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    St Georges German Church, Alie Street, Stepney, 1930

    ​St George's German Church, Alie Street, Stepney, 1930

​Our Public Services team reveal some of the secrets of London Metropolitan Archives' very own Oracle, and ask you to help it grow.

Oracle is an information database compiled by LMA's Public Services team for the use of all staff. It is a computerised card index containing pieces of information that may be useful to staff in answering enquiries from the public, preparing exhibitions and more. In addition to data from LMA, Oracle also includes information from the former Guildhall Library Manuscripts Section's Notes and Queries index and related exhibitions database. Currently Oracle has around 3,000 entries, but it wants to grow. It needs your contributions. This can be any information, in any format.

Examples of material that we have and look for include: references to famous people in the archives, entries about particular themes or topics, relevant information about other archives and their holdings, addresses of institutions, books or journals of use for background and further reading, links to useful websites, events, places, contemporary terminology that people may have come across, and old occupations that may not be familiar.

A poetic marriage

LMA has the marriage register entry for poet T S Eliot’s marriage to Esmé Valerie Fletcher on 10 January 1957 at Saint Barnabas, Addison Road, Kensington. This is on our microfilm X096/012. This was his second marriage and he was almost 38 years older than her.

Told to a wedding guest

The Children's Register of Christ's Hospital, Ms 12818/011 page 267, shows the admission (28 March 1782) and discharge (12 January 1791) of Samuel Taylor Coleridge who wrote the ‘The Rime of the Ancient Mariner’ related to a fictitious wedding guest.

Inquest on the PM

The inquest into the death of Spencer Perceval, the Prime Minister, who was shot in the lobby of the House of Commons on 11 May 1812 can be found on the Middlesex Sessions Roll for Gaol Delivery for 13 May 1812 together with the record of the trial of his murderer, John Bellingham (OB/SR/452 no.23). The inquest was held at the Rose and Crown in Downing Street on 12 May 1812.

Dedicated international body for sport archives

The Section on Sport Archives (SPO), part of the International Council on Archives (ICA) has as its mission the preservation and safeguarding of sports archives worldwide. In trying to achieve its goals, the section arranges seminars and workshops for increasing knowledge about sports archives, co-operates with institutions, sports research organisations and authorities, and spreads information through publications and on its own web page. The first international seminar on sport archives took place in Girona (Catalonia/Spain), on 9 October 2018.

St George’s German Lutheran church

St George's German Lutheran Church was a church in Alie Street, Whitechapel.  From its founding in 1762 until 1996 it was used by German Lutherans. It then became the headquarters of the Historic Chapel Association. The church is still used for organ recitals.  It is now the oldest surviving German Lutheran church in the UK.  The founder was Dietrich Beckman, a wealthy sugar refiner. Those who worked in sugar refining constituted most of the congregation. From 1853 the churchyard and crypt were closed, and no longer accepted burials. At its height, there were an estimated 16,000 German Lutherans in Whitechapel. This area was home to the largest German speaking population outside the German lands for over a century.  The last major influx of Germans was in the 1930s, when refugees fled the Nazis. Dietrich Bonhoeffer preached there for a brief period in 1935. The wooden pews, complete with swing doors, remain intact.  The original church registers are held at Tower Hamlets Local History Library and Archives. LMA has some microfiche copies produced by the Anglo-German Family History Society.

Autumn 2018 entries

Firefighter bravery awards

Amongst the new accessions in LMA’s impressive (yet comparatively unknown) reference library is a book ‘Fire Brigade Awards of the Second World War - Life Saving Awards Research Society’ published in 2017.  Covering the whole of the UK, this volume lists all the awards made to fire service personnel during the Second World War. It includes those awarded gallantry awards, those who received New Year and Birthday honours, and supplies a list of fire personnel who lost their lives in the Second World War. It is a useful addition to our wide range of sources for tracing bravery awards. It has been assigned library shelf mark 23.2 LIF.

Nationwide Building Society archive

The Nationwide Building Society has an archive that can be accessed by the public. There are not any specific staff records, but some information about staff recruitment and careers can be found in the minutes and staff magazines. They also have records for some of the London-based building societies which Nationwide took over, and for the head office of Nationwide itself which was based in London until the 1970s. The Nationwide website gives a brief glimpse of its history. Email Historical Archives for more information.

