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The Edmund Flower research project

Updated: May 19

Just a few of the books used in my researches

For the past couple of weeks we have been revealing the latest research on Edmund Flower, the school founder, and we thought you might be interested in where all the new information has come from.

Most of what has been published over the last 150 years about the founding of the Grammar School, has been based on Edmund Flower's will and his lengthy instructions on how he wanted the school run in the future. There are also records of the refinancing of the school by William Spicer of Balcombe in 1528. But until now we have known precious little about Edmund Flower himself.

But we did knew that Flower was a member of the Merchant Taylors' livery company and progressed to becoming its Master (equivalent to President or Managing Director). And it is this connection that has

yielded a wealth of new information.

Livery company records

We are fortunate that his livery company's records are among the most comprehensive of the 12 main guilds in the City of Local families.

We are given a window onto the bustling economic life of London of the Tudor period and tells us how how the livery companies worked together and managed a lucrative the useful import/ export trade with mainland Europe.

They provide valuable insights into the history of trade, craftsmanship and social organisation in London at the time. They give us information on membership, apprenticeships, business transactions, property ownership and charitable activities.

A page from Merchant Taylors' Minutes dated 1490

Such records have been proving so useful to researchers of the Tudor and medieval records. Dr Matthew Davies realised this while he was working on the Merchant Taylors' records and a project has been created to put the historic livery companies' records online.

ROLLCO is 'Records of London's Livery Companies Onilne' was launched in 2008. Today the number of records of apprenticeship bindings to 87,705, the number of freedom admissions to 56,384, and the number of records of named individuals to 366,275. All this is funded by the livery companies.

My research started with trying to pin down when and where Flower was born. As I have explained, this proved to be 564 years ago (give a year or so either side). This was in the reign of Henry Vl - before the death of Richard lll, our 'car park' king at the Battle of Bosworth. Edmund Flower lived until 1521 - in the early years of the reign of Henry Vlll.

Sources of the new information

But the new information has come from a wide range of online material, physical books and original documents were viewed and collected. Just when I thought the job was nearly done I would find a record - perhaps in the National Archive or elsewhere - that needed ordering, interpreting and assimilating. The list below gives the principal source material:

  • Online material. Much can be freely accessed online and so I give the relevant links should you wish to check them or read further. Online libraries such as Internet Archive, JSTOR, Project Gutenberg, Google Books and Google Scholar.

  • Merchant Taylor's publications. The most useful livery company material has been written in the last couple decades, principally by Dr Matthew Davies and co-writer Ann Saunders.

  • Earlier Merchant Taylor books, several by Charles Mathew Clode from the late 19th century.

  • University doctorate theses. Five of these were helpful as they considered different aspects of medieval life and business.

  • Archive resoures. Material was found at the National Archives at Kew, London Metropolitan Archives in Clerkenwell and the Guildhall Library, City of London.

  • Nothing of value locally. Very little of the material has been sourced locally, although Rev JH Cooper's 'History of the Parish of Cuckfield' has proved very helpful, including the translation of Flower's will. Sadly other Cuckfield historians did not explore Flower in any depth. This was probably because the source evidence was kept privately in the City and was not easily accessible to them.

The highlight for me was when London's Guildhall Library allowed me to read through pages of the original Minutes dating back to the Tudor times of the 1480s. The text was difficult to decypher and written in Latin. Fortunately I had a translation at hand to assist. The precious records were a direct physical link with the Tidor past and even Edmund Flower himself.

Two thirds of Flower's will is devoted to the running of the school so it clear that it meant a lot to him. We know that the school had been running for a while before he died (I believe it was 17/18 years) - and you get a sense that he had got very personally involved in seeing the youngsters benefit from the education he was paying for.

I hope you have enjoyed reading the articles I can recommend you check the sources online - particularly those by CM Clode, the references will be found at the foot of the relevant articles.


Even as this text is being written I have just made further discoveries. I have now traced the three executors of Flower's will. One of them is especially significant. He arranged Flower's funeral he was the longest serving and most trusted of courtiers in both Henry Vll's and Henry Vlll's court and he lived not too far from Cuckfield. He married a Reigate girl, and welcomed the monarchs to his home, and was one of the characters mentioned in Wolf Hall. Yes, I make no apologies, there is more to follow!.

Image of Merchant Talors' Minutes of 1490 open at the page of the admission of Edmund Flower to the livery company. Copyright London Metropolitan Archives.

Contributed and researched by Malcolm Davison.


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