A Day In London

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A Day in London (in Search of Joseph Ferdinando at the Bank of England)

I know the City well, having worked in and around there since 1973, so I knew where I was going and I had been in the Bank of England before as I worked there way back in the 1980s.  The Bank of England archivists had been in touch with me by e-mail and I now had my appointment to search the earliest of their archives in search of Joseph Ferdinando who had an account with the Bank.  A few minutes walk from Cannon Street Station is the Old Lady of Threadneedle Street, her door staff still dressed in their Pink Tail Coats and Black Top Hats.  Security was tight and I was given the old grey metal detector test prior to meeting the archivist.

I was taken down to the Basement where there were tables and chairs, PCs and Microfiches and a huge Library.  Sitting on a trolley were the Largest books I have ever seen.  They must have been three feet high, two feet wide and anywhere between 2 and 10 inches in thickness across the spine.  These were the original registers of the Bank from its foundation in 1694 through to about 1705.  I was of course interested in anything that may have been in there between those dates as Joseph died in 1705.  Maybe, I thought, just maybe, Joseph's will could be there or some pointer to our Isaac (the Blacksmith's) father.  we live in hope!

The usual rules apply, a pencil and notepad only are allowed, and I set to work from the beginning reading through these massive books completed in the most exquisite handwriting.  I found it a privilege to be handling documents over 300 years old.  Without exception, these volumes were clarity itself, easy to read and full of familiar names to anyone who has studied the readmission of the 17th Century.  There were de Caceres and de Castro and the Francia family but where were the Carvajal and Ferdinando entries?  They were not there, not in the owners of Bank Stock and that was an area I had so much wanted them to be in.  The reason being that Stock Holders also deposited their Wills with the Bank so that the Bank knew what to do with  their stock in the event of their death.

So I moved on to the Account books which, at the same size as the stock books, took a lot of handling and manipulating I can tell you, and I like to think I am pretty fit.  You needed to be built like Lennox Lewis to move these things around daily.  I wonder what the 17th Century Bank Clerks would have made of computers?

In the Bank Accounts for the 15th October 1694 was the one (and only) record of Joseph's transactions.  I can't tell you what a thrill it was to find it.  Was I the only descendant (if indeed I am descended from the Carvajal line) to have seen this since it had been written?  Joseph had deposited the sum of 1500 in the bank and on the same day withdrawn 669 11 Shillings & 7d.   A colossal amount to be walking around with if you think about it.  John Ferdinando estimated that 1500 would be worth about 150,000 today so Joseph just breezed out of the Bank with about 67,000 or so in his pocket or purse!  Not content with that, the next day he withdrew 596  3 shillings & 2d.  Or about 59,600.  He finally went back on the 25th October and withdrew the balance 234 5 shillings & 3d.  With that withdrawal, the account was closed an there are no more records between that date and 1705 when he died.  

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I had found what I had come for and the Bank kindly arrange for photocopies of the record to be sent to me.  I had some time until my train so I decided to go and have a walk around Leadenhall Street and Creechurch Lane to "get a flavour" of the days when the Carvajal family lived there, as well as looking at where the Creechurch Lane Synagogue was built and Bevis Marks.  I arrived at the junction of Creechurch Lane and Leadenhall Street and the Church of Saint Katherine Cree stood invitingly open.  It was a sunny but cold winter's day in late November and so I hastily availed myself of the opportunity of popping inside and browsing the collection of little books and postcards and of looking around the historical church.  The Great Bell of this Church was tolled as the funeral of Antonio had taken place and I hurriedly paid for my purchases and went outside to see what else I could see that could connect me back those 300 years.

Leadenhall Street hasn't changed much from the 1970s, except for the Lloyds building, and the square, flat, faceless offices of the banks make this street as anonymous as many others in and around the City.  The view out of Creechurch Lane gives way to a flat 1970s office block where once a grand mansion had stood and that Merchant Prince, Antonio Fernandes Carvajal, could walk or ride the short distance into Creechurch Lane to worship at the Synagogue he had set up there.  At the far end of Creechurch Lane, I stood on the corner where I believed the old Synagogue had stood.  Another office building and, synonymous with out times, a McDonald's stands across the road.  Turning left, and heading back towards the City, I was in Bevis Marks itself.  A small opening to your left and large wrought Iron gates lead the way to the Bevis Marks Synagogue.  It was closed and so I could only gaze through the railings at this wonderful old Synagogue that had been built in the early 1700s and had lasted, almost unscathed, up to the present day.  Inside, I am told, are some of the oldest benches (pews) in the country and very possibly those that were originally in the Creechurch Lane Synagogue.

Here was an old piece of London from the days I was searching for.  The Church and the Synagogue harped back to that age but everything else was new.  I had quite forgotten that to get back to Cannon Street I could walk through another old (although not so old) area.  I wandered down past the Commercial Union Building, past Lloyds and into Leadenhall Market.  This still has some of the character of the old markets about it although, of course, some wine bars and sandwich shops have intruded.  You can still see the Butchers and Poulters here and can have a nice pint of Bitter if you so desire.  It was nearing time for my train, just one last thing to see as I was near, and I headed down to the Monument to see the column erected to commemorate the Great Fire of London.  Satisfied with actually looking at the architecture where I normally, in my day to day work, just rush quickly by, I headed towards Cannon Street.  As I approached, at the end of the road, the Dome of Saint Paul's came into view reminding me of where Isaac The Blacksmith had lived and so I managed to bring together, in my mind, all of these different views of London and the connections they hold for our family.

If you get the chance to just wander around London, it can be quite interesting and my day out had transported me back 300 years to the days of the establishment of the Bank of England, High Benches and huge Ledger Books, Quill Pens and Brokers, Merchants buying and selling shares, the early days of the secret synagogue and the old markets.   The Great Fire of London and the Dome of Saint Paul's that arose from the Cities ashes and defied the attentions of the Blitz.  It is really good to try and set the surroundings into your own context, London tends to bear down on you and impose itself on your psyche.  Walking to work in the hubbub of rush hour, you hardly look up and see the grandeur of the old buildings mixing with the new and perhaps the significance of symbols such as the Monument just pass you by in the rush to get into that air conditioned office.  I enjoyed my day and now, when I travel to London I keep a sharp eye out for anything that may connect with the family, Saint Brides Church, Saint Giles, tucked behind the Barbican Development and so on.  It connects me back to our ancestors in a very personal way and is perhaps one of the drivers that is genealogy.  You may want to trace your family tree back as far as you can but, you also want to know how they lived, what they did, what did they see, hear and feel.  When I get another opportunity I will tour the East End of London to see that area and see if I can connect with my ancestors in the same way.

David Ferdinando

May 2002

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