At the cross roads

The Cross Roads Club was founded in May 1919 by HRH Princess Christian as a mother and baby home, primarily for unmarried mothers. Lack of funds in the early 1930s prompted the Foundling Hospital to take an interest in the running of the club and by 1936 it had become a branch of the Hospital, a home for single mothers in need of care and guidance. It continued until October 1958 when it closed and was taken over by the Legion of Mary. The club was based at various sites during its existence. Beginning at Alexandra Road, Saint John's Wood, it re-located to Lemsford House, Welwyn Garden City. A second branch opened at Craven Hill Gardens W2 in 1940s, and the club was based at Oakdene, 33 Lyonsdown Road, Barnet from 1948.  We do hold some records of the Cross Roads Club, within the larger Coram Foundling Hospital Archive (series ref: A/FH/G/04).  Records relating to individual members of the Club are closed to public access under data protection legislation, to protect the confidentiality of individuals mentioned within them who may still be living.

London burial records online

More and more records are going online all the time. We try to keep abreast of these developments, especially those that affect London records. There has been quite a bit of movement recently regarding burial registers becoming available online. On the Ancestry website burial registers of various cemeteries in the London Boroughs of Ealing and Waltham Forest can be viewed in their dataset ‘England and Scotland, Select Cemetery Registers, 1800-2016’.  Also, the burial records for the City of London Cemetery (at Aldersbrook, Manor Park) covering 24 June 1856 to 7 October 1955 are now online at the City of London Cemetery and Crematorium website.

Engineers online

A useful website is that of the Institution of Mechanical Engineers. Their membership records are on Ancestry but the archives section of their website allows you to search people and places, to find engineers’ career paths, and local engineering businesses.

Summer 2018 entries

Earls Court and Olympia in the Second World War

A significant addition to LMA in the last few years has been the archives of Earls Court and Olympia. The collection charts the development of the exhibitions industry in the United Kingdom through the records of two of London's largest exhibition centres. Both venues were requisitioned for war service in the Second World War. Olympia was a civilian internment camp. Also, during the Dunkirk evacuation it was General de Gaulle’s assembly point for what became the Free French Army. The Royal Army Service Corps took the halls over as a transport depot until October 1944 when they became military clothing stores, and finally a demobilisation centre. Earls Court was used for the manufacture and repair of blimps.

Hawkers’ licences

Search the LMA collections catalogue for ‘hawkers’ and you will find that LMA holds some material mostly amongst local government and court records, but also in its graphic collections. Hawkers, people who offer goods for sale by shouting their wares in the street or going from door to door, were regulated from the seventeenth to the twentieth centuries. The following is from a leaflet from The National Archives and provides some background information:  'Licences on hawkers and pedlars were first instituted in 1697 for a year to help pay the interest on the debt incurred on the transport services during the Irish campaign. Initially, they were managed under the control of the Board of Transportation but on their renewal in 1698 the Treasury appointed a new Board of Commissioners of Hawkers, Pedlars and Petty Chapmen. The duties were renewed for varying periods until 1716 when they were made permanent. In 1810 the Hawkers and Pedlars' Board was abolished and its work taken over by the Board of Hackney Coach Commissioners. In 1832 licensing work passed to the Board of Stamps and the duties were successively administered by the Board of Stamps and Taxes in 1833 and the Board of Inland Revenue in 1849. In 1864 the stamp duties on hawkers and pedlars' licences were converted to excise licence duties and in 1870 these duties ceased to be levied on licences to hawkers on foot. Such traders were subsequently required to take out a certificate from the police under the Pedlars' Act 1870. The licence duties on other hawkers (for example, those travelling with a horse) remained in force, collection having passed to the county councils under the Local Government Act of 1888. Administrative responsibility passed from the Board of Customs and Excise to the local authorities in 1950 following the Finance Act 1949. Hawkers' licences were finally abolished under the Local Government Act 1966.'

Deodand dead end?

The word ‘Deodand’ is sometimes seen on coroner’s inquest records. The Oxford English Dictionary defines it as 'A thing forfeited or to be given to God; spec. in Eng. Law, a personal chattel which, having been the immediate occasion of the death of a human being, was given to God as an expiatory offering, i.e. forfeited to the Crown to be applied to pious uses, e.g. to be distributed in alms. (Abolished in 1846.)'

