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A visit to the London Metropolitan Archives

Why visit London Metropolitan Archives?

The London Metropolitan Archives (LMA) is fully open for visitors as of October 2021. I did an online search and found some of my ancestors’ records on there and decided to go to London for the day.

What is the London Metropolitan Archives? What records does the LMA hold?

A repository of everything to do with London. Records include minutes, correspondence, registers, plans, insurance policies, land deeds, books, maps, films and much more. This page has an introductory video which explains about the archive.

How does it work?

This page gives info about visiting. NB – I got the tube to Farringdon and walked from there. Current opening hours: 10am to 4pm on Monday to Thursday only.

You don’t need to book to visit the archive but you do need a history card to access any of the records within the library. You can start the application process at home and it needs to be completed when you arrive at the library (as of Nov 2021 masks are still required).

Take two forms of ID with you such as a driving licence and signed credit or debit card. A photo will be taken and the card issued.

There are free lockers for storage of everything you can’t take into the archive itself (clothing, food, pens etc – only pencils allowed plus notebooks and ipad/laptop/phone). I was given a plastic bag to put everything to take in with me at the reception desk.

I also paid £7 for a day long photographic licence.

Viewing Documents

LMA operate an ordering system which is a bit flaky. In theory if you arrive at 10am and order before 11am delivery should be at any point in the next hour depending upon how busy it is. You can then order further items after 11am and they should be available by 12pm and so on.

I arrived with 10 minutes to spare before the 11am deadline for that hour and quickly put in 3 requests. Waiting patiently whilst seeing what other information was available, nothing arrived by 12pm. It wasn’t busy and subsequent requests of the archivist eventually brought up the documents – so if nothing appears within 30 minutes or so do go and check what is happening.

Once you have your History Card then you can pre-order items from home so that they are waiting for you when you arrive.

What did I discover?

I originally went there to look at an insurance policy for some of my female 1st cousins 6 x removed. Four Fonblanque sisters had a Royal and Sun Alliance policy in 1785 (the company still exists today) covering their house in James Street, Westminster, London and the contents – clothes, plate, china, books etc. All insured for £600 with a premium (duty) of 9/9 (9 shillings and 9 pence)

I always feel it is a privilege to look at and handle older documents and books. This one was 236 years old and in wonderful condition. Another bonus was that the handwriting was easy to read.

Edward William Cox

I also did a search for Edward William Cox not really expecting to find much. It came up with a property document for the sale/lease of Stanhope House in Drury Lane, London. It mentioned having his will in the package so I requested it.

This turned out to be a great idea. I now have a full copy (via photos) of his will. My 3 x great grandfather was a very wealthy man and his will was 16 pages long when it was created in 1879. He left over £200,000 (equivalent to over £25 million today) and 2,000 acres of North London including Hendon, Golders Green, Mill Hill and Hampstead Garden Suburb. Sadly this wealth did not trickle down to beyond his grandchildren. This copy of his will was folded within a pack of other documents and I used weights to hold it down. I liked the references within the margins telling me what the paragraphs referred to. He was very keen orchid collector and mentions them in his will even going so far as to say his wife inherits them and cannot selllthem.

On page 7 he states “I bequeath to my said Wife the use and enjoyment for so long during her widowhood as she shall occupy my residence at Moat Mount aforesaid of all the furniture, plate,  plated goods, pictures, prints, linen, glass, china, musical instruments and other article of domestic or household use of ornament and the carriages, carriage horses, harness, plants, garden tools and implements which at the time of my death shall be at, in or upon the same residence as the stables, coach house, conservatory, Greenhouse and other buildings held herewith by me or appurtenant thereto other than the farm but including my collection of Orchids” and further on “I empower my said Wife to sell or exchange any part of the said Chattels and premises (except the said Orchids and fixtures and fitted furniture, garden tools and implements)”

I haven’t had a chance to study the will in detail yet but it looks to be very useful in describing property and people within the family. I have written a previous blog post about Edward William Cox and it shows him with his orchids.

Other Resources at the London Metropolitan Archives

This image shows a small selection of the family history reference books available, there are lots and lots of others including a survey of London churches.

Check online to see what information is available. Do bear in mind that not everything has been indexed so you may need to request a document and check through to see if the people you are researching are contained within it.

There are also microfiche readers for accessing items such as parish registers. For more details on parish registers read this article:

I highly recommend a visit to see what you can discover and please share if you find anything interesting…

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