Lockdown silver linings: St Paul’s Cathedral
The archive of St Paul’s Cathedral was deposited at Guildhall Library Manuscripts Section from the 1960s onwards, with the bulk being deposited in 1980 and catalogued in 1989. However a significant portion of the archive, consisting of 130 boxes and 60 volumes and box files, remained inaccessible. A box-list of the material was compiled in October 1999 by Christine Faunch and Stephen Freeth, but this was only available in word-processed form.
During the second Covid-19 lockdown, which began in November 2020, Adeshina Ogunleye from LMA’s Records Management team re-keyed the word-processed box list into Microsoft Excel. This would enable us to incorporate the list into the LMA catalogue. However the items themselves had no reference codes other than the box number in which they were situated, and none of them were sorted into the existing St Paul’s archive according to their provenance or subject matter.
A decision therefore needed to be made about what to do next. Following the ‘More Product Less Process’ formula, I decided to sort the items ‘intellectually’ but not physically. Each item in the Excel spreadsheet was assigned a unique reference code which placed it within the relevant section of the archive catalogue according to its subject matter. For example all items which related to landed estates belonging to the Dean and Chapter were placed into section CLC/313/L and all items which related to the finances of the cathedral or the Dean and Chapter were placed into section CLC/313/G. Each item was labelled with its new reference code and the range of new codes contained within each box were written on the outside of the box to facilitate retrieval. No items, except a few artefacts which were separately packaged and moved to LMA’s artefact store, were repackaged or moved from one box to another, saving much time. As with previous lockdown work undertaken by LMA staff, this has enabled us to make these 1218 new items available to the public in a fraction of the time it would have taken to sort, repackage, re-box, label and describe the items from scratch.
Of course one big drawback of treating the items this way is that they have not been individually assessed for conservation and/or packaging needs. With some items dating from the medieval or early-modern periods this does mean that many of them remain very vulnerable. For this reason all boxes which contain fragile or vulnerable items require checking by conservators before being made available to the public. All items affected in this way are marked as ‘Access by appointment only’ in the LMA catalogue.
The content of these boxes, originally known as ‘CF’ boxes after Christine Faunch, the compiler of the original box list, is very wide-ranging and spans all of the existing sections of the St Paul’s archive catalogue, with only a couple of exceptions. Two new sections have also had to be added to the archive to accommodate the new material – CLC/313/Q ‘Diocese of London’ which contains material relating to the work of the Bishop of London within his diocese (there are, of course, correlations with the main Diocese of London archive held at LMA (ref: DL)); and CLC/313/R ‘St Paul’s Societies’, which contains items relating to societies linked closely to the cathedral, namely St Paul’s Lecture Society and St Paul’s Foreign Mission Union.
Other material newly-available through this work include:
- Charters for rebuilding the cathedral after 1666, including for collection of funds and quarrying of stone (CLC/313/A)
- Cathedral services (CLC/313/F): music used at the funeral of the Duke of Wellington in 1852; thanksgiving services for jubilees of Queen Victoria, recovery of Edward VII from illness, return of Imperial Yeomanry from Boer War 1902; entry of USA into World War I; ceremonials for enthronements of new bishops of London
- Finance (CLC/313/G): a run of ledgers from 1938 to 1972; two series of cash books 1780-1799 and 1930-1971. A large number of business and some personal accounts of Baker John Sellon, Steward and Receiver to the Dean and Chapter including his administration of the estate of George H. Drummond. There are also many items on fees, subsidies, Queen Anne’s Bounty as well as annual bundles of audit papers – mainly receipts, spanning most of the 19th century
- Cathedral fabric post-1630 (CLC/313/I): lots of new material relating to the rebuilding post-1666, including a letter from Christopher Wren about a dispute with the Portland quarrymen, 1705 (CLC/313/I/E/021), contracts for workers, papers on the Great Model, on the painting of the cupola by Sir James Thornhill, correspondence about the replica statue of Queen Anne 1884-1886. There is also a new sub-section for 20th century records (CLC/313/I/F) which includes the papers of two surveyors of the fabric, Mervyn MaCartney and W. Godfrey Allen, and a separate section on the St Paul’s Watch, which protected the cathedral during the blitz and throughout World War II; including shift log books, incident charts, minutes, accounts, orders, information on volunteers (CLC/313/I/F/05)
- Peculiar jurisdiction: the Peculiar jurisdiction of the Dean and Chapter extended over various parishes and precincts in the City of London, Middlesex, Essex and Hertfordshire, until its abolition in 1845. The new material includes bundles of exhibits, processes and cause papers, the bulk of which are testamentary. Also presentations, nominations etc to livings within the peculiar (CLC/313/K/B). A separate section relates exclusively to probate and includes admon bonds and documents extracted from inventories (CLC/313/K/C)
- Dean and Chapter estates (CLC/313/L): the cathedral and its officials had extensive land holdings in the City of London, as well as in Middlesex, Essex, Hertfordshire and elsewhere. It is important to distinguish estates held by the Dean and Chapter collectively, as here, from those held by the dean or other dignitaries and prebendaries individually, for which see sections CLC/313/M and CLC/313/N. Around 1872 the corporate estates and manorial lordships of the Dean and Chapter, with the sole exception of Tillingham in Essex, were transferred to the Ecclesiastical (later Church) Commissioners. The Dean and Chapter were permitted to retain Tillingham, the only episcopal or cathedral estate not to be transferred to the Commissioners, because it was believed to be the oldest continuous landholding in England, having been given to the Dean and Chapter by Ethelbert, King of Kent, in ca. 604. The new material includes a few court rolls, rentals and accounts for Middlesex, Herts and Essex estates but the bulk, of course, relates to Tillingham
- The ‘miscellaneous’ section (CLC/313/P) contains all manner of material, from a section of the coffin of Sir Christopher Wren (CLC/313/P/080, not available for general access), to a letter from Elizabeth I on troops for Ireland, a papal bull of Boniface IX, a copy of a poem by Aphra Behn, correspondence relating to the cathedral library and some legal papers including a case relating to the reredos in 1889
- A very few items were considered to belong better with the archive of the College of Minor Canons (CLC/314), including day books and receipts for minor canons who conducted tours for visitors around the library, gallery, bell, cupola and model 1772-1845 (CLC/314/001-005)
This new material has gone a long way towards completion of the cataloguing for the Saint Paul’s archive. A small amount still remains to be done, including the cataloguing of more charters (original reference MS25241) and the cataloguing of three series of property deeds, for London properties (original reference MS25121), country properties (MS25122) and ‘Shenley’ deeds (MS25783).