Pension tracing

We often are contacted by people trying to trace their pensions. This is not something that we can assist with. The Pensions Archive at LMA does not contain details of individual pension plans as it relates solely to occupational pensions. The UK government run a Pension Tracing Service, to assist former employees of companies who have lost track of their pension details, or who no longer know who to contact to find out information they need before retirement.  Details are available on the GOV.UK website.

To glove or not to glove, that is the question

Another question our staff often get asked is “Should I wear gloves to view documents?” Staff will be pleased to offer on the spot advice, but our Conservation Studio Manager, Caroline De Stefani, has written a guide on when to wear gloves. If we do advise you that you need to wear gloves, we have gloves to give out, you don’t have to bring your own!  

Spring 2018 entries

Louisa Aldrich-Blake pioneer

Dame Louisa Brandreth Aldrich-Blake was born in 1865, the daughter of the rector of Chingford, Essex. From an early age, she showed a natural gift for healing; when eight years old she organised an animal hospital and friends brought their sick and wounded pets for Louisa's attention. Her family was well-connected and she need not have worked for a living, but she decided to enter the demanding world of medicine. Graduating from the London School of Medicine for Women in 1893, she went on to take the University of London's higher degrees in Medicine and Surgery, becoming the first woman to obtain the degree of Master of Surgery. Throughout her career, Louisa Aldrich-Blake was associated with the Elizabeth Garrett Anderson Hospital, becoming a surgeon in 1910. At the Royal Free Hospital, she was the first woman to hold the post of surgical registrar and also acted as an anaesthetist. During the years of the First World War, many of the male surgical staff of the Royal Free went on foreign active service and Louisa took increased responsibility for the surgery, becoming consulting surgeon to the hospital. Louisa was a bold, meticulous and very successful surgeon, with great management and diagnostic skill. She was the first in Britain to perform operations for cancer of the cervix and rectum. Louisa Aldrich-Blake became Dean of the London (Royal Free Hospital) School of Medicine for Women in 1914, and exercised an important influence on generations of women medical students. The climax of her career came in 1924 when, in the jubilee year of the medical school, she was made a Dame Commander of the Order of the British Empire. She died in 1925 and is remembered as a brilliant surgeon and wise administrator.

We hold some records relating to her under collection reference H72/LAB. The records consist of photographs of Aldrich-Blake, mostly from her time as Dean, and material relating to her funeral and memorial statue in Tavistock Square Gardens, London.  Under reference H71/RF/B/02/02 we also hold some records described as 'Miss Louisa Aldrich Blake's Patient Case Note Books' covering 1917-20.

Endell Street

Endell Street, WC2, was named after the Reverend James Endell Tyler, Rector of St. Giles-in-the-Fields in 1840s when the street was constructed from a previously existing road (Belton Street) then being widened.

St Luke’s Home for the Dying Poor

A ‘Home for the Dying Poor’ - St Luke's House at 50 Osnaburgh Street, near Regent's Park, was a forerunner of the hospice movement. It was opened in 1893 by Dr Howard Barrett, who had been much influenced by his experiences as a doctor in the poverty-riven East End.  Although run (until 1911) under the auspices of the West London Mission, a Wesleyan Methodist body, the home was open to all denominations. However, patients had to be ‘respectable’ and near to death, that is, with no more than three to four months to live. TB, cancer, and heart disease were the most common causes of death. It moved to Pembridge Square, Notting Hill in 1903. It was later renamed St Luke's Hospital for Advanced Cases. When the lease on that property was about to expire at the beginning of the 1920s another move took place, to nearby Hereford Road, where a purpose-built Hospital was opened in 1923.  In 1948 the Hospital joined the NHS and became associated with St Mary's Hospital. The founder of the modern hospice movement, Dame Cicely Saunders, worked there as a volunteer nurse for seven years. In 1974 it was renamed Hereford Lodge. It closed in 1985 and its functions were divided between different hospitals.

Audrey Hepburn

A search in the electoral registers held at LMA (and also digitised by Ancestry) shows Hollywood icon Audrey Hepburn residing at 65 South Audley Street in 1952-4, with her mother Ella Hepburn.

The Metropolitan Asylums Board (MAB)

The most comprehensive account of the history of the MAB and its institutions is still probably Gwendoline Ayers’ 1971 book ‘England’s First State Hospitals and the Metropolitan Asylums Board 1867-1930’, available as a free eBook from the Wellcome Library website.  Peter Higginbotham’s excellent workhouses website also has a good account of the MAB.

