People Property and Charity

The Clothworkers' Company 1500-1688

Fleet Lane

Robert Peele's Will, Book of Deeds and Wills, 1538Rev. Robert Peele, Grocer and Citizen, granted property in Fleet Lane to The Clothworkers’ Company in 1538. These equated to numbers 1-6 Fleet Lane. The property also included a wharf on the river. Peele originally received the property in Fleet Lane in a deed from Thomas Bonysannte, Joiner and Citizen.[1] In his will, he bequeathed the property entirely to The Clothworkers’ Company, making several stipulations for the use of the rental income.[2] Peele gave instructions for a yearly obit to be sung or prayed in the church at Chillham, for which the Company were directed to pay the priest an annual stipend of £9 6s. 8d.[3] From this money, the priest, in turn had to ensure that any necessary repairs were undertaken to the priest’s house at Chillham. Peele also directed the Company to pay an annuity of 13s. 4d. to the Grocers’ Company, of which he was a member His will also made provision for the transfer of his property bequest to the Grocers’ Company, if The Clothworkers’ Company failed to make the annual directed payments.[4]

The property consisted of twelve tenements or houses, with one described as a ‘capital messuage’.[5] The Company maintained a constant oversight of the properties through surveys and lease agreements. The first reference to the Fleet Lane properties came in the Court Orders in 1540, when the Company made a number of lease agreements, with Roger Mote and Master Fermer.[6] Following the leasing of the properties, the Company kept a close eye on the condition of the tenements by annual surveys. The first such survey to be recorded was in 1554.[7] The surveyors reported both small and major problems with the properties at this stage. One tenement, in the hands of John Robson, had significant water damage caused by a shed on the property that was built without a gutter. The result of the poor building was that the principal timber of the tenement had begun to rot.[8] In George Benson’s tenement, the floors were so damaged that his ‘wife and servants [had] fallen through’.[9]

The upkeep of the tenements seemed both a constant concern and problem. While the Company did request that all faults be fixed following their annual viewings, this did not always take place with similar problems reported year on year in the early 1550s. In 1557, for example, Robson’s shed was still causing problems, with the viewers describing how the ‘shed rotted down one side of the house, the backsides [were] rotten down and the timber decayed’.[10] It would appear that the problems with the Fleet Lane tenements were so great that the Company rebuilt them at some stage between 1557 and 1562. In a 1562 suit, the Court described the property as ‘one of the new tenements’.[11] Despite these rebuilds though, some problems continued to persist within the tenements. One of the tenements, leased by Mr. Chamberlain, for example, was recorded as needing a pump in the cellar due to the water  logging there from a local spring.[12] Other persistent problems included the poor installation of gutters, which allowed water to damage the wooden structure of the houses, as well as problems with sinks and privies.[13]

The Company continued to provide for improvements of the Fleet Lane properties within their leases. In March 1566, they leased the capital messuage on the north side of the Lane to Mr. Lucas, who in turn assigned his lease to Sir Thomas Smyth in April 1568.[14] On his taking of the capital messuage, Smith undertook to repair the property, despite what he termed the ‘high cost’.[15] Such repairs continued apace within the Company’s other tenements in the ensuing years. One major concern was the provision of a common privy for the tenements. In 1570, the Company spoke with Mr. Chamberlain about the provision of the common sink and privy.[16] By 1574, several issues with many of the tenements had emerged. The Company were particularly concerned about a backhouse and well behind their tenant Mr. Harrison’s house which they described as ‘in great decay’.[17] The house also lacked plastering.[18] Similarly William Sweetnam’s house lacked a principal post in the south corner.[19]

