People Property and Charity

The Clothworkers' Company 1500-1688

Coleman Street (including Bell Alley and Swan Alley)

William Lambe (d.1580), Citizen and Clothworker, bequeathed properties in Coleman Street, Bell Alley, White’s Alley and Swan Alley to the Company in 1580.[1] After Lambe’s death in 1580, one of the first actions of the Company was to include the properties at Coleman Street, as part of the annual survey of Company properties. In March 1582, the surveyors noted four properties, in the hands of Mr. Barnes, Mr. Colymer, Mr. Wilcox and Mr. Bodley.[2] All properties were noted as having several defects, including a rotting shed at Mr. Wilcox’s house and missing tiling at Mr. Bodley’s property.[3] In March 1585, the surveyors recorded continuing problems at Coleman Street, particularly relating to building work undertaken by Mr. Barnes on his property, where he had built a new house ‘upon part of a brick wal of the Companys’.[4] In 1605, the Company issued an order to the tenants at Coleman Street to come to the Court ‘to inform the Company what properties they hold, what rents and reparations they are to pay and do and for what time they hold the properties’.[5] Three tenants - Bartholomew Barnes, Hugh Morgan and Thomas Carter – were included in Company’s request to come to Court.[6] By June, the Company had issued directives for repairs of the property.[7] These included repairs to the tiling of the sheds of his garden by Mr. Street, amendments to the shed in his garden by Mr. Morgan, and repairs to the shed and tiling of the house by Mr. Carter.[8]

In February 1607, the Company accepted the purchase of Thomas Carter’s interest in property at Coleman Street by Michael Butler, one of the Company livery.[9] The property comprised three tenements, a garden and a bowling alley. In return, Butler promised to give the Company plate to the value of five pounds; to pay the rent of 28s.; and not to let or set the premises to anyone without the Company’s consent.[10] In July 1607, Mrs. Butler petitioned the Court ‘for a lease in her own name’, for a term of twenty-one years.[11] The Company decided to undertake a survey before they made any decision.[12] In October 1608, Mrs. Butler was given a new lease of two tenements, a garden and a bowling alley for a twenty-one year term. Butler undertook to pay an annual rent of £3 and a £60 fine.[13] By 1620, Mrs. Butlers’ lease at Coleman Street had already been transferred to John Deynly. In September 1621, Deynly made suit to the Court to be allowed to alienate his lease.[14] In 1628, the Company surveyed the two tenements, garden and bowling alley.[15]

The Company continued to monitor both encroachments on, and expansions of, the properties at Coleman Street throughout the 1610s through to the 1630s.Bell Alley, White's Alley, Swan Alley, Goffe's Alley, Treswell Survey, 1612 In 1613, the Company undertook to view the Company’s properties at Coleman Street due to an encroachment by Sir William Killigrew and Sir Thomas Hewett, who had erected ‘a chimney upon part of a garden belonging to this company at Copthall Alley’.[16] The surveyors were given the power ‘to use their best meanes and indeavours to reforme the same’.[17] In March 1629, the Company granted Margaret Jordan a lease of the tenements, garden and bowling alley for twenty-one years.[18] This property appears in the Court Orders separately as located on Coleman Street and Swan Alley, which was located to the north of the Coleman Street site. Jordan undertook to pay an annual rent of four pounds and a fine of £200.[19] In November 1629, the Company received a petition from the ministers, churchwardens and parishioners of St. Stephen Coleman Street to purchase the bowling alley, in order to build an almshouse for the poor of the parish.[20] In 1631, the Company’s tenant at the bowling alley in Coleman Street, Theophilus Eaton, came to Court to inform the Company that his lease was not fully assigned to him, as Margaret Jordan still held the right to the land. The Company endeavoured to solve the confusion by procuring a lease in ‘reversion in the name of the Company to there use of a small warehouse, which Eaton held, the lease to be fully granted to Margaret Jurden’. [21] In 1639, the Company paid £150 for Jordan’s interest in the two tenements, a garden, a long narrow room (formerly a bowling alley) and a warehouse.[22]

