Corporation of London Record Office

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If, like me, you have ancestors who lived or worked in London , you will need to use the facilities of the various London records offices. Over the past ten years I have visited a number of London repositories, but I have to confess to a special liking for the Corporation of London Records Office (CLRO).

This search room is situated in a small room in the Corporation of London’s offices in Basinghall Street , London , EC2. It does not open on Saturdays, and as parking is difficult in the City of London on weekdays, I imagine that visitors normally arrive by underground. It will, therefore, be useful to know that the Corporation’s offices are a mere five minutes’ walk from Moorgate underground station. Other underground stations in the vicinity are St. Pauls and Bank.

Entering the office block by the main entrance, the visitor is given a badge (i.d. needed), and instructed how to find the search room – up a couple of floors in the lift, then along to the end of the corridor. Once you have signed in, the serious business of treeing can commence!

The system for ordering sources is simple, and you are allowed to order up to six items at a time. After identifying the source you want to see, you complete a simple slip and hand it to a member of staff. Usually the item is brought to you in a very few minutes. I understand that you may be asked for proof of identity if you wish to look at certain classes of documents, but on my three visits to date this has not been the case.

I expect you are wondering what records are held at this repository. Well, there are a range of sources available, all related to the administration of the City of London . I have several ancestors who were Freemen of the City, so on my latest visit I was searching the Freedom indexes, which cover the period 1681-1915. Having found several of my ancestors in these indexes, I was able to look at their admission papers. In most cases I saw their apprenticeship indentures, which told me the name, trade, and place of residence of their parents – all meat and drink to an avid family historian!

I cannot list all the records that are available at the CLRO, but can give some idea of their scope. Apart from Freedoms records, they encompass judicial records (e.g. magistrates courts and coroners’ inquests), transportation records, records of the Fleet Prison, sworn brokers’ archives, and administrative records of the City of London Cemetery, which is at Ilford, Essex.

The search room is small – there is probably only room for about ten people at a time – and there are only a few microfilm readers. This being so, it is advisable to phone in advance of your visit to pre-book. It is also advisable to check with the archivist in advance of your visit if you wish to use a laptop computer or other electronic equipment,

Many of the archives cannot be photocopied, but if you are lucky enough to find a document which relates to your research that can be photocopied, a member of staff treks upstairs, produces the copy, and brings it back to you. A small charge is made for this.

Apart from the fascinating information I have found at the CLRO, what has made my visits there so enjoyable has been the friendly, helpful attitude of the staff. I cannot praise them too highly! They invariably greet enquires with a smile, and go out of their way to help researchers. I look forward eagerly to my next visit.

The address of the Corporation of London Records Office is: P.O. Box270, Guildhall, London , EC2P 2EJ . Telephone No. 0171 332 1251. Please phone to check opening times and dates.

Sources used in preparing this article:

Cole J & Church,R. (1992) In and Around Record Repositories in Great Britain and Ireland , Family Tree Magazine.
CLRO Information Sheet 3: Using the CLRO.

Geoff Culshaw

Published in Shropshire Family History Society Journal, March 2003, pp 18/19

Note: Since the date of this article the Corporation of London Record Office has been closed for some years, and its records are currently held at London Metropolitan Archives.

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  • This page was last updated on Saturday July 2nd, 2011.