Centre for Metropolitan History



Alfred P. Beaven

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'Preface', The Aldermen of the City of London: Temp. Henry III - 1912 (1908), pp. IX-XII. URL: Date accessed: 20 April 2014. Add to my bookshelf


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The present work consists of two parts, the first of which is completed, while only a portion of the second is comprised in this volume. Part I. contains a practically exhaustive List of the Aldermen of the City of London, arranged under their respective Wards in chronological succession, from the date of the earliest of the Letter Books preserved at Guildhall, viz.: the year 1276 (4 Edward I.), to the present time. To these have been appended special articles, the most important being a list of all the instances of the exercise of the Aldermanic Veto recorded in the Repertories, and a full account of the parliamentary services of those members of the Court of Aldermen who have at any time obtained seats in the great Council of the Nation, and in this connexion I have printed a detailed history of the parliamentary representation of the City from the reign of Edward I.

In Part II. I have given the chronological succession of the Aldermen (individually according to seniority of election, as distinct from the arrangement under Wards in Part I.) to the end of the 14th century, carrying that succession back to a period antecedent by nearly half a century to that at which the Guildhall records begin. I hope to be enabled, without undue delay, to finish this portion of the work, bringing it up to the date of publication, and to supplement it with lists comprising fuller details than have ever yet been published of the succession of Chief Magistrates, Sheriffs, Recorders, Chamberlains, Common Serjeants, Town Clerks, and other important Corporate Officials. I reserve the Historical Introduction and Index of Names till the whole is complete.

I am conscious of the fact that the work has assumed larger proportions and is carried out on a more extensive scale than had been originally proposed, or than at first I had myself contemplated. The publication of an authoritative record of this kind would almost necessarily, however meagre the information it contained, have delayed for many years a supplement by another hand. Having had, as all whose occupations make them familiar with the phenomena of historical and biographical research must have had, frequent experience of the extent to which the usefulness of standard books of reference, much more ambitious in design and elaborate in scope than the present work, is frequently marred by their incompleteness as well as by their inaccuracy, I could not but feel that a historical compilation on the subject of the Aldermen of London, issued with the sanction and under the authority of the most famous Municipal Corporation in the world, ought to be worthy of its sponsors and, so far as such a result could be ensured, should be so comprehensive as to leave as little as possible for others to supply. If it is an error of judgment to aim at so high a standard in a work on which the Corporation of London sets its seal, I plead guilty to the charge. Had my ability been adequate to the realisation of the idea present to my mind, it would have been my ambition to issue on behalf of the Corporation a work which might (si parva licet componere magnis) be as serviceable in its way to the genealogist and the historian of the future as the admirable series of Calendars by Dr. Sharpe, with their invaluable introductions, the publication of which by the governing body of the City has made many generations of future researchers its debtors.

That the execution of the work is far from commensurate with its author's conception I am only too conscious, and the fact that I am at times a fastidious and ungentle critic of other workers in the wide field of historical research would deprive me of any claim, if I desired to put one forward, to deprecate any severity of judgment on the part either of professional reviewers or of ordinary readers who may light upon uncorrected errors. I may, however, be permitted to draw special attention to the copious lists of Corrigenda (pp. 225-234, 409-422), in which, acting on the principle of which Mr. Cokayne ("G.E.C."), in his monumental Complete Peerage, has provided such an excellent illustration as a model for all future compilers of books of reference, I have noted all those deviations from accuracy, whether due to myself or to the printer (chiefly the former), which have not eluded my repeated efforts to detect them since those pages have been in type. I think it will be found that I have corrected not a few errata, especially in dates and numerals, which would in all probability have never been discovered, except possibly by Dr. Sharpe, had I not myself drawn attention to them.

I regret exceedingly that I did not, before printing the Ward Lists in Part I., direct my attention to the question of the accuracy of the Knighthoods ascribed in such profusion by most writers on the subject to early Mayors and Aldermen, and that consequently not a few errors of designation, due to Stow and others who have blindly followed him, are reproduced in this portion of the work; they are, however, corrected individually in the Corrigenda pages, and collectively in the special article on Aldermanic Knights and Baronets (pp. 255-260).

Anyone who may propose to use this book for the purposes of reference or research should be careful to supplement and correct the text from the Addenda and Corrigenda.

It remains for me to acknowledge the generous help I have received from many sources, and to apologise to any whose names I may pass over inadvertently in doing so.

In the first place my thanks are due in an especial degree to Mr. Deputy Baddeley, (fn. 1) the publication of whose monograph on The Aldermen of Cripplegate Ward, (which with its valuable incidental articles to supplement the main subject of the book, has not only set an excellent example for others to follow, but has supplied an admirable model for their imitation), originally suggested the preparation of this work. I am indebted to him not only as the proposer of the motion in the Court of Common Council which sanctioned its publication under the authority of the Corporation, but also for the unflagging interest he has taken in its progress. In this connexion I must not omit to recognise the encouragement I received from the late Alderman Sir Reginald Hanson.