The Coleman Street properties also extended to Bell Alley, which was located to the east of the Coleman Street site. In 1640, the Company granted a lease of a house and garden at Bell Alley, Coleman Street to Mr. Maltravers. The lease was for thirty-one years at 50s. a year and a fine of £50, to begin at the end of his former lease.[23] In December 1640, Maltravers petitioned the Court, regarding repairs to the property.[24] He explained how he had already spent £70 in both walling the garden and rebuilding the tenement at Bell Alley, as he had undertaken to do, within his lease agreement.[25] He appeared at Court to explain that he felt ‘he can no longer spend more money on the first property’, and made ‘suit to spend the further £110 on the adjoining tenement and garden, lately occupied by Robert Streete’.[26] The Company undertook a survey of the tenement, and agreed afterwards that Maltravers could spend the remainder of the money on the adjoining tenement.[27]

In 1642, Mrs. Jordan made suit for, and was offered, a new lease of the two tenements, a garden and a long warehouse at Coleman Street and Swan Alley. The lease, which was for thirty-one years, at £4 annual rent and a fine of £50.[28] Mrs. Jordan’s lease was granted ‘in consideration of the money she has spent on rebuilding’.[29] In 1649, the Company granted a lease to Mr. Harvey, a tenant in Bell Alley, Coleman Street. In  January 1648, the Company had requested that Harvey ‘reedify one tenement; build the second tenement a story and a half higher’.[30] His 1649 lease agreement exposed that he had spent over £300 on rebuilding the property in the previous years.[31] In 1664, the Company were considering rebuilding many of their Coleman Street property, as the Court Orders recorded that a Mr. Wills ‘presented the Company with the draughts that he had drawn of the houses and ground belonging to this Company’.[32]

The Company’s properties at Coleman Street, Bell Alley and Swan Alley survived the Great Fire of London in 1666. In the aftermath of the fire, the Company issued new leases to tenants on the properties. In December 1667, for example, William Rawlins received a new lease of three tenements and gardens at Bell Alley.[33] His lease gave rise to an increase in the term of the lease from eighteen to fifty-one years at the old rent of £5 per annum.[34] Rawlins undertook to pay all taxes and to ‘make the funnel of the house of office with lead if carried upstairs’.[35] This added to the lease of the same properties in 1644, which had been granted to Rawlins. This lease directed him ‘to spend £200 on rebuilding of one or more house’.[36] In 1670, Martin made suit to the Court to be allowed ‘to convert his warehouses there into tenements and lay out a considerable sum of money, if the Company would grant him a longer time to his lease’. The Company, however, ordered that they would not ‘expect the performance of the covenants of his old lease and if he makes alteration, it is for his own conveniency and not the Company advantage’.[37] The Company continued to survey the properties over the following years ensuring that they were maintained in good condition and to enable the transfer of leases.[38] The Company retained some interest in these lands up to the present day. One parcel of the Company lands on Bell Alley, Swan Alley and White’s Alley are now part of the Moorgate development; a further parcel of land on Swan Alley and White’s Alley is now part of Peircy House; some land on Bell Alley is now part of 2, Copthall Avenue, while a final parcel of land became 8-10 Telegraph Street and was sold in 1963. [39]

The Great Coleman Street properties were noted extensively in the Company accounts. Taken at twenty year intervals the monies accrued from the property can be noted. In 1600, the annual rental income for was £11 18s, while £31 11s 7d. was recorded as having been spent on both Coleman Street and St. James in the Wall, which the accounts recorded together.[40]  In 1620, the annual rental income from Great Coleman Street was £13 10s., while the combined expenditure at Coleman Street, St. James in the Wall and Monkwell Street was £32 9s. 10d.[41] By 1640, the annual income from Great Coleman Street was £17, with the annual expenditure noted as £24 16s. 5d.[42] By 1660, the annual income was £23 10s. with expenditure noting the payment of an undefined quit rent.[43] By 1680, the Company were receiving £21 10s. from the Great Coleman Street properties. Their annual expenses in this year amounted 11s. 4 ½d.[44]


[1] TNA PROB 11/62, Will of William Lambe, 10 March 1580.

[2] The Clothworkers’ Company Archive (hereafter CCA), Court Orders, CL/B/1/3, f. 11r, Survey of Coleman Street properties, 13 March 1582.

[3] Ibid.

