than half of the extant certificates. (fn. 155) In other words, a high percentage of disputes for the later period do not deal with the boundaries of neighbouring gardens nor even with neighbouring houses taken as entire units. A new kind of measurement was becoming important: the lateral division of a tenement. During the entire reign of Henry VIII, only ten certificates appear to concern a single property divided among several tenants; for the next 11 years, the number is 25. Defendant claims a warehouse and loft over plaintiff's kitchen (231); plaintiff must maintain the lower part of a house while defendant must tile and cover the upper part and keep it windtight and watertight (262); a warehouse under plaintiff's house is rightfully held by defendant and he is to have access to it (217); defendant is not to alter the stairs, floor, and chamber of a house during plaintiffs lease of a room in it nor refuse him a right of way to his chamber (385); most telling of all, landlord is not to evict a tenant holding two houses under a lease with years yet to run in order to be able to divide those houses into smaller units for more profit (277). London's growth was producing more tenants and smaller units, and disputes changed accordingly, not by fiat but because of demography. The viewers' contribution was an attempt to sort out the ensuing confusion and to protect at least those who could provide evidence of their property interests.
Where they could, the viewers clung to what they liked to call 'the honorable custom of this ancient City' or what they referred to as its constitutions; the two at base were often intertwined, since much of the custom applied by the viewers actually derived from, or was reflected in, early legislation. The certificates, then, provide a glimpse of custom in action in the 16th century; a glimpse, not a carefully-drawn picture. Sometimes the viewers state both the custom and their application of it. But in other instances, the existence of a custom remains unspoken, clearly there in the viewers' thinking and the basis for their decision, but never articulated. And sometimes the word has its common late medieval meaning: not 'the way things are done in London with regard to this generalised issue' but 'the way things have always been done in this particular case'. Half a dozen customs of London figure in the certificates. One, obviously significant at the time, was on latrines — an unending source of litigation. The Assize of Buildings had provided that one could demand a nuisance action for any offending cesspit made after 1189. (fn. 156) Pits were to be lined, not simply dug in the ground, and they were to be a given distance from a neighbour's land: one lined with stone could be as close as 2½ ft (76 cm), one lined with brick or other material 3½ ft (1.07 m). (fn. 157) But in 1546, a stone wall dividing two latrines was to be 2 ft (61 cm) thick (202) and in 1537, when one Ambrose Wolley's withdraught had no wall 'but only plaintiffs stone wall', the viewers declared that defendant should have one of brick or stone 18 inches (45 cm) thick. Contiguous latrines on adjoining properties, at least, were obviously no longer subject to the older rule (128). In any event, a pit with no wall at all was 'unlawfully done and ought not to be suffered', said the viewers in 1542 (171). That would seem to require little more than measuring, but the problem was that neighbours very often shared pits and then there was debate about who was responsible for repairs and cleansing, and when. There was an eminently sensible custom on the point: one counted up the number of tunnels into the vault and divided the costs proportionately. Men 'cleansed their jakes according to their falls by even portion, according to the custom of the City of London' (272). (fn. 158) But there was still the question of which family would suffer the inconvenience and worse of a vault being broken open and ordure being carted to the street, sometimes through the house itself. The viewers' ingenuity was taxed to its utmost to devise equitable solutions. When Henry Dolfyn and John Dymok, both well-to-do drapers, could not arrange matters, the viewers noted that Dolfyn had only one stool while Dymok had three, but ordered that the wall of the withdraught be broken within Dolfyn's warehouse and 'clensed and conveyed through his house'. Recognising that Dolfyn had had 'all the noyaunce and trouble . . . and the said Dymok none at all', the viewers, relying — as they declared — on their consciences as their guide, ordered that Dymok pay all the charges for both the cleansing and the remaking of the vault wall, a total of 56s. 8d. (170). Many Londoners would have considered him to have had the better part of the bargain. But there is no record of a challenge to the decision; it was a party view and the viewers, calling the parties before them, had received in advance a promise from both 'to abyde and stand to the jugement of the said viewers'. Nor was there a saving clause at the end of the certificate; no evidence or specialty would be accepted to support a contrary decision. Here again, the line between recommendation to the mayor and aldermen and binding arbitration, between expert witnesses and administrative tribunal, becomes too fine for the 20th century eye to see.
The Assize of Buildings also dealt with party walls, gutters, pavements, and light, and, except for pavements, which are not the subject of a variance in any of the certificates in the CLRO collection, (fn. 159) all gave rise to disputes. The Assize had specified that stone party walls were to be 3 ft (91 cm) thick and 16 ft (4.88 m) high and the cost of their building was to be shared; if one party did not wish to join in building the wall, he was to give 3 ft (91 cm) of his land and his neighbour was to build it alone. (fn. 160) Judging from measurements given in the certificates, the three-foot thick rule seems not to have been uniformly followed in the 16th century and it is clear that usually more than half a wall was built on one party's land. In any event, construction of new party walls, stone or otherwise, seems to have been less important than use and alteration of them. One co-owner could neither alter nor destroy a wall without consent of the other party. Since a party wall was often part of the foundation of a building, or even formed one side of the building, this raised problems when one party wished to alter or tear down a tenement. Owners argued proportions of ownership, complained of encroachments on the wall, demanded the right to build on it, moved to prevent its destruction. The viewers duly measured and apportioned. Their decisions appear to assume a body of underlying standards, settled understandings, but the basis is never stated: there is no reference in the certificates to either custom or the Assize.
