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Archives in London and the M25 area


Identity Statement

Reference code(s): COL
Held at: London Metropolitan Archives
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Date(s): 1067-2004
Level of description: Collection
View subfonds/series records
Extent: 2369.38 linear meters
Name of creator(s): Corporation of London


Administrative/Biographical history:

The Corporation of London is the local authority for the City of London or Square Mile, the financial and commercial centre at the heart of the metropolitan area. With its roots in medieval times, it is probably the oldest local authority in the United Kingdom and has an unusually wide range of responsibilities reflecting both its ancient role as a municipality and its modern-day role as the equivalent of a London Borough. The Corporation of London is also unique in local government as it has no charter of incorporation nor any specific date of establishment: it has evolved organically from earlier bodies. Most other councils in the United Kingdom were either created or substantially reformed in the 19th century or later.

Where "Corporation" is used in modern legislation such as City of London (Various Powers) Acts, its meaning is defined as "the Mayor and Commonalty and Citizens of the City of London". This latter title is one of the styles used in the charter dated 20 Sep 1608, which also lists the following titles or styles: Mayor and Aldermen of the City of London; Mayor, Citizens and Commonalty of the City of London; Mayor and Commonalty of the City of London; Citizens of the City of London; Barons of London; Barons of the City of London and indeed "any other name whatsoever, by reason or force of any letters patent, charters, or confirmations of any of our progenitors, Kings of England, which in any time or times had reasonably used or exercised". In 1690 an Act of Parliament confirming all the privileges of the Corporation of London declared that the Mayor and Commonalty and Citizens of the City of London should "remain continue, and be, and prescribe to be a body corporate and politick, in re, facto et nomine"

Another unusual feature of the Corporation of London is its ability to alter or amend its constitution when it benefits the Corporation of London and City of London to do so, under charters of Edward III (1341) and Richard II (1377 and 1383). This power is exercised by means of Acts of Common Council. Such Acts of the Corporation of London are authenticated by the City or Common Seal. Although the legal title of the Corporation of London remains 'the Mayor and Commonalty and Citizens of the City of London', statutory powers are usually conferred on the Court of Common Council, under the designation of 'the Mayor, Aldermen and Commons of the City of London in Common Council assembled'.

The early history of the Corporation of London is also difficult to reconstruct since, in both the United Kingdom and the wider European context, there are virtually no ancient cities with administrative records surviving before the 13th century. In the 10th century, in the reign of King Athelstan, the establishment of eight mints in the City of London provides evidence of the prosperity and importance of the federal state of London, a City composed of Wards governed by Aldermen presiding over their Wardmotes [meeting of citizens of a ward] with a Folkmoot [a pre-Conquest general assembly of the people of a city] for the whole City of London meeting at St Paul's Cathedral.

In the following century, after the Battle of Hastings in 1066, the victorious William granted the citizens of London a charter ratifying their existing rights and privileges. Although the charter, written in Anglo-Saxon and now dated to c 1067, did not grant any new rights, it was an important confirmation of the privileges and laws enjoyed by the "burgesses within London" in the time of Edward the Confessor [1042-1066]. This royal grant was only the first of many over the centuries which granted or confirmed customs and liberties.

Although the City of London continued to retain and to enjoy its independent customs and privileges, it still owed allegiance to the Crown and was bound to support the Royal Exchequer. The ancient office of Sheriff (mentioned in Anglo-Saxon laws of the 7th century), for example, exercised the King's authority over the citizens and collected royal revenues. A key stage in the development of autonomous local government was the right of a town or city to appoint its own officials and hence control its own affairs. In England this came generally through grants of the "farm of the borough" by which townsmen became corporately responsible for paying over the annual royal dues and, by consequence, appointed the officer who accounted for the dues at the Royal Exchequer. Henry I [1100-1135] is known to have made this concession to only two places: Lincoln and London. For a fee, both had obtained control of their own farms and officials by 1130. In the case of the citizens of London, emancipation from the royal financial agent was achieved by a charter from King John, dated 5 Jul 1199, giving them the right to choose the Sheriffs of both London and Middlesex, a right which was exercised until the 19th century. Since the Local Government Act 1888 two Sheriffs have continued to be elected but for the City of London alone.

