The History and Antiquities of London, Westminster, Southwark, and Parts Adjacent, vol. 2

Allen, Thomas


The Record Office.

This office is of very ancient date, and mentioned in a roll of the d of Edw. I. , in these words,

Scrutentur Rotuli de Scotia quae sunt in Custodia apud Turrim London.

And the place where these records were kept, appears, by another ancient record of the of Edward III. to be a certain house, afterwards called a Tower, now known by the name, of Wakefield's Tower, wherein that king, it is said,

caused to be laid up the rolls, and other memorable matters of the chancery, as well from the time of his progenitors, heretofore kings of England, as in his own, for the safe and secure custody of the said rolls and memorable things.

The Record office contains a vast quantity of state papers and ancient documents. A brief synopsis of the number, titles, and contents of which follows:

Exclusive of the above series, there are a vast quantity of records preserved in the Tower of an equally important nature. Among these may be noticed the , and Writs and returns of knights, citizens and burgesses to Parliament, rolls, forest claims, the homage of the nobility and great men of Scotland to Edward I., the taxation roll of the same reign, &c.

These are all comprised under the title of records of the court of chancery, and it is truly observed by Mr. Bayley, the learned and elegant historian of the Tower, that

they form a collection of memorials of the highest national importance: indeed, they are the ground work of the constitution; the basis of the laws; and a source, without the aid of which no history of the nation can be written or proved.

The public records of Scotland, which Oliver Cromwell seized on, were placed in the Tower, where they remained until the restoration, when Charles II., intending to return them to Edinburgh Castle, sent them in a vessel, which was wrecked near Holy island, and the whole the valuable documents were lost.

In the year of Edward III. Robert de Hoton was commanded to arrange and set in order the charters, writings and muniments in chests in the White Chamber, contiguous to a hall, called the White Hall, whose roofs, doors and windows were ordered to be repaired in the year of the same reign; and is probably the same little house mentioned in another record of the of Henry VI. in these words: ; i.e.

John Malpas, possessed the office of keeper of the armory in the Tower

of London, together with


little house then empty within the said tower, near to the tower, within which are kept the rolls of the king's chancery.

We also learn its antiquity from the mention of the keepers of those records, of whom was Walter Reginald, the king's treasurer, who was commanded by Edward II. to deliver to Bensted all the writings and instruments touching the negociation of peace between king Edward his father, and the king of France, which were in his custody in the Tower, An. Reg. . Robert de Hoton, above-mentioned, seems to have been another keeper of the records in the of Edward III. who by writ was directed to bring into the exchequer all the writs, muniments, &c. belonging to Thomas earl of Lancaster, deceased, and in his custody. In the year of the same reign, William de Kildesby, keeper of the privy-seal, seems also to have been keeper of the records; for John de St. Paul, master or custos of the rolls of chancery, was commanded to send all the rolls, bundles, and memoranda of chancery to the Tower, and to deliver them there to the said William de Kildesby. John Burton, clerk, enjoyed the same office in the of Richard II. And in the reign of Henry VI. Thomas Smith, clerk, after a prosecution and conviction in the Star-chamber, for the razing of a record of the chancery in his custody in the in the reign of Edw.. III. was discharged his office, and was probably succeeded by John Malpas above-mentioned. Ralph Pexall, keeper of the records in the of Henry VIII. erazed, by command of the said king, certain words negligently written long before in the rolls of the chancery of the d of Edward IV. then being in the Tower, viz. in a levy granted to Edmund Church; he was succeeded by Richard Eton.

In the d of Edward VI. Edward Hales was keeper of the records: in whose time Hoby, an officer in the Ordnance, gave notice to him, that he had accidentally discovered a great quantity of records in an old empty house in the Tower, as he searched for a convenient place to lay up gunpowder; which, by laying damp, and many of them against the walls, were much damaged and eaten with the lime.

In the reign of queen Elizabeth, an inquiry was instituted and some salutary measures adopted for the preservation of the records, and about this time the custody of them was committed to Mr. William Bowyer, a man of great talents and industry; he devoted upwards of years, and a considerable fortune, in collecting and arranging those valuable muniments: he formed with his own hand, folio volumes of repertories. Subsequently the learned John Selden and the celebrated Prynne, (author of the ), both eminent antiquaries, were appointed keepers, and did much to the arranging and forming proper indexes to the objects of their charge; but it appears that, either


previous to the appointment of those great men, or more probably after, the records fell into as bad a state of confusion as before they were placed under Mr. Bowyer's hands.

Lord Halifax, about , called the attention of parliament to this subject, and a committee was appointed to inquire into the state of the national records. By order of this commission much was done; the record chambers were new fitted up, under the direction of sir C. Wren; and about a calendar of the Gascoigne, Norman, and French rolls was published, and was very well received, both at home and abroad. The printing of the records still continues, under the direction of the commission. On the death of Mr. Astle, who was keeper of the records for near years, the late S. Lysons, esq. F. S. A. was immediately appointed to the situation: the talents of this gentleman, and his profound knowledge of the history and antiquities of his country, fitted him for so important an office, and no keeper ever exerted himself with such enthusiasm and success. On the death of this amiable man in , he was succeeded in the office by Henry Petrie, esq., the present keeper, under whom is John Bayley, esq. the author of the History of the Tower before noticed.


[] These records are arranged in bundles, and commence with the reign of Henry III and continue to the end of that of Richard III. Calendars from the commencement to the 14th of Henry IV. have been printed, by order of his majesty's commissioners, and the remainder it is expected will soon appear.

[] These begin with 1st of Edward II. and end in the 38th Henry VI. A calendar to them was printed by order of the abovementioned commission.

[] The first volume of the parliamentary writs is printed by order of the commissioners. The work is edited by F. Palgrave, esq. F. S. A.

[] Printed by order of the commission in two volumes folio.

[] This is a taxation of ecclesiastical benefices made in the pontificate of Nicholas IV. 1292. It was printed verbatim by order of his majesty's commissioners.

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 Title Page
 CHAPTER I: History of London, from the Accession of William and Mary, to the reign of George the Second
 CHAPTER II: History of London during the reign of George the Second
 CHAPTER III: History of London from the Accession of George the Third, to the year 1780
 CHAPTER IV: History of London continued to the Union
 CHAPTER V: History of London from the Union to the Jubilee, 1809
 CHAPTER VI: History of London from the Jubilee to the Peace of 1814
 CHAPTER VII: History of London continued to the accession of George the Fourth
 CHAPTER VIII: Account of the Civil Government of the City by Portreves, Bailiffs, and Mayors, with a list of the latter...
 CHAPTER IX: An account of the Aldermen and Sheriffs, with a list of the latter
CHAPTER X: Lists and brief Accounts of the various Officers and Courts within the City
CHAPTER XI: Some account of the Ecclesiastical Government of the city of London, with a List and Biographical Notices of the Bishops of the see
CHAPTER XII: Some Account of the Military Government of London, and the Artillery Company
CHAPTER XIII: An Account of the twelve principal Companies of the City of London
CHAPTER XIV: An Account of the Companies of the City of London, alphabetically arranged
 CHAPTER XV: An Account of the River Thames
CHAPTER XVI: Historical and topographical account of London Bridge, Westminster Bridge, Blackfriars Bridge, Waterloo Bridge, Southwark Bridge, and the Thames Tunnel
CHAPTER XVII: Topographical and Historical Account of the Tower of London