The London Metropolitan Archives (LMA) are the main archives for the Greater London area. Established in 1997, having previously been known as the Greater London Record Office, they are financed by the Corporation of London.
Based at 40 Northampton Road, Clerkenwell, London, they are close to the Family Records Centre and the Society of Genealogists. The archives attract over 30,000 visitors a year and deal with a similar number of written enquiries. The LMA's extensive holdings amount to over 72km of records of local, regional and national importance. With the earliest record dating from 1067, the archive charts the development of the capital into a modern day major world city.
History of the Archive
The growth and expansion of London from walled city to today’s sprawling metropolis, has meant that the boundaries of the area termed ‘London’ have had to be changed and rearranged at various points throughout history. In the same way the historical records that accompany Greater London have, over time, been cared for by different archives which have since merged and developed to form what we have today; London Metropolitan Archives (LMA). To understand the different collections currently held at the LMA you need to know a little about the history of the archives itself.
LMA in its current form, is in essence an amalgamation of four separate bodies. The first three of these groups are The London County Record Office, The London County Council Members Library and The Middlesex County Record Office, which came together to form the Greater London Record Office and History Library (GLRO) in 1965. The Greater London Record Office then became the London Metropolitan Archives in 1997 and has since merged with the former Corporation of London Record Office (CLRO)
London County Record Office
Until 1889 London was still the area within the walled city, to the south of the river was Surrey and Kent and to the north of the city’s limits was Middlesex. These areas however, had become densely populated and given the sphere of influence of the city, traditional boundaries were no longer practical. The County of London was created and controlled by the newly formed London County Council which took over many of the duties of its predecessor the Metropolitan Board of Works. It was the records of these bodies and similar groups such as the London School Board and Metropolitan Asylums Board that would form the nucleus of the London County Record offices holdings which were based at County Hall on the south bank of the River Thames.
As well as the official records that the council generated, they also began to accept deposits of records fundamental to London’s History such as copies of memorials from the Middlesex Deeds register, diocesan and parish records and records of charities such as the Foundling Hospital. Under the Public Records Act 1958, the record office became recognised as a place of deposit for public records.
Since the creation of the London County Council there had been a record keeper in the Clerks Department who held custody of the documents. By the 1930’s they had established individual departmental record rooms staffed by record assistants working under the general supervision of the Record Keeper. Finally in 1953 the position of Head Archivist and Librarian was created.
The London County Council Members Library
As the name suggests the library was originally that of the members of the London County Council and reflected their interests. Situated in the same building as the London County Record Office the library was added to with books on the history and topography of London. The library also included a rich collection of maps, prints drawings and photographs.
The Middlesex County Record Office
No single act or resolution marked the beginning of the Middlesex County Record Office. Like most other county record offices it developed naturally from the duty of the Clerk of the Peace to preserve certain records from the Quarter Sessions, together with other records such as enclosure awards and plans of public utilities. The first significant period in the formation of the county record office was in the early 1880’s when a special committee was appointed by the justices of the peace to consider and report on the accommodation provided for the storage of the ‘old records’ of the county. On behalf of the committee, John Cordy Jeaffreson an inspector of the historical manuscripts commission sorted the records covering 1549-1820 into 87 classes comprising of over 10,000 volumes and nearly 5000 rolls. The more modern records from post 1820 were given a separate room.
The formation of the London County Council in 1889 had seen the County of Middlesex much reduced in size. In 1893 when the Middlesex sessions papers were to be moved from the sessions house in Clerkenwell (an area that was previously Middlesex but now London) an argument broke out between the two county councils as to who should have responsibility for the material. This protracted dispute lasted some 5 years with eventually a high court judge deciding in favour of Middlesex.
Around the same time a Middlesex County Council act empowered the council to spend money preserving, arranging, indexing, classifying and publishing such records of the county that may be in the public interest. In 1913 the new Middlesex Guildhall at Westminster opened and was equipped with specially constructed muniment rooms with an assistant to arrange and supervise their transfer from temporary storage. It wasn’t until 1923 that a full-time graduate assistant was placed in charge of dealing with things such as document repair, storage issues, written enquiries, production of documents for public researchers and receipt of any gifts or deposits.