The office of Alderman (like that of Sheriff) predates the Norman Conquest but the first mention of an Alderman of London by name is not until 1111 while the place-name Aldermanbury appears in 1128. In the 12th and 13th centuries the Wards in the City of London are still mainly identified by the name of their Alderman although the first full list of Wards under permanent names such as Dowgate or Cornhill is dated 1285. The roots of municipal government in the City of London are thus found in the activities of the Aldermen in their Wards which in the medieval period provided such public services as existed. Working individually, or in co-operation, the power of the Aldermen grew as the corporate unity of the City of London developed and they exercised both administrative and judicial functions in what became the Court of Aldermen. Until the 18th century the Court of Aldermen was the premier governing body of the City of London and the Aldermen remain an integral part of the Corporation of London.

Also integral to the Corporation of London is the office of Mayor (the title of Lord Mayor also being evolutionary and only being in general use from about 1500). In the 12th century, London was the first English town to have a Mayor, Henry Fitz Ailwyn, who first appears around 1189, although the exact circumstances of his becoming Mayor are not known. In 1191 the Londoners secured recognition of the Commune [a municipal corporation or organisation] from Prince John and other magnates. Two years later, the oath of the Commune provides the first tentative evidence of the participation by representatives of the Commons of the City when reputable men were to be associated with the Mayor and others for the good rule of the City of London. In May 1215 King John granted the citizens the right to elect annually a Mayor who was one of 25 barons appointed to ensure the terms of Magna Carta (Jun 1215) were carried out. By the end of the 14th century a permanent body chosen by the citizens had been established and since the 18th century, this body (now known as the Court of Common Council) has been the main governing body of the City of London.

The Corporation of London performs the ordinary functions of a council for the residential and working population of the City of London, supported by local taxes and funds from central government. It also runs its own police force, the City of London Police, the Central Criminal Court (the "Old Bailey") and the Barbican Arts Centre as well as maintaining five bridges across the River Thames (Blackfriars, Southwark, London, Tower and, since 2002, the Millennium Bridge). In addition, the Corporation of London provides other special services for the benefit of London and indeed the nation as a whole, often financed from its own funds (City's Cash) and at no cost to the tax and ratepayer. Many of these special services are provided outside the boundaries of the City of London itself and include: owning and maintaining over 10,000 acres of open spaces such as Epping Forest and Hampstead Heath; acting as the Port Health Authority for the whole of the Thames tidal estuary; providing the quarantine station at Heathrow Airport, and acting as a Markets Authority with responsibility for three premier wholesale food markets (Billingsgate, Smithfield and Spitalfields). It also administers the Bridge House Grants Scheme, a charitable grants scheme for Greater London, and is committed to an extensive programme of activities designed to assist its neighbours to combat social deprivation.

The Corporation of London operates through the Lord Mayor, Aldermen and Members of the Court of Common Council who are elected by the residents and businesses of the 25 Wards in the City of London. The Court of Aldermen still deals with matters such as the Livery Companies and the Freedom of the City of London but its present-day role has diminished with the development of the Court of Common Council. Much of the work of the Corporation of London is now delegated to the Court of Common Council which is the primary decision-making assembly. The Court of Common Council is non-party political and works through Committees which are mainly made up of Members of the Common Council.

The Corporation of London also acts through its officers, some of whose offices originate in the medieval period. The earliest known holders of the office of Town Clerk (now the Chief Executive) and the Chamberlain (the chief financial officer), for example, both date from the 13th century although the offices themselves may date from the 12th century. Others, such as that of the Comptroller and City Solicitor (the head of the legal department), result from the amalgamation of different offices originating from medieval and Elizabethan times. These officers still head their own departments but, in recent years, many formerly separate departments have been amalgamated into directorates covering, for example, Technical Services or Markets or Open Spaces. Overall the Departments and Directorates are responsible for delivering the wide range of services provided by the Corporation of London.


Scope and content/abstract:

Records of the Corporation of London, 1067-2004, including records of the Court of Aldermen (COL/CA) and committees of the Court of Aldermen including Administration of Justice Committee, (COL/CA/AJA), Finance Committee (COL/CA/FNA), Gaol Committee (COL/CA/GAC), General Purposes Committee (COL/CA/GPA), Livery Cloth Committee (COL/CA/LCA), Magistracy Committee (COL/CA/MGA), Prisons Committee (COL/CA/PCA), Police Committee (COL/CA/PLA), Privileges Committee (COL/CA/PVA), Parliamentary Committee (COL/CA/PYA), Whole Committee (COL/CA/WCA) and various other committees (COL/CA/MIN).

