People Property and Charity

The Clothworkers' Company 1500-1688

Wood Street

 In 1520, an individual named Saunders bequeathed property in Wood Street to the Clothworkers’ Company. The property consisted of three tenements, and equated to the modern number 77, Wood Street. The first reference to the property comes in the Court Orders in 1540, when a lease of a Company tenement to Mr. Spenser for twenty-one years at a rent of £3 3s 4d a year was recorded.[1]  The first survey in 1554 of Thomas Mynsterley’s house at Wood Street indicated a number of problems, including a lack of tiling, broken penthouses and principals in poor condition.[2]  A similar survey in 1566 suggested that these problems had not been rectified, with the properties at Wood Street being noted as having decayed principals and a lack of weatherboarding.

In 1571, the Company leased two of the Wood Street tenements to Francis Leeche. Leeche had occupied one of the tenements, known as the Kallendring House, and continued to lease this property as part of his new grant.[3] The Court Orders described the second tenement, as that which a Widow Hickson had previously occupied.[4] Under the terms of his lease, Leech paid six pounds a year in rent and was responsible for undertaking all repairs to the property.[5] In March 1571, the Company paid twenty shillings to Leech to undertake repairs and maintain the tenements.[6] A Mr.Vincent received a lease of the other tenement in Wood Street in January 1571.[7]

Over the ensuing years, it would appear that Leech made little effort to repair the tenements in his possession. During the annual survey of the Company lands in March 1573, the surveyors noted that his house lacked tiling, walling and pent housing.[8] Similarly, another tenant in Wood Street, Mr. Black also failed to keep his property in repair, with the same problems being reported at his tenement as well.[9] By 1574, the problems had not been resolved, and in fact, the general decay of the properties appeared to have worsened. In the annual survey indicated that Leech’s house ‘[lacked] plating and a post at the south east door of the entry and the well house [was] in great decay’.[10] Black’s house faired little better with the surveyors reporting that it too lacked plating, but also that the poor maintenance of ‘the gutter between him and the next house over the north [decayed] the house’.[11] By 1576, however, many of the problems had been rectified. The well house at Leech’s house had been fixed, and the only concern of the surveyors was a lack of tiling.[12] Similarly, by 1577, the offending gutter between Black’s house and his neighbour had all been repaired.[13] The need for the continual repairs of property faced by the Clothworkers’ Company and their tenants in the early modern period is certainly reflected in these Wood Street properties. Despite, the repair of the well house in 1576, the surveyors described it as ‘very ruinous and in decay’ in 1577.[14]

By 1578, the Company allowed the transfer of Leech’s grant of the Kallendring House to Roger Robinson and his wife, who were to pay fifty shillings a year to occupy the properties.[15] They also had full responsibility for repairs to the property, except those to the principals. By the early 1580s, the Kallendring House property still posed problems. In 1585, the Company surveyors described the tenement, as lacking tiling and plastering on either gable end and needing its gutter repaired.[16] By 1585, some of these repairs had been undertaken with the surveyors only recording the lack of tiling in the property.[17]

The Wood Street properties had a high turnover of tenants in the early seventeenth century. Frequent suits for leases and the granting of leases were noted in the Court Orders. Lease transfers for the Kallendring house, for example, are recorded throughout the 1590s in the Court Orders. In 1592, the Company appointed viewers to examine the house, following the death of Mr. Leech, as several suitors had approached the Company for its lease. It would appear though that the Company favoured the continued lease of the property to Leech’s son, John, who is noted as being the leaseholder of the property in 1597.[18] Arthur Garrett, the tenant in 1597, paid Leech the annual rent of £40.[19]

Wood Street, Treswell's Survey, 1612The 1612 survey of the Company’s properties by Ralph Treswell recorded the tenements in Wood Street. Treswell described the first tenement, then in the occupation of John Beamond, as a three storey property.[20] The other two tenements, including the Kallendring House, were leased to Francis Wright.[21] The survey described the restructuring of these two tenements, as Wright had divided the tenements into three separate tenements.[22]  The first tenement appeared to be a substantial property of five storeys with a garret, a cellar and a shop.  The second tenement also had five storeys, with a cellar, containing a kitchen and a garret. The third tenement, called the Talbot, had four storeys, and had a hall that extended over part of the Kallendring House.[23]

Treswell also depicted the properties that surrounded the Clothworkers’ tenements in Wood Street. In the early seventeenth century, the Goldsmith’s Company owned the adjoining property to Francis Wright’s tenements. The close proximity of the properties gave rise to ongoing disputes and later agreements between the Company and the Goldsmiths. In 1608, for example, the Company met with Mr. Decye, the clerk of the Goldsmiths’ Company, who asked permission for the continued use of an entry passage for their tenant Mr. Newce’s house through one of The Clothworkers' Company yard’s. The Company granted their request.[24] Further negotiations in 1613 established that the Goldsmiths’ tenants would not interfere with the Clothworkers' properties by erecting lights, which would affect the lands.[25]

In the late 1620s, one of the Wood Street tenements was embroiled in controversy. In 1629, the then tenant, Nicholas Shakerley, left the property, which was in turn rented to Nicholas Bonner.[26] On Bonner’s taking up of the property, though, he informed the Court that Shakerley had damaged the property. The Company described the damage as his ‘taking away glass windows and boards and other valuable items’. As punishment, the Company revoked Shakerley’s pension of twenty shillings, which he received for his role as clerk of St. James’ Chapell, where the Company benefactor, William Lambe, had been remembered and praised.

