People Property and Charity

The Clothworkers' Company 1500-1688

Tennis Court, Fenchurch Street

The Tennis Court, Treswell Survey, 1612By a 1538 indenture, Margaret, Countess of Kent transferred ownership of a tenement, garden and tennis court in Fenchurch Street to The Clothworkers’ Company.[1] The Countess reiterated her intentions in her 1540 will.[2] In return for the property, the Company agreed to pay an annual stipend of seven pound to the Countess for the remainder of her life.[3] The remaining rental money from these Fenchurch Street lands and other tenements at Queenhithe were to be used by the Company to support seven poor almswomen at Whitefriars almshouse.[4]

The Countess gained ownership of the Tennis Court property in 1533 by an indenture of purchase between her and John Dale, gentleman, from Amport, Hampshire.[5] The formal transfer of deed to the Countess occurred in October of the same year.[6] At the time of the Countess’ purchase of the property, Roger Bentley held a formal lease of the tenement, garden and tennis court from John Dale.[7] The Countess retained Bentley as tenant, and granted a new lease to his widow, Katherine Bentley in May 1536 for thirty-six years at an annual rent of four pounds.[8] Following the transfer of the property to The Clothworkers’ Company, the Bentley family continued to lease the property. In 1550, Roger Bentley, possibly Katherine’s son, received a new lease of the property for nineteen years at a rent of four pounds per annum.[9]

By 1553, however, the Company had entered negotiations for the sale of the Countess’ Fenchurch Street properties. In May 1553, Christopher Troughton, a yeoman from Buckinghamshire purchased the lands.[10] In July 1555, an entry in the Court Orders records that the ‘writings concerning the sale of the Tennis Place were sealed and delivered by the Master and Wardens to Christopher Troughton’.[11] The Troughton family retained ownership of the Tennis Court property until 1565. In February 1565, Richard Troughton, Christopher’s son, sold the property to John Petyngar, Citizen and Clothworker. The Court Orders noted the sale in March 1566.[12] In July 1566, Petyngar bequeathed the lands and tenements including the gardens and the tennis court to The Clothworkers’ Company.[13]

On regaining the properties, the Company granted their former owner, Richard Troughton a lease. Troughton established his former tenant, Mr Goodwin, as tenant in the property.  Troughton’s lease was for thirty-one years at ten pounds per annum.[14] In 1569, the Company altered the lease to make Troughton bound to undertake all reparations.[15] By March 1573, Troughton was in dispute with the Company, having paid no rent or undertaken any repairs to the Tennis Court property since the commencement of his lease at Midsummer 1571[16]. At Court, he promised to pay the arrears of his rent, which stood at £14 10s, by Easter 1573. Four days after Troughton appeared at Court, the annual viewing of Company lands and estates recorded the Tennis Court tenements and lands to ‘be decayed and ruynous’.[17] Troughton paid his arrears of rent in April 1573, and requested that his lease be terminated.[18]

Over the next ten years, several suits for leases of the Tennis Court properties were instigated. In May 1573, the Company granted a two-year lease of the lands to John Clerke at forty shillings.[19] Following the expiration of Clerke’s lease, John Goodwin was granted a lease for the term of his natural life, due to his long tenancy there. Under the terms of his lease, Goodwin agreed to pay £6 a year and bear the cost of all reparations.[20] By September 1581, when another suit was made by a Mr. Ward, the Company answered that the tennis court had already been granted, and that it was to be rebuilt as a merchant’s house.[21] In May 1584, the Company issued a motion regarding the property stating that whoever made suit and would pay ten pounds a year for the property, would be offered a lease in reversion for forty years.[22] In the same month, such a lease was offered to Mr. Robotham for forty years, paying a fine of fifty pound, after the death of John Goodwin’s wife.[23]

The first description of the property came in Treswell’s 1612 survey, when Robotham was still a tenant on the property, with Richard Holman as leaseholder.[24] Treswell described the tenement as a three-storey building, with two garrets and a small cellar.[25] Reference to the Tennis Court in the Company Court Orders from the 1620s signals the complete transformation of the landscape of the property. In September 1622, John Carpenter made suit for a lease of the Tennis Court.[26] The Company granted his request in October, offering him a fifty year lease, with a forty pounds fine and an annual rent of ten pounds.[27] The Company attached the condition that the property should be rebuilt as three messuages of stone brick and oak timber.[28] In July 1628, Carpenter made another suit to the Court for an addition of years to his lease. By this time, Carpenter had built one messuage on the street side, and promised to continue to build the rest of the messuage on the back part.[29]

The Company’s Fenchurch Street properties were destroyed in the Great Fire of 1666. In the aftermath of the Fire, the Company set about issuing leases for lands and remaining properties, which included rebuilding clauses. These clauses directed that the properties should be rebuilt of stone, in accordance with the directives issued by the City in the aftermath of the Fire. While no specific reference exists to the Tennis Court at this time, it is likely that it was included among the numerous plots of ground referred to within the Company Court Orders, which directed that new houses or tenements be rebuilt on the street. The Countess of Kent’s Fenchurch Street properties have remained within the Company property portfolio until the present day, and can now be distinguished as part of 118-120 Fenchurch Street.

