People Property and Charity

The Clothworkers' Company 1500-1688

Abchurch Lane

Oliver Claymond's Will, Book of Deeds and Wills, 1540.By his 1540 will, Oliver Claymond (d.1540), Citizen and Clothworker, made four separate property bequests to The Clothworkers’ Company, including one at Abchurch Lane, in the parish of St. Mary Abchurch.[1] The property comprised five houses or tenements. He bequeathed all his other properties, including those in Cornhill, Abchurch Lane, St. Nicholas Lane and Mark Lane, to his wife Anne for the duration of her life, following which, he instructed that the properties were to pass to The Clothworkers’ Company.[2] The Company, in turn, were expected to pay an annuity of four pounds to his daughter, Thomasine and to fund a Pascal light and sepulchre at Easter in the church of All Hallows Staining in London and four staff torches and twenty four other torches on the feast of Corpus Christi.[3] The first references to the property within the Company Court Orders came in January 1543, suggesting that the Company retained a strong interest in the property before it ever officially transferred to their full possession.[4]

Much of the early activity surrounding the property related to leases. In February 1543, for example, the Company granted Mr. Baker a lease of the Great Place at Abchurch Lane. His lease, however, would only begin after the death of Mrs. Claymond, for a term of thirty years. Baker undertook to pay an annual rent of 20 marks and a fine of £10.[5] In July 1553, the Company granted a lease of another property on the lane to Arcules Bodnam.[6] The first survey of any property at Abchurch Lane took place in June 1554 during the Company’s annual viewing of their properties. The viewers commented specifically on the property granted to Bodnam noting that it lacked ‘the wall on the south side of the house and [was] in great decay for lack of penthouses and weatherboarding’.[7]

A further tenement at Abchurch Lane was granted by the Company to James Tatam in 1558 with the provisos that he should hold it for as long as he lived and that he must undertake reparations.[8] By 1561, the properties were again being surveyed in the annual Company viewing. The viewers uncovered several faults with the properties, noting for example that the Great House lacked two penthouses and two gutter windows, while a house, held by Mighell Smythe, had a kitchen, which they described as ‘redy to ffalle’ and ‘which must spedely be amended’.[9] In the following year’s report, further issues were highlighted with all tenements noted as lacking tiling.[10] In March 1563, the Company were again highlighting problems and negotiated with their three tenants – Mighell Smyth, Robert Tatam and Edward Senyor – who ‘promised to repair their houses in all points before Whitsuntide’.[11]

Throughout the Company’s early management, the properties at Abchurch Lane changed hands continuously. In January 1563 for example, Walter Parker was noted in the Court Orders as being the next in line to receive a lease of a house in Abchurch Lane, where Widow Harrison lived.[12] By November 1563, plans were also being made for the property of James Tatam, who had died. The Company agreed to allow his apprentice and executor, Symonde Hardy, the next avoidance of the tenement, on agreement that he pay them £6 13s. 4s.[13] John and Elizabeth Petyngar were resident in the house at the time. The Company also agreed that should he attain his householder status he would be entitled to any other property in Abchurch Lane that might become free prior to Tatam’s house.[14] Throughout the 1560s, the Company’s main concern was to continue to repair the properties in Abchurch Lane. In September 1567, the Company granted the next avoidance of any property on the Lane to William Baylly on the proviso that he pay to repair the property.[15] By 1569, the annual survey of the property only highlighted two remaining faults with the properties, noting how Mighell Smyth and Widow Haryson’s properties lacked tiling, and how Arcules Bodnam was in breach of his lease as he ‘sett vp a bill for the sale of his shoppe and stuff havynge no Aucthoritie to do so’.[16]

