Untold lives blog

Sharing stories from the past, worldwide

06 October 2022

A 'pest of skolds' and other 'unruly women' (part II)

This is part two of 'A pest of skolds' - part one can be found here.  

In our previous blog on the nurses caring for sick and wounded sailors, we saw one of the more extreme courses of action available to nurses to force the navy into paying them what they were owed.

Lodging and caring for the sick and wounded could be exceedingly costly, and nurses and care workers could be pushed into poverty due to a lack of payment for their services. In a letter to Evelyn dated 9 June 1673, for example, a Mr Hannon wrote of the ‘miserable condicon’ of the people. He informed Evelyn that the quarterers had engaged their credit as far as it would go, and shopkeepers were now refusing to trust them. Consequently, they had been forced to sell and pawn their own goods to provide for the sick, with many ‘now reduced to that poverty that they have not where withal to maintiane their owne family’.

Some nurses made their superiors aware of their condition through formal petitions, as in the example below:

Handwritten petition with signatures
Petition to John Evelyn, Add MS 78322, f 71

The nurses of Deal petitioned Evelyn on the basis that the crown had allowed seven shillings per week for the maintenance of every sick and wounded person, but the ‘prickmaster’ would pay them no more than five shillings. They also wrote that they had not been paid for twelve months, and were now ‘in danger to be utterly undone and ruined, not being able to subsist, unlesse speedily assisted’.

Fifteen individuals, mostly women, set their names to the petition asking Evelyn to ensure that the prickmaster paid their money in full, and allowed them to discharge their debts to their creditors.

Where petitioning failed, however, there was one further approach attempted by the nurses to recover the losses incurred whilst nursing sick and wounded seamen. This final letter records what Evelyn refers to as a ‘universal conspiracy’ amongst the nurses. He writes that his deputies had already been forced to break open doors in order to procure quarters for the sick and wounded, as the nurses had asserted that they would not receive any more until their arrears had been discharged.

Handwritten letter by John EvelynLetter from John Evelyn regarding financial pressures on the nurses, Add MS 78322, f 2.

Evelyn writes that the financial pressure placed on the quarterers ‘makes them not onely in a kind of despaire, but so inrag’d, that I neither dare to go down amongst them, nor for almost these five weekes, stay in my owne house’. At last, he requests that the sum of £1000 is paid immediately, to ‘pacifie the poore-people’, who might otherwise ‘grow to a very greate disorder’.

Together, these letters reveal the struggle that these individuals faced to be paid for their services as well as the means at their disposal to fight back. Where some opted for the more formal approach of petitioning the authorities, others channelled their frustration into action, refusing to take in the hundreds of sick and wounded arriving on their shores without payment in full of their outstanding wages. Others, as we saw in Reymes’ letter in part one, took the fight directly to the commissioner’s door, where they loudly proclaimed their struggles until the authorities were forced to respond.

These were ordinary people, many of whom lived their lives close to the poverty line. Nevertheless they remained indispensable to the success of the navy, and by uniting as one, they were able to make their voices heard.

Rachel Clamp

PhD Placement Student Modern Archives and Manuscripts

Further Reading

Matthew Neufeld and Blaine Wickham, ‘The State, the People and the Care of the Sick and Injured Sailors in Late Stuart England’, Social History of Medicine Vol. 28, No. 1, pp. 45-63.

University of Leicester Library Special Collections blog, John Evelyn and the war with the Dutch

03 October 2022

A 'pest of skolds' and other 'unruly women': caring for sick and wounded sailors in the Anglo-Dutch wars (part I)

The Anglo-Dutch wars were a series of conflicts fought between England and the Dutch Republic beginning in the mid-seventeenth century and lasting until the late eighteenth century. Contemporary writer and diarist John Evelyn was appointed Commissioner for Sick and Wounded Seamen in the autumn of 1664. Alongside his colleagues in the Commission, Evelyn was responsible for sourcing quarters where sick and wounded sailors could receive medical and therapeutic attention.

