Two London Chronicles From the Collections of John Stow. Originally published by Camden Society, London, 1910.

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, 'Introduction', in Two London Chronicles From the Collections of John Stow, (London, 1910) pp. v-x. British History Online [accessed 26 May 2024].

. "Introduction", in Two London Chronicles From the Collections of John Stow, (London, 1910) v-x. British History Online, accessed May 26, 2024,

. "Introduction", Two London Chronicles From the Collections of John Stow, (London, 1910). v-x. British History Online. Web. 26 May 2024,


The two short London Chronicles here printed are both preserved amongst the Collections of John Stow in the British Museum, and both illustrate (though in very different degrees) the manner in which he composed his History of England, beginning with his Summary of English Chronicles and ending with his better known Annales.

The first and much the more important is copied in Harley MS. 540 ff. 7-21, partly in Stow's own writing and partly by another hand. At the beginning it is stated to be 'copied out of Myster Lordynge's booke.' Who Mr Lordyng was I cannot say. But his book was probably a copy of one of the old Chronicles of London, as the four brief notes, with which the Chronicle in the Harley MS. begins, seem to indicate. It would be quite in accordance with custom for a later owner to have entered at the end of the original Chronicle from time to time a continuation of his own. This is the character of the main Chronicle here printed for the years 1523 to 1555. Really there are two separate Chronicles, entered no doubt in the original by two different owners. The first is for the years 1523 to 1540; the second for 1548 to 1555. For the intervening years 1540 to 1548 the names of the mayors and sheriffs, with a single bald note under 1543-44, had been entered, possibly by the writer of the second Chronicle. These two Chronicles of Harley MS. 540 are clearly of different authorship, having nothing in common save for certain indications that the writers of both were of anti-Protestant feelings.

The chief interest of the earlier Chronicle (1523-1540) consists in the fact that it formed the principal source for Stow's narrative in the first editions of his Summary of English Chronicles published in 1565 and 1566. It is somewhat amusing to find that Stow was, for matters almost within his own memory, copying so slavishly from a written Chronicle, at the very time when he was censuring Grafton for having made an unfair use of his own printed work. (fn. 1) It is true that Stow added for these years a little from Hall, but the early editions of the Summary are substantially a mere reproduction from the Chronicle here printed. In the subsequent editions of the Summary in 1570 and 1575, and still more in the final history as given in the Annales, Stow drew much more freely on other sources. A great deal of matter contained in this Chronicle was thus gradually dropped. Meantime something had been borrowed by Holinshed without any specific acknowledgement of his source. It is thus necessary to recognise that the successive editions of Stow's Summary are deserving of more attention than they have commonly received.

Though Stow for the most part followed the Chronicle very closely, his departures from his original in some places are noteworthy. The original contains certain matter, which, when Stow wrote thirty years later, it would not have been judicious to repeat. Under 1528-9 a reference to the "selling of Martin Luther's books" is omitted. (fn. 2) (fn. 3) So also is that to the burning of Tyndal's books in Nov. 1530. More remarkable is the omission of the reference to Catherine of Aragon 'a blysyd lady and a good,' (fn. 4) and of the pathetic story of the two women, who 'fortified theyr saying still to die in the quarell for Queen Catherine's sake.' (fn. 5) On the other hand it is to be noted that the Chronicler had not recorded the proclamation of the king's supremacy in 1534, passed over Anne Boleyn's wedding and the birth of the princess Elizabeth, and even the birth of Edward VI; the omission to mention the suppression of the monasteries under 1537-8 may also be due to anti-Protestant sympathies, which the writer feared to express. Through Stow the Chronicle is several times quoted by Holinshed; as for the events of 1534-5, for the procession on 11 Nov. 1535, the jousting at Westminster on 29 June 1536, the penance of Thomas Newman on 12 Nov. 1536, and the execution of the Vicar of Wandsworth on 8 July 1539. (fn. 6)

For the most part the Chronicle consists of brief notes, probably written down immediately after the events to which they relate. Executions, penances for heresy, and incidents of civic history furnish the principal staple of the narrative. Passages of more moment, which may be mentioned, are the reference to Queen Catherine noted above, the description of the prosecution of the Maid of Kent, (fn. 7) the long account of the procession on 11th Nov. 1535, (fn. 8) and the curious notice of Thomas Cromwell's alleged parentage. (fn. 9)

The chronology of the Chronicle calls for some explanation. The note (fn. 10) that 'this boke doth accoumpte ye yere to begyn at Novembar,' was probably inserted by Stow, who did not recognise that the years were mayoral not regnal. But the numbers of the years as given in the text have been frequently altered, the original numbers having been a year earlier ('xvj.' for 'xvij.' etc.). The explanation probably is that the original writer put down the mayor, who held office in April 1509, as the mayor for the 'first year of Henry VIII.' Thus the mayor and sheriffs for 1509-10 would have been entered as those for 2 Henry VIII; and Thomas Baldry would have appeared under 16 Henry VIII, though he really held office 1523-24 in the 15th and 16th regnal years. The dates as given in the text are the corrected ones; they follow the most common custom of the London Chronicles and of Stow's Summary, in accordance with which the first mayoral year of Henry VIII was that of the mayor, who took office on 29th October 1509.

