Freedom of the City (of London) Admission Papers, for the years 1681 – 1925, have recently become available at the Ancestry site, and I’ve just found the certificate for my 7 x great grandfather, Joseph Greene, citizen and goldsmith.

17th century goldsmiths at work

Born in Stepney in 1677, the son of mariner Captain William Greene, Joseph was the father of Mary Greene, who married Lieutenant John Gibson: the latter were the parents of my 5 x great grandmother Elizabeth Holdsworth, nee Gibson. I already knew that Joseph was apprenticed to Joseph Strong on 15 June 1692, when he would have been about 15 years old. His certificate is dated 3 May in the following year:

Written in Latin and using abbreviations, the certificate is difficult to follow,  but it seems to read thus:

L.T. Cert.

Camere ??? Lon.

iii May AD 1693

Josephus Green fil (?)  Willm Greene de Stepney Com. Midlx venit Cora (?) – Camerard (?) vizt (?) dicet Ano supradict et cognovit se esse apprent Josephi Strong Civis et AureFabr London xx Juni Ano quarto Wilmi et Maria et pro septem anis

Orlando Gee Cler Camer


Robt Cooper Guard

F Maur Bohme Goldsmith

It’s nearly 40 years since I took my Latin ‘O’ Level, but I think I can understand some of this. ‘Camere’ means rooms and could indicate the address where the ceremony was held, or the certificate issued. The certificate seems to say that Joseph Greene, son of William Greene of Stepney in the county of Middlesex, was said and known (?) to be apprentice to Joseph Strong, Citizen and Goldsmith of London, in the fourth year of William and Mary, and for seven years.

Since we know that Joseph Greene would not actually be ‘made free’ until 1708, this certificate appears to be a simple confirmation of his apprenticeship. I’d be interested to hear from anyone with knowledge of how the process worked, and who might be able to provide further help with the Latin terminology and abbbreviations.

I’ve managed to find out some information about the other names on the certificate. Sir Orlando Gee of St Martin in the Fields was steward to the Earl of Northumberland and Registrar to the Court of Admiralty. He died in 1705 at the age of 86 and was buried in Isleworth, where there is a statue of him:

Epitaph to Sir Orlando Gee, Isleworth

Maurice Bohme or Boheme was, as the record says, a goldsmith: there is a record of him being involved in a court case before the King’s Bench in 1705, and he died in 1736.

I’m currently reading Jenny Uglow’s fascinating book about Charles II and the Restoration, in which she writes about the king’s financial problems and his indebtedness to a new breed of bankers that sprang up in London around this time:

Some of the new bankers were former scriveners, notaries who negotiated loans and then began lending  their own capital. But by far the most influential were the London goldsmiths. For a century or more, the goldsmiths had sold fine silver and gold plate to the nobility and gentry, agreeing to take it back a security against loans when times were hard. From pawn-broking they moved to full-scale banking. People deposited cash with them, receiving a low rate of interest, and the goldsmiths lent it out again at a higher rate, set by law at six per cent.


[The London goldsmiths] not only gave interest on deposits, but also discounted bills of exchange, accepted the new-fangled cheques, first issued in 1659, and issued ‘goldsmiths notes’, promissory notes that could change hands and circulate freely, creating a fluid movement of capital. They also lent to each other, helping each other out when exceptionally large sums were needed or when the cash-flow failed, and they kept careful tallies so that they knew how exposed they were, every week, every day and even, in some crises, every hour.

We know that Joseph Greene was a pawn-broker as well as a goldsmith and it’s at least possible that his activities might have extended to banking. If so, and given what Uglow says about the growing importance of these goldsmiths-turned-bankers, it would help to explain the substantial wealth that Joseph left when he died in 1737: not only did he leave a thousand pounds to his daughter Mary and her husband John Gibson, but he bequeathed enough money for his wife Mary to buy Woodredon House in Waltham Abbey from the Duke of Bedford and pass the property on to her daughter and son-in-law.