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Archives and Special Collections: Other Collections and Sources: Major Families

Our collections

Durham is peculiarly strong in the papers of antiquaries. This is partly caused by the unique availability in Durham, until the later 19th century, and consequent on its palatinate status, of records of its central civil government. In other parts of the country enquirers into an area's past normally had to resort to London for research. Antiquaries were akin to the modern historian, but they were both more and less than that, being on occasion genealogists, heralds, historians, architectural historians, archaeologists, topographers, and/or archivists, and sometimes several of those. They have received criticism for being obsessed with aristocratic family history, too fond of esoteric research, too disorganised to publish, failing to create an intellectual structure, being quarrelsome or even “maggotie headed”. Their legacy can often be difficult to use, as their handwriting can be harder to work out than the original documents they transcribed or extracted, and they might often reference what they had worked on. However, since what they worked on may no longer exist today, they can provide valuable information on these lost sources. They did have persistent curiosity, a willingness to use a wide range of sources, often indefatigable industry, and they could be generous in helping fellow scholars. Their collections may comprise original manuscripts they collected, their transcripts of and notes on manuscripts, their own writings and often copious correspondence about enquiries, or the travails of producing, or not, publications.

There is a particularly strong collection of their papers at the Durham Cathedral Library, including those of Christopher Hunter, Cuthbert Sharp, George Allan, Thomas Randall, Robert Surtees, James Raine and William Longstaffe. Surtees is perhaps the most eminent; his History and Antiquities of County Durham in 4 volumes, much aided, abetted and concluded by his assistant James Raine, is still, some two centuries on, often the start point for an enquiry into aspects of the county's past. Details of these collections can be had here

The antecedents of all these were the various members of the Mickleton and Spearman family of the 17th and 18th centuries. A number of them served as lawyers in the courts of the palatinate in what is now the Exchequer Building of Palace Green Library. Their papers formed one of the cornerstones of the collections of what was then Bishop Cosin's Library and became the nascent Durham University Library from the 1830s onwards. They were particularly interested in the historical basis for many of the rights and privileges that they were notionally enforcing and implementing in their courts. So they collected precedents and examples of procedures or documents from elsewhere, as well as compiling lists and indexes of the records. Their collection of over 100 manuscripts, many of which are still difficult to identify clearly, is a rich diversity of materials of their own administration and other unexpected treasures, among which a number of medieval manuscripts. These are highlighted by a 14th century volume of statutes, featuring a very shiny decorated copy of the 1225 Magna Carta, to be used by a land agent of the time,

Others who followed in their train, whose papers are accessible in the collections of Archives and Special Collections and whose collections indicate that the antiquary has persisted into recent times alongside the more academic historian, include Thomas Hogg (d.1776 (Dean and Chapter land agent), Robert Blair (1845-1923) (member of the Society of Antiquaries), Thomas Romans (1876-1958) (a Durham clergyman), Bertram Surtees Raine (1896-1971), Jack Gibby (1902-1989) (Chemistry and also local history lecturer), and Roy Hudleston (1905-1992) (journalist and also Palaeography lecturer and editor).

The Earls Grey of Howick Hall in Northumberland came to prominence in the later 18th century in the military sphere and especially in the 19th century in the political sphere. The papers of the following major members of the family are a major source for British military history of the 18th century, and political, colonial, and diplomatic history of the 19th and early 20th centuries, and also contain much of interest for social history.

- General Sir Charles Grey (1729-1807), 1st Earl Grey, a soldier who fought in the American War of Independence, and was raised to the peerage as Baron Grey of Howick (1801) and Viscount Howick and Earl Grey (1806).

- Charles Grey (1764-1845), 2nd Earl Grey, a whig politician and Prime Minister 1830-1834, passing the Reform Act and the University of Durham Act in 1832, and abolishing slavery in the British Empire in 1833.

- John Ponsonby (c1770-1855), 2nd Viscount Ponsonby, brother-in-law to the 2nd Earl, a diplomat, involved in missions to South America 1826-1829, Belgium 1831, Naples 1832, Constantinople 1833-1841, and Vienna 1846-1850.