While the annual surveys continued throughout the 1570s, the properties in Abchurch Lane did become part and parcel of some significant lease agreements. In March 1575, the Company granted a lease of the Great Place and two tenements at Abchurch Lane to John Browne.[17] Browne’s lease was for twenty-one years at £24 per annum, and a fine of £220.[18] The lease had certain conditions attached, which included that it was not to begin at the expiration of the previous lease; that Browne would bear the cost of, and undertake all manner of reparations; and not remove any of the former tenants.[19] In April 1575, the Court amended the lease to Browne adding the caveat that ‘if it shall happen the said landes to be evicted & recouered from the Companie at anie tyme duringe his lease That then the companie shall repaie and allowe to the said Mr Browne so muche of the said ffyne as shall be due accordinge to the tyme & quanitite so recouered’.[20] This was due to an onrunning dispute between the Company and Claymond’s family, which resurfaced throughout the early years of their control of the property. Following Oliver’s death, his daughter Isabel and her husband John Clerke disputed the title of the Company to the properties, claiming an interest for themselves. In 1542, the Company agreed with Clerke and Isabel that they should surrender their rights and titles to the lands bequeathed to the Company by her father, Oliver Claymond. The Company agreed to pay an annuity of £5 to the couple for the term of the life of the longest liver of them.[21] Thomasine is noted frequently in the records as the recipient of an annuity from the estate of her father and is also recorded as a widow and almswoman at Whitefriars in 1574.[22] The Company’s title to the land was firmly set by a series of agreements between April and June 1578.[23]

By June 1579, problems had emerged regarding Browne’s lease of the Great House and two tenements at Abchurch Lane.[24] In the intervening years, a Mr. Somer’s had bought John Browne’s interest in the lease, and was now in dispute with Nicholas Jones over the same.[25] The Company asked that Somer’s would surrender the original lease, and that promised that they would make a new lease with him that would contain the same conditions.[26] In July 1579, Jones was issued with a lease in reversion for twenty-one years, at an annual rent of £24 and a fine of £100.[27] The conditions were attached that he keep the house and gardens in good repair and that the lease was to begin at the end and determination of Somer's lease.[28] In November 1579, Jones’ petitioned the Court for a longer period of time in which to pay his fine, owing to the fact that the property was very out of repair and would need significant investment.[29]  In the same year, many other tenancy agreements were made between the Company and its then tenants at Abchurch Lane. William Baylye, for example, an incumbent tenant was granted a tenement for life due to his poverty and age.[30] Under the terms of his grant, he had to undertake all repairs throughout his lifetime and pay the accustomed rent. The agreement would be extended to his wife during her widowhood.[31]

In May 1580, Widow Haryson was evicted from her house at Abchurch Lane for not undertaking the necessary repairs to her property.[32] The property was leased to Richard Myller, Clothworker, in April 1581.[33] The Company continued to survey the Abchurch Lane properties throughout the 1580s. In 1583, for example, they exposed continuing problems noting that the penthouses in Myller’s and Baylye’s houses were ‘to be amended’ and that they also lacked tiling.[34] In 1601, the Company received an unusual petition by the executors of Christian Herold, a widow, who had lived until her death in Abchurch Lane. On the 4 August 1601, the Company received a request from Sir John Fortescue that they might allow the goods of the late Mrs. Herold to be left in her house in Abchurch Lane, so that her two sons, who were serving in the East Indies, might receive them on their return.[35] The upkeep and repair of the Abchurch Lane properties continued to be a major concern in the leases issued by the Company throughout 1605. In April 1605, for example, the Company granted a lease of a tenement to Henry Onyon,[36] Clothworker. Onyon received a twenty-one year lease at forty shillings a year, with a £25 fine. The major clause in his lease was that he had to rebuild the property within five years.[37]  In May 1605, the Company issued a warning to its largest leaseholder, Mr. Parlor ‘to amend the great house and divers tenements’.[38]

By the 1610s, the descendant of one of the original Company tenants at Abchurch Lane, John Bodnam was appearing frequently in the Court Orders, as theAbchurch Lane, Treswell Survey, 1612 Company attempted to evict him due to his ‘insolent speeches’.[39] The Company received numerous petitions for the lease of the property. Amongst the first was from William Salysbury, Clothworker, who sought a twenty-one year lease, for which he would pay a £50 fine and £4 a year in rent.[40] The Company attempted to negotiate with Bodnam, offering him a payment of 10s. and a pension of 40s.[41] His property was leased to Edward Moreton, Clothworker. Moreton’s tenancy, however, was not without its problems.[42] The Company noted how he paid a £30 fine and an annual rent of £9, but he had actually subdivided the house into three tenements.[43] Despite this, he was very slack in his rent payments and did not repair the property.[44] The Company issued him a warning, and told one of his tenants, Thomas Wilcoxe, who paid Moreton a rent of £8 a year, that he should 'pay him no further money without speciall order from Master & Wardens'.[45]

