The East Smithfield and St Katharine’s Company

Photo: John Beardsworth

Sergeant Lawrence Harris

Although there are a number of Harrises in the registers of both parishes, there is no record in either of Lawrence’s baptism, which suggests that he migrated into the area from elsewhere. His marriage to Margaret, probably in the early to mid 1630s, also took place in another parish, most likely Margaret’s own parish of residence.

The first reference to his being located in East Smithfield is in the Lay Subsidy Return for 1635, which shows him working as a brewer’s servant to Leonard Leonards. Between 1636 and 1646, six children were baptised and Lawrence’s career can be followed from these entries. His occupation as brewer’s servant is confirmed in the baptismal and burial registers in 1636 and 1639, while in 1638 he is described as a brewer. Although this may be a clerical error, such an appointment would make sense. Leonard Leonards himself, as the owner of the brewhouse, is unlikely to have been involved in the day to day business of brewing beer. He is more likely to have employed the services of a brewmaster to take on the task. It is clear from the 1642 Assessment Roll and the list of subscribers to the Collection for Distressed Protestants in Ireland in the same year, that Lawrence had more disposable income than most in East Smithfield, more than was likely for a servant of a lower order, and his assessment in the East Smithfield Tithe Roll in 1638, to pay tithes to the church of £5 per year, was at the higher end of the range of the £2-£6 per year levied on the majority of properties in the liberty.

Sometime after 1639 Lawrence became a victualler, thus moving on from brewing beer to selling it (and no doubt increasing his earning potential in the process). This was the profession in which he was engaged at the time of the Oxford campaign in 1644, and it remained so until his death in 1648. Without a record of the date of his baptism, it is impossible to be certain about his age at death, but it seems likely that he was in his thirties or forties. Although left no will, his widow Margaret did, on her death in 1675. She died in possession of a heavily-mortgaged house called ‘The Prince of Orange’, which she asked to be sold and any remaining monies, after payment of all debts, shared between the surviving children, Eva, Margaret and Lawrence. This property was probably the alehouse in which Lawrence conducted his business in the last few years of his life: the will makes it clear that it was the family’s business premises as well as their home and notes that the name was painted on a signboard outside. In view of Lawrence’s association with the Dutch-born Leonard Leonards, as both servant and sergeant, a more apt name is hard to imagine.

Sources for the Trayned Bandes in 1644:

  • SP28/121A, parts 3 and 4: Tower Hamlets Trayned Bandes muster rolls, April 1644
  • Parish registers of St Botolph without Aldgate and St Katharine by the Tower
  • St Botolph without Aldgate Vestry Accounts
  • St Katharine by the Tower Constables’ Accounts
  • Wills
  • 1634 Visitation of London
  • Collection for Distressed Protestants in Ireland 1642
  • 1642 Assessment Roll
  • Calendar of State Papers, Domestic
  • Victoria County History, Middlesex
  • T.C. Dale, The Inhabitants of London in 1638
  • Lien Bich Luu, Immigrants and the Industries of London, 1500-1700