In 1577, Sir Thomas Smythe’s lease, of twelve tenements and the capital messuage on the north side of the street was renewed to his nephew and executor, John Wood. He paid a fine of £200.[20] In 1581, the Company Court Orders, noted Henry Botham, Clothworker, making suit for a lease of a ‘newly built tenement’ in Fleet Lane.[21] The petitioners on his behalf were Sir Walter Mildmay and Roger Marwood. The Company granted Botham the lease for twenty-one years, beginning 29 June 1582, at an annual rent of £6 13s. 4d. for his and his wife’s lives. He agreed to undertake all repairs to the property. Botham’s property though was particularly problematic. A survey in April 1583 described how the house ‘[shrank] at the northwest corner of the yard in the widow’s tenure’ and also lacked a gate, was filthy and [needed to be] amended.[22] In 1586, the Company engaged with their carpenter, Auncell, regarding repairs to be made at Botham’s house, which presumably they were taking partial responsibility.[23]

By Treswell’s Survey in 1612, Fleet Lane was very much divided between the properties rented directly by the Company and those leased by Lady Wood, the Fleet Lane, Treswell Survey, 1612widow of John Wood.[24] The Company still retained six tenements on the south side, which Treswell described as running from the gate or entry into Fleet yard to a new tenement eastward.[25] John Hearne had a lease of the new tenement, and the land also contained a wharf enclosed with a brick wall on Fleet ditch. The north side of the street was still leased to Lady Wood, and had eleven tenements listed within Treswell’s survey. These were in addition to the capital messuage, which was occupied by Lady Wood herself.[26]

From the 1620s through to the 1640s, the Company’s major dealings with the Fleet Lane tenements was in rebuilding them. As early as 1626, the Company worked with the carpenter and bricklayer to develop a plan to rebuild a tenement, which was leased to a Mr. Wrench.[27] In August 1641, the Court Orders noted that £250 was to be spent rebuilding premises in Fleet Lane before the feast of St. Thomas Apostle.[28] By 1642, the Company had ordered Elizabeth Roberts, a widow and leaseholder of multiple tenements in Fleet Lane, to demolish and take down the tenements and erect one good dwelling house of brick, with a first floor and roof, constructed of oak. The rebuild should cost £200.[29] In 1664, a report declared several of the Fleet Lane properties to be out of repair, and stated that they must be pulled down and repaired.[30]

Following the Great Fire of London, and the destruction of the properties at Fleet Lane, the City commissioners requested some of the land to extend the wharf and widen the city streets. A 1670 entry in the Court Orders noted that the Master, Wardens and Company appointees went to view the lands in Fleet Lane to see how much of them had actually been takConjectural drawing of Fleet Lane area by Peter Jacksonen away by the City to make wharfs along the river.[31] The Company spoke again with the city surveyor, Mr. Beckford in 1675, to measure the city ground which had become interspersed with the Company lands in order to purchase some of it for the redevelopment of the site.[32] The Company retained the lands at Fleet Lane until 1863-8, when they sold numbers 5-6 Fleet Lane. The remainder of the lands were sold in 1958.[33]

The Fleet Lane 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 Company received a rental income of £39 4s. 4d. from Fleet Lane.[34] In the same year, they spent 13s. 4d. on the properties at Fleet Lane[35] In 1620, the annual rental income from Fleet Lane was £49 13s. 8d., while 13s. 4d. is noted as the expediture on the property for the year.[36] By 1640, the annual income from Fleet Lane had risen to £56 13s. 4d., with the annual expenditure noted as 13s. 4d.[37] By 1660, the annual income was £50 17s. 4d. with expenditure reaching  13s. 4d.[38] By 1680, the Company was receiving £41 13s. rental income from the Fleet Lane properties.[39] Their annual Fleet Lane expenses in this year amounted to £2.[40]


[1] The Clothworkers’ Company Archive (hereafter CCA), Estate Records, Estate/37/1A/48, Will of Robert Pyle, 7 February 1538.

[2] CCA, Court Orders, CL/B/1/1, f. 66v, Lease to Roger Mote and Master Fermer, 31 May 1540.

[3] Ibid.

[4] Ibid.

[5] Ibid.

[6] CCA, Court Orders, CL/B/1/1/, ff 195v-196r, Survey of Fleet Lane properties, 6 June 1554.

[7] Ibid.

[8] Ibid.

