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London Metropolitan Archives



Reference code(s): GB 0074 CLC/L/MD

Held at: London Metropolitan Archives


Date(s): 1300? - 2002

Level of description: Collection

Extent: 1480 production units

Name of creator(s): Worshipful Company of Merchant Taylors


Administrative/Biographical history:

The Merchant Taylors' Company, originally the 'Fraternity of St John the Baptist...called the Tailors and Linen Armourers of London', is one of the 'Great Twelve' livery companies of the City of London. The tailors received their first royal charter in 1327, and their charter of incorporation in 1408. The Company has been known as the Merchant Taylors since a charter of Henry VII of 6 January 1503. The Company is believed to have lost all direct contact with its trade during the 17th century. The Company's Hall has occupied the same site in Threadneedle Street since at least the 1340s.

The Company appears always to have had a large membership, and the membership records are extensive. There was also within the Company from at least the early 15th century until the late 17th century a separate, but dependent organisation for the Company's freemen (also known as 'yeomen') who had not achieved livery status. This was known from 1488 as the 'Bachelors' Company'. For a surviving minute and memorandum book of the 'Bachelors' Company' see Ms 34020. Membership of the 'Bachelors' Company was automatic for freemen of the main Company, so there were never any separate membership records.

Over the years the Company acquired extensive landed estates, either for charitable purposes (Trust property) or in its own right (Corporate property). The Company established Merchant Taylors' School from its own funds in 1561, for 'bringing up of children in good manners and literature'. It was always for boys only. Richard Hilles, the Master of the Company in that year, gave 500 towards the new school, but was not its founder. The Company has continued to govern the school up to the present day. Until the mid 20th century, there was a specially close relationship between the school and St John's College, Oxford, founded in 1567 by Sir Thomas White, Master of the Merchant Taylors' Company in 1535-6 and Lord Mayor in 1553-4. In particular, there were a number of closed scholarships from the school to the college. The President and Fellows of the college would normally travel to the school on 11 June (St Barnabas' Day) each year to elect suitable candidates. The school's first premises were in Suffolk Lane, in the parish of St Lawrence Pountney, where the Company purchased the Manor of the Rose. The staff in the early years comprised a schoolmaster and three ushers. The first buildings were destroyed in the Great Fire and rebuilt. In 1874 the school moved to Charterhouse Square, to the former buildings of Charterhouse School, which had recently moved to Godalming. In 1933 it moved again, to Sandy Lodge, Northwood, Middlesex. Because the school was funded by the Company entirely from its own resources, it was excluded from the '17th Report' (1827) of the Charity Commissioners which covers the Company's charities.

In 1413 the Company built seven almshouses for decayed tailors and their wives, believed to be the earliest such foundation in London. These almshouses stood in Threadneedle Street, on the west side of the church of St Martin Outwich, and were financed by charitable grants from John Churchman and the Bishop of Norwich. They appear to have escaped the Great Fire, but to have been discontinued by the Company soon after. In 1593 the Company also built almshouses for fourteen women on Tower Hill, on the north side of Rosemary Lane (now Royal Mint Street). The number of places was increased in 1637 to 26, and in 1767 the almshouses were rebuilt. In 1825 they moved to Lee in Kent, to a site then immediately north of Christopher Boone's almshouses, where they continue. The number of places was again increased, to 30. These almshouses were always funded from Corporate income, and should not be confused with Christopher Boone's almshouses, founded at Lee in the late 17th century and for which the Company acted as a trustee. In 1876 the Company in its corporate capacity purchased the redundant 17th century buildings of Boone's almshouses, which had recently moved to new buildings on a new site in Lee. The redundant buildings were then demolished, and the site added to the garden of the Company's almshouses, with the exception of the former chapel of Boone's almshouses, which was preserved in the south east corner of the garden of the Company's almshouses. In 1928 the Company's almshouses were opened to men as well as women. Confusingly, it seems always to have been possible for residents of the almshouses to also receive, on an individual basis, other Company pensions to which no accommodation was ever attached: see Mss 34162-4. For surviving lists of residents see Ms 34159 (1826-47); Mss 34162-3 (1829-1960). Other names may be discoverable from general series such as the Court minutes. The lists of Company almsmen and almswomen 1622-5 in Mss 34018/1 may also include the names of residents of the almshouses. Note that Mss 34100 and 34101, the two series of miscellaneous documents, contain further documents about the almshouses in Rosemary Lane and at Lee: see Ms 34100/147 (no.10), 151, 160-1, 163 and Ms 34101/29 (bundle 298). For plans of the almshouses in Rosemary Lane and at Lee see Ms 34214/2, 19. Further plans may be in the plan books (Mss 34216-23).


