The Aldermen of the City of London Temp. Henry III - 1912. Originally published by Corporation of the City of London, London, 1908.
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In the Ward Lists, the word acting denotes that the person against whose name it is placed is either described definitely as Alderman of the particular Ward indicated at that date, or (as is more generally the case) as 'Alderman of that Ward' (illius Wardœ) which can be identified from the locality of the property dealt with in the deed which the Alderman is recorded as attesting.
The word present refers to the attendance at the Court of Aldermen, and shows that at the date indicated the person referred to was an Alderman, though his Ward is not specified or in any way suggested.
With the exception of the annual elections of 1377-1394, and the short periods 1350-1357, 1368-1377, 1423-1429, the actual dates of the elections of Aldermen of Wards are rarely given in the Guildhall Records until 1437, since which year there are only a comparatively few cases in which they have not been preserved. When such dates of election are not given, we can only approximate to them by noting and comparing the earliest and latest records of the attendance or "acting" of each individual Alderman.
It will be seen in the following pages that very close approximations are in most cases possible. In order to get these, the author has gone through and carefully noted all the attendances of Aldermen recorded in Letter Books. A to K, and the entries in the Husting Rolls and elsewhere, identifying, or facilitating the identifications of, the Wards for which they respectively served.
It is only in the later years of this period that specific identifications of the Wards are of common occurrence; in the great majority of the earlier instances, the Husting Rolls and the Ancient Deeds at the Record Office give only the Parish or Parishes in which the property is situate in connexion with which the Alderman is named.
Aldgate.—St. Katharine Coleman (or Allhallows, Colemanchurch); St. Katharine Creed (or Cree), Holy Trinity the Great. (fn. 1)
Other Parishes being in two or three different Wards, it is only indirectly that we can fix the particular Ward to which an Alderman named in connexion with that Parish should be assigned. Thus, if an Alderman is mentioned as acting for St. Mary Abchurch and for St. Mary Bothaw nearly contemporaneously, it may safely be inferred that he served for Walbrook, the Ward which comprises parts of both Parishes, and similarly if he acted for Allhallows, Gracechurch and Allhallows, London Wall, he would certainly be Alderman of Bishopsgate.The following list gives the Wards which include portions of the Parishes named with them.
The foregoing details as to the material available for determining the Wards represented by Aldermen, and for approximating to their dates of election in the period anterior to specific records of such elections, will show that the preparation of the Ward Lists in the following pages was not, as might hastily be imagined, mere copying work, but has involved a considerable amount of what may be called "skilled labour." In many cases it was necessary to compare a dozen or a score of entries in the records before a particular conclusion could be satisfactorily established.
With regard to names of persons, I have not attempted to reproduce all the forms in which they are found, nor have I, on the other hand, adopted a rigidly uniform mode of spelling them in individual cases. The orthography of nomenclature, so far from being even approximately fixed, was liable to very eccentric variations at least as late as the 17th century, and even aspirates at the beginning of a name were supplied or omitted in the records and chronicles at the fancy of the scribe. I cannot determine satisfactorily whether the name of the Mayor of 1412-3 was Hatherle or Atherle, both forms (as well as other variants), occurring with sufficient frequency to establish some claim to authority. In the 17th century the name Elwes (the form of spelling which the family finally adopted), is written also Elwaies, Elways, Helwys and Helwaies. The names of two eminent Lord Mayors, Penington and Prichard, whose autograph signatures were in this form, are almost invariably represented as Pennington and Pritchard respectively. Where I have not been able to find evidence of the spelling adopted by the owner of the name, such cases being few before the 18th century, I have generally adopted what appears to be the predominant form, though in several instances I have found since the Ward Lists were in type, that the more or less close approximations in the records are not correct. "Peapes" for "Pepys" is an instance of a not unnatural attempt to represent sounds phonetically. In some cases curious perversions of the true form appear which are obviously due to eccentricities of penmanship, a source of error which I have perhaps exceptional qualifications for appreciating. In no other way can such a form as "Synah" be accounted for as a variant for "Lynch." Other eccentricities such as "Pharoh" for "Ferrer" would seem to be due to defects either of hearing or articulation, while some proceed from simple carelessness on the part of the clerk who entered the minutes, sublimely unconscious of the annoyance and trouble he was causing to a reader two centuries later. One supreme instance of this is to be found in Repertory 68, to, 128 b, where the name of an Alderman whose election is there recorded appears in two forms, "John Godwin" and "George Godwin" in the actual minute, and in a third ("George Goodwyn") in the marginal summary, and to make confusion worse confounded, his successor is reported a few pages further on (fo. 134 b) to have taken the place of "John Godwyn." As I had no means of ascertaining how the worthy gentleman in question spelled his name himself, and I wished to observe strict impartiality as between the three forms appearing in the earlier entry, I have, at pp. 162, 337, adopted the later one ("John Godwyn") which is hardly more or less likely to be accurate than any of the others.