Records of the Court of Common Council (COL/CC) and committees of the Court of Common Council including Affairs of the Corporation Committee (COL/CC/ACC), Administration of Justice Committee (COL/CC/AJC), Airport Committee (COL/CC/APC), Assessment (City Of London Union) Committee (COL/CC/ASC), Accounts Committee (COL/CC/AUC), Blackfriars Bridge (Building) Committee (COL/CC/BBB), Blackfriars Bridge (Repairing) Committee (COL/CC/BBR), Bunhill Fields Committee (COL/CC/BFC), Bridge House Committee (COL/CC/BHC), Bridge House Trust Committee (COL/CC/BHT), Billingsgate and Leadenhall Markets Committee (COL/CC/BLM), Barbican Arts Centre Joint Working Party (Arts Centre) (COL/CC/BRA), Barbican Centre Committee (COL/CC/BRC), Barbican Development Committee (COL/CC/BRD), Barbican Residential Committee (COL/CC/BRR), Barbican Contracts Working Party (COL/CC/BRW), Coal, Corn and Finance Committee (COL/CC/CCF), Coal and Corn Committee (COL/CC/CCN), Coal, Corn and Rates Finance Committee (COL/CC/CCR), Civil Defence Committee (COL/CC/CDC), Civil Defence (Emergency) Committee (COL/CC/CDE), Central Markets Committee (COL/CC/CEM), City of London (Arizona) Corporation (COL/CC/CLA), City Lands and Bridge House Estates Committee (COL/CC/CLBH), City Lands Committee (COL/CC/CLC), City of London Education Committee (COL/CC/CLE), Board of Governors, City of London Freemen's School (COL/CC/CLF), City of London Freemen's (Orphans) School (COL/CC/CLFO), Board of Governors, City of London School for Girls (COL/CC/CLG), Board Of Governors, City of London School (COL/CC/CLS), City Of London School Building Committee (COL/CC/CLSB), City Of London School For Girls Committee (COL/CC/CLSG), City Of London Schools Committee (COL/CC/CLSS), Computer Sub-Committee (COL/CC/CMB), Computer Steering Group Committee (COL/CC/CMG), County Purposes Committee (COL/CC/CPC), Enquiries into the Constitution of the Corporation (COL/CC/CPR), Court Of Requests Committee (COL/CC/CRC), Central Criminal Court (Extension) Co mmittee (COL/CC/CRE), Central Criminal Court: Newson Smith Committee (COL/CC/CRN), Consolidated Committee (COL/CC/CTC), Cattle Markets Committee (COL/CC/CTM), Elementary Education Committee (COL/CC/EEC), Epping Forest And Open Spaces Committee (COL/CC/EFC), Emanuel Hospital Committee (COL/CC/EHC), Establishment Committee (COL/CC/ESC), Freedom Applications Committee (COL/CC/FAC), Food Control Committee (COL/CC/FCC), Freedom Committee (19th Century) (COL/CC/FDC), Finance Committee (COL/CC/FNC), Gaol Expenses and Finance Committee (COL/CC/FNG), Special Finance/Select Finance or Finance Committee (COL/CC/FNS), Fish Supply Committee (COL/CC/FSC), Guildhall Improvement Committee (COL/CC/GHI), Guildhall Yard East Building Committee (COL/CC/GHY), General Purposes Committee (COL/CC/GPC), Gresham Committee (City Side) (COL/CC/GRC), Joint Gresham Committee (COL/CC/GRJ), Gas/Gas And Water Committee (COL/CC/GWC), Guildhall Yard East Committee (COL/CC/GYE), City Of London Board Of Health (COL/CC/HEB), Health Committee (COL/CC/HEC), Housing Committee (COL/CC/HGC), Hampstead Heath Management Committee (COL/CC/HHM), Highgate Wood Joint Consultative Committee (COL/CC/HWJ), Improvements Committee (Corporation) (COL/CC/IMP), Improvements And Town Planning Committee (C.S/Phd) (COL/CC/ITP), Joint Advisory Committee (COL/CC/JTA), Joint Bridge House Estates and Improvements Committee (COL/CC/JTB), Joint Committee (COL/CC/JTC), Joint (P.H.D) Committee (COL/CC/JTP), Joint Bridge House Estates and Special