Scope and content/abstract:

Records of the Worshipful Company of Merchant Taylors, 1300? - 2002. IMPORTANT INFORMATION REGARDING ACCESS: These records are stored at the Guildhall Library site rather than the LMA Clerkenwell site. Researchers wishing to access these records should do so at the Guildhall Library Rare Books table. The Library is open Monday to Saturday, 9:30 to 16:45. Researchers will need to have an Archives History Card or a Library Readers Card. An archivist will be available at Guildhall Library on Thursday mornings to answer any queries.

Note that many loose papers, relating to every aspect of the Company's business, and dating from the Middle Ages to the early 20th century, were gathered together, sorted and placed in 277 boxes and a further ca.430 bundles by the Company in ca.1925-30. Most of these boxes, and all surviving bundles, were deposited in the Manuscripts Section in 1996, and their arrangement has been retained with minimal alteration as Mss 34100-1. For schedules of these papers see Ms 34102. Readers should therefore be alert to the possibility that papers on any particular subject of interest to them may be contained within these two series, but obscured because the online catalogue does not include the detailed list contained in Ms 34102, though cross-references from the rest of the catalogue have been provided where possible.

Written permission from the Clerk of the Company is required for access to post-1965 material deposited in the Manuscripts Section, and for a few items of an earlier date which remain confidential.

Records of the Merchant Taylors' School include constitutional documents, minutes, prospectuses, register sof pupils and staff, reports to the Company, accounts, correspondence, legal papers, photos and plans, catalogues of the library and other miscellaneous administrative papers. Note that Ms 34100, the series of miscellaneous documents in numbered boxes, contains various documents about Merchant Taylors' School and/or St John's College, Oxford: see Ms 34100/70, 111-4, 121, 139, 147, 156, 158, 160-1, 163, 165-70, 181, 191 and 193. So also does Ms 34101, the series of miscellaneous legal papers in numbered bundles: see Ms 34101/20 (bundles 181, 185, 187-8), 21 (bundle 190), 24 (bundle 251), 33 (bundle 381), 34 (bundle 393) and 36 (bundle 409). For plans see as follows: Suffolk Lane: Ms 34214/2, 8; Charterhouse Square: Ms 34214/9-12, 14; Sandy Lodge: Ms 34214/13, 15. Further plans may be in the plan books (Mss 34216-23). The records were deposited with the records for the Merchant Taylors' Company in 1996. They were catalogued by members of the Manuscripts Section of Guildhall Library.


Language/scripts of material: English, Latin and Greek.

System of arrangement:

As the Company's archive is large and complex, and to assist the user, the catalogue has been arranged in sections each with an archival classification code as follows: CLC/L/MD/A Constitutional records; CLC/L/MD/B Court records; CLC/L/MD/C Membership records; CLC/L/MD/D Financial records; CLC/L/MD/F Clerk's records; CLC/L/MD/G Charities and estates.

Conditions governing access:

These records are available for public inspection, although records containing personal information are subject to access restrictions under the UK Data Protection Act, 1998.

IMPORTANT INFORMATION REGARDING ACCESS: These records are stored at the Guildhall Library site rather than the LMA Clerkenwell site. Researchers wishing to access these records should do so at the Guildhall Library Rare Books table. The Library is open Monday to Saturday, 9:30 to 16:45. Researchers will need to have an Archives History Card or a Library Readers Card. An archivist will be available at Guildhall Library on Thursday mornings to answer any queries. For further information please see LMA Research Guide "Consulting Archives at Guildhall Library", available at

Conditions governing reproduction:

Copyright: Depositor.