Winter 2017 entries

Tony Hancock

Comedian Anthony (Tony) Aloysus Hancock, remembered for his classic radio and television series Hancock’s Half Hour, committed suicide in Australia on 25 June 1968, aged 44. His ashes were brought back to England by fellow comedian Willie Rushton, and he was interred on 2 July 1968 at St Dunstan, Cranford, Hounslow.  When his mother Lucie Lillian Sennett died, aged 79, on 8 November 1969, her ashes were buried in the same plot. LMA has the church’s register of burials (reference DRO/009/A/01/010) which is also available online via Ancestry

Nelson’s hat

You may know about Vice Admiral Horatio Nelson’s role in the Battle of Trafalgar but did you know that he was a customer of hatter James Lock? In a small entry from our collections (in B/LK/357) there is an order by Nelson for a Cocked Hat and Cockade on 9 September 1805.

Long Acre

Long Acre is now one of the main shopping streets in Covent Garden, but it has a long and varied history. It was first recognised as a thoroughfare during the reign of King John (1199-1256). In the 1640s it was a very salubrious street, home to some of London’s most influential people: Oliver Cromwell had a residence there as did the sculptor Nicholas Stone and poet John Dryden. Over the course of the seventeenth century, and with the flourishing of the fruit, vegetable and flower market to the south, the properties of Long Acre became inextricably linked to industries associated with the market trade.

Wainwrights dominated the street for the next two centuries and tanners, cabinetmakers, upholsterers and metalworkers joined them to create Britain’s foremost centre of coachmaking. A feature of much of the historic architecture of the street was a predominance of high arches which facilitated the coachmakers in wheeling out their wares. Thomas Chippendale also had a workshop on the street.

By the turn of the last century London’s thoroughfares had changed; motorcars had replaced horsepower and likewise Long Acre became home to the automobile trade. London’s fire engines were made in the Merryweather factory at 63 Long Acre for 213 years, the last fire engine being rolled off the Long Acre production line in the 1950s. British Mercedes were based there as were Fiat and Daimler and, with advances in transport, even Louis Bleriot’s aircraft company had premises there.

The first meeting of the International Working Man's Association (IWMA), including Karl Marx, took place at St Martin’s Hall in 1864. From the site of nos 132-135 John Logie Baird broadcast the first television programme in Britain on 30 September 1929.

Long Acre has also been linked with publishing. At one time Odhams Press owned almost half the properties on Long Acre, publishing some of the most popular titles of the early 1900s: Vanity Fair, Good Housekeeping, Ideal Home, Sporting Life and The Herald which was the forerunner for the UK’s highest-selling tabloid The Sun.

Technical Education Board

The Technical Education Board (TEB) was set up by the London County Council (LCC) in 1893 under the Technical Education Acts 1889-91; it consisted of 20 members of the LCC and 15 representatives of other bodies with Sidney Webb as Chairman. Its priority was to assist and reinforce the existing supply of technical and secondary education. A junior county scholarship scheme was established to enable children from elementary schools to continue their education at secondary schools and technical institutes which were awarded grants. The London Day Training College (later the London University Institute of Education), the Central School of Arts and Crafts, and specialist colleges for photography and photoengraving, carriage building, typography and printing, leather dying and tanning, and the furniture trades were all established by the TEB.  Its aim throughout was to aid and reinforce the supply of technical and secondary education rather than to make direct provision of such education, nevertheless the overlapping of spheres of interest of the Technical Education Board and the School Board for London resulted in controversy which was resolved in the Cockerton judgment of 1900-01 and led finally to the transfer of the work of both Boards to the Council in 1904 under the Education Act of 1902.

LMA holds TEB records including minutes, agendas, reports and correspondence. You can view the catalogue for this collection on the LMA collections catalogue under the reference TEB.


The initials MEOT often appear in parish registers and other documents. This is short for Mile End Old Town. According to the Oxford Dictionary of London Place Names (D Mills, 2000) ‘In around 1691 Mile End became known as Mile End Old Town because a new unconnected settlement to the west and adjacent to Spitalfields had taken the name Mile End New Town.’

Autumn 2017 entries

50 years ago, on 9 August 1967 John Kingsley Orton, aka Joe Orton, playwright and resident of 25 Noel Road, Islington, died at the hands of his lover Kenneth Halliwell who also killed himself. We often get asked if we hold the coroner’s inquest. We do not - that has not survived. Orton fans may be interested though to know that we have the court register of Old Street Magistrates Court (PS/OLD/A/01/209) which has the entry which relates to their infamous defacing/redesigning of public library books for which they were sentenced to 6 months imprisonment on 15 May 1962.  We also have a picture of their house on our Collage website (number 76881).

The Tower Suffragette

An eagle-eyed staff member found an entry in the court register of Thames Magistrates Court (PS/TH/A/01/121) for women’s suffrage activist Leonora Cohen on 1 February 1913. Cohen was arrested at Leman Street Police Station and taken to the Court on the count that she did 'Wilfully and maliciously damage a show case, at the Jewel House, Tower of London, value £7, property of the Crown.' She became known as 'The Tower Suffragette' following that protest. This one time bodyguard to Suffragette leader Emmeline Pankhurst lived till the ripe old age of 105. Wikipedia has an entry on her. 

Survivors of the Great Fire

Although the Great Fire of London destroyed over 13,000 houses, almost 90 churches and even the mighty St Paul’s Cathedral, a handful of buildings managed to escape the flames and can still be seen to this day.  A webpage listing those buildings can been seen on the Historic UK website.  No comment on the accuracy or otherwise, but if you think the authors have missed any survivors of the Great Fire, then please let them know!

The meaning of Wandsworth

Until 1889, the current area of Wandsworth was part of the county of Surrey. In 1855 the Wandsworth District of the Metropolis was formed comprising the parishes of Battersea (excluding Penge), Clapham, Putney, Streatham, Tooting Graveney and Wandsworth. Battersea was removed from the district in 1888. In 1900 the remaining district became the Metropolitan Borough of Wandsworth and Battersea became the Metropolitan Borough of Battersea. The London Borough of Wandsworth was formed in 1965 from the former area of the Metropolitan Borough of Battersea and the Metropolitan Borough of Wandsworth, but excluding Clapham and most of Streatham which were transferred to the London Borough of Lambeth.

Veganism in London

LMA has an image on our Collage website of the building where the first vegan society was organised, and quite possibly where the word ‘vegan’ was coined. This is 144 High Holborn which housed the Attic Club (Collage number 72632). Find out more about the Attic Club here.

Searching for a grave at West Norwood Cemetery

The Friends of West Norwood Cemetery has some useful advice for those looking for burial locations in that cemetery on their website.  LMA has bishop’s transcripts (copies) of the burial registers for 1838-1918 (reference DW/T/0899-0969).

Summer 2017 entries

00 heaven

James Bond and The Saint actor Roger Moore passed away on 23 May 2017. LMA has his baptism record. That was at St Stephen, South Lambeth on 18 December 1927. It is on our microfilm reference X007 (actually it’s X096/338…)! It can also be viewed on Ancestry (viewable free of charge in the Information Area at LMA). We also have an entry for him in the Hackford Road School Admission and Discharge Register. He started there in September 1932 and left in 1934. The family was living at 5 Albert Square at the time of his admission. That record, on microfilm X095/411, is closed under Data Protection legislation because it is a School Admission and Discharge Register.

Feeling the Feng Shui

Historian Sarah Wise has found what she thinks is possibly the first UK reference to Feng Shui, an ancient Chinese system for arranging your surroundings in harmony and balance with the natural world around you. It is contained in a letter of complaint to the London County Council (LCC) dated 6 Oct 1896, citing the bad 'fengshui' of the Boundary Estate (reference LCC/MIN/7353). For a transcription of the letter, go to Sarah Wise website, and scroll down to 12 March 2013.

What was a ‘scattered home’?

Peter Higginbotham’s excellent workhouses website has a useful explanation of these institutions. The 'isolated homes' system was devised in 1893 by J Wycliffe Wilson, Chairman of the Sheffield Board of Guardians. He criticised the existing cottage homes system as distancing children from the real world in which they would eventually have to make their way. The alternative system of boarding out, though well regarded, relied on a steady supply of foster families, which was not always guaranteed. It was also only appropriate for orphans and deserted children, and not suited to short-term inmates such as the ‘ins and outs'. Isolated homes, or scattered homes as they became more commonly known, placed small groups of children in ordinary houses scattered around the suburbs of Sheffield. Unlike cottage home sites which usually had their own schools, the children in scattered homes attended ordinary local Board schools. Similar schemes were adopted by many other areas, beginning with Whitechapel and Bath in 1897. In some cases, a union would take over or even erect a small row of ordinary houses in a normal residential area. In 1913, the West Ham union had around a dozen houses used as scattered homes including a block at 21-27 Pelham Road, South Woodford. Unions which had a large number of scattered homes usually erected a headquarters home which acted as a receiving or probationary home for new arrivals, short-term inmates, and those requiring special supervision. The headquarters home also provided an administrative and supplies base for the outlying homes. By 1914, over 90 unions were making use of scattered homes including Camberwell, Edmonton, Lewisham, City of London, Mile End Old Town, West Ham, Whitechapel, and Willesden,