Committee (COL/CC/JTS), Joint Bridge House Estates and Thames Navigation and Port of London Committee (COL/CC/JTT), Litter Act Committee (COL/CC/LAC), London Bridge Approaches Committee (COL/CC/LBA), London Bridge Committee (COL/CC/LBC), London Bridge Improvements Committee (COL/CC/LBI), Local Centres Examinations Board Executive Committee (COL/CC/LCE), Local Food Control Committee (COL/CC/LFC), Local Government and Taxation Committee (COL/CC/LGT), Libraries, Guildhall Art Gallery and Arch ives Committee (COL/CC/LIB), Law Bills Committee (COL/CC/LLC), Library And Museum Committee (COL/CC/LMC), Law, [Parliamentary] and City Courts Committee (COL/CC/LPC), Lunatic Asylum Committee (COL/CC/LUC), Music and Drama Committee (COL/CC/MDC), Metage on Grain Committee (COL/CC/MGC), Committees (COL/CC/MIN), Museum of London Board of Governors (COL/CC/MLB), Midsummer Prize (later Prize) Committee (COL/CC/MPC), Markets Improvement Committee (COL/CC/MRI), Joint Markets Advisory Committee (COL/CC/MRJ), Markets Committee (COL/CC/MRK), Militia Committee (COL/CC/MTC), Mayoralty 800th Anniversary Committee (COL/CC/MYA), Mayoralty Visits Committee (COL/CC/MYC), Officers and Clerks Committee (COL/CC/OCC), Officers and Clerks Committee, 1815-1834 (COL/CC/OCL), Public Health Committee (COL/CC/PBC), Prisons Committee (COL/CC/PCC), Port Health and Environmental Services Committee (COL/CC/PHE), Port and City of London Health and Social Services Committee (COL/CC/PHS), Police Committee (COL/CC/PLC), Port of London Health Committee (COL/CC/PLH), Port of London Committee (COL/CC/PNC), Policy and Resources Committee (COL/CC/PRC), Planning and Transportation Committee (COL/CC/PTC), Planning and Transportation Committee: Trees, Gardens And Open Spaces Sub-Committee (COL/CC/PTCG), Planning And Transportation Committee: Traffic Management And Road Safety Sub-Committee (COL/CC/PTCT), Privileges Committee (COL/CC/PVC), Parliamentary Committee (COL/CC/PYC), Rates Finance Committee (COL/CC/RFC), Revenue And Officers Committee (COL/CC/ROC), Special Bridge Or Subway Committee (COL/CC/SBC), Special (City Of London Court) Committee (COL/CC/SCC), City Of London School Committee (COL/CC/SCH), Secondaries And Sheriffs' Courts Committee (COL/CC/SDC), Special (Emergency) Committee (COL/CC/SEC), Special Finance Committee (COL/CC/SFC), Special (Guildhall Reconstruction) Committee (COL/CC/SGC), Select General Purposes (Porters) Committee (COL/CC/SGP), Special Housing Committee (COL/CC/SHC), Select And Special Committees (COL/CC/SIC), Special (Labour) Committee (COL/CC/SLC), Special Markets Committee (COL/CC/SMC), Special Committee (COL/CC/SPC), Spitalfields Market Committee (COL/CC/SPM), Special Police Committee (COL/CC/SPO), Special Inquiry Committee (COL/CC/SQC), Special Revenue Committee (COL/CC/SRC), Social Services Committee (COL/CC/SSC), Staff Committee (COL/CC/STF), Special Tithes Committee (COL/CC/STH), Streets Committee (COL/CC/STS), Special (War Damage Act) Committee (COL/CC/SWC), Tithe Committee (COL/CC/TIC), Thames Navigation Committee (COL/CC/TNC), Valuation Committee (COL/CC/VAC), Works Advisory Committee (COL/CC/WAC), Whole Court Committee (COL/CC/WCC), Whole Court (P.H.D.) Committee (COL/CC/WCD), Welfare Committee (COL/CC/WEC), West Ham Park: Committee Of Managers Of West Ham Park (COL/CC/WHP), Watch And Police Committee (COL/CC/WPC), Watch And Police: Day Police Committee (COL/CC/WPD) and Watch And Police: Special Day Police And Nightly Watch Committee (COL/CC/WPS).

