Analytical Index To the Series of Records Known As the Remembrancia 1579-1664. Originally published by EJ Francis, London, 1878.
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The series of books preserved in the Town Clerk's Record Room, now known as the "Remembrancia," consists of nine volumes, embracing the period from 1579 (21st Elizabeth) to 1664 (16th Charles II.). These archives contain copies of the correspondence between the Sovereigns, their Ministers, the Privy Council, the Lord Mayors, Courts of Aldermen and Common Council, and many persons of distinction, upon matters relating to the government of the City, its rights, privileges, usages and customs, religion, trade and commerce, public buildings, markets, churches, &c.
The eventful epoch in the history of England over which the volumes extend, and the varied nature of the subjects treated of in the letters, naturally suggest the inference that many matters of national interest would be therein referred to.
The wars of Elizabeth, and the important aid rendered by the citizens in ships, men, and money, towards their successful conclusion; the numerous and frequently excessive claims made by that monarch upon their loyalty,—which (as is forcibly stated in some of their remonstrances) did not always produce adequate advantages to her subjects, whilst they impoverished and injured the trade and credit of the country; the monopolies granted to her favourites, and the numerous applications for the appointment of Court candidates to Municipal offices, are the subjects of much of the earlier correspondence.
The era of the Stuarts, especially the position occupied by the City in the troublous times of Charles I. and the Restoration of Charles II., afforded fruitful themes for frequent communications between the Crown, the Government, and the Civic Authorities.
The superior military organization of the City forces—such as the Trained Bands, the Artillery Company, and other kindred bodies—at a time when the standing army was in its infancy, and viewed with disfavour by the people; the riches of the merchants,—which ever offered to the Crown the greatest facilities for borrowing money,—and their extensive trade with foreign countries, necessitating as it did the employment of a vast number of vessels and men, and thus affording in times of emergency a means of rapidly and effectually increasing the navy,—could not fail to enhance the power of the citizens in the councils of their Sovereign.
These combined considerations are found exerting their influence throughout the collection, and necessarily attach considerable importance, in an historic point of view, to the contents of the volumes.
The domestic and internal regulations of the City at a period when its manners, habits, and customs were undergoing rapid variations, arising from the then recent changes in the religion of the people, and the growing pretensions of the trading community, also contribute to their value.
The preservation of the peace; the visitation of the Plague, and the action of the Civic Authorities for its suppression; the opposition evinced by the magistrates to public plays, which they regarded with especial aversion as being the means of spreading infection, as incentives to riots and disorders by apprentices and others, and as tending to the increase of vice and crime; the regulation of buildings with a view to the prevention of overcrowding in dwellings; the accumulation of corn and other grain in the City's stores for the use of the citizens in times of scarcity; the supply of water; the enact ments with respect to the prices of provisions and the compulsory abstinence from flesh in Lent and on fast and fish days; and the restrictions imposed upon vintners, victuallers, tavernkeepers, butchers, cooks, poulterers, and others,—all in their degree augment the interest of the collection.
The first entry in the records of the Corporation referring to such a compilation is dated 6th February, 1570; 13th Elizabeth (Repertory 17, p. 101B-102), when the office of Remembrancer was created, and Mr. Thomas Norton1 was appointed the first holder thereof, and is as follows:—
"All suche matters concerninge the Cittye as usually have bene entred by —, he shall cause to be entred and engrossed with convenyent spede. All the matters conteyned in the Bookes concerninge the' affayres of the Cittye, wch Bookes shalbe in form aforesaid comytted to his custodie, he shall gather together and reduce the same into Indices, Tables, or Kalenders, wherby they may be more easily, readily, and orderly founde.
"Item.—It is ordered that he shall not make any Copies of any bookes or Recordes of this Cittye, for that the same apperteynith to the Towne Clerk, and the foure Clerkes of the L. Maior's Court, nor shall not doe anythinge that shall or may be in any wise prejudiciall to th' office of the Towne Clerk, or entermeddle with the same."
"Item.—This daie it is ordered that all the L[ette]res Wch hereafter be sent unto my Lord Maior and this Courte from the Quenes Matie and Her Counsell shalbe entered into a sev'all booke therefore provided verbatim."
"To cause the answeares from henceforthe to be made of such L[ette]res as shalbe directed to this Court from any personage of honor or credit, to be entred in a booke to be provided for that purpose."
"Item.—Yt was decreyd by this Corte that Mr. Norton shall from henceforthe engross the aunsweares of all l[ette]res sent from this Corte for the affayres of this Cyttye, to any P[er]son of honor or otherwyse; and orderyd by the same Corte that Mr. Chambleyn of the sayd Cyttye shall yearely paye from henceforthe unto the sayd Mr. Norton for so longe tyme as he shall ingrosse the said l[ette]res the some of tenne powndes by the yeare at the fower usuall feastes accustomed over and besydes suche stypend and salorye as hearetofore hath bynne geven and graunted unto hym by the same Corte."
