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The City of London and The City of Westminster

It helps to understand how London grew, when you are looking for London ancestors or ancestors in neighbouring counties. The County of Surrey, for instance, was swallowed up by large chunk of what is now South London. Having knowledge of this will help determine which archives you need to contact for your researches.


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Imagine yourself back in mediaeval times. The City of London was very small. It was surrounded by the London Wall and entrance was via the gate portals such as Aldergate, Cripplegate, Bishopsgate etc. People lived and worked in this cramped labyrinth of streets. Its is still today know as the City of London; other names are "The City" or "The Square Mile" because it is, in fact, just a square mile in total area. In modern times this is the financial hub of the great metropolis of London, which includes famous landmarks such as St. Paul's Cathedral. So from mediaeval times this was as far as London went , quite compact.

Nearby, but a totally separate settlement from the City of London was the City of Westminster This settlement was where the Royal Government sat. It holds today the famous landmark of Westminster Cathedral and Houses of Parliament. Both these two Cities lay on the north bank of the River Thames, the City of Westminster lying to the west of the City of London. On the southern bank of the River Thames lay the County of Surrey. Modern-day London has developed from these two neighbouring cities.Today the City of Westminster is a London borough with city status. If you are on the tourist trail in London, you will still see an area called the City of Westminster and the same with the small City of London.

The City of Westminster has its own archives with unique holdings pertaining to the City. However, one should also look at the Metropolitan Archives Holdings for Westminster ( see below), now being a London Borough:

City of Westminster Archives Centre
10 St. Ann's Street
London SW1P 2DE
Telephone: (020) 7641 5180

The City of London has archives CLRO, at the Guildhall, but as the Guildhall is having building work done they are temporarily, for few years, being held at the London Metropolitam Archives (LMA). The London Metropolitan Archives also covers the wider greater London area., incorporating parishes that were in the former county of Middlesex.

London Metropolitan Archives
40 Northampton Road, Clerkenwell
EC1R 0HB, London, England
Telephone ; 020 7332 3820

These archives hold the official records from the former counties of London and Middlesex, as London spreading swallowed up parishes of Middlesex.

As mentioned, a slice of the counties of Surrey and Kent, were swallowed up by the spread of London to south of the river. Consequently, some parishes that were in Surrey and Kent then became part of London. The following list shows parishes that latterly became Metropolitan boroughs of London: Battersea, Bermondsey, Camberwell, Clapham, Deptford, Lambeth, Newington, Rotherhithe, Christchurch Southwark, St. George Southwark, St. Saviour, Southwark, St. John Southwark, St. Olave Southwark, Streatham, Tooting, and Wandsworth.

A further reading source, obtainable from the Society of Genealogists book shop is My Ancestors were Londoners by Cliff Webb, 51 pages, Publ. by SoG Enterprises, 5th revised Edition, 2005. Price: £5.95

Source Information: GenWeekly, New Providence, NJ, USA: Genealogy Today LLC, 2006.

The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of Genealogy Today LLC.

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