Records of the Comptroller and City Solicitor (COL/CCS) including Comptroller's papers (COL/CCS/CO), Plans (COL/CCS/PL) and Solicitor's papers (COL/CCS/SO).

Records of the Chamberlain's Department including Apprenticeship (COL/CHD/AP), Bridge House Estates (COL/CHD/BH), Chamber Accounts (COL/CHD/CM), Chamberlain (COL/CHD/CP), Chamberlain's Court (COL/CHD/CR), City's Cash (COL/CHD/CT), Duties and Metage (COL/CHD/DM), Freedom (COL/CHD/FR), Institutions and Courts (COL/CHD/IC), Improvements (COL/CHD/IM), Loans and Assessments (COL/CHD/LA), Military and Naval (COL/CHD/MN), Pensions (COL/CHD/PN), Poor and other Relief (COL/CHD/PR), Rents and Rentals (COL/CHD/RN), Rates (COL/CHD/RT) and Trust and other Funds (COL/CHD/TF).

Records of Mansion House including Administration (COL/MH/AD), Lord Mayor (COL/MH/LM), Lord Mayor's Household (COL/MH/LMH) and The Mansion House (COL/MH/MSH).

Records of the Planning Department including Architect (COL/PLD/AR), Plans (COL/PLD/PL) and Town Planning (COL/PLD/TP).

Records of the Remembrancer's Department including Ceremonials (COL/RMD/CE), Parliamentary (COL/RMD/PA) and Remembrancer's Papers COL/RMD/RM.

Other records including administrative records (COL/AD); Brokers (COL/BR), charters (COL/CH), Common Hall (COL/CN), Common Hall: Livery Consultative Committee (COL/CN/LCN), Common Hall: Livery Committee (COL/CN/LVC), Livery Companies (COL/CP), Custumals (COL/CS), Community Services Department: Housing (COL/CSD/HO), Community Services Department: Social Services (COL/CSD/SS), Charities (COL/CT), Environmental Services Department (COL/ESD), Libraries and Art Galleries: Administration (COL/LBD/AD), Guildhall Art Gallery (COL/LBD/AG), Guildhall Library (COL/LBD/GHL), Officers (COL/OF), Public Health Department: Administration (COL/PHD/AD), Public Health Department: Plans (COL/PHD/PL), Plans (COL/PL), Recognizances (COL/RG), Surveyor's Department: Administration (COL/SVD/AD), Surveyor's Department: Plans (COL/SVD/PL), Town Clerks Department: Administration (COL/TCD/AD), Town Clerks Department: Civil Defence (COL/TCD/CD), Registration COL/TCD/RG, Technical Services Department: Plans (COL/TSD/PL), Sheriffs (COL/SF) and Wards (COL/WD).

Also records arranged in Subject Series: Individuals (COL/SD), Subjects (COL/SJ) and Places (COL/SP).

The records in the CLRO are thought to be one of the finest and most complete municipal archives in Europe. However, researchers may notice some substantial gaps and these merit an explanation. The majority of the records of the Freedom of the City prior to 1681 and the City's Cash accounts prior to 1632 were either destroyed in the Great Fire in 1666 or in another fire in the Chamber (the finance department of the Corporation) in 1786. Similarly, it is thought that a fire at the Sessions House in the Old Bailey in 1877 destroyed the early Sessions minutes and files, as well as the bulk of the supporting papers. The paucity of surviving Sheriffs' Court records for the medieval period is thought to be because these records were considered to be the personal property of a Sheriff, who might be called upon to produce records in order to account for his actions during his time in office long after his Shrievalty had ended. Similarly, it is thought the records of coroner's inquests have not survived in any quantity before 1788 because inquests were not held in a court building until relatively recently, and so the records of inquests were considered part of the personal papers of office holders rather than administrative records.

Access & Use

Language/scripts of material:

System of arrangement:

The archives of the Corporation of London were reclassified in 2004 and divided between records of the corporation itself and records of those bodies or individuals with which the corporation has or had close ties (reference CLA).

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.

Conditions governing reproduction:

Copyright: City of London.

Finding aids:

Please see online catalogues at:

Archival Information

Archival history:

Immediate source of acquisition:

Corporation of London Records Office.

Allied Materials

Related material:

See also the CLA series.

Publication note:

Description Notes

Archivist's note:

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:
February 2009

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