Oil painting of a sea battleR Nooms, A Battle of the First Dutch War, 1652-54. National Maritime Museum, Greenwich, London

Before the great purpose-built naval hospitals at Chelsea and Greenwich were commissioned, sick and wounded sailors were cared for in a combination of private homes and alehouses throughout coastal towns such as Deal, Portsmouth and Plymouth. Landlords, landladies and alehouse keepers, also known as ‘quarterers’, would provide care and lodging on credit to the navy.

Having been for the most part neglected by historians, fresh attention was paid to the partnership between the navy and private care workers by Matthew Neufeld and Blaine Wickham in their 2014 article for Social History of Medicine. The Evelyn Papers at The British Library contain a wealth of information about the work of these individuals and their fight to be properly compensated for their efforts.

Relationships between the nurses and naval commissioners were frequently strained, as the following letter written to Evelyn in April 1665 from his colleague and fellow commissioner Bullen Reymes reveals.

‘The truth is’, Reymes wrote,

‘I have till of late boyed up our Nurses Spirits, by fayre words, and now and then a littell mony upon my account…but [especially] by promising that I would not goe hence, till I had made all even’. ‘These honest artes’, he informed Evelyn, ‘hath hitherto kept my skin whole, for Billingsgat hath not such another Pest of Skolds, as I have to doe with all’.

Reymes then provided an account of his latest encounter with the nurses of Deal:

‘It seems the other day, they had got a whisper amongst them, as if the Commissioner (meaning me) [was] going to London the next day’.

News of Reymes’ imminent departure seemed to spread quickly amongst the nurses who were concerned that the Commissioner would once again leave the town without paying them for their services. Consequently, they congregated at Reymes’ door and challenged him as he attempted to leave his home the next morning:

‘[A]s I came down the stairs to goe abrod’, he wrote, ‘my entry was barricaded with 20 or thirty of the sharpest tunged women, charging me with an outcry, or rather a jangling (for in an outcry, there may be harmony) of there several wants and nessessetys, and all at once, and that they must have their mony…before I went, and that I should not shrinke to steale away to London as I did last, and not paye them, that they were sure the Good King (god blis him) allowed us money to paye them, & we keepe it, and fed them now & then with a littell, so that their money did them no good, and a thousand other…Complaynts’.

It was not only the twenty or thirty women barricading the door who voiced their concerns, but also:

‘another Squadron of them that stood with out dorres, in the Streete took up as an echo, & redubbled  it back againe, I all this while in the midest of them Crying and Praying them to have patience a littell longer’

These ‘unruly women’, as they are later referred to, would not be satisfied, however, without a solemn promise that Reymes would see to it that they were paid in full. But this was only one of the ways in which the quarterers sought to make their voices heard. In Part II of this blog, we'll explore some more documents that reveal more of their fascinating stories.

Rachel Clamp

PhD Placement Student, Modern Archives and Manuscripts

Further Reading

Matthew Neufeld and Blaine Wickham, ‘The State, the People and the Care of the Sick and Injured Sailors in Late Stuart England’, Social History of Medicine Vol. 28, No. 1, pp. 45-63.

LSE staff blog, John Evelyn and the war with the Dutch

29 September 2022

The HCLF, chatbots and balancing cats

What links chatbots with balancing cats? The Human-Computer Learning Foundation (HCLF) was founded in 1994, by computer scientist Donald Michie; psychologist Jean Hayes Michie; and television producer Rupert Macnee (son of Patrick Macnee, star of the 1960s TV show The Avengers). The HCLF was a charitable trust created for the purposes of furthering for the public benefit 'the awareness, understanding, and use of human-computer learning and artificial intelligence'.

Photograph of Donald Michie and Jean HayesDonald Michie and Jean Hayes (Add MS 88958/5/4), reproduced with permission of the estate of Donald Michie

The HCLF defined human-computer learning to mean "that the human and computer partners both learn from each other as they go along, exchanging partly formed concepts while each assisting the other to bring nascent ideas and conceptualisation to levels difficult for either to attain alone".