There are few records relating to the Wood Street properties in the Company Court Orders from the 1620s onwards. The Company property in Wood Street was destroyed during the Great Fire of London. In the aftermath of the fire, the City Commissioners took away some of the Company lands in Wood Street for the widening of the city streets. The Company entered negotiations with their then tenant, Mr. Winston regarding the payment of compensation to him for his loss of land.[27] The offered to compensate him by giving him additional lands of 102 feet, to reflect the size of the land area taken from his lands for street improvement.[28] The Company retained the property as part of their portfolio until 1953, when it was sold.[29]

Taking twenty year interval accounts for Wood Street in the seventeenth century, it would appear that the properties gave rise to significant rental income for the Company. In 1600, the Wood Street income was £6 3s 4d; in 1620, £10 3s 4d; in 1640, £10 7s 4d and in 1660, £10 7s 4d.[30] In this twenty-year sample, the only payment made directly from the Wood Street rents came in 1660, when 14s 9d. was allowed to the widow of Thomas Sherstone out of the rent he paid for the property.[31] Owing to the lack of information relating to the benefactor, Mr. Saunder’s bequest, it is most likely that the profits from these properties were subsumed into the Company funds, and used for charitable and company activities.

[1] The Clothworkers’ Company Archive (hereafter CCA), Court Orders, CL/B/1/1, f. 73r, Lease of Wood Street to Mr. Spenser, 7 October 1540.

[2] CCA, Court Orders, CL/B/1/1, ff 195v-196r, Survey of Thomas Mynsterley’s house, 6 June 1554.

[3] CCA, Court Orders, CL/B/1/2, f. 147v, Leeche’s lease of two tenements in Wood Street, 17 January 1571,

[4] Ibid.

[5] Ibid.

[6] CCA, Court Orders, CL/B/1/2, f. 150r, Payment to Leech to undertake repairs, 20 March 1571.

[7] CCA, Court Orders, CL/B/1/2, f. 148r, Lease to Mr. Vincent, 27 January 1571.

[8] CCA, Court Orders, CL/B/1/2, f. 169v, Survey of Leech’s house, 9 March 1573,

[9] CCA, Court Orders, CL/B/1/2, f. 169v, Survey of Black’s house, 9 March 1573.

[10] CCA, Court Orders, CL/B/1/2, f.181r, Survey of Leech’s house, 29 March 1574.

[11] CCA, Court Orders, CL/B/1/2, f. 181r, Survey of Black’s house, 29 March 1574.

[12] CCA, Court Orders, CL/B/1/2, f. 201v, Survey of Leech’s house, 2 April 1576.

[13] CCA, Court Orders, CL/B/1/2, ff 215v-216r, Survey of Black’s house, 11 March 1577.

[14] CCA, Court Orders, CL/B/1/2, ff 207r-207v, Survey of the well house, 11 February 1577,

[15] CCA, Court Orders, CL/B/1/2, f. 216r, Leech’s grant of the Wood Street properties transferred to Robinson, 14 March 1578.

[16] CCA, Court Orders, CL/B/1/3, ff 45v-47r, Survey of Wood Street properties, 22 March 1584.

[17] CCA, Court Orders, CL/B/1/3. ff 58v-59r, Survey of Robinson’s House, 14 March 1585.

[18] CCA, Court Orders, CL/B/1/3. f. 125r, Viewings at the Kallendring House, 17 October 1592.

[19] CCA, Court Orders, CL/B/1/3. f. 125r, Dispute between Leech and Garrett, 6 April 1597.

[20] CCA, Treswell Survey.

[21] Ibid.

[22] Ibid.

[23] Ibid.

[24] CCA, Court Orders, CL/B/1/5, ff 19v-20r, Agreement with the Goldsmiths, 18 January 1608.

[25] CCA, Court Orders, CL/B/1/5, f. 154r, Agreement with the Goldsmiths, 30 July 1613.

[26] CCA, Court Orders, CL/B/1/6, ff 87v-88r, Dispute with Shakerley, 28 July 1629.

[27] CCA, Court Orders, CL/B/1/10, p. 349, Offer of compensation to Mr. Winston, 21 January 1674.

[28] Ibid.

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

[30] CCA, Renter Warden Accounts, CL/D/5/4, Section 6, f. 1r, Renter Warden accounts, 1600-1601; CL/D/5/5, Section 16, f. 2r, Renter Warden accounts, 1620-1621, CL/D/5/8, Section 4, f. 6r, Renter Warden accounts, 1640-1641; CL/D/5/10, f. 7, Renter Warden accounts, 1660-1661; CL/D/5/12, f. 6, Renter Warden account, 1680-1681.

[31] CCA, Renter Warden Accounts, CL/D/5/10, f. 29, Renter Warden accounts, 1660-1661