It was otherwise with water. Concern with the removal of water, both clean and dirty, from one's property is present in most of the certificates. Londoners did not ask the viewers to deal with their neighbours' activities which affected the availability or purity of the water they drank or washed in; no certificate in the CLRO collection specifically deals with that issue. But they argued interminably about the flow of water from eaves and kitchens, about watercourses and ditches and gutters: who should make them and how, who should repair them and when, who had damaged or removed or filled them in. From the viewers' comments, it appears that water was supposed to run from gutters or through watercourses into ditches and from there into a network of common sewers — or from sewer to ditch, since at least one common sewer emptied into a ditch leading to the Moorditch (87). But when a ditch was stopped up, deliberately or otherwise, the system failed and water backed up onto the street. The viewers said that they relied on custom to support their orders that sewers and ditches be cleansed and re-opened: a watercourse had been used since time out of mind and water should pass as it had before (78). Water was to have 'his course & currant. . . as it hath of old tyme ben used & accustomed' (87). There was particular trouble in the parish of St. Botolph without Bishopsgate: in 1528, the parson and wardens of St. Michael Cornhill complained of Robert Clerke, who had filled in a ditch which ran along the ground of both plaintiffs and St. Mary Spital (78); in 1550, defendants John Rowseley and his tenant of ground in the parish lately belonging to St. Mary Spital were told that a 6 ft-wide (1.83 m) ditch — possibly the same one — ought to run the length of the plaintiffs' property to a common sewer 'as it has been used of old custom' (268). Here the custom invoked is surely less a specific substantive right available generally under certain given circumstances, a 'custom of London', than a matter of a particular protected usage; we might say of a right gained by prescription. Watercourses are less clearly defined than ditches. Sometimes the term was used to describe an ordinary gutter, but generally it meant water collected from one point and conveyed some distance across the property of another to another point. The means of conveyance could be a pipe, a closed gutter, or a natural channel, depending on location. When the viewers said that Thomas Blunte ought to have his watercourses, one through the chamber of Rychard Smythe — for clean water only — and a second through Smythe's stable and yard, presumably the first would be enclosed while the second might or might not be (293). Likewise, Thomas Whytelocke's watercourses ran from his own premises through one man's kitchen and another man's shop, into a party gutter between the two men's houses, and finally onto the ground behind them. These watercourses and gutters were for not only rain but waste water from plaintiffs houses, since the viewers ordered him not to use the courses for water from those houses made since his purchase 'excepting only rain water' (351). The wording of some certificates leaves the basis for the right vague; again, there appears to be a kind of easement by prescription. The watercourse in question had existed 'in time past' (395), or 'of long time' (351) or 'time out of mind' (398). A more specific measuring period is the date of purchase of premises by plaintiff, defendant, or both; it is mentioned in four certificates (286, 293, 351, 376), including one which first spoke of 'long time' usage, thus suggesting the thinking behind the more general term (351): plaintiff had the right to a watercourse as it was when he bought, defendant was obliged to continue to tolerate the situation which existed when he took title. That was their 'custom'.
No certificate contains wording suggesting that a right to a watercourse through another's premises was based on the custom of London. In fact, the custom decreed the contrary: every man was to bear the water from his own house onto his own ground. Again the basis was the Assize of Buildings, which contained provisions for party gutters, the right to discharge roof water and the obligation to receive it. (fn. 161) But time and circumstances had embroidered on those provisions, filling in gaps not covered by the terse language, and by the 16th century the Assize was never cited. The first certificate in the collection to mention the custom (but not the first to follow it) dates from 1529, with an order that fillet gutters be made 'according to the custom of the City' (81). (fn. 162) But it is not until twenty years thereafter, beginning with a variance concerning 'certain houses and gutters' (236), that certificates start commonly to repeat the formula, 'Either party to bear his own water in his own ground after the manner and custom of the City of London' or a variant of it. The provision appears in some 48 certificates between 1549 and 1558, often when the variance did not appear directly to involve water. (fn. 163) Neighbours could, of course, agree not to be bound by the custom; one could give another the right to run his waste water through a house or yard and the arrangement would bind subsequent purchasers, as we have seen. More commonly, neighbours could agree to make a party gutter at both their charges; (fn. 164) occasionally they were told or advised to do so, particularly when the view was a party view and lacking an adversary nature (92,212). But often they could not agree. Londoners argued interminably about gutters: who should make them and how, of what they should be made, how they should be repaired and by whom, who had damaged or removed them. (fn. 165) Tenants or even neighbours took away gutters; men stole them for the lead. (fn. 166) More than sixty certificates deal with gutters as a cause of dispute, because gutters had considerable practical importance. Londoners had not yet widely employed the downpipe; ordinarily, gutters simply collected water and spewed it out. (fn. 167) Thus in houses with party walls, or those adjacent even without a party wall, rain from one roof was likely to spill down onto the roof and wall of the neighbouring structure, rotting timbers and loosening roof tiles (8). Rain from a misdirected gutter emptying into a neighbour's yard either swept away soil or else stood stagnant. And not only rain runoff was involved; the certificates' insistence that a party allow only rainwater into a gutter suggests that household waste was too often poured from doors and windows to be carried off — or, more often, not carried off (351). The custom of London was firm; the only question was whether one party had a right to direct his water onto another's land, based on specific agreement between neighbours, prescription — again, condition of the premises at the time of purchase by the parties was significant (279, 316, 325, 333) — or sometimes prior condition of the land, as when property formerly under one ownership had been subdivided or a physical feature altered. (fn. 168) Without such a right, the offending party could expect to be told to construct a gutter to divert the water onto his own premises.