Access to copies of Stationers’ Company archives at Guildhall Library

The original records of the Stationers’ Company are held at their hall, but a set of the Company’s records are now available to access on microfilm at Guildhall Library. They are on open access in the reading room there.

A-Z of Islington streets now available online

First published in 1986, ‘Streets with a story: the book of Islington’, is an A-Z of Islington’s roads, streets, buildings and open spaces. It was researched and complied by former Islington librarian, the late Eric A Willats. A digitised version of ‘Streets with a story’ is now available to view on the Islington Council website and download free of charge.

Set out in alphabetical order under the name of a street, square, place, terrace, block of flats or tenement, followed by the date of first occupancy, if known, ‘Streets with a story’ was dated using sources now found at Islington Local History Centre (not far from LMA).

Not only have present day streets been included, but also the courts, alleyways, terraces, and vanished backwaters of the past – some with intriguing names like Frog Lane, The Land of Nod and Cupid’s Alley. Architectural features, buildings of interest, and residents worthy of mention in that street have also been included.

Islington Local History Centre staff are also asking for local people to help update and enhance its contents.

Spring 2017 entries

ILEA television service

Following the abolition of the London County Council (LCC) in 1965, the Inner London Education Authority (ILEA) was formed to run education in the 12 inner London boroughs and the City of London. Responsible for a large number of nursery, primary and secondary schools, it also managed two boarding schools outside London, a summer camp, two rural centres, and an education welfare service.

In its early days, ILEA enjoyed a relatively high budget and so decided to develop a television service that would provide educational programmes made specifically for its schools. Between 1968 and 1970 the new service was run out of Highbury while the main studio in Battersea was being prepared (an old school on Thackeray Road). When operational, the studio at Battersea had three main areas - the studio block, production block and later publishing block, and the site included props storage, and a make-up and rehearsal room.

Programmes were sent via a closed-circuit network, installed and maintained by the Post Office. Cables ran to each of the schools for which ILEA was responsible (later, delivery would alter to video tapes). Television sets were provided, for which teachers could switch to Channel 2, 3 and 4 for ILEA or 7, 8 and 9 for BBC and ITV.

The different titles made by ILEA varied in content and reflected not only the mainstream subjects taught in school such as maths, science and history, but also topics that explored elements of youth culture, general community life and the different social issues facing London's growing population.

Largely aimed at pupils, teachers would be supplied with notes to accompany each film including times when it would air, background information and questions that might be useful in class.

LMA holds over 1,700 ILEA titles, around 10% of which have been digitised, with many now available to view on any of the ten terminals (and big screen) in our Mediatheque viewing area. Those selected showcase a range of original content, including footage of London during the 1960s and 70s offering an amazing impression of the city’s topography, architecture and general infrastructure. Titles include “Looking at London”, “London Past and Present” and “Unfamiliar London”, and include landmarks such as St. Paul’s Cathedral, Tower Bridge, the House of Commons and more. You can also see some of these films on LMA’s YouTube channel .

In addition to the various locations shot, interviews were filmed with local characters such as Pearly Queens, market stall owners and some more unusual occupations such as river divers, providing a useful insight into the people, interests and working life of Londoners during this period.

Recent City of London Freedoms

The index to the City of London Freedoms from 1940 to the present day is held at the Chamberlains Department. Contact: Clerk of the Chamberlain's Court, P.O. Box 270, Guildhall, London EC2P 2EJ.

Find out more about the living tradition of the City of London Freedoms.

Trinity House lighthouse keepers

The main sources for Trinity House lighthouse keepers and staff that worked as part of the light vessel service are explained in detail in LMA’s Information Leaflet The Corporation of Trinity House. There is also a useful website of collated data from the census giving a record of lighthouse keepers working across England, Wales and the Channel Islands, which enquirers may find helpful.

