Artefacts in the library collections

Although the main focus of the collections is archives and printed books, Lambeth Palace Library collections also include a small number of artefacts. This post will look at some of them in detail and explore a little of their background.

Godfrey Dagger

This striking silver dagger (artefact no. 94) is a commemorative piece following the murder of Sir Edmund Berry Godfrey in October 1678. Godfrey was the magistrate to whom Titus Oates had first spoken of his fears of a Popish Plot to murder King Charles II and overthrow the Protestant Establishment. The resulting hysteria brought about persecution and subsequent execution of a large number of Catholics. Godfrey’s body was discovered on Primrose Hill in London, having been strangled and stabbed with his own sword. His alleged murderers were hanged at Tyburn and Godfrey was declared a martyr amid fears of a mass slaughter of Protestants.

In London, a large number of commemorative daggers were produced in Godfrey’s honour and for protection against the perceived threat of harm. This fine example has a silver handle and a steel blade which is engraved with “Memento Godfrey” as well as the maker’s mark RF, and decorated with skulls. It is possible that it was a special edition for a pope-burning procession in London in November 1679.


The dagger was in private hands before being sold through Christie’s in the 1990s. It was purchased by Lambeth Palace Library in October 1999.


These metal hinges were found in a box of records from the Court of Arches series (Arches H 928/49). The Court of Arches is the court of appeal to the Archbishop of Canterbury. It held significant jurisdiction over church-related matters such as marriage, morality of the clergy and as in this case, Church property.

The case in question, Case 7689 involved some badly behaved parishioners in Atherstone, Warwickshire. In 1867, Edward Cordingley forced entry into the church and was subsequently taken to court. The hinges must have been replaced in the meantime as the originals were kept as evidence in the case papers.


Although the Court of Arches dates from the 13th century, the majority of the collection which survives at Lambeth Palace Library dates from after 1660. Many of the earlier records were destroyed in the Great Fire of London. The collection is very substantial and diverse, and covers the whole of the Province of Canterbury, which extends through most of the south of England and into Wales. More information and the catalogues may be found on our website.

A piece of cake

This rather unexpected part of the collection (artefact no 88) is somewhat mysterious in both its survival (we enjoy cake here in the Library) and provenance. It has been suggested that it was baked by Miss Irene Churchill, the assistant librarian from a recipe by Mrs Tenison. The recipe is described as “the cake the queen likes.” The queen in question was not Queen Mary (alongside her husband William 1690-1694), but her namesake, the wife of George V who visited Lambeth in the 1930s. Perhaps she took tea with the Archbishop and a piece of cake was saved for later.

Mrs Tenison was the wife of Archbishop Tenison (in office 1695-1715) and four of her recipe books are held in the collections here (MSS 714-716 and 928a). Historic recipe books are very different to those we use today, often mixing attempts at home remedies, such as “The purging ale excellent for the spleen and hypocondriacke passion” alongside tips for preserving lemons. Mrs Tenison’s recipe collections are a hotchpotch of correspondence and recipes which have been shared within her social circle, very much like sharing information on social media today.

It is unusual for organic material like this piece of cake to survive, and it presents a peculiar challenge to conserve. Although nobody would want to eat it now, it presents a risk of attracting pests like rodents and insects, as well as the potential for mould development as it decays. For the time being, it is stored in a plastic container.


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