From the officials at Guildhall, who could in any way assist me, I have received most valuable aid. To the Records Clerk, Dr. Reginald R. Sharpe, it is impossible for me adequately to express a fraction of the measure of my obligations. His unique knowledge of all that pertains to the civic history of London has been placed ungrudgingly at my disposal: he has personally helped me to decipher or interpret countless entries in the records, has answered innumerable questions (often communicated in what are regarded by him and others as quasi-hieroglyphic characters), and during many years has devoted no inconsiderable portion of his time and attention to the elucidation of difficult points which I submitted to him for solution or comment. Whatever merit this work may possess in point of accuracy is largely due to his assistance.

To the late and to the present City Librarians, Mr. C. Welch and. Mr. E. M. Borrajo, I am indebted for constant and valuable help, always most courteously and readily rendered, and to the Library Staff generally for the invariable promptness with which my researches have been at all times facilitated, and in particular to Mr. Bernard Kettle for the alacrity and thoroughness with which he has repeatedly looked up authorities and made extracts for me when I have been unable to be present in London, as well as for occasional hints and suggestions as to sources of information with which I was not familiar.

Mr. F. J. Craker, of the Town Clerk's Office, has been always ready to aid my researches with his valuable notes, and the MS. List of Aldermen which he compiled many years ago served as a basis, and a very sound one, on which to start my work.

To the Clerks of many of the City Companies I have to express my grateful acknowledgments, in particular to the late Sir W. Sawyer (Drapers), Mr. Somers-Smith (Grocers), Mr. J. Wrench Towse (Fishmongers), Sir Owen Roberts and Mr. MacIntyre Evans (Clothworkers), the late Mr. Townend (Haberdashers), Mr. W. Arnold Hepburn (Leathersellers), Sir Walter Prideaux (Goldsmiths), Colonel Sewell (Spectacle Makers), Mr. Cecil Jennings (Loriners), and Mr. Higgins (Brewers), not merely for their assistance, but for the sympathetic and liberal spirit in which it has been accorded. In the case of some other Companies, if I received less ample help it was due rather to the meagreness of the material at command than to unwillingness to supply it. I must add a special expression of thanks to Mr. E. H. Beale, of Grocers' Hall, whose MS. collections relating to his Company have been very useful to me.

The Clerk of one of the minor Companies, which has contributed but few members to the Court of Aldermen in the last 250 years, expressed his readiness to consult his books on prepayment of a fee of a guinea. I fully appreciated his zeal in endeavouring to turn an honest penny for the benefit of his Company, but feeling that the information he could supply would probably be dear at the price, I determined to do without it, and I trust the value of the book has not suffered materially in consequence.

From a leading member of one of the greater Companies, more closely associated with the Corporation of London in earlier than later centuries, I extracted, with some difficulty, a considerable amount of more or less definite information, the value of the matter not being enhanced by any excess of suavity in the manner in which it was supplied, and the general attitude of the responsible officials of this particular Company with regard to the communication of any portion of the contents of the ancient records in their charge, which would afford invaluable material to the student of London History, was irresistibly suggestive of a familiar Æsopian fable which it would be superfluous to particularize more plainly.

I have received from other sources a great deal of valuable information, much of which will be utilized in the concluding portion of this work, relating to the Aldermen connected with the City Hospitals (for which I am indebted to Sir W. Vaughan Morgan, Mr. Wingfield Cross, Mr. Brewer and others), to the City Lieutenancy and the Trained Bands (the records relating to which I examined by the courtesy of Mr. C. F. Monckton), to the Irish Society (for which I have to thank Mr. Durie Miller) and to the Honourable Artillery Company (supplied very fully by Mr. B. Mills).

In addition to the many officials connected with the Corporation and other civic institutions, I have to thank the Rev. W. J. Loftie, one of the greatest living authorities on the early history of London, for most helpful suggestions in regard to the introductory pages of Part II., and I have had the inestimable advantage of constant communication with Mr. G. E. Cokayne (Clarencieux King-at-Arms), whose knowledge is colossal and who stands alone in his special field of research, as well as with my old friend Mr. Duncombe Pink, whom all readers of Notes and Queries, as well as those who have the privilege of his personal acquaintance, know to be one of the most competent genealogists of his time, and to be in himself a kind of Court of Final Appeal on all matters relating to Members of Parliament in the sixteenth, seventeenth and eighteenth centuries. To these I must add Dr. W. A. Shaw, the learned and painstaking Editor of The Knights of England, who has frequently helped me by referring to documents at the Record Office, and in other ways given me the benefit of his stores of knowledge.

I conclude with an apology for the long delay in issuing this volume, which is mainly due to the difficulties under which circumstances compel me to work, as I live in a provincial town and am able to spend an aggregate of only a few weeks each year in London, while my professional engagements at home have prevented me from applying myself continuously to its preparation at other times.


Leamington, July 1st, 1908.


1 The election on the 27th ult. of Mr. Deputy Baddeley to the office of Sheriff of London by a higher aggregate poll than has been recorded for any Commoner since 1723, the total of his votes having only once been exceeded by an Aldermanic Candidate, (in the case of Sir J. C. Dimsdale, the present Chamberlain, in 1893), for more than 130 years, is not only evidence of his personal popularity, but a welldeserved tribute to the active interest which he has manifested not only in the official business of the Corporation of London at the present day, but in all that tends to illustrate its historical development in the remote past and the steps by which it has attained to its unique prestige in the eyes of the world.