Upon the appointment of Dr. Gyles Fletcher as successor to Mr. Norton, on the 5th January, 1586; 29th Elizabeth (Repertory 21, pp. 384–5), there is an entry to the effect that he was to have the place lately enjoyed by Mr. Thomas Norton, Gent., deceased, at a salary of £50 per ann., but to be called Secretary to the Lord Mayor. His duties are set out: amongst others, he is required—
"To attend and be reddye aswell in this Courte as at the Mansyon Howse of the L. Maior for the tyme beinge when the L. Major shall send for hym for the wrytynge and ingrossynge of all suche l[ette]res as from tyme to tyme shalbe sent from thys Courte or from the L. Maior for the tyme beinge to any person or persons whatsoever, And shall enter a trew Copye of every suche l[ette]re in a booke of the Cittyes to be provyded for that purpose, And also wryte the trewe Copyes of all such l[ette]res of importance as from time to time shalbe wrytten to this Corte and enter the same into the sayd booke."
"At this Co'en Counsell it is enacted graunted and agreed by the right Ho. the Lord Maior, the right wor'ull the Aldr[m]en his bretheren, and the Co[mm]ens in this Co'en Counsell assembled, and by aucthoritie of the same, that Mr. Gyles ffletcher, Doctor of the Civill Lawes, shall in respect of his longe, faithfull and diligent service heretofore, by him done and hereafter to be don to this citie, And alsoe in respect that he shall register and ingrosse into a booke all suche letters as shalbe written to this Court as well from the Queenes most excellent Matie, as anye the LL's of the Privye Counsell, and likewise all such answeares as shalbe made unto any of the same, have yearly paide unto him by Mr. Chambleine of this citie for the tyme beinge, the some of fiftye poundes sterlinge quarterly for so longe time as he shall well and honestlye demeane himselfe and doe and pforme the service of this Citie. The first payment thereof to begynne at Michmas next, over and above The yearely some of £50, heretofore graunted unto him by this Court."
The following entry shows that there was a collection made by Mr. Thomas Norton, some time M.P. for and Remembrancer to the City of London, which appears to have found its way into the custody of the Chamberlain.
"Item.—This daye Mr. Dios (Remembrancer) presented to this Court a booke of l[ette]res entred fairelye by Mr. Norton in the tyme he was Remembrancer to this Cittye, wth the receipt of wch Booke Mr. Chamberlen chargeth himself. And it is ordered by this Court that Mr. Chamberlen shall paye unto the said Mr. Dios the some of £7 14s. od. wch he formerly disbursed to obteyne the booke into his handes, beinge sould to a Broker."
Nearly the whole of the first volume (which ranges from 1579 to 1592) is apparently in one handwriting, the earlier letters not being entered in chronological order. This may, therefore, be the collection of Mr. Norton referred to, more especially as a break occurs about the time of his death, which is said to have taken place in March, 1583–4. The last entry prior to that date is of the 13th February, 1583. There is then a blank leaf, and upon the following page is inscribed a Letter of the 19th January, 1586, to the Queen (Elizabeth), announcing the appointment, in accordance with her desire, of Dr. Gyles Fletcher as his successor, who apparently continued the work.
These two Volumes were bound in their present form under the directions of Mr. Serjeant Merewether, Town Clerk, from 1842 to 1859. The first up to his time bore the title already mentioned, "Letters from the Lords of the Council, "etc." From the similarity of their contents to those of the subsequent Volumes, he gave them the title "Remembrancia," by which the others were and are still known.
Volume iii., from 1610 to 1614, begins the regular series of the "Remembrancia." This and the subsequent Volumes, to Volume vii. inclusive, originally consisted of a number of small books in vellum covers, each containing the entries of the Letters of a Mayoralty or part of one, and bearing on the cover the name of the Mayor, and that of the Remembrancer who compiled it. The Letters of Sir Thomas Hayes's Mayoralty (1614–15) are missing in Volume iii., but a list of them is preserved therein.
Volume iv. extends from 1615 to 1618. Volume v. from 1618 to 1622. Volume vi. from 1622 to 1629. Volume vii. from 1629 to 1637, but the Letters for the Mayoralty of Sir George Whitmore (1631–1632) are wanting.
The indexes to Volumes ii. and viii. of the series were published by the Corporation upon the recommendation of the Library Committee, under the circumstances stated in their Report on the Records presented to the Common Council on the 16th December, 1869, from which the following is an extract:—
"The series consists of nine volumes, which date from 1580 to 1664; of these six were found to possess indexes which are little better than mere tables of contents, and afford no satisfactory clue to the student who may have to refer to them for municipal or historical purposes;—one, a Calendar, and two (Volumes ii. and viii.) were entirely unindexed.
"The first stage of our proceedings, therefore, was to direct that a full Analytical Index of Volumes ii. and viii. should be prepared, which was accordingly done, and the interesting and valuable nature of their contents, as now first brought to light, induces us to recommend that indexes, upon a similarly exhaustive plan, should be compiled of the remaining volumes of the series, and that it be referred to us to prepare and print the same, with authority to send copies to every member of this Court, the learned Societies, Public Libraries, &c. &c."
This Report was agreed to by the Common Council on the roth March, 1870, and in accordance with the authority thus given to them the Library Committee have directed the publication of the present Indexes to the entire series.
In the short and by no means exhaustive biographical notes (in the compilation of which valuable aid was rendered by Reginald Hanson, Esq., M.A., F.S.A., Chairman of the Library Committee, 1876) to some of the persons mentioned in the Letters will be found, in numerous instances, evidence, hitherto but little known, of the connexion with the Corporation of the ancestors of many of the noble families of our own and past times, and of other historical, literary, and distinguished personages of the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries.