Memorial IX: The Manuscript Account Books

Pages 58-64

Memorials of the Guild of Merchant Taylors of the Fraternity of St. John the Baptist in the City of London. Originally published by Harrison, London, 1875.

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1. The Merchant Taylors' Company possesses a number of books containing the statements of receipts and expenses returned by the Masters at the expiration of their term of office. Of these the earliest four have been examined, with a view of gaining information from them, of the history of the Company.

2. Book I. commences in 1399, the 23rd and last year of the reign of Richard II., and extends to 1445, the 23rd year of Henry VI. The title on the back states that it commences in 1397, 21 Richard II., but in the first page, which is nearly illegible, the figures "xxiij" are just visible. In the reign of Henry VI. there are one or two errors, and probably some pages missing. The account for 14 Henry VI. is placed next before 23 Henry VI., and there are two accounts for 19 Henry VI. but none for the 18th year. After 22 Henry VI. comes an account in which the number of the regnal year is omitted, but it probably belongs to the 21st year, as the statement for that year is absent. This volume contains 365 leaves, and is fairly legible, although the paper is rotten in many places from the action of damp.

3. At the commencement, the language used is French, but soon English and French are mingled together in a strange way. The last account, that of John Langewith, 23 Henry VI., is entirely in English. The title of the Company at first is given as "La Fraternite Seint Johan le Baptistre des Taillours en Londres"; but in 1 Henry V., 1413, the following style is used: "La Fraternite des Taillours et Armurers de Lynge Armurie de Seint Johan le Baptistre en la Citee de Loundres." In some instances "des Lynges Armuries" in the plural occurs. In English the title runs thus, "The Fraternite of Seynt Johan the Baptist of Taillours and Lynge Armurers in the Cite of London."

4. The form in which the accounts are stated is usually as follows: The Master's receipts include a sum of money received from the Treasury for the payment of poor men, priests, and other minor expenses; rents from tenements belonging to the Company in London and Wandsworth; fines and forfeits from galleymen, (fn. 2) botchers (i.e., men who repaired and sold old clothes), and others; fees paid by tradesmen enfranchised, and by the master tailors for their apprentices; bequests; old and new alms; fines for licence to keep foreign servants; and the fees paid by the new brethren, both tradesmen and honorary members, on their entry.

5. Money was also collected from the members for specific objects. In 2 Henry IV., 1401 (f. 8b), 24s. 9d. was collected for repairs at the chapel, and in 8 Henry V., 1420–1 (f. 103b), 11l. 3s. 5d. was contributed for works in the Hall, and 17s. 10d. for work done in the chapel chamber, the lodging of the Chaplain of the Fraternity. The following year, 9 Henry V., Walter Bolton gave 1s. 8d. for the work in the Hall, and the Chaplain, Sir Thomas Bradenham, contributed 6s. 8d. to make the chimney in his room. In 10 Henry V., sums, of which 5s. is the largest, were contributed by many members "pour faisure de noue werke." When it was desired to obtain a confirmation of the new Charter in 19 Henry VI., 1440–1, the legal expenses were defrayed in the same manner, and 62l. 10s. 10d. was collected in one year. The expenses include a gold ring for the Chancellor; furs, damask, and suppers, for other law officers; plate for one of the King's yeomen of the Robes, for his favour; 5s. "for lymnyng of the H. of the gret charter," &c., in addition to the regular costs of law.

6. Nor are these collections made only for important matters, as we find in 9 Henry V., 1421–2, that 48 members contributed 37s. 9d. for the minstrels. In some cases a return is expected for contributions. In 6 Henry V., 1418–9 (f. 93), a brother gives 4l. for the support of one of the Chaplains in the chapel of the Fraternity at Saint Paul's, on condition of receiving a gown of the livery, the value of which was 22s. 6d.

7. The expenses are arranged under the following heads: The salaries of priests, clerks, and beadles; sundries, including law expenses, burials, the cost of decorating the Hall for the feast, minstrels, &c.; cloth allowed by the Company; quitrents; repairs to the Hall and other houses, and the obits of deceased members. As a specimen of the way in which the earliest accounts were kept, those for 1 Henry IV., the second year given in the book, will be found printed in full as Mem. x. The first year could not be printed, as the state of the first page renders it impossible to copy it accurately.

8. The Fraternity took a good deal of interest, and spent much money, on the two chapels in the Hall and in St. Paul's Cathedral. Among the expenses the following entries occur relating to them:—

2 Henry IV., 1400–1: "Ceux sount lez expenses entour le chapelle a Poulis, et Pauter de Seint Thomas.

s. d.
"En primes, pour fesure d'un celle desouz l'auter a Seint Thomas ij iiij
"Item. Pour un cere et un huis de fer en mesme lieu vj
"Item. Pour coverture et byndyng d'un lyvre iij
"Item. Pour xlv ulnes de toille, l'auene, viijd. xxx
"Item. Pour steynyng, paie al steynour en parti de paiement xlv
"Item. Pour un heyre a le auter ij iiij
"Summa, iiijli. xs. iiijd."

3 Henry IV.: "Paie a Morris Steynour, pour steynure de les draps en le chapelle a Poulis, duez de velle, xlvijs. vjd." In 10 Henry IV., 1408–9, new cloths were provided and the following expenses incurred (f. 44b):—7 ells of cloth for two altar cloths, at 7d.; 11½ ells for "draps a qaresme" at 7d.; dyeing the same, 6s. 8d.; 1 ell to mend an alb, and the work, 10d.; for binding the cloths, 2s. In 12 Henry IV., 1410–11 (f. 56), "Pour velym et pour l'escripture del table en le chapel a Poulis, xxd.," and in the following year three forms were bought for the chapel for 2s. 4d. The salaries of the Chaplains were, at St. Paul's, 5l., and at the chapel in the Hall, 3l. 6s. 8d. a-year; while the yearly cost of candles in the two chapels was 14½d., and of bread and wine for Mass at the Hall alone, 2s. Among other payments connected with religion, there is 9s. 4d. for lamp oil for the church of St. Martin Outwich, in 1432 (f. 207); 10s. given in reward to the servant of the Earl of Northumber land, for bringing an image of St. John, in 1436 (f. 246); and 6s. 8d. for making a crucifix in 1444 (f. 321b).

9. In 14 Henry VI., 1435–6, the Company retained for the defence of Calais (fn. 3) for 60 days, three gentlemen at 16d. a day, and seven archers and yeomen at 8d., the whole expense, including the cleaning of armour and "bokeram for pensels," amounting to 28l. 6s. 7d.

10. In the following year, 11s. 8d. was spent in torches for the burial of Queen Katharine, widow of Henry V. (f. 257b). When the next Queen of England, Margaret of Anjou, arrived in her adopted country in 1445, the Company joined in the procession to meet her, and fines amounting to 7l. 1s. 4d. were exacted from those "that rood not a geyns the quene" (f. 353). Among the expenses the following entry occurs referring to the same event:—

"Expenses ayenst the quene riding.—Item in expenses for the Master and Wardens and the clerk, sittyng daiely at halle, unto the space of a quarter of a yere, on day with a noder, a boute the devise for the lyvere a geyns the quene is comyng, and receyvyng of men assigned to ride [to] Boleyn and delyvere hit wrought ageyn, and to cesse and stynte certeyn that rode noght, and aboute receyvynge the same money, and for fewell, iijli. xiiijs. vjd. ob.

"Item, for the facyoun of the mantels of silver for the Master and iiij Wardens is slevys ayenst the same ridinge, pris the pece, vs. jd. Summa xxvs. vd. (fn. 4)

"Item, for a reward to the iiij Wardens for their occupacions and besinesse, and lettynge of other occupacions (no sum given)." (f. 364b).

11. The annual search at St. Bartholomew's fair is mentioned elsewhere, (fn. 5) but there is also an entry in 8 Henry IV., 1406–7 (f. 34b), of costs, "entour le serche en Temse." The expense is chiefly for food and drink, consumed at Gravesend and Queenhithe, and for barge hire, but 4s. 2d. was allowed for the wages of a gunner and 2 lb. of powder. The total amount is 12l. 7s. 4d.

12. Of John Chircheman, one of the earliest benefactors, there are several mentions. In 7 Henry IV., 1405–6, 36l. 0s. 5d. is entered as spent in law expenses concerning the lands bequeathed by him to the Company; and the chambers used by the Chaplains in 1414 are spoken of as formerly occupied by him. There are frequent entries of the expense of pruning the vines in the Hall garden, of which the earliest is in 1409.

13. In 1428, the following plate was bought, a gilt basin with a spout; another, with suns; a gilt saltcellar covered; a high standing cup with a sun; 2 gilt spoons; 2 enamelled bosses for the basins, and a sun for the saltcellar; 2 silver basins and 2 silvers saucers; costing in all 73l. 2s. 11d.

14. Occasionally a present was made to the Lord Mayor at his election, and in later times a sum of money was given to him in support of his expenses. In 1444, swans were presented to Sir Henry Trowicke, the Mayor that year, costing 40s. In 1400 the Company contributed 6l. for the "Mommyng" at Christmas in the Guildhall (f. 10), and in 1546 40l. were paid by "Decree." (fn. 6)

15. As often happens in mediæval documents, the accounts are frequently headed with the name "Jesus," or "Jesus" and "Maria," and sometimes the verse "Assit principio Sancta Maria meo."

16. The second book ranges from 31 Henry VI. to 9 Edward IV., 1453–1470, so that the accounts of eight years are lost. In this book, the year's accounts are from Easter to Easter, while previously St. Bartholomew's day was the starting point. Latin is used nearly throughout, but some entries are in English. The extracts printed in the Appendix (fn. 7) will give some idea of the contents. For the first year an abstract of the accounts is given, and afterwards a few detached entries which happen to be of interest.

17. Book III. extends from 9 Edward IV., 1470, to 1484, 2 Richard III, but it is in a bad state of decay. More than half of most of the leaves is rotted away, and what is left is stuck together by damp. The title of the Company as in the last book, is "Fraternitas Sancti Johannis Baptistæ cissorum et linearum armaturarum armurariorum in civitate London'."

