New Library Exhibition: Sir Thomas Gresham: Tudor, Trader, Shipper, Spy.

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Portrait Illustration of Sir Thomas Gresham Taken from The Lives of the Professors of Gresham College

Find out about Sir Thomas Gresham and some of the treasures from Gresham College library on display at Guildhall Library from Monday 3rd of June to mid-September.

Sir Thomas Gresham (1519-79) is possibly the best known of all sixteenth century English merchants and financiers. Gresham served four Tudor monarchs, managed to keep his head, and all the while made money. Sir Thomas helped to make London a great international financial centre by importing from Antwerp the idea of a ‘bourse’ or ‘exchange’ for items such as shipping and insurance. He installed the first English shopping mall or bazaar as the first floor in the Royal Exchange. His Will challenged the domination of Oxbridge in higher education at the time.

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Illustration of the original Gresham College taken from The Lives of the Professors of Gresham College

Part of the Library of Gresham College (founded in 1596 under the provisions of the will of Sir Thomas Gresham) the collections were deposited in Guildhall Library 17th December 1958 by the Joint Grand Gresham Committee, a joint committee of the City of London Corporation and the Mercers’ Company, and are held under an agreement of 6th January 1959.

The collections consist of two parts; one of miscellaneous works, mainly travel (circa 381 printed items); and one of music, mainly scores, parts, etc., based on a collection formed at the College by Edward Taylor (1784-1863), Gresham Professor of Music from 1837, and covering principally English and other European music, 16th-18th centuries (circa 324 printed books, plus 123 manuscripts). No new items have been added in recent years.

Purcell Close up

Close up of Henry Purcell’s book of solo songs which is on display at Guildhall Library

The Fletcher’s Company Library at Guildhall Library

Archery

An illustration of an archer from Archery its Theory and Practice by Horace A. Ford

First established by the Worshipful Company of Fletchers in 1973, this unique collection of items relating to archery is one of our lesser known collections. It comprises of a variety of items on the history and practice of archery. While most of the items focus on the history of British archery, books on Japanese, Turkish, Arabic and Native American archery can also be found in the collection.

Royal Company of Archers David Earl of Wemyss

A copy of a painting of David, 4th Earl of Wemyss from The History of the Royal Company of Archers by James Balfour Paul

The word fletcher comes from the French word ‘fleche’ meaning arrow. Therefore, a Fletcher is a person who makes arrows, in particular the feathers attached to the end of the arrow which help keep it aerodynamic. A number of books in the collection contain illustrations of various arrow types in particular the different types of arrow heads.

Archery Its Theory and Parctice arrow heads

Illustrations of the various types of arrow heads from Archery its Theory and Practice by Horace A. Ford

The Fletchers and Longbowstringmakers of London by James E. Oxley is an account of the history of the Fletchers’ Company. There is no mention of the company until 7th March 1371 when the Fletchers petitioned to the Lord Mayor to separate the trades of Fletchers (arrow makers) and Bowyers (bow makers). With their petition granted, the Worshipful Company of Fletchers was founded. As far as we know the Company has never received a charter and is therefore a Company by prescription. A Grant of Arms was awarded to the company on the 12th of October 1467.

Fletchers Coat of Arms

The Fletchers Company Coat of Arms (MS 21116)

The military importance of the bow is a key theme running throughout the collection, in particular British battles in which archery played an important role. A good book to look at is The British Archer or, Tracts on British Archery by Thomas Hastings which lists some of the important battles which were won by British archers. It also lists some of the Monarchs killed by an arrow, such as William II who was accidentally killed whilst hunting in the New Forest and Richard I who was mortally wounded whilst besieging a castle in France, as well as a brief description of some of the monarchs who were noted to have had great skill in archery.

Book of Archery Henry VIII and Elizabeth I

Illustrations of Henry VIII and Elisabeth I from The Book of Archery by George Agar Hansard

Another theme which runs through the collection is the story of Robert Fitzooth. More commonly known as Robin Hood, his story mentioned in several different books in the collection. Anecdotes of Archery by E. Hargrove, for example, includes a family tree of Robin Hood and explains why his name changed from Fitzooth to Hood. In the Ballads of Archery by James William Dodd a number of songs about Robin Hood, Marian and Little John.

