Stationers’ Hall During the Blitz

23 August 2017

History | War and Conflict

The Court Books included in Literary Print Culture: The Stationers' Company Archive, 1554-2007 are essential to our understanding of the history and workings of the Stationers’ Company. The Court Books, ranging from 1602 to 1983, contain the official minutes of the Court of Assistants. For each meeting, the decisions of the court are recorded as orders. The collection contains the rough Court Minute Books and the Court Books; the former being draft minutes taken while court was in progress, and the latter being the formal and final version. All minutes are signed by the Master and typically the following information is included: place, date and time of court meeting and a list of those present. The orders cover various topics such as: movements of shares within the English Stock, charitable donations, binding of apprentices, cloathing and being made free of the company.

Court Minute Book k, dating from February 1938 to July 1945, stands out for the simple reason that it contains photographs which is unusual for the Court Minute Book collection. The photographs, pictured below, show the bomb damage to Stationers’ Hall, located on Ave Maria Lane in the City of London, in 1940 during the Second World War. The minutes reveal that an incendiary bomb was dropped ‘from an enemy aeroplane’ between 1 and 2am on Tuesday 15th October 1940 onto the roof over the lobby to the court room. The Court Minute Book records that ‘the housekeeper and his wife were sleeping in the basement near the Beadle’s office, and were not aware of the falling of the bomb till the Hall was well alight and fireman were engaged in putting out the flames.’ As a result of the fire the attic over the lobby to the Court room and the roof of the Hall were almost completely destroyed along with other parts of the building. Objects including portraits, shields of the arms of the Masters and gowns were also lost along with papers and books. Fortunately the company records were mostly safe. The minutes go on to reveal how plans were put in place to remove ‘all items of historical or intrinsic value whether fixed or moveable.’ A recommendation for replacing the roof is also discussed. The entry is a fascinating insight into how the Second World War directly affected the Company and its employees and how the archive could have been lost. 

Court book k. Image © The Worshipful Company of Stationers and Newspaper Makers. Further reproduction prohibited without permission.

Click on the image to see the document in the collection.

The Court Records can be used to reveal so much about the rich history of the Stationers’ Company. References to the bindings of apprentices, members present at meetings and records of deaths, amongst other topics, can be researched alongside the Membership Records, while references to the English Stock provide links to the vast collection of Trade Records. The Court Records work to shed light on the unique history behind the Stationers’ Company and offer researchers extensive opportunities to create links across the different record types.

Court book k. Image © The Worshipful Company of Stationers and Newspaper Makers. Further reproduction prohibited without permission

Click on the image to see the document in the collection.

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About the Author

Sarah Hodgson

Sarah Hodgson

I am an Editor at Adam Matthew, an academic digital publisher of primary source collections in the arts and humanities. I have had the pleasure of working on a variety of projects including Mass Observation Online and African American Communities.