18. Among the legible entries are the following:—A fine of 12d. from Thos. Sudeley for working on Sunday. Receipt of 3s. 4d. from the Wardens of the Parish Clerks for occupying the Hall once. Elm board for Keletts well, 6d. Paid to Minstrels of the King and divers Lords at the feast, 27s. 1471–2, boat hire to London and Westminster for the Master and Wardens going thither by the King's orders, 4d. For eight signs of "holy lambes" for the almsmen, 3s. 4d. To eight trumpets and their marshal, and Richard Tumbler, playing in the Hall at the feast. Funeral expenses of Peter Ferreys, late beadle, 15s. 10d. A pike and a pottle of wine sent to Mrs. Ellen Langewith, 2s., and two sugar loaves also sent to her, 2s. 11d. This lady was probably the widow of John Langewith, who was Master in 1445. The allowance of cloth to honorary members was already discontinued. (fn. 8) At this time, the only persons who received it were the Accountant, the Counsel of the Company, the Clerk, the Beadle, and the Lord Mayor's Sergeant. After this there is a long interval for which no accounts are extant.

19. Book IV. commences at Ladyday, 35 Henry VIII., 1544, and goes down to the same day, 3 and 4 Philip and Mary, 1557. With the exception of the heading to each year's accounts, English is used throughout. The title of the Company now is, "Mercatores Scissores fraternitatis Sancti Johannis Baptistæ Civitatis London'."

20. As the landed property of the Company had largely increased during the last century, it was divided into the "East part" and the "West part," each of which was superintended by a Warden, who gave in a separate account of the rents which he received, and these are inserted in the book after the general accounts for each year. (fn. 9)

21. An important change passed over the Company during the period to which this book refers. By the two Acts for the dissolution of colleges and chantries (37 Henry VIII., c. 4, and 1 Edward VI., c. 14), the whole of the payments made by the Merchant Taylors, for the saying of masses and performance of obits and anniversaries for deceased benefactors, became vested in the Crown; and there are many entries in the accounts, illustrating the way in which these Acts were carried out. The ostensible object of the Acts, was the increase of grammar schools and vicarages, but it seems that comparatively little of the profits was really devoted to so good a purpose.

22. In 1548, it was resolved by the Council to sell some of the property thus obtained by the Crown, to meet the expenses of the War in Scotland and the rebellion in Ireland; and the entries in the Appendix, for 1549 and 1550, will show that the Company redeemed some of the rent charges which had been vested in the King. Some also had been already sold to private persons.

23. In the reign of Queen Mary two obits were restored, that for Henry VII., and the general obit for deceased brethren and sisters of the Company. Mass also reappears on the feast day, in place of the "service of the communion," which was held during the reign of Edward VI. This was followed usually by a sermon, which in 1548 was preached by Miles Coverdale, afterwards Bishop of Exeter, the translator of the Bible. (fn. 10)

24. The accession of both Sovereigns is referred to in the payments for 1553–4. In each case the Company subscribed 20s. towards garnishing the City and towards a purse of 1,000 marks presented to the new Sovereign; but before the coronation of Mary, the Company not only gave her as "a reward," 40l., but also contributed another 100l. toward the maintenance of a garrison for the defence of herself and of the City; and during the insurrection in Kent, headed by Sir Thos. Wyatt, furnished 20 soldiers to join the force led against the rebels by the Duke of Norfolk, and 60 more to keep London Bridge, when they had advanced to Southwark after their first success. (fn. 11) In 1556, six men were sent to the fleet serving against France.

25. It is clear that the Company was bound to provide soldiers when necessary, as there are continual notices of the armour and ammunition stored up in the Hall ready for use, and the expenses for 1549 contain the costs of the "furniture of 30 persons against the mustering day, made before my Lord Mayor and Aldermen." The duty of supplying men for the Watch in the city, at Midsummer, was commuted by the Company in 1553 for a money payment to the Lord Mayor.

26. Among other payments for the benefit of the City at large, we find that the Company in 1553 lent 300l. to the Corporation to provide wheat for the city, and in 1556 subscribed towards the conversion of Bridewell into a "house of labour or occupation." More detailed information will be found in the Appendix, (fn. 12) which contains a series of extracts similar to those of the Second Book.


  • 1. By Charles T. Martin, Esq., of the Public Record Office.
  • 2. This was the name usually given to the Genoese merchants, who lived mostly near Tower Street. The place where they landed their goods was called Galley Key, and the small silver coin which they brought into England with them, galley halfpence.
  • 3. See Mem. xi., p. 69.
  • 4. This paragraph is struck out, but doubtless the "mantels of silver" were worn, if not paid for out of the common fund.
  • 5. See Mem. xix
  • 6. See p. 525, and Appendix F.
  • 7. See Appendix A (6).
  • 8. See Appendix E.
  • 9. See Mem. viii., par. 18.
  • 10. See Mem. xxv.
  • 11. See Mem. cxxiii., par. 1.
  • 12. See Mem. VIII., par. 12; and Appendix A (6).