The administrative papers of the HCLF were collected over the life of the organisation by Rupert Macnee, and donated to the British Library in 2020. Rupert served as secretary for the HCLF from its inception. The archive includes registration and legal documents, correspondence, accounts, meeting minutes and articles. Many are printed on the back of documents relating to Macnee's work as a television producer.

Letter regarding the charitable status of the proposed HCLFLetter regarding the charitable status of the proposed HCLF, Add MS 89496/2. Reproduced with permission of Rupert Macnee and the estate of Donald Michie.

The HCLF felt that technology and the internet's rapid development was causing people to be left behind, creating a gap in skills required to obtain jobs. The papers trace how the HCLF began developing downloadable computer games designed to build the user's perceptual and motor skills, whilst simultaneously developing the knowledge base available to the computer. One of these games involved a pole-balancing 'polecat'. An idea to try and incorporate the popular Japanese manga and cartoon chat character Doraemon to boost sales in Japan was suggested, but after actually seeing the character's appearance they deemed his design to be too round for their requirements. Some skills could be learnt using a voice instruction system developed by the HCLF, known as "Automated Voice-Over Training". Macnee provided the test voice for the system, likening it to Obi-Wan Kenobi tutoring Luke Skywalker in Star Wars. They discussed the idea of partnering with Disney or Warner Brothers to create a version for children.

Developing the 'polecat' game with a view to incorporating the character DoraemonDeveloping the 'polecat' game with a view to incorporating the character Doraemon, Add MS 89496/3. Reproduced with permission of the estate of Donald Michie.

The archive also reveals how the HCLF developed a 'chatbot' computer program called Sophie, similar to Massachusetts Institute of Technology's ELIZA program from 1964. Sophie was presented as a casual member of staff working for the HCLF. Visitors could 'chat' to her on the HCLF website, but after a certain amount of interaction the visitor would be told that Sophie had to get back to work. As an alternative they could pay and subscribe to her Conversation Club, where they could chat for as long as they wanted. Sophie was programmed to analyse the questions she was asked and provide suitable answers. 'She' would learn from each interaction. A fictitious profile and backstory was created for Sophie, including a family, which had some amusing results. Her brother John worked for 'Woofie Bits dog-food manufacturers', and her sister Julia's religion was listed as 'nature-worship,  vegetarian'.

Details from the biographical profiles for 'Sophie Martin' and family members

Details from the biographical profiles for 'Sophie Martin' and family members, Deposit 10206. Reproduced with permission of the estate of Donald Michie.

Tragically, Donald Michie was killed in a car crash in 2007, and the HCLF was disbanded shortly afterwards. The study, development and use of artificial intelligence for language learning, however, has continued.

Jonathan Schofield
Manuscripts cataloguer

Donald Michie at the British Library
The Donald Michie papers at the British Library is comprised of three separate tranches of material, gifted to the library in 2004 and 2008. They consist of correspondence, notes, notebooks, offprints and photographs, and are available to users through the Explore Archives and Manuscripts catalogue, under references Add MS 88958, Add MS 88975 and Add MS 89072.

The archive of the Human-Computer Learning Foundation can be found at Add MS 89496. For copies of agreements relating to the HCLF please see Add MS 89072/2/3.

 

27 September 2022

Sale of jewels and silver by the India Office

In February 1862 a sale of jewels and silver on behalf of the Secretary of State for India was announced in the press.

Announcement of sale of jewels and silver by Secretary of State for India - Daily News 24 February 1862Announcement of sale of jewels and silver by Secretary of State for India  - Daily News (London) 24 February 1862 British Newspaper Archive.  Six sarpeshs were sold, not five as stated here.

