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Chatterton's Apprenticeship
Lambert's the Attorney

Chatterton's Apprenticeship Indenture
Thomas Chatterton's Aprenticeship Indentures
Recto with Chatterton's Signature
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QE ! : This rather fabulous document, consists of a single leaf with Chatterton's signature on the recto and his mother's signature on the verso. The ink is a little faded, so I have transcribed the two pages below.  All of the handwritten additions on the recto of the document are transcribed in red :

Transcript of the above :

City of Bristol, to wit. This Indenture made the first day of July in the Year of our Lord One Thousand Seven Hundred and Sixty Seven. Witnesseth, That Thomas Chatterton, son of Thomas Chatterton late of the City of Bristol, School master deceased, hath put himself Apprentice to John Lambert of the same City Gentleman to be educated a Scrivener and doth covenant with him to dwell, and him after the Manner of an Apprentice, as well in the Art aforesaid, as in all other Arts and lawful Commands, with him faithfully to serve, from the Day of the Date of these Presents, for and during the Term of SEVEN Years next ensuing : During which said Term, the said Apprentice, the Secrets of his said Master shall keep his Goods he shall not inordinately waste, Taverns he shall not frequent, at Dice he shall not play, Fornication he shall not commit, Matrimony he shall not contract, or Damage to his said Master within the said Term he shall not do ; but well and faithfully shall behave himself in all Things, as well in Words as Deeds, as a good and faithful Apprentice, according to the Use and Custom of Bristol, for the whole Term aforesaid : And the said Master his said Apprentice, as well in the Art aforesaid, as in all other Arts which he now useth or hereafter shall use, shall diligently teach, instruct and inform, or cause to be informed by others, and shall find him good and sufficient Meat, Drink, Linen, Woollen, Lodging and all other Necessaries (washing and mending excepted)  during the said Term : And at the End of the said Term, shall pay to the said Apprentice Four Shillings and Sixpence towards his Freedom of BRISTOL, with Two Suits of Apparel one for Holy days and the other in Lieu of his Salary.


In Witness whereof, the Parties first above-named to these present Indentures have interchangeably set their Hands and Seals. Witness William Barnes the Younger Esq: Mayor of the said City, and William Miles and Henry Cruger the Younger Esquires, Sheriffs, of the same, the Day and Year above-written.

Witness { Paid with the Apprentice           } 

               { Ten pounds the Gift of Edward }

               { Colston Esq deceased                 }

               { John Mc Arthur                            }

             Elton     Town-Clerk.


Thomas Chatterton           

Thomas Chatterton Apprenticeship Indentures with Sarah Chatterton's signature
Verso with Sarah Chatterton's Signature
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Transcript of the above :

Memem? [memorandum] that at the time of the execution of the within Indenture

It was agreed by deed? between the within parties that the friends or 

Relations of the within Apprentice shall at their own expense find

and provide for him washing and mending during the within

Term any thing within contained a custom of Bristol to the

contrary notwithstanding.         Sarah Chatterton


John McArthur

Chatterton's Last Act at Lambert's
Last Will & Testament - Indenture Cancelled

Chatterton, according to his sister, had only two hours of work at Lambert's each day,  leaving plenty of time to surreptitiously  write his poems and other works; in fact he wrote more than 160 works, which equates to at least one piece of work every six days. 


John Ingram, one of Chatterton's biographers, describes Chatterton's routine at Lambert's, as follows : 

"At that time Lambert's office was in Small Street, some distance from his private residence, where his new apprentice had to sleep and return to daily for his mid-day meal. He had to be at the office by eight in the morning, go back to Lambert's for dinner, and then return to the office till eight in the evening, when he was free for two hours. As soon as he left the office Chatterton would hurry home to his mother and stay with her during the evening, leaving in time to be back at his master's by ten. Despite the dislike Lambert grew to entertain for his apprentice, he was obliged to acknowledge that the lad was invariably regular and punctual in his attendance, and only once during the whole period of his servitude exceeded his stipulated time for returning, and then he had obtained special permission to spend the evening, it being Christmas, with his mother, who was entertaining some friends.....To be certain that his apprentice did not desert his post during office hours the footman and other servants were often sent round to inspect, and they had always to report that they found the lad there and hard at work. Naturally, neither the footman nor the other servants were judges of the work going on and would not know whether Chatterton was writing verse or occupied with usual office routine. "


"The poet was greatly troubled at having to take his meals with the servants, who probably did not appreciate his company any more than he did theirs, and, still worse infliction for the poet, he had to sleep with the footboy."