[4] CCA, Court Orders, CL/B/1/3, ff 58v-59r, Survey of Coleman Street properties, 14 March 1585.

[5] CCA, Court Orders, CL/B/1/3, f. 241v, Company tenants at Coleman Street ordered to come to Court, 13 February 1605.

[6] Ibid.

[7] CCA, Court Orders, CL/B/1/3, f. 245r, Repairs ordered on Coleman Street properties, 10 June 1605.

[8] Ibid.

[9] CCA, Court Orders, CL/B/1/5, f. 2r, Company accepted purchase of lease of Carters’ property by Michael Butler, 24 February 1607.

[10] Ibid.

[11] CCA, Court Orders, CL/B/1/5, f. 28v, Petition by Mrs. Butler for a lease in her own right, 22 July 1608.

[12] Ibid.

[13] CCA, Court Orders, CL/B/1/5, f. 35r, Lease to Mrs. Butler, 30 October 1608.

[14] CCA, Court Orders, CL/B/1/4, f. 243v, Deynly applying to alienate his lease, 4 September 1621.

[15] CCA, Court Orders, CL/B/1/6, f. 71v, Survey of property at Coleman Street, 28 May 1628.

[16] CCA, Court Orders, CL/B/1/5, f. 150v, Survey of encroachments into Coleman Street, 16 July 1613.

[17] Ibid.

[18] CCA, Court Orders, CL/B/1/6, f. 82v, Lease to Margaret Jordan, 3 March 1629.

[19] Ibid.

[20] CCA, Court Orders, CL/B/1/6, ff 92r-92v, Suit to purchase bowling alley, 18 November 1629.

[21] CCA, Court Orders, CL/B/1/6, ff 117v-118r, Lease of property to Eaton, 7 December 1631.

[22] CCA, Court Orders, CL/B/1/7, ff 141r-142v, Purchase of Jordan’s interest, 20 February 1639.

[23] CCA, Court Orders, CL/B/1/8, ff 18r-18v, Lease to Maltravers, 4 July 1640.

[24] CCA, Court Orders, CL/B/1/8, ff 27v-28r, Repairs to the property at Coleman Street, 2 December 1640.

[25] Ibid.

[26]Ibid.

[27] CCA, Court Orders, CL/B/1/8, f. 29v, Survey at Coleman Street, 13 January 1641.

[28] CCA, Court Orders, CL/B/1/8, f. 52r, Lease to Mrs. Jordan, 19 January 1642.

[29] Ibid.

[30] CCA, Court Orders, CL/B/1/8, f. 181r, Repairs to be undertaken by John Harvey, 25 January 1648.

[31] CCA, Court Orders, CL/B/1/8, f. 213r, Lease to John Harvey, 15 January 1650.

[32] CCA, Court Orders, CL/B/1/9, f. 257r, Rebuilding of Coleman Street considered, 19 May 1664.

[33] CCA, Court Orders, CL/B/1/10, p. 76, Lease to Rawlins, 4 December 1667.

[34] Ibid.

[35] Ibid.

[36] CCA, Court Orders, CL/B/1/8, ff 96v-97r, Lease to Rawlins, 6 August 1644.

[37] CCA, Court Orders, CL/B/1/10, p. 255, Suit by Mr. Martin, 25 January 1671.

[38] CCA, Court Orders, CL/B/1/10, p. 176, Survey of Mr. Winn’s property at Coleman Street, 12 September 1688.

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

[40] CCA, Renter Warden Accounts, CL/D/5/4, Section 6, The Renter Warden accounts of Anthony Fawlkes, 1600, f. 2v and f. 4v.

[41] CCA, Renter Warden Accounts, CL/D/5/5, Section 16, The Renter Warden accounts of Daniel Hall, 1620, f. 4r and ff 7v-8r.

[42] CCA, Renter Warden Accounts, CL/D/5/8, Section 4, The Renter Warden accounts of William Harris, 1640, f. 6v and ff 9v-10r.

[43] CCA, Renter Warden Accounts, CL/D/5/10, The Renter Warden accounts of Dennis Gawden, 1660, f. 3 and f. 12.

[44] CCA, Renter Warden Accounts, CL/D/5/12, The Renter Warden accounts of Robert Stevenson, 1680, f.2 and f. 9.