Throughout the 1620s and 1630s, the history of Abchurch Lane was dominated by lease changes and agreements. Many of these lease agreements in the 1620s discussed physical change to the properties. Amongst the most significant of these was the granting of a lease to Thomas Wheeler in April 1622. Wheeler received a lease for a ‘messuage or tenement in Abchurch Lane next to the back gate of the great house in St. Nicholas Lane’.[46] The lease included all the land except a piece that had been reserved for the creation of a new gatehouse for the great house at Abchurch Lane.[47] In November 1624, a new lease of a property at Abchurch Lane was granted to James Chapman, described as the ’property lately divided into two tenements’.[48] In October 1631, Edward Damaske sought to takeover the lease of Henry Onyon. He had been Onyon’s tenant and his lease agreement recorded how he had already undertaken extensive repairs at the property.[49]

By the 1640s, concerns regarding repairs at the properties in Abchurch Lane had led to disputes. In October 1645, for example, the residents needed to raise monies to repair the sink belonging to all five properties. The dispute came to Court where the Company judged that the payments should be spread among the current tenants with Mr. Skynner paying 7s. 11d.; Mrs. Gilby, 10s.; Mr. Hanmer, 55s.; Mr. Damask, 25s. and Mr. Warren, 10s. towards the maintenance of the communal sink there.[50] In November 1647, a new lease of a house at Abchurch Lane to Nicholas Redman included new building clauses. Redman’s new lease was for twenty-six years at 26s. 8d. and a fine of £8. As part of the conditions, however, his lease went much further, as he offered ‘to make a new cellar to his said house and [raise] the same 1/2 a story higher’.[51] In 1651, under his new lease, Edward Damaske was also charged with spending £100 on repairs at his property in Abchurch Lane.[52] In February 1652, Damaske attempted to extend his holdings in Abchurch Lane making suit for a property, which was described as in a decayed state.[53]

Once again, Damaske was charged with taking the lease and spending over £100 on repairs to the property.[54] In August 1654, Damaske received a new lease for his properties for a forty-one year period, at £6 a year and a £40 fine. Under the terms of the new lease, he received an abatement on the rent ‘in consideration of the great costs and charges which is to be at in the new building and reedifying of the same in a strong and substantial manner with good oak timber and sufficient scantling suitable to a building of that proportion’.[55] Similarly, in July 1656, Robert Peirson was granted a lease of a tenement in Abchurch Lane for a period of forty years, at an annual rent of 40s. and a fine of £40. Pierson also had rebuilding requirements attached, with the Court Orders describing how he must build ‘one new messuage or tenement of good and substantial oak timber, four storeys high, of a scantling fit for building of such a house, to spend £100’.[56] In December 1659, Pierson also made suit for two small tenements in the Little Yard or Alley at Abchurch Lane. The Company granted his suit, giving him a forty one year lease, with an annual rent £3 6s. 8d. and a fine of £40.[57] The grant had rebuilding stipulations attached, which requested that ‘within 2 years at his own cost and charge he must take down both  the tenements to the ground and in their stead place well and substantially erect and new build two houses, the roof and first floor to be of good timber and add scantling; the building should not stop light from entring the adjoining house’.[58]

The Company’s properties at Abchurch Lane were destroyed during the Great Fire of London in 1666. In the aftermath of the Fire, the Company attempted to reach agreements with, and grant leases to their tenants at Abchurch Lane. Mr. Currer, a tenant of Mrs. Mary Hanmer, leaseholder at Abchurch Lane, for example, informed the Company that he had agreed with Mrs. Hanmer to ‘have the lease of the house for the remainder of the time to come’.[59] He undertook ‘to build the house well and substantially according to the contents of the act of parliament in that behalf made the Company would not oppose or hinder him’.[60] The Company agreed to let him undertake the rebuild. By December 1668, Mr. Currer had rebuilt the house in Abchurch Lane, as promised to the Company.[61]In February 1668, Edward Damaske was granted an extension to the length of his leases at Abchurch Lane, on the proviso that ‘he pay old rent, with all arrears of rent; pay all taxes; make up the funnel of the house of office in lead, if carried up stairs with other the accustomed rents’.[62] The Company’s properties appear to have been rebuilt quickly in the aftermath of the fire, with suits for new leases common in the 1670s from tenants who claimed to have rebuilt their tenements in accordance with the direction of the Company.[63] The Company retained the properties at Abchurch Lane until the twentieth century. The original site was at 23-27 Abchurch Lane, but by 1870, this had become 23-25 Abchurch Lane.[64] In 1893, the Company exchanged 23, Abchurch Lane for Moorgate Street Buildings Almshouses. The remainder of the property was sold in 1955.[65] The properties at Abchurch Lane brought significant income to the Company. In 1600, the Company received £88 from Abchurch Lane and spent £23 5s. 4d. on fulfilling the terms of the grant.[66] In 1680, the Company received £29 7d. in rental income from the tenements, while they spent £6 13s. on fulfilling the conditions of Claymond’s will. [67]


