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Identity Statement

Reference code(s): GB 0074 A/CSC
Held at: London Metropolitan Archives
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Date(s): 1273-1954
Level of description: Collection
Extent: 35.4 linear metres
Name of creator(s): Corporation of the Sons of the Clergy
The Charity for the Relief of Poor Widows and Children of Clergymen


Administrative/Biographical history:

The Charity was incorporated by charter dated 1 July 1678, at the instigation of a group of loyalist Anglicans who were concerned to alleviate the lot of needy dependants of Anglican clergy who had suffered for their orthodoxy during the time of the Commonwealth. The incorporation marked a stage in the consolidation of charitable efforts directed to that end, and the primary class to benefit from the activities of the Corporation were the widows of sequestered clergy. Formally named "The Charity for the Relief of poor Widows and Children of Clergymen", the Corporation gradually came to extend its benevolence more widely within that general heading as the years passed.

The popular title "Sons of the Clergy" is an indication of the large proportion of sons of clergymen who were active in the Charity, but also probably shows a sense of "pietas" felt by orthodox laity toward the faithful clergy. The phrase was inherited from the Festival of the Sons of the Clergy.

The Corporation and the Festival: The circle of Anglicans whose efforts led to the incorporation of the Charity had for many years previously been pursuing the aims formulated in the Charter of 1678 by means of the annual Festival of the Sons of the Clergy. This enabled the raising of money at a solemn service, held in a prominent church in the Capital, and a grand feast to follow, at which the liberal benefactions of the wealthy were solicited. The origins of the Festival are obscure, the first extant Sermon preached on such an occasion being dated 1655.

The Festival, with its organisers and administrators, must be regarded as the parent of the Corporation. No doubt practical experience showed the creation of a Corporation to be the best means of ensuring orderliness and continuity in the administration of such a Charity. If the annual benevolence of the Festival attracted offers of endowment by estates, which would yield a regular and permanent income, the creation of a body corporate would be the only way of avoiding the tiresome necessity of continual renewal of trustees to make up for depletions by death. It was just this legal difficulty which led eventually to the vesting in the Corporation of the Sons of the Clergy of a number of private charities with similar objects. One such was Palmer's Charity, which brought the Corporation some lands in rural Holloway; and these with the growth of London, became the Corporation's principal landed estate.

The purchase of estates was, indeed, one of the early concerns of the Charity, once incorporated, and its landed interests eventually came to extend over many parts of England and Wales.

The Festival, with its Stewards and Secretary, and the Corporation, with its Court of Assistants and Registrar, continued as separate, though closely linked, entities, and the same people were often active in both. The funds raised at the Festival were administered separately until in the 1830's they were handed over to the Corporation to administer though still as a separate fund.

The Organisation of the Corporation: The Charter of Incorporation, whose text was copied out at the beginning of more than one Court Book, lays down the organisation of the Charity which it has retained ever since, and which still continues to function. The Corporation consists of a large number of Governors who meet at a General Court held on the second Thursday in each November. The first Governors, men of substance and standing, were nominated by Charter, and all subsequent appointments were made at the General Court.

The Charter also nominated the first Court of Assistants, composed of a President, Vice-President, three Treasurers and 42 Assistants. This court is responsible for the conduct of business of the Charity, it meets at varying intervals throughout the year, and appointments to it lie with the Governors.

At the first meeting of the Court of Assistants on 15th July 1678, choice was made of a Register, later called Registrar, to be the principal permanent official of the Corporation. Unlike the abovementioned officers, the Register received payment for his services, which required legal knowledge, and approximated to the functions of a general secretary and solicitor.

Amongst other minor officials was the Messenger, who convened meetings and probably at times acted as a rent collector. There was never a large staff of permanent officials. Unlike the Messenger, the Registrar still continues to function at the head of the permanent administration.

There seems to have been a permanent accountant at least since 1726, but this official is less easy to trace in the records. Apart from the Treasurers' Accounts, the Ledger of 1771 is the first survivor of any series of financial records. Before 1726 this work seems to have been in the hands of a Committee for Methodizing the Books.

Various Committees were appointed from time to time, but in the 17th and 18th centuries they generally give an impression of informality, and were often appointed ad hoc. It was not until about 1840 that any considerable reorganisation took place within the Corporation, and at that time the three principal permanent Committees of Estates, Finance and Petitions were formed.


Scope and content/abstract:

Records of the Corporation of the Sons of the Clergy (also known as The Charity for the Relief of Poor Widows and Children of Clergymen), including letters patent; minutes; agendas; administrative papers; letter books; papers of associatied charities; schemes and proposals; publicity; cases for legal counsel; financial accounts; subscriptions, donations and bequests; papers relating to the management of estates; and reference books.

