People Property and Charity

The Clothworkers' Company 1500-1688

St. Nicholas Lane

St. Nicholas Lane, Treswell Survey, 1612Oliver Claymond bequeathed property in St. Nicholas Lane to The Clothworkers’ Company in 1540. These properties are the modern 4 and 12 Nicholas Lane and 1, Fox’s Ordinary Court. The property seemed to have comprised one great messuage and five tenements at the time of the bequest. In return for Claymond’s grant of the properties (including property in Abchurch Lane, Cornhill and Mark Lane, also), the Company undertook 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.[1] The first reference to the property comes in the Court Orders in 1573, when the Company viewers report on the state of the property during their annual viewing.[2] The surveyors reported that the capital messuage was in need of extensive repairs, noting that ‘a gutter ouer the est ende of the house is to be Amended, very muche in decaye, And the same house lacketh a pentehouse towardes Abchurche lane, and in many places it lacketh Tilinge’.[3] Both of the tenements leased to Coke and Bodnam lacked tiling, while Messam’s tenement lacked a cellar door.[4]

In 1575, Mr. Browne reached an agreement with the Company to take a lease of the great house and five tenements at St. Nicholas Lane, acknowledging that he would not sell or assign his lease at any time during his term there.[5] In January 1586, the Company received a letter from Sir Francis Walsingham, Secretary of State, in which he petitioned the Company for a lease in reversion of the great house in St. Nicholas Lane. The Company gave answer that if it pleased Walsingham, he should have a lease of the property for twenty-one years, at a rent of £14 a year and a £100 fine.[6] In February, the Company agreed that they would answer Walsingham’s demand for the lease of both the great house in St. Nicholas Lane and multiple tenements in Abchurch Lane. They informed the Secretary that they had an ordinance in place that stated they would not offer any new lease of a property until it was within three years of the expiration of the old lease.[7] They also stated that the money accrued from these properties did not come directly to any individual, but rather that the Company used it for the relief of the poor and other activities.[8] The Company agreed, however, that in such a special case as Walsingham’s they would grant him the properties at a lower rent. Following a deputation to Walsingham, and the explanation of the Company’s case, he agreed to let his suit fall.[9]

In the early seventeenth century, the Company were primarily concerned with the repair and maintenance of the St. Nicholas Lane properties. In 1605, the Company warned their tenant in St. Nicholas Lane, Daniel Hall, to undertake repairs to his property.[10] In 1608, the Company ordered their tenant in the Great House at St. Nicholas Lane, Mr. Parlor, to ‘amend a vault there due to its fulness’.[11] Treswell’s survey in 1612 describes a quite unusual layout of the main house at St. Nicholas Lane, which he refers to as the ‘Postmaster’s House’ or ‘Fox’s House’.[12]  The house was vast in terms of floor space and consisted of four storeys. Each floor was comprised of several chambers. The first floor, for example, contained a kitchen, a hall, a staircase, a gallery, a study and nine chambers. It would appear that parts of this house were rented separately to a number of different tenants.[13] The actual layout on the Treswell plan only shows the great house and one tenement in 1612 at St. Nicholas Lane, so it is probable that the four other tenements that are originally described within the company’s holdings here may have been subsumed into the main house.

In 1617, Daniel Hall, the leaseholder in the Company’s tenement in St. Nicholas Lane, made suit for a lease in reversion of the property, asking for an additional twenty-two years to be added to his lease, which still had nine years to run.[14] He offered £50 for the lease. The Company decided that due to the length of time that he still had to run in his lease that his offer for the property should not be accepted.[15] They did, however, agree to set him down as suitor for it, and that he should have the option of renting it ahead of any other suitor.[16] By 1621, another lease transfer was occurring for the Great House property. By October 1621, Mr. Parlor was dead, and his property at St. Nicholas Lane had been granted to James Britlande for five years by his executors.[17] Britlande made suit to the Company for a new lease. The Company confirmed his lease for twenty-eight years at an annual rent of £50, and for a fine of £200.[18] In 1623, the Company granted Bricklande permission to let some of the rooms in the house to other tenants.[19] In 1645, Harmon Chadwick received a lease of the tenement, formerly granted to Daniel Hall. Chadwick’s lease was for twenty years, paying £8 rent a year and £150 fine. His lease was to begin at the expiration of Hall’s lease.[20]

In 1646, the Company were in dispute with Robert Hill, one of their tenants at St Nicholas Lane, regarding the wainscot that he had erected in the Chadwick property.[21] The Company undertook a survey of the property to determine whether the wainscot at the property belonged to the Company by custom of the city, as per the freehold, or whether it belonged to Hill, and was therefore lawful for him to take it away.[22] No report of this survey survives in the Court Orders, but it appears by further entries in the Court Orders that a resolution was not reached until 1647. In 1646, the Company issued a long lease of their property at Fox’s Ordinary (presumably part of the original Fox’s house), St Nicholas Lane to Mr. Skynner, who was already the in situ tenant.[23] The lease was for thirty-one years, and Skynner agreed to pay £50 rent a year, and a fine of £250. In November 1647, Skynner made suit for an abatement of his fine, following which a new lease agreement was issued.[24]               