The second Chronicle for 1548-55 is distinguished from the first by its much greater fulness in matters which it describes, and by less attention to trivial incidents. Partly for these reasons, and partly because Stow, from whatever cause, made much less use of it, it is of far more interest. Stow had by this point reached a time well within his own recollection, and may consequently have depended less on written memorials. When he first wrote, moreover, events of such recent happening required discreet handling. When later on he expanded his history, he had at his disposal the manuscript Chronicle of Queen Jane and Queen Marie (fn. 11), and also as it would appear a copy of Charles Wriothesley's Chronicle. Thus he not only made less use of our Chronicle from 1548 to 1555 in his Summary, but also omitted more of what he had at first borrowed, when he came to write his Annales.

The Chronicle opens with a long account of the disturbances of 1549. The description of the rising at Exeter is followed fairly closely by Stow. The story of the disparking of Thame and Rycote, as here given, seems to be novel, and the account of Kett's rebellion differs from that given by Stow. (fn. 12) The first arrest of Somerset, (fn. 13) and the story of Captains Charles and Gambold, (fn. 14) are given without any particular additions to other accounts. Most of the history of 1550-52 appears in a very similar form to that adopted by Stow in his Summary. (fn. 15) Of the events which attended the accession of Queen Mary we get an independent and interesting account of which Stow made little use. (fn. 16) Wyatt's rebellion is described freshly, as by one who wrote from his own knowledge; the most notable new point being the story of how Wyatt managed to get into Fleet Street without being recognised. (fn. 17) There is a good deal of detail on the subsequent incidents of the spring of 1554, but with nothing that calls for comment till we reach the trial of Nicholas Throckmorton, (fn. 18) where the sufferings of the stalwart jurors, who would not find him guilty, are told at more length than elsewhere. The arrival of Philip of Spain is described with some small details of interest. (fn. 19) Gardiner's sermon at Paul's Cross on 2nd December, 1554, (fn. 20) is summarised in a manner which shows that the Chronicle consists of notes, perhaps written down on the spot, until the bells 'made such noise that I could not understand three words together.' Of this, the most interesting passage in the whole Chronicle, Stow made no use at all. So far as I can discover no other writer gives so minute an account of Gardiner's sermon. The Chronicle ends with the death of Gardiner in November, 1555. But the history of the last eleven months includes nothing of importance, which cannot be found elsewhere. The description of the flood in October, 1555, (fn. 21) shows how Stow used this Chronicle in his Summary, but discarded it in the Annales. The use of the Chronicle by Stow, and the points in which it differs from other contemporary records are illustrated sufficiently in the footnotes to the text. Except where otherwise noted the Summary is quoted from the edition of 1566 (which here differs little from that of 1565), and the Annales from the edition of 1605. (Stow's own final and anthoritative text).

The brief City Chronicle for 1547 to 1564 is of a different character to the previous one. Harley MS. 530 ff. 105-110, whence it comes, consists of short historical notes written early in the reign of Elizabeth. The first note is for the 54th year of Henry III taken from Fabyan. Other notes of fourteenth century history follow from Froissart. A notice of Wiclif is borrowed from John Bale. On f. 107 comes a note, which is worth quoting as a characteristic specimen:—

"Mr. Hall writeth the batayle of Egyncorte to be in the 4 yere, & I do think it gode to referr the redar to mtr hall, who writeth of it at large takyn owt of the frenche cronicle made by enguyron, (fn. 22) who did write ymmediatly after frosard."

On f. 108ro there are a few notes on the reign of Henry VIII. The last alone is of any interest:—

"In the 25 yere the statute was made for the selling of flessh by waight; toke effect the first day of August." (fn. 23)

There then begins the more regular and original Chronicle here printed. (fn. 24) The writer, unlike the authors of the previous Chronicle, seems from his notices on religious matters to have been a Protestant. There are a few entries of political matters. But the more interesting part of the Chronicle consist of notes, which would appear to have been made by a London merchant trading abroad. They relate chiefly to incidents and disasters at sea: to captures of French and Spanish ships: to the pirate Strangwysh; and to the naval warfare off Newhaven, or Havre, in 1563-64. The reference to an exploit of John Hawkins in the autumn of 1563 seems to be novel. Other entries on the rate of exchange with Antwerp, and on prices, also indicate that the writer was interested in commerce. Two amusing notes are of the rainy season of 1563, which caused such a dearth of hops that beer was brewed with broom and bay-berries, and of the abundance of fruit in the following summer. The statement as to the causes which led to the English intervention at Havre in 1563, appears to have been borrowed by Stow for his own narrative in the Annales.

Apart from its contents this Chronicle has a certain interest as illustrating how long the practice of keeping written records in the form of civic Annals persisted with London citizens.


  • 1. Dedication of Summary Abridged for 1567 ap. Survey of London i. lxxvii.
  • 2. p. 3
  • 3. p. 5
  • 4. p. 7
  • 5. p. 8
  • 6. Holinshed, iii. 793, 798, 803, 810; cf. pp. 10, 13, 15 below.
  • 7. pp. 8-9.
  • 8. p. 11-12.
  • 9. p. 15
  • 10. p. 1.
  • 11. Harley MS. 194: printed in Camden Society 1st Series No. 48.
  • 12. pp. 17-19
  • 13. p. 19
  • 14. p. 20
  • 15. pp. 22-26
  • 16. pp. 27-29
  • 17. pp. 31-33
  • 18. pp. 35 and 39
  • 19. pp. 37-38
  • 20. pp. 40, 41
  • 21. p. 43
  • 22. Enguerrant de Monstrelet.
  • 23. Cf. Stow, Survey of London, i. 187.
  • 24. pp. 47-49.