Introduction: The manuscripts and the calendar

Pages xxxix-xliv

Chamber Accounts of the Sixteenth Century. Originally published by London Record Society for the Corporation of London, London, 1984.

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In this section

The Manuscripts

Dr. Reginald R. Sharpe, the records clerk, concluded his annual report upon the Corporation records for 1889 with the following paragraph:

'The attention of your [Library] Committee is drawn to two volumes in the Town Clerk's custody which are of more than ordinary interest, but which in their present state cannot be practically utilised. They contain Accounts of the Chamber of London, temp. Elizabeth, but they have been bound up transversely and used for pasting down a series of Index Slips, of no great value, over the original matter. The Accounts, which, except in a few places, are entirely hidden from view, are probably the earliest Chamber Accounts extant . . . It is for your Committee to consider the advisability of having the Index Slips carefully removed by competent hands and re-laid elsewhere, so that the original matter may be read and utilised and two more volumes added to the City's Archives. It has been ascertained that the whole work of removing and re-laying the slips, cleaning and repairing, where necessary, the pages of the original MSS, and binding them up in their original form, &c, could be done at Her Majesty's Public Record Office, by skilled workmen at a cost not exceeding 50L.' (fn. 134)

This programme was approved, and skilfully carried out by craftsmen of the Public Record Office working in a private capacity. (fn. 135) The index slips were removed, relaid on cartridge paper, and bound up in two volumes to be identified as two large books with vellum covered boards which are lettered on the covers 'Rough Index to Orphans' and 'Rough Index to the City Records'. Both contain slips giving references to the repertories of the court of aldermen, on orphanage and general matters respectively, between the mayoralties of Sir Martin Bowes 1545–46 and Sir George Bonde 1587–88.

The accounts of the chamber thus revealed to view were guarded and filed and bound up in two other volumes with vellum covered boards which were lettered on the spine 'Chamber Accounts. 16th Century. 1' and 'Chamber Accounts. 16th Century. 2'. All were paper accounts, many of them drafts, drawn as a preliminary to a final engrossed account on parchment such as survives in the main series of city's cash accounts from 1632, and so were able to be discarded once the engrossed account was written up. Only a few lines of text have been wholly lost as a result of the folding of the leaves for the making of the indexes and in both volumes the slips were removed with remarkably little damage to the legibility of the accounts. The edges of many leaves are damaged, particularly in the first volume, where some pages have been trimmed as well as mutilated, but the majority of marginalia were undoubtedly subject headings and in the case of the second volume figures are missing from the right margin in only a small number of instances.

Chamber Accounts 1, foliated 1–240 in pencil at the bottom of the pages, (fn. 136) contains leaves from a number of accounts between 1535 and c. 1578, many of them fragmentary, which are bound up in considerable confusion. (fn. 137) The earliest account is for the year Michaelmas 1535– Michaelmas 1536 but this, written on paper of a smaller size than the rest, is not the chamberlain's account but a subsidiary account of certain quarterly receipts and payments kept by the chamberlain's clerk, Richard Maunsell. It is calendared in its reconstituted order as Appendix A where a fuller description is given. Chamber Accounts 1 also contains fragments of two other accounts of the time of George Medley, chamberlain. One, a single leaf, contains a record of sundry payments made in 1538, (fn. 138) and the other, comprising two leaves, appears to be part of a weekly record of payments and receipts of small sums. (fn. 139)

The greater part of the volume, however, consists of pages from the chamberlain's accounts between 1562 and 1578. These were draft accounts, containing in some sections numerous deletions and amendments, and, as already stated, now bound in considerable confusion. An attempt has been made to reconstruct their order, and a tentative guide to the contents of Chamber Accounts 1 is available in the Corporation of London Records Office. The most nearly complete account is that for 1563–64 where most of the sectional totals survive, but there is no record of the final balances or of the debts due to or by the city at the end of this year and no plate inventory. Considerable sections of the accounts for the three following years also survive, together with more fragmentary portions of some accounts of the later 1560s and the 1570s. Some extracts from the chamberlain's accounts in Chamber Accounts 1 are given as Appendices B–F.

