From a Rough Minute Book recording the Freemasons’ School Committee meetings, dated 1788, we find information about the election of the first Matron for the School, following an advertisement that had earlier been placed in a newspaper.
There were 17 candidates shortlisted, together with their addresses. In the meeting held at the Oxford Coffee House, Strand on Thursday 30th Oct 1788 “Ordered that the Secretary insert in the Register the names & recommendations of each candidate for the Place of Matron who has applied, in consequence of the Advertisements.” (Rough Minute Book – RMB) Applying modern research techniques to the information given in the Rough Minute Book gives a greater understanding to what would otherwise be sparse information.
In this series of blogs, the candidates for the post of Matron, and the outcomes of the ballot, will be considered.
Mrs Sarah Laundy, No. 104 Jermyn St: “Letter in consequence of the Advertisement, [supporting] Letter from Mr Roberts (non-Governor) in her favour to the Treasurer” (RMB)
“Jermyn Street dates back to 1664 when Charles II authorised Henry Jermyn, the Earl of St Albans, to develop an area close to St James’s Palace. It has flourished ever since and holds a worldwide reputation for high quality British artistry and craftsmanship. The street is home to London’s finest men’s tailors, shirt makers, suppliers of leather goods, food and wine merchants, restaurants, hotels and art galleries … In its early days Jermyn Street was more residential than commercial. It was a bustling scene of houses, lodgings, hotels, taverns and schools, which was dominated by the beautiful Church of St. James’s designed by Sir Christopher Wren.” (http://www.jermynstreet.net/history/)
“In 1902 the society [Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals, now the RSPCA] purchased the freehold of No. 104 Jermyn Street … as an extension to its premises. The house was demolished and rebuilt in the following year, continuing the existing lines of No. 105 on its first and second floors” (‘Jermyn Street’, in Survey of London: Volumes 29 and 30, St James Westminster, Part 1, ed. F H W Sheppard (London, 1960), pp. 271-284 http://www.british-history.ac.uk/survey-london/vols29-30/pt1/pp271-284 [accessed 22 January 2015].)
Mrs Elizabeth Goodwin, Mr Leroux’s, Charing Cross: “Letter in consequence of the Advertisement” (RMB)
Although the Leroux associated with the early days of the School is Jacob Leroux, it seems most likely that the Leroux referred to here is John Leroux, a watchmaker. In 1802, he is party in a lease of a “Part of land, known as Lot 3, part of the Brill Farm, in St. Pancras, adjoining Chapel Path”. However, the other parties – Mary Leroux, of Summers[sic] Town, St. Pancras, widow [described as sister in law to John] & Rev. John Rennie of Conway Street, Fitzroy Square, clerk. Executors and trustees of will of Jacob Leroux of Summers Place, Esq. – show that John Leroux must be Jacob’s brother. (http://discovery.nationalarchives.gov.uk/details/rd/68fdf310-0a90-49b3-9f72-e289699b41b0)
John Leroux is connected with 8 Charing Cross Rd and he was a clock and watchmaker of repute, hence no need to give any further details in the address. No doubt all the committee members would have been aware of Leroux’s work and where he was to be found. Whether Mrs Goodwin was a lodger in Leroux’s property or employed by him is not possible to say.
Mrs Jane Barron, No 14 Opposite Lancaster Court, Strand: “Letter in consequence of the Advertisement” (RMB)
“Several inns were erected there—the King’s Head (site of Lancaster Court), the Three Tobacco Pipes, and the Bear and Ragged Staff. By the end of the eighteenth century the area in the immediate neighbourhood of St. Martin’s Church had become very squalid, and the clearance made in 1830 was as welcome as it was overdue” (‘The north side of the Strand’, in Survey of London: Volume 18, St Martin-in-The-Fields II: the Strand, ed. G H Gater and E P Wheeler (London, 1937), pp. 124-129 http://www.british-history.ac.uk/survey-london/vol18/pt2/pp124-129 [accessed 22 January 2015].)
In London Past and Present: Its History, Associations, and Traditions (https://books.google.co.uk/books), we are informed that Lancaster Court is now absorbed into Wellington Street.
Mrs Helen Lawrence, No 9 Tooks Court, Chancery Lane: “Letter in consequence of the Advertisement” (RMB)
Tooks Court still exists and the buildings have been renovated. “Cursitor Street, Breams Buildings, Quality Court, Tooks Court, and Furnival Street all make positive contributions to the conservation area.” (http://www.cityoflondon.gov.uk/) Nos. 14, 15, & 16 Tooks Court are all listed buildings.
“… Took’s Court, which Dickens re-named Cook’s Court in Bleak House (1852-53). Situated on the left just after the road veers sharp left, pause outside number 15, a very pleasing early 18th century building. This has been re-named ’Dickens House’ and it was here that the meditative law stationer Mr Snagsby lived and worked in Bleak House. Mr Snagsby ‘dealt in all sorts of blank forms of legal process, in skins and rolls of parchment, in paper – foolscap, brief, draft, brown, white, whitey-brown, and blotting; in stamps, office quills, pens, ink, India rubber, pounce, pins, pencils, sealing wax and wafers; in red tape and green ferret; in pocket books, almanacks, diaries and Law lists; in string, boxes, rulers, inkstands (glass and leaden), penknives, scissors, bodkins, and other office cutlery.’ He was ‘the high standard of comparison among neighbouring wives, a long way down Chancery Lane on both sides’” (http://www.walksoflondon.co.uk/30/charles-dickens-biography.shtml)
Mrs Williams, No 40 Stanhope St, Clare market: “Letter in consequence of the Advertisement” (RMB)
“Just to the west of this legal district lay Clare Market, the second largest meat market in London after Smithfield, and the centre of the victualling trades within the parish”. (http://www.londonlives.org/static/StClementDane.jsp)
“Clare Market began operating in the 17th century and took its name from the Earl of Clare, John Holles who owned the land … Clare Market and its surrounding slums were swept away just seven years later [c.1899], replaced by the grandiose Kingsway and Aldwych development” … “Today, the spot is now home to the London School of Economics” (http://blackcablondon.net/tag/clare-market/)
Mrs Williams is the only candidate to appear without a forename or initial but whether this has import is impossible to say. It may simply have been an omission in the Minutes, especially given that it was a rough copy later re-written in a ledger.
None of these candidates was successful in her application to the post of Matron to the School.