The story of Thomas Elwood, Tyler & Brickmaker, and underdog…

The fifth blog in our series from the work of University of the Third Age members participating in the Shared Learning Project with the British Academy Hearth Tax Project, Centre for Hearth Tax Research, is by Jane Harrington. Using the Hearth Tax returns from the City of London and Middlesex as a starting point, Jane presents the story of one Thomas Elwood.

In the 1666 Hearth Tax returns for both Lady Day and Michaelmas, Thomas Elwood, bricklayer, is recorded as living in Stones Court (St Botolph Aldersgate – a suburban parish to the immediate north-west of the city walls) with a modest 2 hearths. Stones Court was to the east of Aldersgate and near to the City boundary, more or less opposite Trinity Chapel. It was also home to the alehouse keeper Mathew White, with a generous 8 hearths, some of whose tradesmen’s tokens still survived in 1849 (and may yet do so)[1]. Other fellow residents listed included Edward Cox, a milliner; Richard Cox, a shoemaker; and Thomas Terrill, a silversmith.

In 1632 Thomas was apprenticed by his father, Clement, to Edward Dee of the Tylers & Bricklayers Company[2].  At that time they were living in London (in the Minories, which is near to St Botolph Aldgate). By 1638 Thomas had moved into the parish of St Botolph Aldersgate, appearing in a list of London inhabitants in that year[3].

Thomas’s elder brother, also Clement (and later Executor of his will), had been apprenticed to another Master of the same Company, four years earlier[4], when the family were evidently still living in Rutland and Clement snr. was a farmer (husbandman).  It seems likely that Clement jnr. stayed in the Aldgate area as there are St Botolph Aldgate records which refer to ‘Clement Ellwood, bricklayer” of Houndsditch[5]. Bricklaying was clearly a family business. There are some other Ellwoods mentioned in connection with this Company.

This is all pretty unremarkable but at some point in the years following, Thomas got entangled in a complex and protracted legal case of ejectment, from which an impassioned printed legal defence document (1659) survives in the British Library[6]. In a recent book, Jason Peacey referred to it as an example of such documents sometimes coming from “any number of less well-connected individuals, such as the impoverished London bricklayer, Thomas Elwood…” [7]

By Jane Harrington


[1] AKERMAN, John Yonge ‘Tradesmen’s tokens, current in London and its vicinity between the years 1648 and 1672.’ London: John Russell Smith, 1849, entries 32 & 33.  [accessed 2 April 2018]

[2] WEBB, Cliff ‘London Apprentices Vol 2: Tylers & Bricklayers Company’ London: Society of Genealogists, 1966/ LMA Ref Book 35.31WEB.

[3] DALE T. C, ‘Inhabitants of London in 1638: St. Botolph without Aldersgate, London’, in The Inhabitants of London in 1638 (London, 1931), pp. 203-209. 

British History Online [accessed 7 June 2018]. 

[4] WEBB op.cit.

[5]Burial of Clement 5 Dec 1674 and earlier of wife Ann, 2 Dec 1641, Parish registers LMA P69/BOT2/A/015/MS09222/002 (via Ancestry)

[6] ELWOOD, Thomas ‘The case of Thomas Elwood bricklayer, and Richard Higginson mercer in Pater-noster-row, late alderman of London’ BL 669.f.21.(65).  Also online at;view=fulltext  [accessed 25 May 2018]

[7] PEACEY, Jason ‘Print and public politics in the English Revolution.’ Cambridge University Press, 2014 p313



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