[1] TNA PROB 11/28, The Will of Oliver Claymond, 28 February 1540.

[2] Ibid.

[3] TNA PROB 11/28, The Will of Oliver Claymond, 28 February 1540.

[4] The Clothworkers’ Company Archive (hereafter CCA), Court Orders,  CL/B/1/1, f. 105r, Lease to Mr. Baker, 26 January 1543.

[5] CCA, Court Orders, CL/B/1/1, f. 106v, Lease to Mr. Baker, 27 February 1543.

[6] CCA, Court Orders, CL/B/1/1, f. 190v, Grant of house to Arcules Bodnam, 19 July 1553.

[7] CCA, Court Orders, CL/B/1/1, ff195r-195v, Survey at Abchurch Lane, 6 June 1554.

[8] CCA, Court Orders, CL/B/1/1, f. 229r, Lease to James Tatam, 6 September 1558.

[9] CCA, Court Orders, CL/B/1/2, ff 18r-18v, Survey at Abchurch Lane, 28 April 1561.

[10] CCA, Court Orders, CL/B/1/2, ff 30v-31r, Survey at Abchurch Lane, 8 April 1562.

[11] CCA, Court Orders, CL/B/1/2, f. 49v, Agreement with Smyth, Tatam and Senyor to repair their  properties at Abchurch Lane, 30 March 1563.

[12] CCA, Court Orders, CL/B/1/2, f. 43v, Next avoidance to be offered to Parker, 7 January 1653.

[13] CCA, Court Orders, CL/B/1/2, ff 57r-57v, Agreement for lease to Symonde, 22 November 1563.

[14] Ibid.

[15] CCA, Court Orders, CL/B/1/2, f. 109r, Grant to William Bayly, 30 September 1567.

[16] CCA, Court Orders, CL/B/1/2, ff 128r-128v, Survey of Abchurch Lane, 3 March 1569.

[17] CCA, Court Orders, CL/B/1/2, f. 193r, Lease to John Browne, 22 March 1575.

[18] Ibid.

[19] Ibid.

[20] CCA, Court Orders, CL/B/1/2, f. 193v, Amendment to Browne’s lease, 19 April 1575.

[21] CCA, Court Orders, CL B/1/1, f. 98v, Agreement with Isabel and John Clerke, 19 July 1542 and CCA, Court Orders, CL/B/1/1, f. 101r, Payment to Isabel and John Clerke, 20 September 1542.

[22] CCA, Court Orders, CL B/1/2, f. 179r, ‘Thomasine Hawkins admitted as almswoman at Whitefriars’, 2 March 1574.

[23] CCA, Court Orders, CL B/1/2, f. 217v, Agreement regarding Abchurch Lane, 22 April 1578; CCA, Court Orders, CL B/1/2, f. 218r, Agreement regarding Abchurch Lane, 16 May 1578; CCA, Court Orders, CL B/1/2, f. 218v, Agreement regarding Abchurch Lane, 16 May 1578; CCA, Court Orders, CL B/1/2, f. 219r, Agreement regarding Abchurch Lane, 3 June 1578; and CCA, Court Orders, CL B/1/2, f. 219v, Agreement regarding Abchurch Lane, 9 June 1578.

[24] CCA, Court Orders, CL/B/1/2, f. 232r, Agreement with Somers, 19 June 1579.

[25] Ibid.

[26] Ibid.

