TitleRecords of the Parish of Holy Trinity, Minories
DescriptionCivil parish local authority records relating to the maintenance of the parish and its people.

The records consist of vestry minutes and accounts (1687-1895) and minutes of the Paving Commission (1771-1786).

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Extent7 volumes
AdminHistoryOrigins and extent
The abbey of nuns of the order of St Clare that was founded in 1293 and named the Minories gave its name to the street that developed between Aldgate and the Tower. The abbey was suppressed by Henry VIII in the late 1530s. Until the early 18th century the Minories was mainly populated by gunsmiths and armourers connected with the Ordnance.

The small parish of Holy Trinity Minories was a so-called 'peculiar', an area free from ecclesiastical control and enjoying a number of other legal privileges and immunities. It was, for example, a place where clandestine marriages could be performed and even stolen good could be left, free from official interference. The area was also known as an 'Alsatia', a curious term originally used to denote the area around Whitefriars, which was a sanctuary for criminals and debtors. Remarkably, the last vestiges of the Minories' legal privileges were only swept away by an Order-in-Council of 1894.

The governing body of the parish of Holy Trinity Minories was, from its earliest recorded mention in 1568, the Vestry. The parish Vestry was originally responsible for:
- the physical care and maintenance of the parish and its people. This former local government function is thus a predecessor of the current London Borough of Tower Hamlets.
- religious care and related ecclesiastical concerns of the Church of England. Parish clergy carried out religious functions alongside secular matters including ceremonies for baptisms, marriages
and burials.

Before 1855 parish vestries met to discharge the business of both ecclesiastical and secular local government. The vestries were committees of prominent householders and church officials. The name came from the way meetings took place in the church vestry or sacristy; this is the room where the priest prepares for a service and where vestments and articles of worship are stored.

This early form of local government across the country was a fusion of ecclesiastical and civil functions that had evolved to meet the needs of the inhabitants as they arose. A generalised system of local government, separate to ecclesiastical concerns, slowly took shape. It was the 1855 Metropolis Management Act which saw a major break from the old tradition of local administration in London. The parish of Holy Trinity Minories joined with the following contiguous areas to become became part of the newly created Whitechapel District Board of Works:
- Parish of St Mary Whitechapel
- Parish of Christchurch
- Parish of St Botolph Without Aldgate
- The Precinct of St Katherine
- The Hamlet of Mile End New Town
- The Liberty of Norton Folgate
- The Old Artillery Ground
- The District of Tower
The Board was a separate unit of local government which oversaw public health and sanitary conditions (see ref: L/WBW). Some residual responsibilities remained with the parish after 1855.

The two main secular functions of the parish of Holy Trinity were:
(i) the care of the poor and the administration of parochial charities.
(ii) the maintenance of roads.
There was also some management of petty law and order. In theory, vestries also acquired additional powers in the later nineteenth century, although in many cases these powers were never actually exercised.

Key officials in Holy Trinity responsible for 'local authority' parish functions were:
1) Overseer of the Poor: an unpaid office created in 1572. Officials were initially responsible for supervising endowments and charitable funds. Following the 1601 Poor Law Act, the churchwardens of the parish together with two or more substantial local landowners were to act as Overseers. Their role was to collect the poor rate and supervise the relief of the poor, including managing workhouses and arranging the apprenticeship of poor orphans. The 1662 Law of Settlement Act empowered Overseers to remove 'strangers' from the parish. Sometimes referred to as 'aliens' these were people who did not have rights to settle, because, for example, they were born outside the parish. Overseers were chosen at Vestry meetings to administer the Poor Law for the ensuing year. Under the Poor Law Amendment Act of 1834, Boards of Guardians replaced the Overseers and administration of poor relief left the parish's powers.

2) Surveyor of the Highways: an unpaid position created in 1555. The parish Surveyor's role was to inspect roads three times a year and to organise repairs. The Surveyor could also raise rates.
The Surveyors and Overseers kept accounts and were answerable to the Justices of the Peace. A new system was introduced in 1835, whereby JPs appointed paid surveyors to groups of

3) Constable: although the office was manorial in origin, vestries gradually acquired responsibilities for appointing constables. The position was filled by rotation and was unpaid. Constables' roles included dealing with petty issues of law and order, the collection of rates and taxes, maintenance of the forms of punishment (stocks and pillories - a wooden framework with holes for the head and hands, in which offenders were formerly imprisoned and exposed to public abuse), inspection of taverns, supervision of jury service, apprehending escaped prisoners and convening parish meetings.

Other officers of this particular parish were the 'Upper' and 'Under' Churchwardens, and Scavengers (i.e. street cleaners); there was also a 'Vitler' (i.e. a publican, appointed by the parishioners on account of their privileges as inhabitants of a peculiar) who also acted as Gatekeeper, and six Collectors.

Notable events
15 October 1557: first written mention of the Minories, in the will of Julian Morgan, gentleman of London

1644: first clandestine marriage recorded in the Minories
Over the next 50 years some 32,000 clandestine marriages are said to have taken place - these ceremonies were a source of great profit to the parish

1679-1714: 24 people of colour baptised in the parish

1699-1722: Sir Isaac Newton is reputed to have lived for a short time in Haydon Square while Master of the Mint

29 January 1749: William Sharp, the famous line engraver, born in Haydon Court

1770: the East India Company purchases land in the parish for the construction of warehouses

1771: Act of Parliament passed for 'cleansing, lighting and watching' Haydon Square and areas immediately adjoining; the Commissioners appointed by this Act carried out many of the duties formerly performed by the Vestry

23 March 1797: fire destroys much of the parish, including the last remains of the buildings of the abbey of the order of St Clare dating from around 1293

1831: a new well, 30 feet deep, sunk in Haydon Square

1851: the London and Blackwall Railway Company annex Haydon Square

1851: the census records the population of the parish as 572 people residing in 65 houses

- F. G. Brewer, A Century of London Government: The Creation of the Boroughs (London: Ernest Benn Ltd, 1934)
- Thomas Hill, The History of the Parish of Holy Trinity Minories (London: J. & W. Rider, 1851)
- Albert Bassett Hopkins, The Boroughs of the Metropolis (London: Bemrose and Sons, 1900)
- William A. Robson, The Government and Misgovernment of London (London: Allen and Unwin, 1939
- Edward Murray Tomlinson, A History of the Minories London (London: Smith, Elder & Co, 1907)
- Frederick Whelen, London Government (London: Grant Richards, 1898)
Related MaterialThe parochial place of worship parish records are held by London Metropolitan Archives (collection reference: P69/TRI2). This collection mainly comprises parish registers recording baptisms, marriages and burials (for which digital versions are searchable on Ancestry) with some poor rate assessment rolls. The minutes and accounts of the churchwardens for 1566 to 1686 are at Lambeth Palace Library (ref: MS 3390).

Printed material such as parish histories, reports, maps and plans are in the Local History Library. For maps and plans of the parish boundaries in the Local History Library search reference code 'LCM' [add * to search across these formats].

The body which inherited many of the functions (often modified and extended) of Holy Trinity Minories was Whitechapel District Board of Works; the Board's records are held at Tower Hamlets Local History Library and Archives under the reference L/WBW.
Access StatusOpen
RequestNO - This does not represent a physical document. Please click on the reference number and view list of records to find material available to order at file or item level.


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