The jewels and ornaments to be sold had transferred to the India Office from the East India Company.  They are included in a list made by Charles Wilkins in 1831 of items deposited with the Company Librarian.  At the beginning of 1861, the items were passed to Garrard & Co for valuation:

• Eight jighas worn on the side of the turban by Indian men of rank, and six sapeshs worn on the front of the turban, made of gold and enamel and set with diamonds, emeralds, rubies and pearls.
• Eight necklaces – pearls, diamonds, rubies, musk beads covered with gold filigree, one with a gold locket containing a picture of the King of Travancore.
• Two bracelets – pearls, diamonds, rubies, emeralds.
• Four rings – diamond, ruby and sapphire.
• A pearl tassel.
• Glass models of diamonds.
• Two gold and two silver boxes, a gold casket, and a gold and enamel snuff box with diamonds.
• A ‘curious’ gold mask.
• Two gold nuggets, one with quartz.

Turban jewelExample of a turban jewel in the Royal Collection - Gold, diamonds, emerald, rubies and red cord, mid-19th century

Garrard assessed the turban jewels set with precious stones and pearls to be of inferior quality and therefore of an uncertain value.  The articles without precious stones had been computed at the weight of the metal only.  The jewellers warned that values were ‘very capricious’ and that the India Office would probably realise more at a public auction than through a private sale.

First page of an inventory of  jewelsFirst page of an inventory of  jewels made in 1831 - British Library Mss Eur D562/33 Public Domain Creative Commons Licence

Some items sent for valuation were not included in the auction at Christie, Manson and Woods at St James’s in London:

• ‘A round silver salver of great antiquity supposed to be of Greek or Byzantine art, the period ascribed to this work is the 3rd century’.  There was speculation that this salver had been taken to India by Alexander the Great.  Garrard agreed that it was very old and very valuable.
• A gold plate beautifully enamelled with flowers and birds, and in the centre a lion and sun with Persian characters.
• Sheet gold with Burmese characters inscribed, and sheet silver.
• One small box ‘selected by Mr Mills’.

In addition, the India Office sent for auction a number of silver items which had been used by the housekeeper at East India House - tea pots, coffee pots, sugar tongs, spoons, forks, cream jugs, and a toast rack.

Newspaper report of sale of Indian jewels Newspaper report of sale of Indian jewelsReport of sale of Indian jewels - Glasgow Morning Journal 22 March 1862 British Newspaper Archive

The auction on 13 March 1862 realised a total of £1160 1s 9d for the India Office, with some items returned unsold.  A deduction of £87 was made for commission and advertising, leaving a net sum of £1073 1s 9d.  According to newspaper reports, the Rothschild family purchased some of the India Office lots - a necklace of pearls, rubies, emeralds and diamonds for £119 10s, as well as turban jewels.

Margaret Makepeace
Lead Curator, East India Company Records

Further reading:
Incomplete catalogue of the India Museum, including a list made by Dr Wilkins in 1831 of jewels deposited under the charge of the Librarian Mss Eur D562/33.
Papers relating to the transfer of the medals, coins and jewels in the Masson and other collections to the India Office Library, 1861-1868 Mss Eur F303/448.
Finance Committee Papers – IOR/L/F/2/247 no.283; IOR/L/F/2/257 no.200; IOR/L/F/2/258 no, 410.
Minutes of the Council of India about the sale - 5 Jul 1861 IOR/C/7 f.4; 11 & 25 Apr 1862 IOR/C/8 ff.475, 499.

 

22 September 2022

Passport applications in the Kashmir Residency Files

Previous posts on this blog have highlighted the collections of passports contained within the India Office Public and Judicial Department files.  However, two fascinating files in the Kashmir Residency Records also have papers relating to passports for people wishing to travel from pre-1947 India.

The two files contain applications for passports to be issued or renewed from residents of the Princely State of Jammu and Kashmir in 1943.  They give details of applicant’s full name, place of residence, age, marital status, occupation, place and date of birth, information on children and spouse, and some applications have a photograph attached.  Here are a few of the people who feature in the files:

Violet Gladys Stapleton, born St Albans on 21 February 1882, a nursing sister (missionary), residing at the CMS Hospital, Srinagar.

Captain Sydney Ernest, born Hertford on 15 April 1891, the guardian to the Heir-Apparent to His Highness of Jaipur.  He gave his ordinary residence as Rambagh Palace, Jaipur.