While boundaries and party walls and gutters were the most common causes of discord, and perhaps most useful to a researcher trying to trace patterns of land ownership, two other topics less often encountered offer more interesting questions. One is the landlord and tenant relationship. Viewers' pronouncements on landlord and tenant obligations, as reflected in the certificates, seem to have been founded not so much on recognised City custom as on practices which had grown up based on what the market would bear and had found their way into leases. One source of landlord-tenant conflict was repairs. Naturally enough, a tenant was responsible for repair of damage he had caused to the leasehold. (fn. 169) But tenants' obligations went far beyond the remedying of their own negligence or abuse. No certificate states that either constitution or custom demanded the practice, but frequently the viewers declared that a tenant was responsible for major repairs to a leased property, even when those repairs were occasioned by normal wear and tear.
Sometimes, a lease was clearly the basis for the decision: the viewers commented that they had seen it, or paraphrased its terms. 'An indenture for term of years' obligated Margaret Williamson, whose husband had held at least four tenements from the king until Henry VIII sold them to plaintiff, to do tiling, roofing, carpentry, brickwork, daubing, and replacement of timber at an estimated cost of £80! (189). The tenant of the 'great tenement brewhouse called the Skomer' and two other properties was luckier: his premises needed plating, replacement of a rafter and gutter, pointing, tiling and daubing, all his responsibility under his lease and all to be done within the next two weeks, but costing an estimated £6 8s. 4d. (204). John Garrett, salter, was told in December 1553 that repairs to premises he leased would cost £23 13s. 4d. and that they ought to be made within the time limited to him by his lease or 'at the farthest' by the following July (344). Evered Shepperd was not even a party to the view in which it was declared that he was bound by his lease to put in plates and a principal post and repair a well (214). What is more, none of the four certificates has a saving clause: apparently the lease was thought to be conclusive on the issue of liability and the viewers may indeed have been called in only as experts in assessing the extent of repair needed. (fn. 170) On the other hand, when repairs were at issue between two parties who were not landlord and tenant — that is, usually, between neighbours — the viewers tended to be less specific both on the nature of necessary repairs and on the estimate of cost, and there was often, though not always, a saving clause. (fn. 171) It was apparently common for leases to specify a time within which repairs were to be made; sometimes there was also a clause providing for termination of the tenancy if there was default. 'For we say accordyng to the tenor of the lease which geveth a quarter of a yeris warnyng yt may be made tenantable. And yf it be not made tennantable within the said terme after warnyng geven, that then the same lease is voyd', says a 1551 certificate (292; see also 344).
Leases could, of course, apportion repairs or even provide that they be made by the landlord, and those provisions, too, bound the viewers. More than one purchaser of ecclesiastical real estate may have been surprised to learn, as was Christopher Jackson in 1551, that under the terms of a lease from the religious body which was the original owner of premises he now held 'it appears that the lords having the fee simple of the house are bound to repair the same . . . and to maintain the same as often as need shall be' (301). More commonly, a lease bound the landlord to make repairs 'to the principals', leaving all others to the tenant. (fn. 172) But where there was no such provision, there were few limits on a tenant's liability. The unfortunate Margaret Williamson, who had to 'rip' tenements and new-frame roofs to the extent of £80, offers an example; so does John Garrett, who had to rip, tile, rafter, plate, daub, plumb and 'set upright' a stable, a mill house, and a shed. Yet perhaps neither faced the expense that awaited William and Martin Pery, lessees of a large 'garret or hay loft' so decayed that — the viewers found — it could not be repaired but required taking down, together with the tenements under it. In one of those lateral divisions so common at the time (1548), the tenements between the ground and the garret belonged to another party — the plaintiff in the view — who may well have held the fee of the garret as well; he was to rebuild the 'nether part' of the structure. But the garret was to be taken down and newly made by the Perys, at their cost, 'because [they] are bound by their lease to all manner of repairs' (219). And all manner of repairs was deemed to include construction de novo.
