CHAPTER I. THE MANUSCRIPTS.
The Manuscripts.—The Records of St. Mary's are contained in
two large volumes of the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries.
Both books have been deposited in the Guildhall Library of the
City of London, and are labelled respectively MS. 1239/1 and MS.
These volumes contain:—
1. A series of Wills under the provisions of which the parish
church held certain properties.
2. A copy of the Lease of a House.
3. A number of Inventories both ecclesiastical and secular.
4. A copy of the documents of the Royal Commissioners'
Inquiries respecting the Church valuables at the time of the Reformation and the Replies of the Churchwardens thereto, etc.
5. The Accounts and Memoranda of the Churchwardens for
nearly a hundred years.
The question naturally arises—What do these Records tell us ?
To this the answer may fairly be made that, with certain exceptions,
they show us clearly the whole system of medieval life as connected
with a common city parish church.
MS. 1239/2, which we may designate as MS. B, is far the less
important, and may therefore be very shortly and at once described.
It is a large volume standing about twenty inches high, twelve
inches wide, and about three inches in thickness. It is bound in
parchment, apparently by the same binder by whom MS. A was
rebound, probably about a.d. 1559. The presence of the book
(much of it a duplicate of the other) is explained, in a measure,
by the following inscription on the first page:—
|This Booke was made, And the moste parte therin wryten,
by the handes of Iohn halhed, grocer, a parischen of
the parysche of Seynte Mary at hyll', on whoes sowle
Allmyghttye God haue mercye: Amen, for charyte.||anno 1486|
The book contains an abbreviated copy of part of the substance
of the larger book, copies of most of the Wills under which the
church of St. Mary at Hill held property, Inventories, etc. About
half the leaves of this volume are blank, the first 114 and two near
the end alone being occupied by text.
The last document in this book is of the year 1577. Possibly
this MS. is referred to in 1504–5, p. 255.
MS. 1239/1, the larger book, which we may call MS. A, is about
twelve and a half inches high, ten inches wide, and nearly six
inches thick. From this book our main text has been taken.
The Binding.—The book is bound in stout parchment, probably
of the middle of the sixteenth century, very possibly about the date
inscribed on almost the last leaf, a.d. 1559 on leaf 820.
The Leaves.—All the leaves, 821 in number, are of paper, and
nearly all of them are of the same size and substance. The first
leaves are missing, and how many are wanting at this place it is
impossible now to even guess. With perhaps the exception of the
Porth Inventory, the leaves up to the year 1537 are probably in
their right order. After this date, the proper sequence of the leaves
696–763 is chronologically a good deal disturbed in the MS. In our
text, however, an endeavour has been made to print the accounts
throughout in their proper order.
The following table will, it is hoped, exhibit this disorder, and
show the proper sequence of the leaves as they should have been
1. Porth Inventory, etc., printed at p. 36, leaves 724–741 b.
2. 1538–9 lost.
3. Michaelmas 1539 to Michaelmas 1540, leaves 712–723 b.
4. 1540–7 lost.
5. " 1547 to Michaelmas 1548, " 704–711 b.
6. Christmas 1548 to Christmas 1549, " 699–703 b.
7. Michaelmas 1549 to Michaelmas 1550, " 696–698.
8. " 1550 to " 1551, " 742–743 b.
9. " 1551 to " 1552, " 745–747 b.
10. 1553 " 758–760 b.
Inventories " printed pp. 50–5 " 748–752 b and
" the two wardens' names " 753.
11. 1554 " 754–757 b.
12. Christmas 1554 to Christmas 1555, " 764–773 b.
It will be noticed that the accounts for the year 1550–1 are
remarkably scanty; but both writing and pages present every
appearance of completeness.
In the last pre-Reformation year our MS. retains, 1539–40, the
expenses for garlands and decorations and bell-ringing for festivals
have been inserted for comparison with those of earlier periods.
The Writing.—The writing of this MS. varies very considerably,
sometimes being very beautifully inscribed, at other times it is set
down with great carelessness. In 1524 the writing and spelling
are perhaps at their best (see facsimile, p. 322), in 1506 at their
The entries have been inserted under the authority and possibly
sometimes by the hands of the churchwardens. From the manner in
which they are set down, the entries were clearly not inserted at the
period of each receipt or payment, but from notes made elsewhere.
Probably the main text of the MS. is the work of a succession of
professional scribes, see the yearly sum expended for writing the
Accounts. But additions in various hands have sometimes been
appended at the end of the year. The actual handwriting of more
than one person is distinctly specified as being present, pp. 260
The meaning of the series of dots placed at the foot on many
of the leaves about a.d. 1490 is not clear; they are considered by
Mr. Welch to have relation to the money totals.
An interesting circumstance lies in the fact that many pages of
the MS. have been headed with the name of 'Ihesus,' a tribute to-day
of the simple faith and piety of the individuals by whom such
inscriptions were placed.
Period covered.—The earliest entries now remaining commence
in 1420, and the last dated page, as has been said, carries the date
Spelling.—The spelling, as was common in the middle ages, is
very uncertain. Several instances occur of the transposition of
letters and syllables: 'chollve,' p. 255; 'spalter,' p. 389;—shovel,
Reference to this MS.—Probably the following note entered in
the wardens' accounts in 1504–5 has reference to this MS.: —'payde
for a parchementt skyn, & for settyng in of the paper in þe olde
boke of þe Chyrche wardens Acowntt—viij d,' p. 256.