Pamela Mary Rumbold, born Wales on 1 September 1916, the wife of an RAF officer, residing in Srinagar.  She wanted a passport for a possible return to England in the event of her husband’s transfer there.

Passport application for Pamela Mary Rumbold Passport application for Pamela Mary Rumbold IOR/R/2/1070/142 Public Domain Creative Commons Licence

 

Sagi, born Gilgit on 15 March 1911.  He gave his occupation as servant, and was proceeding to Kashgar with his employer Captain Binns.

Passport application for Sagi Passport application for Sagi IOR/R/2/1070/142 Public Domain Creative Commons Licence

With some of the applications there is additional correspondence.  This is the case with Satya Pal Datta, born in Kotla Dattan in Mirpur District on 24 June 1924.  With his application, he included a letter in which he wrote: 'I am proceeding to Kenya for education purposes.  My financial condition is most satisfactory and there is no apprehension of my being stranded there for want of necessary funds'.  A police check reported that he was of good character, and 'There is nothing on record political or otherwise against the man.  His father is really in Africa.  He and his family are loyal subjects'.

Passport application for Satya Pal Datta Passport application for Satya Pal Datta IOR/R/2/1070/142 Public Domain Creative Commons Licence

The file contains three applications from tailors from Jammu City who wished to proceed to Palestine to work with Haji Roshan Din & Sons, contractors attached to His Majesty’s Forces.  The three men were Mohamed Said (aged 27), Mohamed Azim (aged 32 years) and Mehar Ilahi (aged 30 years).  A memorandum noted that the contractors had undertaken to maintain the three men and to pay their fare from India to Palestine and back.  The applicants were reported to be fit and proper persons to receive the passports applied for by them.

Mohamed Said  IOR-R-2-1070-142Passport application for Mohamed Said IOR/R/2/1070/142 Public Domain Creative Commons Licence

Elizabeth Bell was born in Glasgow on 22 September 1911.  In 1943, she was a teacher living at Burn Hall School, Srinagar.  Wishing to return to Scotland to visit her parents, she reported that her passport had been destroyed.  She was required to furnish the authorities with a declaration in order to get a new one.

Passport application for Elizabeth Bell Passport application for Elizabeth Bell IOR/R/2/1070/142 Public Domain Creative Commons Licence

In her declaration, she stated that her old passport had been issued in Dublin in 1929, and she had been residing in India since March 1930 and had taught in schools at Murree, Rawalpindi and Srinagar.  She had recently been running a gown shop named Fitzgerald Gowns on the Bund in Srinagar, but it had been completely destroyed by fire on 30 March 1943.  Her passport and teaching certificates were lost in the blaze.  Her declaration was accepted, and a new passport was sent to her.

John O’Brien
India Office Records

Further Reading:
File No. 476(5) of 1943. Applications for renewal of passports received during 1943, shelfmark: IOR/R/2/1070/140.
File No. 476(6) of 1943. Applications for passports issued during 1943, shelfmark: IOR/R/2/1070/142.

Previous posts on Untold Lives:
Records of People on the Move
Sources for Asian biography

 

20 September 2022

Henry Trimmer – JMW Turner’s Lifelong Friend

Henry Scott Trimmer was born in Old Brentford on 1 August 1778.  His mother, Sarah (1741-1810), was a prominent educationalist, whose writing had a marked effect on the style and content of children’s literature of the time.  It was in Brentford that Henry and his older brother, John, first met the ten-year-old William Turner, who had been sent to live with his uncle, Joseph Marshall, a local butcher.  William and Henry soon became firm friends.

Oil painting of Sarah Trimmer, evangelist and children's writer, sitting with pen and paper, with several books at hand  Oil painting of Sarah Trimmer, evangelist and children's writer by by Henry Howard - © National Portrait Gallery  NPG 796

Henry fell ill with consumption in 1792-3 but made a full recovery.  He gained a B.A from Merton College, Oxford in 1802 and in August that year was ordained deacon and appointed curate at St Leonard’s, Shoreditch.  In December 1802 he was ordained priest and in 1803 became curate in Kedington, Suffolk, where he met his future wife.  In 1804 he was appointed Vicar of Heston, near to where he had grown up, and remained there until his death in 1859. 