Chamber Accounts 2, as bound in 1890, contained leaves from two chamberlain's accounts, 1584–85 and 1585–86, together with leaves from an incomplete rental of the same date. In addition five leaves from the account of 1566–67, larger in size than the rest, were included at the end of the volume, being guarded and filed by the head and folded. Neither the two accounts nor the rental were bound up strictly in their original order and there was some confusion both within one account and as between the two accounts. Further examination has made it possible to reconstruct the original order with reasonable certainty and to show that the two accounts are very nearly complete, (fn. 140) and the leaves of Chamber Accounts 2 have now been re-guarded and filed in their reconstructed order and rebound in the Corporation of London Records Office where tables giving the foliation of 1890 and the new foliation are available. (fn. 141)

The year of the account ran from Michaelmas to Michaelmas but certain payments are dated after the nominal closing date although rarely later than Christmas. Most of these were made to outstanding creditors such as the artificers and others who had yet to submit bills in respect of work done or goods supplied during the last quarter of the year or to the lord mayor who was entitled to an allowance which was paid to him at the end of his term of office. A few such payments, however, were authorised by orders of the court of aldermen passed after 29 September and the reason for their inclusion is not always clear except when they relate specifically to items already in the account (e.g. 201).

In the second half of the sixteenth century the audit almost always took place in May or June, one or two days being appointed for this purpose, and was followed by the audit dinner. (fn. 142) The account was written up in the form to be presented to the auditors during the intervening months, hence the occasional reference to the lord mayor in office during the period of the account as the 'late' lord mayor. References in the account to 'Michaelmas last past' are always to the nominal closing day of the account.

The calendared account for 1584–85 is a draft account. The manuscript is fairly heavily amended but many of the alterations are of a kind inevitable in a draft and of little significance. Several hands seem to have been at work in its compilation and at some stage the folios of this draft were numbered in two sequences, from the beginning of the account to the end of the section entitled 'Emptions' and from the beginning of the 'Foreign Charge' to the end. The draft was perused by an official who has supplied in a small, angular, hand, and usually by means of interlineation, a number of corrections and explanatory additions to the text and the occasional marginal annotation. The same hand has also filled in sums which the original clerk had left blank, including some sums in respect of individual entries and many of the sectional totals. This official also made an occasional re-arrangement of the text, grouping two or three former entries as one paragraph or dividing a long entry into two or three.

There is a strong possibility that the author of this amending hand is John Shaw, draper, who on 14 October 1585, i.e. just after the nominal closing date of the account but long before the audit, which on this occasion took place on 16 May 1586 (237), was admitted deputy to Humfrey Wynnington, clerk of the chamber, to carry out all his duties. (fn. 143) In respect of the year 1584–85 the customary fees were split between Wynnington and Shaw, the former receiving the annual fee out of the chamber and the latter the reward at the audit and the fees for drawing and engrossing both the account and the book of fines (19b, 74). The clerk of the chamber was the most important officer in the chamber under the chamberlain, save for the comptroller, and was chiefly concerned with the accounts. The office can be traced back to at least the early fourteenth century. An ordinance of the mayor and aldermen of 23 November 1478 provided that no other clerk in the chamber of the Guildhall should be keeper of the books nor record anything therein nor make the account of the chamberlain except the clerk of the chamber. (fn. 144) The number of clerks in the chamber in the late sixteenth century is unknown. The chamberlain himself had a clerk, known as 'Mr Chamberlain's clerk', and by an ordinance of 1492 the clerk of the chamber was allowed a clerk under him (fn. 145) but there were almost certainly others.

The account for 1584–85 does not show any final summary of the charges and discharges upon the chamberlain's general account and the other accounts nor the balance due from the chamberlain. It is conceivable that a page is missing but more likely that these totals were not included in the draft.

The draft was re-written, again on paper, preparatory to the audit. The calendared account of 1585–86 represents this stage. It is a tidier manuscript with many fewer revisions although only the folios from the beginning of the account to the end of 'Emptions' are numbered. A few items are annotated, 'stayed by the auditors' or 'disliked by the auditors' and the auditors' names and their findings of the sums due to or from the chamberlain upon the general, charitable, Finsbury and special accounts are all recorded. The engrossed account, now missing, for which John Shaw was paid 53s.4d., would have been copied from this account. Shaw had been admitted clerk in his own right on 20 October 1586 upon Humfrey Wynnington's surrender of office. (fn. 146)

Notes on calendaring


In general the calendar has been made by leaving out only those words and phrases of the original which could be omitted without loss of information or intelligibility and, with only exceptions of a minor character, the order of words is that of the original. Since accounts are not a verbose type of record it follows that in certain passages almost the whole of the text is repeated in the calendar. Marginalia have been omitted unless they provide additional information.

The layout of the original has not been followed. No brackets linking the lines of an entry are reproduced and the total sum of the entry is given at the end of the text of the entry and not, as in the manuscript, at the right hand of the page. Where the entry comprises a number of receipts or payments this total is preceded by the word 'summa', for the sake of clarity, whether or not this occurs in the original. Occasionally when each item in a succession of payments records only a name and a sum of money these are grouped as a paragraph and not on separate lines (e.g. 117).