The issue of responsibility for maintenance becomes more difficult to understand when the parties to a view are identified as landlord and tenant but the provisions of a lease are not mentioned as the basis for the viewers' decision. Is the omission simply an oversight? Is the finding nonetheless based on the specific provisions of a written indenture, read but not recited? Or is there — in the absence of a document — some other basis for apportioning repairs? What was the authority relied on when the viewers simply declared that the lord and owner of the tenement was 'bound to repair and maintain all principals of the tenement' and that the tenant was 'bound to all other repairs', including stone walls, bricks, tiling, carpentry, gutters, windows and keeping the tenement 'from wind and rain, wind tight and water tight' (207)? Again, why did the variance between Rychard Westram and William Broke involve 'all and singular repairs except principals' of the house in which Broke dwelt; Broke was to lathe, daub, tile, and defend the house against wind and rain — effectively making him responsible for the roof — but he was not to touch the essential wood structure (310). And why, in a variance 'for certain principals and principal posts' in the house inhabited by defendant, did the viewers find that plaintiffs — almost certainly the property owners, given the situation — ought to maintain the 'principals' at their own costs (389)? Specific agreement lacking, was there an understanding of what was included in 'principals' and what fell under repair and maintenance of a tenement? The certificates do not offer a hint, but medieval leases suggest that liability was then commonly divided along these lines, while practice was changing (to greater overall tenant liability) in the 16th century. (fn. 173)
The other principal cause of dispute between landlord and tenant, removal of fixtures at the end of a term, was clearly governed by the custom of London. What improvements could a departing tenant take away with him? The City custom on the point was not unlike the rule in New York City today: in modern terms, anything annexed to the freehold by a tenant became part of the realty and could not be moved. Sixteenth century London put it more particularly: 'asmoche of the . . . other necessaryes as have ben made in tyme past withyn the said tenement by tenantes of the same for their own ease whiche is not fastened or nayled unto any part of the frame of the said tenement with any manner of nayles or pynnes of iron or tymber may be lawfully taken away. And all suche of the premisses as be fastened or nayled with any nayle or pyn as is aforesaid may not be removed nor taken awey without speciall licence of the said landlord. Except there be any covenant or promise made to the contrary' (172). The lists of what could and could not be taken away says something about 16th century ideas of comfort and utility — and about building practices. Ceilings of wainscot, shelves, and wareboards had been installed by John Butler, the ceiling some 89 yards square. As much of it as had not been fastened or nailed to the frame of the tenement could be removed (172); what that meant in practice is unclear. Jane Jewett's executors wanted to remove seats, benches, doors, locks and keys, glass, lattices and windows. The viewers disagreed; the named improvements were 'implements and standards' and ought to remain in place as such, 'according to the ancient custom of the city of London' (226). And William Froke — whose apparent attempts at renovation, together with his failure to repair, had in the viewers' eyes done damage to the great capital messuage he leased — was told that he ought not to take away the 'selinges of waynscott, glasse, flores of bordes', which presumably he had put in, 'by the Custome of the citie of London' (380). The custom was significant enough to appear in records of the livery companies. The Mercers' Company Book of Ordinances includes a list of things 'not to be removed or takyn away without lycens of the landlord', including all things made fast with iron or timber pins, such as pentices, glass, locks, keys, screens, and benches; anything fastened with 'stone chalk or mortar', such as furnaces, chimneys, corbels, and pavements; and anything planted in the earth, such as vines, trees, and herbage. (fn. 174) The Will and Charter Book of the Ironmongers has an entry (fn. 175) headed 'Defixis non amovendis' and continuing 'consuetude de fixis non amovend' in angliis verbis in civitate Londini, usitata etapprobata uti patet in Libro K f. 221 in Latinis verbis. Dunethorne Lond'', referring to the custom's appearance in City documents. It goes on to translate the relevant provision in LetterBook K: there was 'a matter of doubt' about the custom in the 23rd year of Henry VI (1444–5) and 'the old books, many records and old processes and judgments' were searched, as a result of which the mayor and aldermen at the time declared 'for an old prescribed Custome of the Citty that it should not be lawfull for any such tenant for terme of life or for terme of years within the said Citty at thend of his terme or at any other time to Cast downe take away or pull upp in any wise any easement to the house or in the grounds of the said tenure by him nayled fastened or affixed with nayle Iron or of Timber . ., ' (fn. 176) Even a cursory look at the old books and records would have shown the mayor and aldermen that the custom was truly far older than Henry VI; it is originally stated in the 1365 'Ordinacio de appenticiis et aliis asiamentis factis in tenementis' found in Letter-Book G, (fn. 177) and as early as 1373, the sworn masons and carpenters viewed a tenement and various fixtures, including a malt bin nailed to the frame, and declared that they could not be removed according to the custom of the City. (fn. 178)
The final custom which substantially affected the viewers' deliberations — and the shaping of London itself — deals with the mutually contradictory rights to light and to privacy. The idea that there is or is not a right to sunlight, and the related concept of ancient lights, deserves an introduction all to itself. (fn. 179) Suffice it to say here that 38 certificates touch on light in one way or another. But 'the custom of London' is rarely mentioned as such; in fact, the viewers refer to it explicitly only once, in a certificate, largely illegible, dating from sometime late in the reign of Edward VI. 'The viewers say that the variance is for certain lights there cast out. . . a great glazed window there set forth which ought of right. . . a clerestory right with the same house . . . set up to the soil of the same window and also . . . cast forth on that side of the house of the said party . . . the air after the ancient custom of London . . . at charges of defendant. And further . . . part of the house on the West side of . . . annoy the plaintiff (336).