Photograph of St Leonard’s Church  HestonSt Leonard’s Church, Heston (photograph by author) Public Domain Creative Commons Licence

In 1805 Henry married Mary Driver Syer in Kedington.  They had three sons: Henry Syer, Barrington and Frederick.

Newspaper announcement of the marriage of Henry Scott Trimmer to Mary Driver Syer in 1805Bury and Norwich Post 10 July 1805 British Newspaper Archive

After Turner completed the building of Sandycombe Lodge, his Twickenham house, in 1813, he and Henry Trimmer spent more time together and it is thanks to the information that Henry Trimmer’s sons passed on to Turner’s first biographer Walter Thornbury, that we know so much about Turner’s life at Sandycombe Lodge.  Henry was also an occasional visitor at Turner’s studio and gallery in Queen Anne Street.  Thornbury suggests that the interior of a church depicted in Turner’s Liber Studiorum is St Leonard’s, Heston, but the original drawing dates from 1797, before Trimmer moved to Heston.

Turner felt that he needed to be better educated in the classics and Henry wished to improve his artistic skills, so they came to an arrangement whereby Henry schooled Turner in Latin in exchange for painting lessons.  They went out on sketching trips together, often with the Trimmer sons, and also visited art galleries, such as the one at nearby Osterley House.  Sadly, none of Henry’s paintings seem to have survived but there is an engraved print of one of them in the Victoria and Albert Museum.

Seascape with rainbow - two sailing ships riding the waves.Seascape with Rainbow, 1837. Henry Scott Trimmer (artist), David Lucas (engraver).  © Victoria and Albert Museum 

In 1815, Henry was appointed Justice of the Peace and, in 1821, Deputy Lieutenant for Middlesex.  He was active in social reform and, in particular, campaigned for an investigation into the death of Private Frederick John White of the 7th Queen’s Own Hussars, based in Hounslow.  In 1846, White had been court-martialled and flogged for insubordination and had died shortly after the lashes had been administered.

Grave of Private Frederick John WhiteGrave of Private Frederick John White  at St Leonard’s Churchyard, Heston (photograph by author) Public Domain Creative Commons Licence

After Turner sold Sandycombe Lodge, in 1826, Henry saw less of him but, as Turner had appointed him as one of his executors, he was involved in the long-drawn-out dispute about Turner’s will, from 1852 to 1856.

Henry died on 20 November 1859 and his wife, Mary, only survived him by 48 hours. His son, Barrington, who had been his curate for 27 years, died the following year.

 

Newspaper announcement of the deaths of Henry Scott Trimmer and his wife MaryNorfolk Chronicle 3 December 1859 British Newspaper Archive

Henry Scott Trimmer’s tomb in St Leonard’s Churchyard  HestonHenry Scott Trimmer’s tomb in St Leonard’s Churchyard, Heston (photograph by author) Public Domain Creative Commons Licence

Newspaper article about Henry Scott Trimmer's will 1860Illustrated London News 14 January 1860 British Newspaper Archive

During his lifetime, Henry had amassed a fine collection of paintings by celebrated artists, many of whom were known to him personally. When the collection was sold, in 1860, it included works by Hogarth, Reynolds and Gainsborough. No mention is made of any Turners, although Henry certainly owned some.

Newspaper article about the sale of Henry Scott Trimmer's art collection in 1860Morning Post 19 March 1860 British Newspaper Archive


David Meaden
Independent Researcher

Further reading:
British Newspaper Archive
Brentford High Street Project 
Franny Moyle, The Extraordinary Life and Momentous Times of J.M.W.Turner (London, 2016).
Anthony Bailey, Standing In The Sun – a life of J.M.W.Turner (1997).
Walter Thornbury, The Life of J.M.W. Turner R.A. founded on letters and papers furnished by his friends and fellow Academicians, (London, 1862).

 

Turner's House logo

Turner’s restored house in Twickenham is open to visitors.


