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Archives in London and the M25 area


Identity Statement

Reference code(s): GB 0074 CLC/199
Held at: London Metropolitan Archives
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Date(s): 1292-2003
Level of description: Collection
Extent: 277 production units.
Name of creator(s): St Katharine by the Tower Hospital x Royal College of St Katharine x Royal Foundation of St Katharine


Administrative/Biographical history:

The Hospital was founded as an almshouse for 13 poor people in 1147 by Queen Matilda, wife of King Stephen, on land leased from the Priory of Holy Trinity Aldgate. The earliest reference to its dedication, to St Katharine of Alexandria, is in 1216. In 1254, the Priory's custody of the Hospital was challenged. The Hospital won the support of Queen Eleanor, wife of King Henry III, and in 1261 the Prior was forced to cede supervision of the Hospital to the Queen who had claimed the patronage. Thereafter, the patronage of the queen became traditional, and still continues. In 1441/2, a Royal charter granted the Hospital exemption from both the ecclesiastical jurisdiction of the Bishop of London and the secular jurisdiction of the City. In effect, the Hospital church became the "parish" church of the inhabitants of the Precinct and their parochial ties with St Botolph Aldgate ceased. The Hospital exercised petty criminal jurisdiction in Courts Baron and Courts Leet, more serious matters coming under the Justices of the Peace for the Ward of Portsoken; ecclesiastical matters, especially probate and marriage licensing, were dealt with by the Hospital's Commissary Court

The Hospital survived the Dissolution with its constitution unchanged. However, many archives appear to have been lost at this time. The earliest surviving document is now a Royal charter of 1292, and the administrative records only commence in the late 16th century. In 1825, the St Katharine's Dock Act allowed the destruction of the Hospital, most of the houses in the Precinct and some in the adjacent parish of St Botolph Aldgate. No provision was made for re-housing the inhabitants of the Precinct, although funds for the charity school were transferred to St Botolph's. The Hospital itself was recompensed for the loss of land and the Brothers, Sisters, Bedeswomen and a new school were accommodated on a new site in Regent's Park. The school provided charity education until 1915, but the Hospital, removed from its established sphere of influence, became a retirement residence for more affluent people.

To make its work more effective, the Hospital was refounded in 1914 by Queen Alexandra as the Royal College of St Katharine, and moved to premises in Poplar where it trained nurses and provided maternity and child health care. The chapel remained in Regent's Park. In 1948 the College was in turn reconstituted as the Royal Foundation of St Katharine and moved to buildings in Butcher Row, Ratcliff, where a new chapel was dedicated in 1952 thus once again combining worship and service to the community on one site.


Scope and content/abstract:

Records of Saint Katharine by the Tower Hospital, later known as the Royal College of Saint Katharine and the Royal Foundation of Saint Katharine. Records include charters and licences; rules and regulations; legal papers; minutes; correspondence and letter books; annual reports; financial accounts; registers of baptism, marriage and burial; banns books; Vestry minutes; papers regarding the manor of the hospital; papers regarding poor relief; papers of the Commissary Court of the Royal Peculiar including marriage allegations; papers regarding estates and properties including title deeds and surveys; maps and plans.

This catalogue also includes records deposited in the Library from the Valuation and Rates Department of the Corporation of the City of London in 1920. These volumes relate to rate assessments and poor law administration of the Precinct and probably reached the Corporation via the neighbouring parish of St Botolph Aldgate, to which the inhabitants of the Precinct would naturally have turned in 1825. Later Precinct books are catalogued within the archive of St Botolph Aldgate.

Access & Use

Language/scripts of material:

System of arrangement:

As the archive is large and complex, and to assist the user, the catalogue has been arranged in sections representing sub-groups each with an archival classification code as follows:
TA Constitutional records;
TB Administration of the Foundation;
TC Precinct administration;
TD Commissary Court;
TE Estate records.

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 this collection rests with the depositor.

Finding aids:

Please see online catalogues at:

Archival Information

Archival history:

Immediate source of acquisition:

The Chapter of the Royal Foundation has deposited the records of the Hospital in the Manuscripts Section of Guildhall Library in several transfers since 1957. They have been catalogued at various dates by members of Guildhall Library staff. The first deposit also included records which were transferred from the British Library where they had previously been deposited. Archives of Precinct administration and the Commissary Court were transferred to Guildhall Library from the Public Record Office (Principal Probate Registry) in 1957 and 1968. It is possible to find these records under their old PRO class marks using the Search. The Guildhall Library Manuscripts Section merged with the London Metropolitan Archives in 2009.

Allied Materials

Related material:

Publication note:

For a general history of the Hospital, see C. Jamison, The History of the Royal Hospital of St Katharine by the Tower of London (London, 1952), and M. Darby, The Royal Foundation of Saint Katharine (Colchester, c. 1994). Both these items are available in the Printed Books Section of Guildhall Library.

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:
August to October 2010.

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