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
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
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 earliest of these volumes appears to have been
originally known under the title of "Letters from the Lords of
"the Councill, from Ao 1579 to 1592."
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:—
"Item.—This daye Thomas Norton, Gent., is admytted to be Remembrauncer of this Cittye, accordinge to the' articles followinge, and was sworne
officer accordinge to the othe followinge.
"He shall keape all the Bookes of the Cittye, suche as to his custodie shall be
delivered by indenture betwene Mr. Chamblen, Mr.Towne Clerk, and him.
"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.
"All like matters hereafter to be engrossed he shall likewise reduce into
Tables, and so contynewe the same from tyme to tyme during his enjoyeinge
"The said officer shalbe called the Remembrancer of the Cittye, and shall
"have place next —.
"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."
The terms of the oath follow.
Vide biographical notice of him, page 27, note I.
The next entry on the subject occurs on the 5th November, 1573; 15th Elizabeth (Repertory 18, fol. 101):—
"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."
By another order, dated 10th December, 1579; 22nd
Elizabeth (Repertory 20, fol. 23B), it will be seen that the
Town Clerk was directed—
"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."
But in the following year the Remembrancer is again
directed to discharge the duty, 12th April, 1580; 22nd
Elizabeth (Repertory 20, fol. 60):—
"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."
On the 19th August, 1594; 36th Elizabeth (Journal 23,
p. 301B), it is stated that—
"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 origin of the Collection seems attributable, therefore, to one or other of these resolutions.
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.
8th July, 1619; 17th James I. (Repertory 34, p. 175B):—
"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.
Volume ii., which extends from 1593 to 1609, was
originally in several parts, some of the parts consisting almost
entirely of Letters to, and others of answers from, the City.
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.
Volume viii., like Volumes i. and ii., is a miscellaneous
collection, the Letters being irregularly entered, and several
breaks occurring. It ranges from 1613 to 1640.
Volume ix. extends from 1660 to 1664. This bears the
title "Letters from the King, Council and others to the City,"
but being of a similar character to the other Volumes is inserted in the series.
To Volume i. a Calendar, with an Index, was compiled by
Mr. T. Brewer, Secretary of the City of London School, formerly
in the Town Clerk's Office, which he presented to the Library.
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
"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.
The Roman numerals preceding each Letter refer to the
Volume, and the figures to the number of the Letter in the
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.
W. H. Overall, Librarian.
H.C. Overall, Town Clerk's Office.
Library, Guildhall, December, 1878.