Nonetheless, the existence and gravamen of a custom on the right to light is no secret. Like that on water-bearing, it is based on a provision in the Assize of Buildings. (fn. 180) It is the subject of the first case in Sir Henry Calthrop, Reports of Special Cases touching several Customes and Liberties of the City of London; and it remained the basis of litigation by Londoners into the modern period. (fn. 181) In London (and this was not the custom of several other major cities, most notably York) a landowner had the right to build upright on his own frame even though he thereby blocked the light of his neighbour. At least four certificates specifically comment that 'every owner may lawfully build upon his own ground line right and plumb' (210, 260, 317, 326) and it is clear that the language is designed to negate a right to light; certificate 260, an instance of a dispute about windows, adds that the construction which would 'take the light' from a neighbouring trunk window must not be done in point of malice, and certificate 317, reciting the right to build, adds that it may be done 'in front of any light there.' There were some instances in which light was protected, a few mentioned in the treatises or the handful of relevant cases, others set out elliptically in the certificates. One had the right to an unobstructed window overlooking a public way even if later that way came into private hands (98, 251); one could reserve one's light when dividing premises and retaining only part of them in one's own hands; one could make an agreement with one's neighbour and it would bind subsequent purchasers of the property (6, 183). But one could not prescribe for a light in London, could not claim a right by long user. There is language in the certificates which seems to suggest the contrary; windows are protected because they were in place 'before the time of their purchase' (279) or 'as it hath been in long time past before their purchases' (272) or 'as they have been used of old custom' (222). But in fact the viewers are thinking of something quite different, another custom of London also related to windows, one not set out in the treatises but underlying perhaps a dozen certificates: the right not to be 'overlooked' by a neighbour. What is really being said in those certificates is not that no one may build in front of a given window because of its long use, but that the window as it stands is lawful because of its long use. (fn. 182) Building of windows was apparently a source of dispute more often than their blockage. In 1528, the viewers looked at Maude Russell's window and declared that it ought to stand and continue as ordered and devised by themselves without interruption of the neighbouring parish church (77). Blockage of Maude's light was not the issue; she was the defendant. The explanation must be that the parson and churchwardens had complained of her window. In 1533, in a suit between the Drapers and the Abbot of Stratford (98), the viewers announced that they had found windows which ought to be permitted in the future as they had been in the past since they were lawfully and conveniently made, so long as they were not 'noysance nor displeasant to the said plaintiff. One way windows could be 'displeasant', of course, was by having filth thrown from them and a number of certificates specify that the openings are to be barred or glassed 'so no filth be cast out of them' or so they do not offer convenient but wrongful access to a neighbouring gutter (119, 347). Another problem was that windows in a party wall could weaken it; this could be the reasoning behind the statement in a 1555 certificate permitting a defendant to build his house on a stone wall existing at the boundary of his ground but 'making no light hole or window' through it (357). But most often the simple existence of the window was the displeasure, the nuisance. For Londoners, the right to privacy was a right to physical privacy. In 1538, Johanna Thorpe, whose four-light window overlooked the garden of the Master of the Temple 'whereby she may so oversee the said garden', was told to 'set in' a screen 'that there be no sight thereby into the said garden. Or else [the window] to be stopped up, forasmuch as the said defendant may have sufficient light both back and front partes of her house' (129). Clearly, it was a balancing act: light v. privacy, and the balance was achieved in ingenious ways. Early in the 14th century, the mayor and aldermen ruled that a defendant could have no windows facing his neighbour's land except at a height of 16 ft or greater; by 1340, complaints specified that windows were less than 16 ft from the ground, suggesting that 16 ft had become the accepted norm. (fn. 183) Unfortunately, there is no reference to that rule in the existing certificates, except possibly the tantalising reference to a clerestory window in the fragmentary certificate from the reign of Edward VI (336). But lower windows could be rendered harmless in other ways: apart from Johanna Thorpe's screen, a 'loupe light' could be set in (103) or a 'trunk light' erected (260), 'cutting the view' but admitting some light — unless a neighbour exercised his right to build to the property line. (fn. 184) The customs of London on light held their own inner contradictions, but taken together they would have made for little enough sun and air in most rooms — and no view, for a 'prospect' was never protected. By 1600, when London was bursting at the seams with new population and the dreaded construction of cheap new buildings, most properties must have been dark indeed. (fn. 185) One must wonder what would have happened had there been no Great Fire and subsequent building regulations!
