With the support of the Friends of Lambeth Palace Library, a project to identify documents within the archive of the Court of Arches which were missing from the catalogue has been completed. The project focused on series E: libels, articles, allegations and interrogatories. In total 287 missing documents were identified and catalogued, comprising 95 parchments and 483 paper leaves. They range in date from 1662 to 1786 and reflect the variety of the Court’s jurisdiction in areas such as marriage, divorce, wills and probate, defamation, clergy morals and conduct, tithes and church buildings. The newly catalogued items enhance the documentation on hundreds of cases before the Court, providing vivid glimpses into forgotten lives. Interesting cases to which the project has added new documentation concerned the wills of Archbishops Juxon and Sheldon, the dilapidation of the bishops’ palaces at Lichfield and Peterborough after the destruction of the Commonwealth era, the clandestine marriage of Frances Hyde, daughter of the Earl of Clarendon, and the divorces of political figures such as Thomas Grey, 2nd Earl of Stamford, John Vaughan, 2nd Viscount Lisburne, and Trevor Hill, 1st Viscount Hillsborough. A further divorce case concerned Sir John Reade who had the unusual distinction of being made a baronet by both Charles I and Oliver Cromwell. The project also brought to light an unexpected item amongst the libels, an original rate book for the parish of St. Paul, Deptford, 1768.

A guide to the archive of the Court of Arches, with information on its jurisdiction and procedure and extensive bibliography, has also been added to the Library’s online catalogue of archives and manuscripts.

Example of a case in the Court of Arches (MQ808.G7S8TP)

The Fire of London

At the 350th anniversary of the Fire of London, which began on 2 September 1666, this blog post highlights sources in the Library which shed light on this event and its aftermath, including a sermon preached soon after the Fire by William Sancroft, then Dean of St Paul’s (and later Archbishop of Canterbury).

H5133 920.08TP
Printed book H5133 920.08

The printed book collection also includes a Book of Common Prayer (this edition dating from 1681) which contains these ‘Forms of Prayer to be used yearly on the second of September, for the dreadful Fire of London’.


H5145.A4 1681fBbb
Printed book H5145.A4 1681


The papers of Archbishop Sheldon (volume 1 ff 25-27) include an Order of the King in Council dated 7 November 1666 requiring him to ascertain through the bishops in the Province of Canterbury the sums collected in each parish for the relief of those who have suffered distress in the Fire of London, and to make arrangements for the funds to be sent to the Lord Mayor of London.

Records in the Library also document the rebuilding of St Paul’s Cathedral. MS 670 is an account of income and expenditure covering from 1666 to 1700. MS 2872 folios 44-49 comprise papers of the Commissioners for Rebuilding St. Paul’s Cathedral dating from 1674-5, among them an order approving the new design and requiring them to proceed with the work ‘beginning wth ye East End, or Chore’, that the Surveyor with his assistants and officers should immediately set out the ground and lay the foundations ‘of so much of yt Designe as lies East of ye Cupola, or Tower, & pursue ye work with all Diligence so long as the Season of ye year shall permitt’. The signatories include Sir Christopher Wren.

MS 2872 f 46r

Among records relating to Doctors’ Commons, the association of ecclesiastical lawyers situated near St Paul’s Cathedral, there is a list (MS 2080 f 56) of those contributing to the reconstruction of their premises after the Fire. The story is further explored in E A Pickard and E Jeffries Davis, ‘The Rebuilding of Doctors’ Commons, 1666-72′, London Topographical Record (1931), xv, 51-77. This later print (dating from 1808), a recent gift from the Friends of Lambeth Palace Library, shows the interior as rebuilt.

Print 027/20


Some records relate to the effects of the Fire on specific institutions situated within the City. The records of the library of Sion College (Sion L40.2/E58) include catalogues of the printed books and manuscripts saved from the destruction of the College in the Fire and carried to safety at the Charterhouse. They are in the hand of John Spencer, the Librarian. The shelf marks of the printed books differ from the Library’s earlier shelf marks and represent a new post-Fire arrangement of the collection.

Aside from the physical damage caused by the Fire, the records document its consequences for ecclesiastical administration in the City of London. MS 1701 comprises a set of tithe assessments, assessing certain London parishes for a rate in lieu of tithes, made according to the provisions of the Act of Parliament (22 and 23 Chas. II cap. 15) for settling the maintenance of clergy in parishes burnt in the Fire.

One piece of evidence is an absence rather than a presence. The Library holds the records of the Court of Arches, the court of appeal for the Province of Canterbury, which was medieval in origin: but few of its earliest records survive, being destroyed when the Fire ravaged the church of St Mary-le-Bow where the Court sat, and so the surviving archive predominantly dates from after 1666.

Library Records Project 2

The project to produce new online descriptions of the early catalogues of Lambeth Palace Library 1610-1785, together with a guide to the catalogues, shelf marks and other physical evidence of the collection, funded by the Friends of Lambeth Palace Library, has continued to make good progress.

Attention has been focused on the restoration of the Library by Archbishop Sheldon in 1664 and the catalogues of the Library (7 volumes) which he commissioned. A new description was also made of LR/F/11, which includes a set of book lists now identified as the packing lists of Sheldon’s personal collection when he moved to London in 1660. A further discovery was the presence in many of Sheldon’s books of shelfmarks reflecting their arrangement while he was Bishop of London (1660-3). The project also brought to light a Sheldon book with his crest, surrounded by a wreath, on the binding (the sole example of this stamp which has come to light at Lambeth), and also two Sheldon books with an engraving by Hollar of his arms as Bishop of London, both hand coloured. These are bookplate-size but appear to have been used only rarely, as frontispieces or embellishments.

The project has also covered the reorganisation of the Library by Archishop Sancroft between 1677 and his ejection from Lambeth in 1691. Sancroft rearranged the manuscripts and produced a new catalogue in his own hand. In addition he rearranged the printed books. Amongst the volumes catalogued, a shelf list made by Paul Colomies in 1684 (LR/F/10) has special importance for understanding the collection, especially as it includes an audit of the Library carried out by Sancroft’s chaplains at the time of his ejection in June 1691.

Shelf list by Paul Colomiès, 1684 (LR/F/10 f 26)
Shelf list by Paul Colomiès, 1684 (LR/F/10 f 26)

In all seven catalogues produced during Sancroft’s primacy were described. Three were identified as attempts at an author catalogue of the Library, a project which appears to have remained incomplete. A new description was also made of the catalogue of the Lambeth manuscripts compiled by Henry Wharton in 1688 (MS 580).

Work was also begun on the catalogues produced during the primacy of Archbishop Tenison, 1694-1715, another significant period in the history of the Library.