[9] Ibid.

[10] CCA, Court Orders, CL/B/1/1, f. 218v, Survey of Fleet Lane properties, 25 January 1557.

[11] CCA, Court Orders, CL/B/1/1, f. 35r, Petition of Hewett for a lease of a tenement in Fleet Lane on behalf of Bodley, 1 July 1562.

[12] CCA, Court Orders, CL/B/1/2, f. 73v, Pump to be installed in Chamberlain’s house, 10 May 1565.

[13] CCA, Court Orders, CL/B/1/2, f. 73v, Gutters to be fixed at the Bucklemaster’s house, 10 May 1565 and CL/B/1/2, f. 102v, Sinks to be amended on the backside of the tenements, 8 March 1567.

[14] CCA, Court Orders, CL/B/1/2, f. 86r, Lease of the capital messuage on the north side of Fleet Lane, 1 March 1566 and CL/B/1/2, f. 116r, Lease of Lucas’ properties bought by Sir Thomas Smythe, 7 April 1568.

[15] CCA, Court Orders, CL/B/1/2, f. 116r, Repairs to the capital messuage, 7 April 1568.

[16] CCA, Court Orders, CL/B/1/2 , f. 140v, Concerns regarding the common privy, 20 April 1570.

[17] CCA, Court Orders, CL/B/1/2, ff 180v-181r, Survey of Harrison’s house, Fleet Lane, 29 March 1574.

[18] Ibid.

[19] CCA, Court Orders, CL/B/1/2, ff 180v-181r, Survey of Sweetnam’s house, Fleet Lane, 29 March 1574.

[20] CCA, Court Orders, CL/B/1/2, f. 210v, Lease to Thomas Smythe, 3 September 1577

[21] CCA, Court Orders, CL/B/1/2, f. 254r, Suit for a lease by Henry Botham, 11 July 1581.

[22] CCA, Court Orders, CL/B/1/2, ff 24r-24v, Survey of Botham’s house, 22 April 1583.

[23] CCA, Court Orders, CL/B/1/3, f. 55r, 18 January 1586, Repairs to Botham’s house, 18 January 1586.

[24] CCA, Treswell Survey, 1612.

[25] Ibid.

[26] Ibid.

[27] CCA, Court Orders, CL/B/1/6, f. 37r, Discussions relating to rebuilding the tenements, 19 April 1626.

[28] CCA, Court Orders,CL/B/1/8, ff 42v- 43r, Rebuilding in Fleet Lane, 17 August 1641.

[29] CCA, Court Orders, CL/B/1/8, ff 64v-65r, Rebuilding of Widow Roberts properties, 5 July 1642.

[30] CCA, Court Orders, CL/B/1/9, f. 245v, Report relating to properties at Fleet Lane, 17 February 1664.

[31] CCA, Court Orders, CL/B/1/10, p. 237, Creation of wharfs on the Company lands at Fleet Lane, 17 June 1670.

[32] CCA, Court Orders, CL/B/1/10, p. 401, Measurement of the city lands, 19 October 1675.

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

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

[35] CCA, Renter Warden Accounts, CL/D/5/4, Section 6, The Renter Warden accounts of Anthony Fawlkes, 1600, f. 3av.

[36] CCA, Renter Warden Accounts,CL/D/5/5, Section 16, The Renter Warden accounts of Daniel Hall, 1620, ff 3v-4r and f. 6r.

[37] CCA, Renter Warden Accounts,  CL/D/5/8, Section 4, The Renter Warden accounts of William Harris, 1640, f. 4v and f. 8r.

[38] CCA, Renter Warden Accounts, CL/D/5/10, The Renter Warden accounts of Dennis Gawden, 1660, f. 5 and f. 14.

[39] CCA, Renter Warden Accounts, CL/D/5/12, The Renter Warden accounts of Robert Stevenson, 1680, f. 4

[40] CCA, Renter Warden Accounts, CL/D/5/12, The Renter Warden accounts of Robert Stevenson, 1680, f.11.