It is right to end this introduction with the Great Fire, for the Fire, more than any other circumstance — more than all the Tudor and Stuart proclamations, more than the fulminations of mayors and aldermen, more than the plague itself — spelled the end of medieval London as the viewers and their contemporaries knew it. And with the end of the old City, with its warren of crooked alleys crowded with subdivided tenements and leaning walls, came the end of the viewers as they had historically functioned. The new London was not to have the 'irregular' buildings that the masons and carpenters had measured so carefully, not to have the leaseholds and even freeholds which ranged across neighbouring houses on varying floors, the leaning walls and the 'fled out posts'. The surveyors were to assure that it did not. Whether or not they could carry out that function is not here a concern; certainly the viewers could not. London, even had there not been a fire, had grown too large, too populous for four men, no matter how expert and diligent, to act effectively as building inspectors, arbitrators of private quarrels, surveyors, protectors of the integrity of public streets and ways and the like. Even had there been no fire, sooner or later the institution of the sworn viewers must have fallen of its own weight. With the coming of the surveyors, the office of viewer became vestigial, perhaps even a sinecure, no longer really a necessary part of the daily functioning of municipal government — unlike the position of the true Renaissance men of 1508–58 who moved with confidence and zest among the tangled affairs and tightpacked dwellings of their litigious neighbours.
All the viewers' certificates in the Corporation of London Records Office for the period 1508–58 are in English, although earlier reports were in law French; the change of language occurred during the 15th century. To a considerable extent, the style of the report was established at least by the middle of the 14th century; Miscellaneous Roll FF includes a report from 1365, the first one set out in full in those rolls, which begins with the familiar salutation to the honourable lords and 'droitals' the Mayor and Aldermen, identifies the view as made by carpenters and masons ordained to survey nuisances and sources of disquiet between neighbours, and proceeds to identify parish, parties, and problem, ending with a finding of fact and the rote statement that the aforesaid things have been well and faithfully shown and addressed between the parties 'come nostre serement voet et demande'. (fn. 186) Based on Latin summaries of earlier certificates in Miscellaneous Rolls DD and FF, there is no reason to believe that the language was new in 1365. By early in the 1400s, it had evolved into virtually the form used in the 16th century; a certificate in the archives of St. Paul's Cathedral, on internal evidence dating from before 1410, (fn. 187) begins 'Le honourable Sir the Maire and Aldermen de la Citie de Londres, monstrent. . . masons and carpenters de Citie que comme . . . ils feurent charges per vostre comandments de surveier un noisance de certein tenements', followed by the parish and the parties and findings of fact and ending with the saving clause 'Sil ne fait quascune des ditz parties fact monstre ascun evidence or especial' a la contrarie.' The transition to English entailed only the addition of a few adjectives, as is clear from one of the earliest examples in that language, a certificate copied into the Journals. (fn. 188)
During the 16th century, there were minor alterations in form but no change appears to have had any obvious effect on substance. Early certificates bear no date and hence have no reference to either calendar or regnal year; beginning in 1514, the year of the reign of the king is included. Beginning in 1523, there is intermittent reference to 'the reign of King Henry the VIII, king by the grace of God'; 'by the grace of God' disappears in 1528 and Henry becomes 'Our Sovereign Lord King Henry the VIII'. It is, of course, tempting to see political or theological undertones in the change but there is no intrinsic evidence for either and the style does not in fact reflect that used in charters, writs and other documents of the same periods. (fn. 189) For the reign of Edward VI, the certificates continue to refer to the king simply as 'Our Sovereign Lord', with the single exception of a fragmentary report at the very end of the reign (336). It is during the reign of Mary and later Philip and Mary that the certificates tend to reflect the style which the monarchs used in other documents and hence also reflect both political and religious considerations. Early certificates speak only of 'the reign of Our Sovereign Lady Quene Mary', a clear continuance of the Edwardian language. But, although there is no change in handwriting, a certificate (353) of 21 June 1554 reads, 'In the fyrst yere of the Reigne of Our Soveraigne lady Marie by grace of god Quene of England, Fraunce and Ireland, defender of the Fayth and in earthe of the Churche of England and also of Ireland the Supreame Head.' It was in fact a form that Mary used on official documents at the time but it appears only once among the certificates; succeeding reports return to the older and simpler usage. Upon Mary's marriage in July 1554 the form expanded to include Philip. But a totally new form was introduced in a certificate (357) of 8 August 1555: '. . . the Reignes of our sovereigne lorde and lady Philippe and Marie by the grace of god Kinge and Quene of England, France, Neapells, Jerusalem and Ireland, Defendors of the Fayth, Princes of Spayne and Sicilie, Archdukes of Austria, Dukes of Myllayne, Burgoyne and Brabant, Comtes of Haspurge, Flanders, and Tirolle'. Why the form was suddenly appropriated for the certificates is unclear but where it came from is not; again, it was the style commonly used in public documents between 25 July 1554 and August 1556 (fn. 190) and again, it was not followed consistently in the certificates. Following the abdication of Emperor Charles V in August, 1556, at least one certificate (398) reads 'Philippe and Mary, by the grace of god king and quene of England, Spayne, Fraunce, both Cicilies, Jerusalem and Ireland, Defenders of the Fayth, Archdukes of Austridge, Dukes of Burgundy, Myllayne and Brabant, Counties of Hespurge, Flanders and Tyroll'; once more it was a translation of the style used in public documents for the same period. Copies of two certificates dating from 9 May 1558 (fn. 191) are the first I have seen to date a certificate by the calendar rather than regnal year; as unofficial copies they cannot, of course, prove that such a style was actually in use.