We know that there were a small number of foreign lighthouses that were staffed by Trinity House personnel. These comprise Cape Pembroke in the Falkland Islands, Gibraltar, and Basses in Ceylon. We would suggest enquirers try the standard sources, as described in the leaflet above, to find information about these staff.

Interested in finding out more about Trinity House? Read about the history of this 500 year old institution.

London Transport staff registers, 1863-1931, now on Ancestry

These staff records, held by Transport for London (TfL), date from the opening of the earliest underground line, the Metropolitan line, in 1863, and cover underground, bus, tram and some clerical staff. The staff records are primarily found in registers, with varying amounts of information contained therein. While some provide quite extensive information, including the height of the employee, disciplinary issues, pay and previous position details, others contain no more than a name, date of commencement of service and a badge number. Read more on the Ancestry blog

Winter 2016 entries

Barnardo's children remembered

An article in the Standard evening newspaper of 5 December 2016 shone a light on a new monument to more than 500 deprived children buried in unmarked graves recently unveiled in Tower Hamlets Cemetery Park, east London. The two-metre-high Portland stone memorial depicts a pair of hands releasing a sparrow. Hundreds of Barnardo's children were buried in the cemetery between 1876 and 1924. Thomas Barnardo, who founded the first of his charity's homes in 1867, buried three of his own children - Tom, Herbert and Kenward – there. Although all of the children were given proper burials, the charity could not afford headstones. The article told how Jean Clark, who was helped by Barnardo's as a child, raised the £10,000 to pay for the sculpture. She said "As someone who grew up in Barnardo's care, I regard them as my brothers and sisters and wanted to ensure their lives are recognised." The article can be viewed on the Evening Standard website.

London Metropolitan Archives holds a variety of records relating to The City of London and Tower Hamlets Cemetery. Please see our Cemetery Records leaflet for more information.

Balfron Tower

Often quoted as a prime example of the Brutalist school of architecture, Balfron Tower is a 26-storey residential building in Poplar. It forms part of the Brownfield Estate, an area of social housing between Chrisp Street Market and the Blackwall Tunnel. It was designed by Ernő Goldfinger in 1963 for the London County Council (LCC), built 1965–7 by the Greater London Council (GLC), and has been a Grade II listed building since 1996.

GLC minutes and presented papers held by LMA showed that tenders for the building were received in July 1965, with building commencing soon after. It was officially opened on 22 February 1968 at 11am by Sir Desmond Plummer, Leader of the GLC.

Goldfinger lived on the top floor with his family for the first few months in order to compile a report about what his experiences of the building were like, to find out things that needed to be fixed and improved for both the building itself and designs of future buildings.

The building has been the subject of some controversy in recent years as council tenants have made way for redevelopment into luxury flats.

Images of the Brownfield Estate, can be found on our Collage - The London Picture Archive website.

Scouting for famous names in the archives

Did you know that LMA has the baptism entry for Lord Robert Baden-Powell, probably best known as the founder of the Scout Movement? He was baptised Robert Stephenson Smyth Powell on 8 July 1857 at the church of Saint James, Sussex Gardens, Paddington (P87/JS/010). The register can also be viewed on the Ancestry website.

Oldest Japanese martial arts club in Europe

Budokwai (The Way of Knighthood Society) is the oldest Japanese martial arts club in Europe. It was founded in 1918 by Gunji Koizumi and initially offered tuition in jujutsu, kendo, and other Japanese arts. It was the first Judo club in Europe with membership open to the general public. On 26 January 1918, Gunji Koizumi opened the Dojo at 15 Lower Grosvenor Place, Victoria, London SW1. The first chief instructor was Yukio Tani. In July 1920, Dr. Jigoro Kano (the founder of Judo) visited the Budokwai. A member named Tanabe received his first Dan, becoming the Budokwai's first home-grown black belt. After thirty five years, the Budokwai moved to 4 Gilston Road, South Kensington, London, SW10 9SL. The new premises were officially opened in September 1954 by the then Japanese Ambassador. The Budokwai club is the longest continuously running Judo Club in Europe.

Autumn 2016 entries

Who was John Burns?

LMA holds the personal library and papers of John Burns (see note in archive catalogue under ACC/2337). Other material relating to John Burns is held elsewhere including the John Burns Collection of printed material in the Senate House Library at the University of the University of London.