The Fenchurch Street properties, as a whole, 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 £38 19s 4d from Fenchurch Street.[30] There was no expenditure on the Fenchurch Street properties in this year. In 1620, the annual rental income from Fenchurch Street was £16, while no money was spent on the property in this year.[31] By 1640, the annual income from Fenchurch Street had risen to £66 5 s., with the annual expenditure noted as £10.[32] By 1660, the annual income was £77 6s. 8d. with expenditure reaching £15 3s.[33] By 1680, in the aftermath of the Great Fire, the Company were receiving c.£72 6s annually from the Fenchurch Street properties.[34] Their annual Fenchurch Street expenses in this year amounted to £15 2s. 6d.


[1] The Clothworkers’ Company Archive (hereafter CCA), Estate Records, Estate/5/1A/5, Indenture between The Clothworkers’ Company and Margaret, Countess of Kent, 14 July 1538.

[2] TNA PROB 11/28, ‘The will of Margaret, Countess of Kent’, 2 December 1640.

[3] CCA, Court Orders, CL/B/1/1, f. 28r, Agreement with the Countess of Kent, 20 April 1538.

[4] Ibid.

[5] CCA, Estate Records, CC/Estate/5/1A/1, Indenture of purchase between Lady Margaret, Countess of Kent, and John Dale, 28 May 1533.

[6] CCA, Estate Records, CC/Estate/5/1A/3, Formal transfer of the deed of the Tennis Court to Lady Margaret, Countess of Kent, 6 October 1533.

[7] CCA, Estate Records, CC/Estate/5/1A/3, Lease of the property to Roger Bentley noted in the deed of the Tennis Court, 6 October 1533.

[8] CCA, Estate Records, CC/Estate/5/1C/1, Lease to Katherine Bentley, 20 May 1536.

[9] CCA, Court Orders, CL/B/1/1, f. 160v, Lease of the Tennis Court to Roger Bentley, 28 March 1550.

[10] CCA, Estate Records, CC/Estate/4/1A/13, Bargain and sale of a messuage in All Hallows, Fenchurch Street between the Clothworkers’ Company and Christopher Troughton, 24 May 1553.

[11] CCA, Court Orders, CL/B/1/1, f. 206v, The sale of the Tennis Court to Troughton noted, 10 July 1555.

[12] CCA, Court Orders, CL/B/1/2,  f.88r, The sale of the Tennis Court to Petyngar noted, 29 March 1566.

[13] CCA, Estate Records, CC/Estate/4/2A/19), Bequest of John Petyngar, 20 July 1566.

[14] CCA, Estate Records, CC/Estate/4/1C/7, Lease to Troughton, 31 July 1566.

[15] CCA, Court Orders, CL/B/1/2, f. 169r, Dispute between Troughton and the Company, 5 March 1573.

[16] CCA, Court Orders, CL/B/1/2, f. 169r, Dispute between Troughton and the Company, 5 March 1573.

[17] CCA, Court Orders, CL/B/1/2, f. 169v, Report on the condition of the Tennis Court property, 9 March 1573.

[18] CCA, Court Orders, CL/B/1/2, f. 170v, Troughton’s lease terminated, 22 April 1573.

[19] CCA, Court Orders, CL/B/1/2, 171r, Lease to John Clerke, 5 May 1573.

[20] CCA, Court Orders, CL/B/1/2, f. 176v, Grant of the Tennis Place to John Goodwin, 20 November 1573,

[21] CCA, Court Orders, CL/B/1/3, f. 2v, Grant of the Tennis Court, 12 September 1581.

[22] CCA, Court Orders, CL/B/1/3, f. 38v,  Motion at the Company court regarding the Tennis Court,  5 May 1584

[23] CCA, Court Orders, CL/B/1/3, f. 38v, Lease of the Tennis Court offered to Mr. Robothom, 5 May 1584.

[24] CCA, Treswell Survey, 1612.

[25] Ibid.

[26] CCA, Court Orders, CL/B/1/4, f. 258r, Suit for the Tennis Court by John Carpenter, 17 September 1622.

[27] CCA, Court Orders, CL/B/1/4, f. 259r, Lease granted with a rebuild clause, 8 October 1622.

[28] Ibid.

[29] CCA, Court Orders, CL/B/1/6, f. 75r, Addition of years granted to Carpenter, 23 July 1628.

[30] CCA, Renter Warden Accounts, CL/D/5/4, Section 6, The Renter Warden accounts of Anthony Fawlkes, 1600, f. 1r and f. 3ar.

[31] CCA, Renter Warden Accounts, CL/D/5/5, Section 16, The Renter Warden accounts of Daniel Hall, 1620, f. 2v and 6r.

[32] CCA, Renter Warden Accounts, CL/D/5/8, Section 4, The Renter Warden accounts of William Harris, 1640, f. 2v and f. 13v. The  income figures cannot be accurately calculated due to damage to the originals.

[33] CCA, Renter Warden Accounts, CL/D/5/10, The Renter Warden accounts of Dennis Gawden, 1660, f. 4 and f. 11.

[34] CCA, Renter Warden Accounts, CL/D/5/12, The Renter Warden accounts of Robert Stevenson, 1680, f. 3 and f. 9a.