No early report that I have seen refers to the masons and carpenters as viewers; the first use of the word in a certificate (26) in the CLRO collection dates from March 1514, with the phrase 'which ground and brewhouse the said vewers have measured . . .' The permanent form was established in 13 March 1517 (34):'. . . the iiii masters of freemasons and carpenters, viewers indifferent sworn to the said Citie. . .' Perhaps significantly, the certificate is in a new hand.
The final clause in the certificate, the saving clause, leaves the door open to further proof to be introduced in future by one or another party. 'Without there can be shewed any other evidence or specialtie unto the contrary', say a certificate of uncertain date (5) and one from 1 Henry VIII (6), and that phrasing, sometimes with the omission of 'or specialtie', became the standard phrase for the rest of the reign, with some infrequent variation. Only one saving clause appears to have substantial meaning specific to the matter it concludes: 172, dated 18 August 1542 and involving a dispute between landlord and tenant concerning removal of improvements made by tenant, concludes 'Except there be any covenant or promise made to the contrary.' The predominant phrase during the reign of Edward VI is 'Except there be any [writing] evidence or specialty to the contrary to be shewed' or 'to shew the contrary' but there is less uniformity and the clause occasionally appears to reflect the circumstances of the individual case. There are exceptions for 'the words of the lease to the contrary' (227), for 'writing, evidence, specialty or covenants' (233), for a charter (279), for 'evidence or record they have not had' (287), or for 'writing, evidence, specialty or [other] view to the contrary'. (fn. 192) During the reign of Philip and Mary, however, any attempt to make the saving clause reflect the facts of the certificate was apparently abandoned and the standard phrase became 'Except there be any writing, evidence, or other specialty to the contrary to be shewed', with minor variations (e.g. 376, 398). Apart from fragments, 28 certificates have no saving clause at all; most of them involve findings of fact about costs of repairs, damage to buildings or walls, and the necessity of taking down or rebuilding ruinous structures. Again, the omission may reflect the circumstances of a case since it is unlikely that any writing or evidence could negate a conclusion on damage or the need to tear down a dangerous structure.
Because this is a calendar with more than 400 certificates to be included, common form has been omitted so far as possible in most cases. For each reign, however, a number of certificates have been printed in full, with original spelling and, to some extent, capitalisation; capitalisation in the originals is both haphazard and uncertain, as some letters appear identical in upper and lower case forms. In all cases punctuation, largely missing in the originals, has been supplied. The certificates printed verbatim fall into three categories: they are the earliest ones for a reign, or they contain material of unusual interest, or they are simply in such poor condition that no abstract is possible.
All dates set out in the text of certificates in the Corporation of London Records Office collection are in terms of the regnal year. I have substituted the calendar year. Where no date is given within the certificate, or the date has become illegible, but an endorsement exists, the certificate has been headed with the endorsement date. In all cases, I have reckoned the calendar year from 1 January, not 25 March. However, the endorsements to the certificates almost always give the day and month of the year in numerals: 13.5. The reference is to neither the calendar year nor the regnal year but the mayoral year, beginning on November 1; this was the practice of the Mayor's Court (see Corporation of London Records Office Bound MS Volume Mayor's Court Original Bills, p. vi). Occasionally the regnal year is not even mentioned, the term of the current mayor being used instead: Tempore Baldry maioris Civitatis London 3.8.