08 September 2022

Granville Archive available

The Untold Lives blog has included several posts on the Granville Archive over the last couple of years.  The archive was acquired by the British Library in 2019, along with a supplementary collection of family papers previously hidden from public view, thanks to support from the National Heritage Memorial Fund (NHMF) and other funders.

Trunk of papers from the Granville Archive

Trunk of papers from the Granville Archive Public Domain Creative Commons Licence

Like so much else, the project to repackage and catalogue the archive was held up by consecutive lock-downs.  Now, at last, the work is complete: catalogue descriptions for both the main and supplementary collections are available on the British Library’s Explore Archives and Manuscripts online catalogue (Add MS 89317 and Add MS 89382).  Readers can now directly request access any of the material in the BL reading rooms.

'Per Balloon Post': congratulatory postcard sent by balloon post to Castalia Leveson-Gower, Lady Granville

'Per Balloon Post': congratulatory postcard sent by balloon post to Castalia Leveson-Gower, Lady Granville, inscribed with a charitable appeal to the Countess from the finder, a Rev H Woodhouse, 30 April 1872
(Add MS 89382/4/23, f. 40) Public Domain Creative Commons Licence

The archive is large.  The main collection consists of 883 volumes and files of correspondence and papers, and the supplementary collection a further 96 (as well as a satin purse in which some of the letters were stored).  The collections span several generations over three centuries.  Of particular importance are the papers of Granville Leveson-Gower, 1st Earl (1773–1846), diplomat and politician, and his son Granville George Leveson-Gower, 2nd Earl (1815-1891), diplomat, foreign secretary and close friend of Gladstone. 

'This is my 10th attempt to print': the 2nd Earl Granville’s struggle with a typewriter. Letter from Granville George Leveson-Gower, 2nd Earl Granville, to Castalia Leveson-Gower, Lady Granville.

'This is my 10th attempt to print': the 2nd Earl Granville’s struggle with a typewriter. Letter from Granville George Leveson-Gower, 2nd Earl Granville, to Castalia Leveson-Gower, Lady Granville, 6 March 1876
(Add MS 89382/4/11, f. 142-143) Public Domain Creative Commons Licence

Women members of the family are well represented, including Lady Susanna Leveson-Gower (1742-1805), wife of Granville Leveson-Gower, Marquess of Stafford; Lady Henrietta (Harriet) Leveson-Gower (1785-1862), wife of the first Earl Granville; and Castalia Leveson-Gower (1847-1938), wife of the 2nd Earl Granville.  Henrietta Ponsonby, Countess of Bessborough (1761-1821) and her sister Georgiana, Duchess of Devonshire (1757-1806) feature prominently in the supplementary collection.

'My dearest Granville'. Letter from Lady Stafford to her 17-year-old son, Granville Leveson-Gower, 22 February 1791

'My dearest Granville'. Letter from Lady Stafford to her 17-year-old son, Granville Leveson-Gower, later 1st Earl Granville, 22 February 1791 (Add MS 89382/1, f. 150) Public Domain Creative Commons Licence

Anyone interested in 18th-19th century diplomacy and foreign affairs, national politics, aristocratic society and intimate family life, the development of higher education, and national museums is likely to find material of interest in the Granville Archive and supplementary papers.

Self-portrait with dog on the shore below the cliffs at Hastings, by Lady Bessborough.

Self-portrait with dog on the shore below the cliffs at Hastings, by Lady Bessborough.  Enclosed in a letter to Granville Leveson-Gower, later 1st Earl Granville, while he was away in St Petersburg, Russia, 19 October 1804
(Add MS 89382/2/22, f. 70) Public Domain Creative Commons Licence

To find out more about some parts of the archive, see the previous Untold Lives blogposts, and enjoy a detailed account of innovative conservation treatment for locks of hair in the collection by BL conservator Veronica Zoppi (listed below).