Also in November 1647, Mr. Chadwick made suit to the house for an addition of years, due to the costs expended by him in defence of a suit brought against him for possession of his house. [25] In October 1650, the Company found themselves caught in the middle of a dispute between Harmon Chadwick and his assignee for his lease, Cuthbert Langworth.[26] Both men could not agree terms for the transfer of the lease, and the Company returned the ten shillings, which Langworth had paid to them as his donation to the poor box.[27] In 1656, Mrs Lydia Skynner assigned the lease of Fox’s Ordinary, which her husband had received from the Company, to Mr. Henry Kein, who in turn paid ten shillings to the poor box.[28]

The properties at St. Nicholas Lane were destroyed in the Great Fire of London in 1666. Following the Fire the Company continued to lease various plots of land in the Lane. In 1668, William Hawkins, a tenant to the Company in St. Nicholas Lane, petitioned the Company for a piece of ground in the Lane, making propositions to the Company.[29] He offered that

‘if they would add to what he holds at the present piece of ground next to the north of the lane, the little piece of ground in Abchurch lane, where a tenement was erected that adjoins his ground to take but half the rent they they had formerly of these pieces of ground then he [would] accept a lease of his own ground and the two pieces for fifty years’.[30]

He proposed that if the Company did not agree to this, then he desired a lease of his own ground and two other pieces of ground for seventy-one years and the old rent of £50 per annum for his own. He also stated that the charges of rebuilding the several tenements would be £3986 16s.[31] The Company ordered that a committee treat with him about the building there.[32] In 1675, the Company granted Hawkins an addition of five years to his lease due to the great cost of the rebuilding that he had undertaken at St, Nicholas Lane.[33] The Company sold their St. Nicholas Lane and Fox’s Ordinary properties in 1833. They reinvested the money in 49-50, Fenchurch Street and 8, Love Lane.[34]

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

[2] The Clothworkers' Company Archive (hereafter CCA), Court Orders, CL/B/1/2, f. 169v, Survey at St. Nicholas Lane, 9 March 1573.

[3] Ibid.

[4] Ibid.

[5] CCA, Court Orders, CL/B/1/2, f. 195r, Agreement with Mr. Browne, 13 June 1575.

[6] CCA, Court Orders, CL/B/1/3, f. 55v, Petition by Walsingham, 25 January 1586.

[7] CCA, Court Orders, CL/B/1/3, f. 56r, Explanation to Walsingham, 8 February 1586.

[8] Ibid.

[9] CCA, Court Orders, CL/B/1/3, f. 57r, Explanation to Walsingham, 16 February 1586.

[10] CCA, Court Orders, CL/B/1/3, ff 246r-246v, Survey at St Nicholas Lane, 27 May 1605.

[11] CCA, Court Orders, CL/B/1/3, f. 29r, Company order Parlor to undertake repairs, 22 July 1608.

[12] CCA, Treswell Survey. 1612.

[13] Ibid.

[14] CCA, Court Orders, CL/B/1/5, f. 240r, Suit by Daniel Hall for a lease, 10 March 1617.

[15] Ibid.

[16] Ibid.

[17] CCA, Court Orders, CL/B/1/4, ff 245v-246r, Suit by James Britlande, 9 October 1621.

[18] Ibid.

[19] CCA, Court Orders, CL/B/1/4, f. 261r, Permission to Britlande to let rooms, 21 January 1623.

[20] CCA, Court Orders, CL/B/1/8, f. 121r, Lease to Chadwick, 1 August 1645,

[21] CCA, Court Orders, CL/B/1/8, f. 135r, Dispute regarding the wainscot at the tenement held by Robert Hill, 21 January 1646,

[22] Ibid.

[23] CCA, Court Orders, CL/B/1/8, ff 157v-158r, Lease to Mr Skynner, 24 November 1646.

[24] CCA, Court Orders, CL/B/1/8, f. 174v, New lease to Mr. Skynner, 19 October 1647.

[25] CCA, Court Orders, CL/B/1/8, f. 177r, Sit by Chadwick, 12 November 1647,

[26] CCA, Court Orders, CL/B/1/9, f. 7r, Disagreement regarding the assigning of a lease between Chadwick and Langworth, 15 October 1650.

[27] Ibid.

[28] CCA, Court Orders, CL/B/1/9, f. 83v, Lease assigned for Fox’s Ordinary to Mr. Kein, 22 October 1656.

[29] CCA, Court Orders, CL/B/1/10, pp 107-108, Suit by William Hawkins, 26 June 1668.

[30] Ibid.

[31] Ibid.

[32] Ibid.

[33] CCA, Court Orders, CL/B/1/10, p. 378, Addition of years granted to Hawkins, 5 May 1575.

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