Serial numbers have been allocated to the entries for purposes of reference and indexing and are shown in bold type. Where appropriate one number or a small sequence of numbers has been given to a section of the account with sub-letters for individual entries. In the long sections entitled 'Emptions' and 'Foreign Charge', in which many of the entries are composite ones, each entry has a separate number.

The spelling of place names, which are generally familiar ones, and of common forenames has been modernised but the original spelling of surnames has been retained. Inn or house signs and the names of ships are given as in the original within single apostrophe, thus 'Phenix'. Occasionally the original spelling of a word or place name is shown in roman type within round brackets following the modern form. Editorial annotations are enclosed within square brackets and, to avoid a plethora of footnotes, many brief references, e.g. to an originating order for payment, are shown thus within the body of the text of the calendar.

All figures are given in arabic numerals although the majority in the manuscript are in roman. Di' is given as 'half' or '½' according to context. The standard abbreviations, £.s.d. are used, and also lb. The figures lijs are reproduced as 52s. unless they occur as the final total of an entry; the latter is always given in £.s.d., thus £2.12s.0d. 'C' is retained when this represents a hundredweight. Figures supplied within square brackets which form part or the whole of the sum total of an entry indicate that the right margin of the manuscript is mutilated and no explanatory footnote is appended.

The year has been taken to start on 1 January. Receipts and payments are normally dated in the original only by the day and month and should be assumed to fall within the nominal year of the account, Michaelmas to Michaelmas. The year has been supplied within square brackets only if a payment seems to have been made after the nominal closing date of the account.

The account for 1584–85

In calendaring this draft account many minor corrections in the original have been ignored but those alterations or interlineations which supply additional information or are otherwise significant are included. The great majority are in one hand, which may be that of John Shaw, (fn. 147) and in the calendar are enclosed within angle-brackets. Attention is drawn by means of footnotes to the few additions in other hands. Deleted matter, when significant, is given in footnotes.

The account for 1585–86

This account contains far fewer amendments than that for 1584–85. The method followed is as above and angle-brackets indicate the same amending hand. Certain sections of this account closely parallel that of the previous year and in such cases a cross reference is given to the comparable entry in 1584–85 with a note, if required, of any variation. Although not calendared, such entries are indexed.


Any special features of the calendaring in Appendices A and E are explained there in introductory notes.


  • 134. Report of the Library Committee presented to Common Council 29 May 1890, p. 7.
  • 135. PRO Office Correspondence (PRO 1/56). I am indebted to Mr. N. Evans of the Public Record Office for this reference.
  • 136. This numeration runs 1–38, 44, 39–43, 45–240. There is another numeration, also modern, at the top of the page. For much of the book this differs by one from that at the foot.
  • 137. These accounts were probably already in a disordered and fragmentary state when they were taken as backing for the slips of the indexes.
  • 138. F.239. Among the payments are plate and money given to the lord chancellor and lord privy seal and their officers as new year's gifts. Three goblets and two salts were sold to provide these gifts.
  • 139. Ff.28, 29. These pages relate to one week in July and another in September in an unspecified year. Some of the receipts may be fees for enrolments.
  • 140. The two slip indexes contain no references after 1588 and therefore were probably compiled soon after the paper accounts for 1584–85 and 1585–86 were discarded, hence the comparative completeness of the contents of Chamber Accounts 2.
  • 141. As well as being rebound in 1982, Chamber Accounts 2 have been further cleaned and repaired, this work including the removal of traces of the backing of the index slips which occasionally adhered to the paper and the removal of tissue used in the repair of 1890 which had badly discoloured with time.
  • 142. e.g. Rep.16, f.209; Rep.18, f.212; Rep.20, f.191b; Rep. 22, f.173b and many similar entries.
  • 143. The occasion for this order was Wynnington's 'lewd life and evil behaviour' (Rep.21, f.221). Wynnington, who had been servant to alderman Sir Martin Bowes until the latter's death in 1566, was admitted clerk of the chamber on 6 July 1568 (Rep.16, f.374b). In 1574 an unspecified complaint against him was investigated by certain aldermen and the recorder; in June 1579 he was sequestered from office, retaliated by bringing complaints against the chamberlain and other officers of the chamber, and was restored in Nov. 1579 only upon the suit of the lord chief justice and the attorney general and upon written confession of his offences (Rep.18, f.191; Rep.19, f.462b; Rep.20, ff.14b–15).
  • 144. Cal. Letter Book L, 160. In 1478 the clerk of the chamber, John Hert, also held the office of comptroller, as his predecessor, Robert Langford, had done. The two offices were held by different persons throughout the 16th century. Both the comptroller and the clerk received payments for examining the accounts (121, 251).
  • 145. Cal. Letter Book L, 287.
  • 146. Rep.21, f.344b.
  • 147. See above p. xli.