After the Second World War, the work of the county record office expanded steadily with the appointment of a County Archivist, firstly in a part time capacity, then full-time from 1957. By this time the archive had also moved to new premises at 1 Queen Anne’s Gate Buildings, Dartmouth Street. In 1960 the record office was appointed an official place of deposit by the Lord Chancellor under section 4 (1) of the Public Records Act 1958. After this time the archive increased its holdings, with significant deposits of petty sessions, coroners, Boards of Guardians and other official material. By this time, the record office had acquired an extensive reference library on the topography of Middlesex as well as a great number of maps prints and photographs
The Greater London Record Office (GLRO)
Under the Local London Government Act 1963 which came into effect on 1 April 1965, the administrative counties of London and Middlesex together with their respective county councils were abolished. They were replaced by the Greater London Council (GLC) which administered a much wider area known as Greater London. The formation of Greater London also meant that some areas that had been previously part of Kent, Surrey, Essex and Hertfordshire, were also now included. However to minimise any confusion, it was agreed that records from these areas should remain within their ancient county. For instance material from the West Ham area would remain at Essex.
The new Greater London Council took responsibility for the two well established record offices of the counties of London and Middlesex as well as the former member’s library of the London County Council. Together these became the Greater London Record Office and Library. Although joined together the new archive continued to exist at two separate sites, with Middlesex material still at Dartmouth Street and London material at County Hall on the South Bank, in fact the record office was approximately where the London Aquarium is now situated. The two archives finally came together when the Dartmouth Street site was sold off by the GLC in 1979 and both archives were housed at County Hall.
Things changed again in 1982 when the GLRO moved to specially adapted premises at 40 Northampton Road, Clerkenwell. The site was a print works, home to the former Temple Press building. The Temple Press had moved from nearby Roseberry Avenue in August of 1939 barely a month before the outbreak of the Second World War. They continued to use the site until the end of the 1960’s.
In 1986 the Greater London Council was abolished and since that date the archives have been administered by the Corporation of London now known as the City Of London. In the early 1990’s work was started on a new block adjacent to site in Northampton Road. This extension fully conformed to archival storage standards with moveable double sided shelving and a temperature controlled climate.
The London Metropolitan Archives (LMA)
The GLRO was renamed the London Metropolitan Archives in 1997.
In 2005 the archives of the Corporation of London Records Office were moved to the London Metropolitan Archives (LMA) while the Guildhall underwent a vast refurbishment programme. It is intended that the official City of London archives will be returned to Guildhall once this programme has been completed. The Corporation of London, now known as the City of London is the local government authority for the area of the same name. The area often referred to as the square mile. These archives include the earliest material currently held at LMA, dating from 1067. The archive contains the official records of how the City was governed and developed, through bodies such as the Court of Aldermen and Court of Common Council and many other official departments like the Chamberlains (which dealt with people being given the freedom of the city). It also contains a large number of records of organisations which the City of London are responsible for such as the City of London Police, a number of Courts and many of the major London markets.
In 2006 LMA merged with the City of London Libraires and Guildhall Art Gallery to form the City of London Department of Libraries, Archives and Guildhall Art Gallery. Within this department, LMA sits in an administrative group with the Guildhall Library (a major historical reference library for London, holding printed books, manuscripts and map and print collections), the Guildhall Art Gallery and Keats House based at Hampstead, the London home of the poet John Keats. The department also includes three lending libraries and the City Business Library.
It holds the following type of records:
- Associations (from 1555)
- Businesses (from 1560)
- Charities (from 1377)
- Court records (from 1549)
- Diocesan records (from 1467)
- Families and individuals (from 1160)
- Health authorities and hospitals (from 1220)
- Jewish organisations (from 1591)
- Local authorities (from 1538)
- National records (from 1563)
- London Generations (parish records from 1538)
- Maps, plans, prints and photographs
In addition, most of the London boroughs run their own archives, and the Guildhall Library holds considerable quantities of archival material relating to the City of London. The former Corporation of London Record Office (CLRO), which held the administrative records of the Corporation, was recently merged with the LMA.
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