Tabitha Driver
Cataloguer, Modern Archives & Manuscripts

Further reading:
Lord Granville Leveson Gower: Private Correspondence, ed. Castalia Granville (London, 1916)
Hary’o: the Letters of Lady Harriet Cavendish, 1796-1809, ed. George Leveson Gower and Iris Palmer (London, 1940)
Edmond Fitzmaurice, The Life of Granville George Leveson Gower K.G. 1815-1891. 3rd ed. (London, 1905)
Janet Gleeson,  An aristocratic affair: The life of Georgiana's sister, Harriet Spencer, Countess of Bessborough (London, 2006).
The political correspondence of Mr Gladstone and Lord Granville, 1868–1876, ed. A. Ramm, 2 vols. (London, 1952).

Cache of hidden letters in the Granville Archive
Ciphers and sympathetic ink: secret love letters in the Granville papers
A rebus puzzle
Conservation of the Granville Archive papers

 

05 September 2022

Introducing Prime Ministers’ Papers from Robert Walpole to H. H. Asquith

The Modern Archives collections holds many of the personal papers of the Prime Ministers of the United Kingdom.  These are rich and extensive papers, which offer an incredible insight into the British political establishment over two centuries.  Our new collection guide introduces our holdings relating to British Prime Ministers.  The collections listed are valuable resources that can offer first-hand accounts of the some of the most prominent political personalities and infamous events of modern British history.  The papers include dialogues with Royals, correspondence from politicians, petitions, personal diaries and drafts of legislation.

We have selected a few items from this huge collection that highlight some of the fascinating stories hidden within these papers.

The folio below is from the copybook of letters of the John Stuart, 3rd Earl of Bute, Prime Minister from 1762 to 1763.  In this volume of transcripts of the Earl of Bute’s letters are a number of letters to the Prince of Wales, the future King George III.  The Earl of Bute offers his personal advice to the Prince, the transcript below offers insights into the tone of these letters.

Earl of Bute’s advice to the future George IIIEarl of Bute’s advice to the future George III, Add MS 36797, f.66v. 

The papers of Lord North, Prime Minister from 1770 to 1782, offer insights into the British State’s response to the American Revolutionary War.  Among the papers are various letters from Loyalists including a petition of prisoners requesting assistance.  The folio below is a letter from Richard Clarke on behalf of his son Isaac who was one of the merchants chosen by the English East India Company to deal with tea consignments in Boston.  He refers to the violence that erupted during the event known as the Boston Tea Party, which brought suffering to his son and ended his employment.  From here, he appeals to Lord North for compensation for his son’s loss of income.

Letter to Lord North from Richard Clarke recalling his son’s experience of the Boston Tea PartyLetter to Lord North from Richard Clarke recalling his son’s experience of the Boston Tea Party, he was ‘greatly exposed to the violence of the rioters, even before those teas were destroyed’. Add MS 61864, f.25. 

The papers of George Canning, prime minster in 1827, include files relating to the campaign to abolish slavery within the British Empire. The British trade in slaves had been illegal since 1807; however, ownership of slaves in British colonies was still legal until 1833. Some of Canning’s papers explore slavery within the British Empire, like the folio below concerning the case of a man who was contesting his enslavement in British Guiana.

Papers considering the case of a man who was contesting his enslavement in British GuianaPapers considering the case of Barra[h/k], a man who was contesting his enslavement in British Guiana. Canning Papers, Add MS 89143/1/8/2. No foliation. 

The extensive Gladstone Papers cover his four premierships and offer a unique insight into an expansive range of policy interests and political issues over the 19th century.  This letter is one of many from women’s suffrage campaigners. Millicent Fawcett writes to Gladstone’s office to thank Gladstone for his sympathy towards her sick husband.

Letter to Gladstone from Millicent Fawcett  1885Gladstone Papers, Letter to Gladstone from Millicent Fawcett, 1885, Add MS 44156, f.191v. 

These fascinating examples from the collection are just a few folios from a vast set of collections that offer unique perspectives on the history of governance, policy, power and politics in Britain from the 17th to the 20th century.

Jessica Gregory
Curatorial Support Officer, Modern Archives

Further Reading:
Prime Ministers’ Papers and Correspondence