[27] CCA, Court Orders, CL/B/1/2, f. 232v, Lease to Jones, 7 July 1569.

[28] Ibid.

[29] CCA, Court Orders, CL/B/1/2, f. 236r, Suit by Jones, 24 November 1579.

[30] CCA, Court Orders, CL/B/1/2, f. 228r, Grant to William Baylye, 1 April 1579.

[31] Ibid.

[32] CCA, Court Orders, CL/B/1/2, f. 241r, Widow Haryson evicted, 20 May 1580.

[33] CCA, Court Orders, CL/B/1/2, f. 250v, Lease to Richard Myller, 11 April 1581.

[34] CCA, Court Orders, CL/B/1/3, ff 24r-24v, Survey at Abchurch Lane, 22 April 1583.

[35] CCA, Court Orders, CL/B/1/3, f. 206r, Suit by Sir John Fortescue, 4 August 1601.

[36] CCA, Court Orders, CL/B/1/3, f. 244r, Lease to Henry Onyon, 8 April 1605.

[37] Ibid.

[38] CCA, Court Orders, CL/B/1/3, ff 246r-246v, Warnings issued for repairs, 27 May 1605.

[39] CCA, Court Orders, CL/B/1/5, f. 145r, Avoidance of John Bodnam, 24 April 1613.

[40] CCA, Court Orders, CL/B/1/5, f. 147r, Suit by William Salysbury, 14 May 1613.

[41] CCA, Court Orders, CL/B/1/5, f. 162r, Pension offered to Bodnam, 15 November 1613.

[42] CCA, Court Orders, CL/B/1/5, f. 161v, Lease to Edward Moerton, 15 November 1613.

[43] Ibid.

[44] Ibid.

[45] Ibid.

[46] CCA, Court Orders, CL/B/1/4, f. 253r, Lease to Thomas Wheeler, 8 April 1622.

[47] Ibid.

[48] CCA, Court Orders, CL/B/1/6, f. 22v, Lease to James Chapman, 24 November 1624.

[49] CCA, Court Orders, CL/B/1/6, f. 115v, Lease to Edward Damaske, 19 October 1631,

[50] CCA, Court Orders, CL/B/1/8, f. 131r, Repairs to the common sink, 21 October 1545

[51] CCA, Court Orders, CL/B/1/8, f. 177r, Lease to Mr. Redman, 12 November 1647,

[52] CCA, Court Orders, CL/B/1/9, f. 11r, Lease to Edward Damaske, 8 April 1651,

[53] CCA, Court Orders, CL/B/1/9, f. 23v, Suit by Edward Damaske for a property at Abchurch Lane, 20 February 1652.

[54] CCA, Court Orders, CL/B/1/9, ff 26r-26v, Lease to Edward Damaske, 5 May 1652.

[55] CCA, Court Orders, CL/B/1/9, ff 52r-52v, Lease to Edward Damaske, 2 August 1654.

[56] CCA, Court Orders, CL/B/1/9, f.77v, Lease to Peirson, 8 July 1656.

[57] Ibid.

[58] CCA, Court Orders, CL/B/1/9, f. 134r, Lease to Pierson, 19 December 1659.

[59] CCA, Court Orders, CL/B/1/10, p. 78, Agreement between Mrs. Hanmer and Mr. Currer, 4 December 1667.

[60] Ibid.

[61] CCA, Court Orders, CL/B/1/10, p.158, House rebuilt in Abchurch Lane, 16 December 1668.

[62] CCA, Court Orders, CL/B/1/10, p.86, Lease extensions granted to Edward Damaske, 26 February 1668.

[63] CCA, Court Orders, CL/B/1/10, p. 221, Suit by William Hawkins, 24 January 1670.

[64] A. Buchanan, ‘The Sources of the Wealth of The Clothworkers’ Company’, unpublished paper

[65] A. Buchanan, ‘The Sources of the Wealth of The Clothworkers’ Company’, unpublished paper

[66] CCA, Quarter and Renter Warden Accounts, CL/D/5/4, Section 6, The renterwarden accounts of Anthony Fawlkes, 1600, f. 1v.

[67] CCA, Quarter and Renter Warden Accounts, CL/D/5/12, The renterwarden accounts of Robert Stevenson, 1680, f. 1 and f. 9a.