Finding aids:

Please see online catalogues at:


Archival history:

Immediate source of acquisition:

The Company deposited the deeds of nos. 54-55 Cornhill in the Manuscripts Section of Guildhall Library in 1971, and these were catalogued as Ms 12683. In 1972 the Company also deposited copy microfilms of many of its most important archive books. These were catalogued as MF 297-364. The bulk of the Company archives were deposited in the Manuscripts Section in 1996, and were catalogued by Stephen Freeth in 2003 as Mss 34001-378. The Company has also deposited in Guildhall Library the archives of Sion Hospital, an almshouse distantly connected with the Company, which closed in 1957. The Sion Hospital archives have been catalogued separately as Mss 33559-88.

The Manuscripts Section merged with London Metropolitan Archives in 2008.


Related material:

Note that the Company has retained various archive items at the Hall, including: the original (i.e. sealed) royal charters; the sealed ordinances; the 1586 grant of arms; most of the 'Ancient Title Deeds'; the 'Book of Presentations' ('Ancient MS Books no.26'), being a record of honorary freemen of the Company since King Edward III, compiled in 1677 and continued to the present day; the roll of new members of the livery, maintained continuously since 1669; and most material later than ca.1945. Applications for access to this retained material should be made in writing to the Clerk of the Company.

Publication note:

The Printed Books Section of Guildhall Library holds various works about the Company, its Hall and treasures, in particular the following: C M Clode, Memorials of the Guild of Merchant Taylors (1875); C M Clode, Early History of the Guild of Merchant Taylors (2 volumes, 1888); H L Hopkinson, Report on the Ancient Records in the Possession of the Guild of Merchant the City of London (1915); R T D Sayle, Lord Mayors' Pageants of the Merchant Taylors' Company (1931); F M Fry and R T D Sayle, The Charters of the Merchant Taylors' Company (1937); R T D Sayle, A Brief History of the Worshipful Company of Merchant Taylors (1945); Matthew Davies, The Tailors of London and their Guild, c.1300-1500 (unpublished D Phil thesis, Oxford University, 1994); and Matthew Davies, The Merchant Taylors' Company of London: Court Minutes, 1486-93 (2000). Another useful work, not held by Guildhall Library, is N V Sleigh-Johnson, The Merchant Taylors' Company of London, 1580-1645 (unpublished PhD thesis, London University, 1989)

See also Merchant Taylors' School Archaeological Society, Merchant Taylors' School: its Origins, History and Present Surroundings, (1929); and F W M Draper, Four Centuries of Merchant Taylors' School, (1962). For an index of former pupils, derived from the Company's archives and from other sources where these are deficient, especially during the early years, see Mrs E P Hart, Merchant Taylors' School Register 1561-1934. Volume 1, A-K; volume 2, L-Z, (1936) [held in the Guildhall Printed Books Section at L 49.3 M555].

DESCRIPTION NOTES Rules or conventions: Compiled in compliance with General International Standard Archival Description, ISAD(G), second edition, 2000; National Council on Archives Rules for the Construction of Personal, Place and Corporate Names, 1997.

Date(s) of descriptions: Oct-09

Almshouses | Residential buildings | Buildings | Architecture
Apprenticeship records | Documents | Information sources
Charitable bequests | Bequests | Property transfer | Property
Charity schools | Schools | Educational institutions
Freedom admissions | Documents | Information sources
Freedom of a city | Rights and privileges | Administration of justice
Freemen | People by roles | People
Tailoring | Textile industry | Manufacturing industry | Industry
Tailors | Occupations
Trade guilds | Guilds | Associations | Organizations

Personal names

Corporate names
Merchant Taylors' School
Worshipful Company of Merchant Taylors

City of London | London | England | UK | Western Europe | Europe