John Elliott Burns was born in Lambeth, London in 1858, the sixteenth child of a poor family. He was a radical trade unionist and politician, particularly associated with London politics. He was apprenticed to an engineer, but attended night schools and read radical literature, becoming involved in the socialist Social Democratic Federation (SDF). In 1889 he won a seat on the London County Council, for Battersea, standing as a Progressive. He soon became a dominant figure in the Council, due to his hard work and powerful personality. In 1892 he was elected MP for Battersea, standing as an independent candidate. In 1905 he was offered the presidency of the Local Government Board, the first working man to achieve rank in the Cabinet. He resigned from the Government in 1914 in protest at the First World War. An avid collector, he developed an expertise in London history, coining the phrase "The Thames is liquid history". Cricket was another of his big interests, being a regular at The Oval and Lord's, and he actually sustained severe injuries being hit in the face by a cricket ball while watching a match in 1894. He died in 1943 and was buried in St Mary's Cemetery, Battersea Rise.

There is a useful biography of the man online at the Spartacus Educational website.

Chelsea buns

Fans of the BBC (soon to be C4) TV programme ‘Great British Bake Off' may be interested in articles on Chelsea Buns and the Old Chelsea Bun House. These are within reference SC/PD/UC/02/08 (part of the John Burns Collection), a folder of newspaper cuttings relating to Chelsea which focuses on Ranelagh and Vauxhall Pleasure Gardens and the area of Cheyne Walk.

Map showing London family estates

In the back of the book 'Street Names of London' by Gillian Bebbington there is a map which shows which areas and streets were within these estates. This has our library reference R64.41 BEB.

Unusual permits

Searching in the archives you occasionally come across some pretty ‘random' items. In the large collection of records that we hold for the Metropolitan Water Board there are permits for bat-watching (ACC/2558/MW/C/9/191, 1967-68) and for exercising ferrets (ACC/2558/MW/C/9/195, 1973)!

Summer 2016 entries

George Eliot's house

SC/PZ/SM/01/170 is a printed photograph of George Eliot's house at The Priory, 21 North Bank, Regents Park. George Eliot lived here between 1864 and 1880 with George Henry Lewes until her marriage to John Cross, seven months before her death. The Priory is closely associated with the writing of Felix Holt, Middlemarch and Daniel Deronda. She held her famous Sunday "at homes" here which were attended by most of the literary celebrities of the time.

The Lost Hospitals of London website

The Lost Hospitals of London website is an extremely useful and apparently well-researched website of closed London hospitals, often with lots of information on the foundation of hospitals, hospital mergers, subsequent site redevelopments, etc. There are also a good number of photographs of what the hospitals look like 'now'.

Royal School of Music, Eastney

LMA holds the records of the T.S (Training Ship) Exmouth, which was moored off Grays, Essex. Boys joined the ship from the age of twelve. Their first task was to learn how to mend and patch their own clothes. They also had to learn how to wash their clothes, and keep their lockers and contents in good order. Each boy had his own hammock which was stowed during the day, leaving the decks clear of bedding. As well as learning the skills of sailing, rowing, sail and rope-making, gunnery, and signalling, they continued ordinary school work, and other physical activities such as swimming and gymnastics. The ship had its own band and bugle-band and musical ability was fostered. Often in the Record Books (MAB/2512) you may find the discharge to 'Royal School of Music, Eastney' which was also known as 'The Royal Naval School of Music'. That was formed at Eastney Barracks, Portsmouth (the current Royal Marines Museum location) in 1903 when the Royal Navy passed responsibility to the Royal Marines for training and providing ship's bands. Every major British ship carried a Royal Marines Band who had a military as well as a musical role. The Royal Naval School of Music at Eastney trained bands that were sent on board battleships and cruisers. The musicians had to play orchestral and military band instruments and also had to play as a dance band. These bands had a military role which was to work in the Transmitting Stations - the heart of the ships gunnery control system. As this apparatus was located in the bowels of the ship escape was very difficult and they suffered very high casualties. During the First World War forty-nine musicians were killed at the Battle of Jutland alone.

Assassination of PM Spencer Perceval

The inquest into the death of Spencer Perceval, the Prime Minister, who was shot in the lobby of the House of Commons on 11 May 1812 can be found on the Middlesex Sessions Roll for Gaol Delivery for 13 May 1812 together with the record of the trial of his murderer, John Bellingham (OB/SR/452 no.23). The inquest was held at the Rose and Crown in Downing Street on the following day.