The Companies to which, the Aldermen belonged are generally given in the few early records of election which have been preserved, (except where an Alderman was removed from one Ward to another), and with very few exceptions in those since the middle of the 16th century. (fn. 2) Where the elections themselves are not actually recorded but have to be inferred as explained above, I have been able in very many instances to supply the Companies from other entries in the Letter Books, Journals or Husting Rolls. Details with regard to the association of the Aldermen with the respective Companies will be found in the special excursus at pp. 329-357. I regret that by an oversight I have in the Ward Lists inaccurately described some members of the old Guild of Tailors and Linen Armourers as Merchant Taylors, which latter designation dates only from 1503. These errors are corrected at pp. 226, 228, 230, 231, 233.
In recording the vacation of Aldermanic seats by voluntary withdrawal, I have taken the dates of official "discharge," an Alderman's resignation being not in itself complete, but only rendered effective when it has been accepted, and he has been formally "discharged," i.e. relieved of his charge. In one or two early instances the Alderman is said to have been "exonerated," or to have "surrendered" his Aldermanry.
In the dates of election and vacation (whether by death or resignation) of the early ex officio Aldermen of Portsoken (Priors of Holy Trinity) as given in the Ward List at pp. 180, 181, there are several errors discovered too late to be altered in the text. These errors which are due to the inaccuracy of the Liber Trinitatis (Guildhall transcript) and other authorities, I have corrected in the Addenda and Corrigenda, pp 417, 418, and in the Chronological List in Part II.
In the footnotes to the Chronological List of Aldermen in Part II., I have corrected some errors in the articles on the persons indicated which appear in the Dictionary of National Biography. Had I not done so, I might have appeared to he ignorant of the discrepancies noted, and to have overlooked an authority of great weight and prestige. In these, as in other cases, I have not made such corrections rashly, and the inaccuracies I have pointed out are beyond question.
Some points of difficulty have arisen in the course of the preparation of this work, with regard to which I have seen occasion to modify the conclusion at which I had at first arrived. I have thought it best to indicate such cases, (and the reasons which have induced me to change my original opinion), in the later notes and corrigenda, at the risk of appearing to impair my own authority.
It should be noted that in year-dates I have throughout adopted the New Style for the sake of uniformity. It is often forgotten by writers who should be more careful, that previous to 1752 the official year began on March 25: hence a date between December 31 and March 25 was reckoned as belonging to the same year as the preceding Christmas Day. This is the case in all the civic records, as well as in the Wills preserved at Somerset House, throughout the period which preceded the change from the Julian to the Gregorian style in England. Consequently a large number of dates in this book may appear to be a year later than those given in other authorities.
All historians of repute are aware that the warrant for the judicial murder of Charles I is dated January 1648, and that in original official documents the reign of William III. and Mary is represented as beginning in February 1688, but nevertheless all modern books assign to these events the dates 1649 and 1689 respectively, and there appears to be no good reason why this principle of dating, according to the New Style, should not be universally adopted with regard to less familiar occurrences. In the Calendars of State Papers a good example is set in this respect. It may be safely assumed that in most cases where the Old Style is used in modern works of reference, it is not so used of deliberate purpose, but from sheer forgetfulness and carelessness and disregard of the golden rule of the Oxford divine, "always verify your references." (fn. 3) The ideal method is, of course, to give the double date [e.g., 1296-7 for an event happening between December 31, 1296, and March 25, 1297 (new style)] as Dr. Sharpe has done in his Calendars, and I am conscious that I ought to have adopted that system in this book. I trust, however, that this explanation will remove all ambiguity on the point with regard to any of my dates.
