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Archives & Library

illuminated manuscript

Discover more about our historical records and libary collections, and how to access them for research purposes.

Archives

Preserving and protecting history for the benefit of future generations.

The Leathersellers’ archive contains the records created or received by the Leathersellers’ Company since it was incorporated in 1444 and the various charitable trusts it has administered over the centuries. Subjects covered include the administration of charity, in particular student and charity grant-giving, almshouse management and relief of prisoners; secondary and primary education; leather-based technical education; early regulation of the leather trade; and property management.

hand-written ancient document

Records

  • Constitutional records such as royal charters of 1444, 1604 and 1686, ordinances of 1509 and 1635, and heraldic documents dated 1634, 1687 and 1905.
  • Minutes and other records of the Court of Assistants, 1608-present, and committees.
  • Membership records including Livery Lists, 1706-present, Registers of Freemen, 1630-present, and Registers of Apprentices, 1629-present.
  • Wardens’ accounts, 1471-1800, and other financial records.
  • Records of Herold’s Institute Leather Tanning School, 1897-1909, the Leathersellers’ Technical College, 1910-1951, and the National Leathersellers’ College, 1951-1978.
  • Records of Colfe’s School and its governance by the Leathersellers’ Company, 1652-present, and of Colfe’s ‘English School’ or ‘Reading School’ (a primary school in Lewisham that closed in 1878), 1654-1878.
  • Records of involvement with the Leathersellers’ Federation of Schools (Prendergast School, Prendergast Ladywell School, Prendergast Vale School and Prendergast Primary School), 1890-present.
  • Charity records, particularly records of the charities of the Reverend Abraham Colfe, Robert Ferbras, Hugh Offley, Elizabeth Grasvenor, Robert Rogers, Ann Elliott, James Bunce, George Humble, William Moseley, Theophilus Cater, Charles Coverley and others, and records of the Leathersellers’ former and current almshouses including Leathersellers’ Close in Barnet.
  • Property deeds, leases, architectural plans and other records of the Leathersellers’ current or former estates in London Wall, Bishopsgate, Barnet, Lewisham, Sydenham, Edmonton and elsewhere, c.1250-present.
  • Records of events and hospitality.
  • Photographs.
  • The World War I Archive, formed principally of letters sent to the Company by employees T. A. Wallace Allen, Horace Blake and Cyril Glaysher while serving as soldiers in the Great War.

There is also a small number of collections of personal papers, most notably:

  • Papers of Abraham Colfe, Vicar of Lewisham from 1610-1657, including records of a campaign against the enclosure of Sydenham Common alias Westwood Common in 1614-1615.
  • Frank Sylvester Goulding Archive. This consists of the personal and business diaries and cash account books of Frank Sylvester Goulding, an Honorary Liveryman of the Leathersellers’ Company who worked for Bevingtons and Sons leather manufacturers for 72 years until 1931.
old hand-written document

Library Collections

Colfe Library

The Colfe Library was founded by the Reverend Abraham Colfe both as the original library of Colfe’s School and as a free public library for gentlemen, clergymen and theology students of Lewisham. Many of the books were donated by members of the Leathersellers’ Company from the library’s foundation in 1652 onwards, while others were transferred from Colfe’s own personal library after his death in 1657. Originally a chained library, the Colfe Library contains over 500 often rare volumes dating from the 15th-18th centuries. The majority are on theological topics, but philosophy, history, geography, Latin, Greek and Hebrew grammar and other subjects are also represented. In addition to the chained library register begun by Abraham Colfe in 1652, books in the Colfe Library include:

  • Two books from Archbishop Thomas Cranmer’s personal library: D. Erasmus, In Novum Testamentum Annotationes, 1527 (which contains Cranmer’s handwritten annotations) and Martin Bucer, Metaphrases et Enarrationes perpetuae Epistolarum Pauli Apostoli, 1536.
  • John Speed’s atlases A Prospect of the Most Famous Parts of the World (1646) and Theatre of the Empire of Great Britaine, 1650.
  • Brian Walton, Biblia Sacra Polyglotta, 1657 – the London Polyglot Bible
  • Biblia Sacra Postillata, 1481 – the oldest book in the Colfe Library
  • Francis Bacon, [Novum organum] Instauratio magna, first edition, 1620
  • Francis Bacon, De Sapientia Veterum, first edition, 1609
  • Biblia Hebraica, 1587
large book and title case

Company Library

In addition to the Colfe Library the Leathersellers own a small institutional library containing books on a variety of different subjects, principally the Leathersellers and associated institutions, historic Company members, leather, law, government and administration, education, London, Livery Companies, British history, and religion.

Copies and transcripts

Facsimiles of the 1444 and 1604 charters, together with a translation of the 1604 charter and transcripts of certain other documents including Company oaths taken from its ordinances of 1509 and 1635, can be found in William Henry Black, History and Antiquities of the Worshipful Company of Leathersellers, of the City of London; with fac-similes of Charters, and other Illustrations (London, 1871).

A copy of the Company’s Roll of Honour and copies and transcripts of a variety of letters from the World War I Archive can be found in Jerome Farrell, This Ghastly Affair: Great War letters from the Leathersellers’ Archives (London, 2016).

A facsimile of Testimonial of the Parishioners of Lewisham, to their Pastor’s Character, A.D. 1615, together with whole or part transcripts of other documents, all taken from Abraham Colfe’s personal papers, can be found in William Henry Black, Bibliothecæ Colfanæ Catalogus: Catalogue of the Library in the Free Grammar-School at Lewisham, Founded by the Reverend Abraham Colfe, M. A. in the year 1652 (London: The Leathersellers’ Company, 1831).

Library finding aids

Relevant books from the Colfe Library and Company library are being added to the Universal Short Title Catalogue (USTC) and the English Short Title Catalogue (ESTC). Please note that the ESTC is currently unavailable owing to a cyber-attack affecting the British Library’s website and online services.

The Colfe Library was catalogued in detail in 1831 and the resulting catalogue, written substantially in Latin, has been digitised by Google Books and is available to view online free of charge:

William Henry Black, Bibliothecæ Colfanæ Catalogus: Catalogue of the Library in the Free Grammar-School at Lewisham, Founded by the Reverend Abraham Colfe, M. A. in the year 1652 (London: The Leathersellers’ Company, 1831).

Access to the Archives & Library

How to arrange a visit, book an appointment, and get more information on accessing our Archives, Library, and object collections.

Our Archive and Library are based on-site at Leathersellers’ Hall, 7 St Helen’s Place, London EC3A 6AB, and are open free of charge to Company members and members of the public. Opening hours are Monday-Friday, 9:30-16:30.

Access is by appointment only. Please contact the Archivist at least one week prior to your intended visit, with as much information as possible about your intended research and any additional requirements you may have, to ensure that we can help you make the most of your visit.

Enquiry service

If you have research enquiries or wish to reproduce images or publish substantial quotations from original archival documents, or have any queries regarding citations, please contact the Archivist at enquiries@leathersellers.co.uk or 020 3330 1443. Staff resources are limited, so if your enquiry requires substantial research please make arrangements to consult the records in person instead.

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The Seventh Hall

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The Story of our Almshouses

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Object Collections

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stained glass window depicting a king