 

Robin Hood Family Tree

The family tree of Robin Hood from Anecdotes of Archery by E. Hargrove

 

By Lindsey Keeling

Customer Services Apprentice

Guildhall Library

Happy 120th Tower Bridge!

084We’re wishing a hearty Happy 120th Birthday to our friends at Tower Bridge this month – on the 30th of June to be precise. To celebrate, we have digitised a copy of a lovely little book from our collections, published exactly 120 years ago to mark the opening: ‘Photographs of the Opening of the Tower Bridge, London, June 30th, 1894: by Their Royal Highnesses the Prince & Princess of Wales(London: Talbot, 1984).

078This little tome contains 24 black and white images from the big day itself, creating a real overview of the day. The photographs commence with one of the bridge at 9.30am on the day, then go on to document ensuing events, showing the opening of the bascules and various vessels passing through the bridge, with the final image taken one hour after the ceremony.

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We have created a Pinterest board showing each page from the book – which you can view at: http://www.pinterest.com/guildhalllib/photographs-of-the-opening-of-the-tower-bridge/

But you can of course view the item in real life here at Guildhall Library!

092Don’t forget to visit Guildhall Art Gallery’s striking exhibition of images depicting Tower Bridge throughout the years: 120 Years of Tower Bridge (1894-2014). Paintings, illustrations and photographs show how artists have perceived London’s iconic bridge over the last 120 years, and some engineering plans and ephemera are also on display. You can read London Historians’ excellent review of the exhibition here

Charles Pears (1873-1958), Blitz. Our London Docks, 1940, oil on canvas. Guildhall Art Gallery, City of London.

Charles Pears (1873-1958), ‘Blitz. Our London Docks’, 1940, oil on canvas. Guildhall Art Gallery, City of London. © The Artist’s Estate.

The exhibition is free and runs from 31 May to 30 June. And if you can’t make it in June the good news is that it is returning again during the Totally Thames festival, and will be on show from 12 September to early January 2015.

And if that’s not enough London bridges for you, the Museum of London Docklands’ Bridge exhibition will run from 27 June to 2nd November. Bridge promises to be the museum’s largest ever art exhibition, and will feature art, photography and film from their own collections. This exhibition will cover all of London’s major bridges and is also free to attend.

Anne-Marie Nankivell
Library Assistant

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Sheep Across London Bridge: The Freedom of the City

Guildhall Library was very pleased to welcome Murray Craig, the Clerk of the Chamberlain’s Court, to give a talk on the City Freedom, an institution which goes back to the early 13th century. Until the 19th century, one needed to be Free of the City, via a Livery Company or Guild in order to trade within the Square Mile.

Murray’s schedule is a busy one and he arrived, hot-foot from a ceremony, at 2 o’clock on the dot and launched straight into his talk.

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The audience enjoyed hearing about the history of the Freedom and how it is conducted in the present day. We were entertained with tales from his experience of meeting recipients of the Freedom and the Honorary Freedom.

Those receiving the Honorary Freedom are presented with an illuminated copy of the Freedom in a gold box, but there have been some notable exceptions. The boxes presented to Churchill and Florence Nightingale, for example, were made of wood. Churchill’s was made from relics of the wooden roof of Guildhall which had been destroyed in the Blitz. Florence Nightingale had requested something simpler and less expensive than gold for her Freedom casket – the result may have been made of wood – but no one could call it ‘plain’.

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Murray Craig told us about the fascination of hearing the many ways in which the declaration is spoken, sometimes whispered or even shouted, and on one memorable occasion recited in character.  His rendition of these speakers probably made the staff and readers next door jump – but the audience loved it.

A couple of years ago, Murray appeared with Len Goodman on ‘Who Do You Think You Are’.  We shared memories of the rush which descended upon Guildhall Library and the Chamberlain’s Court after the programme went on air and the nation heard that Guildhall Library holds records of City Weavers going back to 1600.  We had visitors forming an orderly queue for the same manuscripts for weeks!

Audience feedback was full of comments words like ‘Excellent’ and ‘Brilliant’ and there were several requests for us to ask him to speak again.  

But can you drive your sheep across London Bridge if you have the Freedom of the City?  Murray says the answer is no…because you would cause traffic chaos!

Jeanie Smith
Assistant Librarian

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