Another remark it seems desirable to make on this subject of modes of dating. In the earlier period comprised in this work the original authorities are for the most part dated by regnal years, and by days of the week preceding or following some festival, when the occurrences chronicled did not take place on such a feast day. Thus the first election of William Walworth as Alderman is dated (Letter Book G. fol. 217) "Monday after the Feast of St. Martin, 42 Edw. III." Dr. Sharpe, in his Calendar, correctly inserts "[11 Nov.]" after "St. Martin's," and "" after "Edw. III.," the date "11 Nov.," of course, denoting St. Martin's Day, not the day of election, which was the following Monday, Nov. 13. In the Dictionary of National Biography the day of election is stated to be Nov. 11, the writer being apparently unfamiliar with the Church Kalendar, and hence misunderstanding Dr. Sharpe's date. Similarly the enrolment of Arnold fitz-Thedmar's Will [Hust. Roll 7 (35)] took place on "Monday, the morrow of the Feast of St. Sebastian, 3 Edw. I.," i.e., February 11, 1274-5, but the writer of the article on fitz-Thedmar in the D.N.B. (a historian of high repute and generally conspicuous for accuracy) has taken February 10, the date of the feast (as supplied by Dr. Sharpe), as being that of "the morrow of the feast."
I have taken warning from the way in which the dates of so accurate an authority as Dr. Sharpe have been misunderstood by these and other writers, and have, therefore, in all cases where the day of the week preceding or following a festival is the date given in the original MS., consulted the almanac for the year and adopted the precise day of the month thus supplied. This will account for some apparent discrepancies between my dates and those given elsewhere. I may say, generally, that (except for exact dates of death, as to which there are frequent variations in contemporary authorities) iu almost every case in which my dates differ from those of other writers I am aware of the fact, and have adopted those in the text of this book deliberately, subject to the corrections therein contained, on what appears to me to be more or less trustworthy evidence.
Finally, mistakes are frequently made in representing regnal years by the corresponding dates A.D. Such mistakes are unhappily to be found where one would least expect to find them, and are the more worthy of censure in proportion to the higher reputation of those who commit them or of the works in which they occur. Many writers seem to think that all that is required to fix such a date as (e.g.) 4 Edward III., is to add 4 to 1327, the date of that King's accession, by which process they arrive at 1331, and ascribe every event occurring in 4 Edward III. to that year. This short and easy method is delusive. Regnal years are reckoned from the day of accession, and as this in Edward III.'s case was January 25, 1327, it follows that his fourth year ended on January 24, and his fifth year began on January 25, 1331, and any events occurring at a later period of the latter year should be dated 5 Edward III. Similarly as our present King began to reign in January 1901, it is a necessary consequence that the date at which I am now writing (July, 1908) is in the year 8 (not 7) Edward VII. An excellent example of the mistakes primarily due to such misreckoniug of regnal years is afforded by the writer of the article on Sir Thomas More, in the Dictionary of National Biography, who makes More cease to be Under-Sheriff of London on July 23, 1519. The biographer has probably not seen the original authority, but followed, without taking the precaution to verify, some one who has misunderstood it. In Rep. 3, to. 221 and Letter Book N, fo. 86, More's resignation is recorded under date, Friday, July 23, 10 Henry VIII. (i.e. 1518). A reference to the Almanac would have told the biographer (or the informant who has misled him) that July 23 fell on a Friday in 1518 and not in 1519, even had he been ignorant of the fact that as Henry VIII. began to reign April 22, 1509, a date in July, 10 Henry VIII., must necessarily be in the year 1518. When "old hands" of such literary eminence as the biographer in question go astray in matters of this kind, one is tempted to exclaim Nusquam. tuta fides.
I have thought it desirable to explain these points fully, in order that it may be clear that in stating dates throughout this work, the considerations which should always be, but frequently are not, present to the mind of an author dealing with such matters have not been entirely overlooked, and while I am far from being vain enough to hope, or to deem it possible, that in the mass of facts, figures and dates which this book contains there are no errors, I trust it is not presumptuous to say that I have done my best to attain to a somewhat higher level of accuracy than appears to be deemed sufficient by more than one or two writers of much more firmly established literary standing than I can dream of attaining, even when they are engaged on works of reference which are in fact, as well as in name, of national rather than individual importance.