Several conventions have been adopted in calendaring those certificates not printed verbatim. Family names and names of specific buildings except parish churches have been given in their original spelling and style. Common Christian names have been given their modern spelling; unusual Christian names have been transcribed as they stand. Occupations have been put into modern form and spelling, followed by the original in round brackets in the case of some less-common trades: Hugh Davy, currier (corryer). Names of parishes and other religious institutions have been retained in their original style; where a variant name of a parish was used, the more familiar name has followed in square brackets if required for clarity: St. Toulles [Olave]. Names of streets and other geographic reference points have been used in their original style, but spelling has been modernised with the original spelling following in round brackets where it is significantly different. Where a street name has changed substantially from that used in the certificate, the newer name is given in a footnote. Original spellings have been retained where a street or other location cannot be positively identified at the present day. Identification of streets, parishes, buildings and other locations within the City has been made using H. A. Harben, A Dictionary of London and Eilert Ekwall, Street-Names of the City of London. Identification of religious houses outside London has been made using Dom David Knowles, The Religious Houses of Medieval England, and David Knowles and R. Neville Hadcock, Medieval Religious Houses in England and Wales. John Stow's Survey of London has been useful for miscellaneous information.
Significant variations on the usual formulae have been included, such as statements that the viewers heard witnesses or saw a lease or that they acted at the request of both parties. When in common form, the saving clause at the end of most certificates has ordinarily been abbreviated: Without etc., Except etc. Original spellings or forms of other words within the body of the certificates have occasionally been given where they differ substantially from the modern form; they follow the modern spelling in round brackets.
'Plaintiff and 'defendant', never abbreviated in the originals, are here consistently abbreviated. Where there is no identification of a party as a plaintiff or defendant, as in a view by consent or with reference to third parties, the full names are given at their first appearance and thereafter only last names are used. The designation of persons and institutions as 'of London' does not appear consistently in the originals. Where given, it has been retained for institutions but omitted for persons except where required for clarity. Livery companies have not been given their full honorific titles but are referred to simply by craft or trade: the Skinners, the Goldsmiths, the Mercers.
Directions of the compass, written out in the originals, are here abbreviated: N, S, E, W but northward, southward etc. All numbers, whether in dates or measurements, have been put into Arabic numerals although in the text of the certificates they are uniformly either written out or shown in Roman numerals. Endorsements and subscriptions, generally abbreviated and in Latin, have been expanded where possible, the supplied material being enclosed in square brackets, but not translated.
Where there is a gap due to missing or illegible words, the omission is marked by three ellipsis points. In the calendared certificates, words which are wholly or partly illegible, although the context makes their meaning clear, or which have been inserted for clarification, are enclosed in square brackets. In certificates quoted verbatim, where the reading of a word or words is by itself uncertain owing to illegibility or loss of letters but the gap has been explained by another reference within the certificate or the writing has been recovered under ultraviolet light, the word or words are enclosed in square brackets; where the uncertainty persists, the word has been enclosed in square brackets but preceded by a question mark. Where a word has been inserted either for clarification or to give missing information gleaned from another source, it is both italicised and enclosed in square brackets: It [the land] stretches westward. Editorial comments concerning the body of the certificate or the endorsement have likewise been put into italics: Same viewers, signed, endorsed.
The calendar is numbered consecutively from 1 to 433. Numbers assigned by the Corporation of London Records Office to a series of bound certificates from the reign of Henry VIII (here 6–205) are shown as given in CLRO file 'Viewers' Reports 1509–1546' (Bound Volume 204A), but are preceded by the letter 'B' and enclosed in square brackets: 144 [B.139]. No other certificates in the Corporation's archive have been bound or numbered. Therefore, in addition to its sequential number I have identified each such certificate in square brackets by the file in which it is found and in chronological order within that file as follows: I have assigned the letter 'A' to the file of earliest certificates in the CLRO collection (1–5), those dating from an undetermined period very early in the 16th century, which exist in a separate envelope in CLRO Misc. MSS Box 91. I have assigned the letter 'C to the certificates for the reigns of Edward VI and Mary filed loose in Misc. MSS Box 91 (206–404); and I have assigned 'D' to a series of fragments apparently dating from between 1554 and 1556, found in a separate envelope in Misc. MSS Box 91 (405–416). Certificates not in these files but found in the Journals or in livery company records (417–433) have simply been ordered by provenance and numbered consecutively.
In the index, it has not always been possible to distinguish between several persons of the same name nor to identify positively two entries as referring to the same person, particularly when one entry gives an individual's trade or other information and the second does not. Where there are several instances of the same name with the same or no information given, there is one index entry. Where one reference includes additional information and a second does not, or where the additional information is not identical, there is one entry but the differing references are noted. Where a name is spelled variously in several certificates but clearly refers to the same individual, there is one entry with the variant spelling noted. Names of monarchs and viewers, found in every certificate, do not appear in the index.
Also in the index, a street or other geographic location referred to in a certificate by a name different from its more common or modern usage is listed under both names; variants are shown in cross-references or round brackets as necessary. Parish churches are ordinarily listed under the name most commonly used in the certificates, with variants in round brackets; cross references have been used where necessary. In all cases, I have attempted to give sufficient information, either in round brackets or by cross reference, to permit certain identification.