"Not only would the proud spirit of his race blaze up at these seeming indignities, but the presence of the footboy in his bedchamber must have been a serious inconvenience to one who had reached a climax in his career when solitude was an essential factor in his poetic plans. So full of irrepressible energy and indefatigable zeal was Chatterton now that the many hours he had at the office for carrying on his poetic labours did not suffice for his requirements, and he is stated by his sister to have frequently sat up the whole night writing, especially towards the full of the moon, when he believed he could compose better. "

Imagine being alone for the majority of a 12 hour day on every working day of the week. Is it any wonder that he was looking for a way out of his suffocating and demeaning apprenticeship?  He had already served two years, nine months & thirteen days, with more than four years still to serve, so he wrote his own (mock) Last Will & Testament and left it on his desk for Lambert to find.  It seems that Chatterton was a good judge of character, he was sure that it would frighten Lambert enough to get his freedom. He had read Lambert perfectly, for when Lambert found the 'Will' he was so shocked he dismissed Chatterton immediately - this was on or about the 14th April 1770. 

Chatterton was now free to make his own way in the world. It was a brave step to take in a world without a Social Security safety net, but it seems he had great faith in his own abilities and had, in fact, been testing the waters of the career he had in mind - writing for the various magazines of the day.  Manipulation is the key here, just as it has been 'time out of mind' and as it continues to be in our own time - look around you we are awash with manipulation.

To read more about Chatterton's time at Lambert's, see John Ingram's 'The True Chatterton,' published in 1910, the link takes you directly to the apprenticeship chapter in Ingram's book : View 

Another option is to go to the Biographies & Works page, at the Manuscript Project website where you will find links to almost all of the biographies of Chatterton from 1780 onwards : View

Lambert's Office & Bristol Bridge

Lambert's Attorney's Office where Chatterton Worked

Lambert's Office, Corne St.

Millerd's Mediaeval Map of Bristol 1671

 Millerd's Map of Bristol 1671

Lambert's office was on Corne Street (these days known as Corn St). It is shown above on Millerd's map from 'F' to 'E' (the left arm of the crossroads). The Old Bristol Bridge can be seen at the bottom of the map, complete with houses and workshops. The replacement of such an important bridge, in 1768, was a major event in Bristol, and inspired Chatterton to write what became his first published Rowlean Work.

Chatterton's First Rowley Work

"The Mayor's first Passing over the Old Bridge,

Taken from an old Manuscript"


Dunhelmus Bristoliensis*

It's a momentous occasion for Chatterton; the first time in print of one of his Rowley works.  It was published Anonymously, 1st October 1768, in Felix Farley's Bristol Journal.

*One of Chatterton's pen names. It was also used by Catcott when trying to  manipulate the press.

bristol bridge before 1768

Bristol Bridge in Olden Times

Bristol Bridge Rebuilt 1768

Bristol Bridge in 1768

The original manuscript of The Mayor's First Passing over the Old Bridge, included two 'Songes,' which the Bristol Journal chose not to include.  I am guessing that lack of space was the problem. I have rectified the omission with handwritten transcripts by Catcott of the two 'Songes.'  Click the image above to go to the Control Page for The Mayor's First Passing...., which includes the Songe of Saincte Werburgh, and the Songe of Sayncte Baldwyn.  I will include copies of Chatterton's originals in due course (I don't have them at the moment). 

The Mayor's First Passing Over the Old Bridge
Early Handwritten Transcript
Chatterton meets Catcott & Barrett

The Bridge story was to bring Chatterton, Catcott, & Barrett, the main players in the Chatterton-Rowley story, together for the first time. It was the catalyst that would affect their lives more than they could have imagined. When they first met,  Chatterton was not yet 16,  Barrett was 35, and Catcott was 39. 

The big question is: how much of a role did they individually, or jointly, play in the creation, development and afterlife of the Rowley phenomenon?  To read more on this subject, see Biographies of Chatterton :  View

Chatterton's Works & Correspondence

NOTE: The website proper is excellent on all formats, however, when viewing manuscripts you should use a laptop or PC.  If you choose to use a mobile phone you will need to adjust the settings to get a clear view of the manuscripts.  So, when using a mobile select 'Desk Top' or 'Print Layout', or fiddle with the settings to suit - after all you have nothing to lose but time!

Links to Chatterton's Works & Correspondence

   Call it what you will, authentic, doubtful, lost, or plainly wrong - if it was linked with Chatterton it will be included in Chatterton's Works & Correspondence.  This will be the base point from which we can examine every piece of work, and add notes and links accordingly.  

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