These archives of the Corporation of the Sons of the Clergy were deposited in the London County Record Office on condition that all records for the past 100 years which contain reference to beneficiaries shall be regarded as confidential. Searchers who wish to consult such categories of record should first obtain the consent of the Registrar to the Corporation (Corporation House, 6 Woburn Square, London, W.C.1). Other categories of record and all records more than 100 years old are available for searchers without any special restrictions.

Access & Use

Language/scripts of material:

System of arrangement:

A/CSC-1: Corporate Records; A/CSC-2: Administration; A/CSC-3: Finance; A/CSC-4: Estates; A/CSC-5: Related Documentation.

Conditions governing access:

These records are available for public inspection, although records containing personal information may be subject to access restrictions.

Conditions governing reproduction:

Copyright to these records rests with the depositor.

Finding aids:

Please see online catalogues at:

Archival Information

Archival history:

The fragmentation of many categories of Corporation records is readily understandable when it is remembered that the "Hall" mentioned in the Charter as a meeting-place for the Corporation did not become an effective reality until the 19th century. In its early days the Court of Assistants, and the various Committees which it appointed, met at a variety of places to transact business. During the 17th century meetings are recorded at the Jerusalem Chamber, Westminster Abbey, at Ely House, Holborn, and at Doctors Commons; places which reflect the interest in the Charity shown by John Dolben (Dean of Westminster), Peter Gunning (Bishop of Ely), and Thomas Tyllot (Register to the Corporation). The natural custodian of the gradually growing corpus of records would be the Register, and with certain exceptions the records tended to be kept wherever the Register carried on his work. This is the consistent thread which explains their perambulations in the 18th century, and their numerous moves must have accounted for many losses. In 1712 an arrangement was made with the Dean of St. Paul's Cathedral for the use of the Lord Mayor's Vestry there for meetings of the Court and for keeping of documents. Two years later the Chapter House of the Cathedral was in use for meetings and it is probable, though not certain, that the records were removed there. In 1725 the Corporation acquired the lease of a house in Salisbury Court, and the Register acquired the function of housekeeper there. This was the Corporation's home until 1756 when a brief return was made to the Chapter House of St. Paul's Cathedral; a move which was associated with the then Register's appointment as receiver to the Dean and Chapter. On the Register's resignation in 1759, this arrangement had to be terminated, and the next year saw the Corporation Office at No.13, Paper Buildings, Inner Temple. In 1788 when a new Register was appointed, the records were moved to a new address at No. 5 Coney Court, Grays Inn, which in 1790 was changed to 5, Grays Inn Square, and in 1795 to No. 10 Bedford Row. 1804 saw the appointment of a new Registrar and a move to No. 64, Chancery Lane. Presumably the records were also transported to the new Registrar's premises. It was not until 1805 that No. 2, Bloomsbury Place became the settled home of the Corporation, which acquired the lease of the property in 1808, and at last the possession of a Corporation House. The last move was in 1928 to the present Corporation House, No. 6, Woburn Square. In 1949 some of the Corporation records, held by their solicitors, were listed for the British Records Association. Already in 1934 a schedule had been compiled of the Corporation's records kept at Hoare's Bank. But the first list to be made which can be considered at all comprehensive is the Report prepared for the National Register of Archives in May 1957, and its Supplement. This gives summary information concerning many trunks, boxes and parcels of records, in addition to the series of books. Not all the items listed for the National Register of Archives were deposited, some being retained for current use by the Corporation. It was apparent that the contents of a few of the boxes which had been listed in 1957 had been re-arranged; but with one exception all the records which existed at the time the two earlier lists were made (1949 and 1957) still survive, and those which do not appear in this present list are at Corporation House. The one exception is a batch of documents relating to the Barnet Estate, which includes documents dating back to 1426, amongst which are some copies of manorial court rolls belonging to Saint Alban's Abbey. These documents, listed in 1949, were not included when the other records in the care of the Corporation's former solicitors were transferred to the County Record Office in Dec. 1958, and efforts by the Corporation, the British Records Association, and the County Archivist, have so far been unavailing to trace them. Since the above was written, some of the Barnet deeds have come to light, though not all; and at the same time a large quantity of records relating to the Adstone estate were discovered. All these are included in the list.

Immediate source of acquisition:

The deposit in the London County Record Office (recommended in a N.R.A. report) was made in two parts. In 1958 the main bulk was transferred, including a number of large parcels not mentioned in previous lists. In 1958 the 3 boxes which were listed in 1949 were transferred.

Allied Materials

Related material:

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:
June to August 2010.

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