 - Henry George Grey (1802-1894), 3rd Earl Grey, also a major politician, who was Secretary at War 1835-1839 and Secretary for the Colonies 1846-1852, his wife Maria nee Copley (d1879), and her sister Miss E.M. Copley.

- General Charles Grey (1804-1870), brother of the 3rd Earl and father of the 4th Earl, Private Secretary to Prince Albert and later to Queen Victoria.

- Albert Grey (1851-1917), 4th Earl Grey, Governor-General of Canada 1904-1911 and an enthusiastic reformer.

- Charles Robert (1879-1963), 5th Earl Grey, businessman and Church reformer, and his wife Mabel's aunt Lady Sophia Matilda Palmer, comtesse de Franqueville (1852-1915).

- Lady Mary Cecil Grey (1907-2002), daughter and heiress of the 5th Earl, and her husband Charles Evelyn Baring (1903-1973), created Lord Howick of Glendale 1960, diplomat including Governor of Kenya 1951-1959.

- Evelyn Baring (1841-1917), Earl of Cromer 1901, diplomat and colonial governor, and his 2nd wife Lady Katherine Georgiana Louisa Thynne (1865-1933).

The Edens probably date back in Co Durham to the 12th century but first appear certainly with Robert de Eden who died in 1413. They survived involvement in the Northern Rising of 1569, and being royalists in the Civil War, with Robert Eden being created baronet of West Auckland in 1672. Another Robert Eden, the last British governor of Maryland, was created baronet of Maryland in 1776. Sir John Eden, long-serving MP for Bournemouth, was created Baron Eden of Winton in 1983. Windlestone Hall was the family seat, rebuilt in 1821, until sold in 1936. Alongside deeds, lease etc for estates in the north and elsewhere, papers are held principally for the following family members.

- Sir John Eden (1740-1812), 4th Baronet of West Auckland

- Sir Robert Johnson-Eden (1774-1844), 5th Baronet of West Auckland

- Sir Robert Eden (1741-1784), 1st Baronet of Maryland, his wife Caroline (1748-?1803) and her brother Frederick Calvert (1732-1771)

- Sir Frederick Morton Eden (1766-1809), 2nd Baronet of Maryland, and his wife Anne Smyth/Smythe's family

- General William Thomas Eden (1768-1851), brother of the last

- Sir Frederick Eden (c.1794-1814), 3rd Baronet of Maryland

- Sir William Eden (1803-1873), 6th Baronet of West Auckland and 4th Baronet of Maryland

- Sir William Morton Eden (1849-1915), 7th Baronet of West Auckland and 5th Baronet of Maryland 

- Sir Timothy Calvert Eden (1893-1963), 8th Baronet of West Auckland and 6 Baronet of Maryland

The Headlams were based in Whorlton and also over the Tees in Wycliffe straddling the South Durham/North Yorkshire border. The papers of the family date from the later 18th to the earlier 20th centuries and feature:

- John Headlam (1769-1854), rector of Wycliffe, archdeacon of Richmond from 1826, chancellor of Ripon diocese, chair of the Yorkshire North Riding Quarter Sessions etc.

- Arthur William Headlam (1826-1909), son of John, a clergyman of Durham diocese (Wycliffe, Whorlton, Durham St Oswald, Gainsford).

- Arthur Cayley Headlam (1862-1947), son of Arthur, principal and dean of King’s College London from 1903, Regius Professor of Divinity at Oxford from 1916, and then bishop of Gloucester from 1923. 

- Rose Gladys Headlam (1864-1954), daughter of Arthur, Girls Friendly Society president 1913-1925

- Major-General Sir John Emerson Wharton Headlam (1864-1946), cousin of the last two, career soldier, Royal Horse Artillery, (family correspondence only, more at the Imperial War Museum and Shropshire Archives).

Much of the Shipperdson material is deeds relating to estates in Murton and Pittington, and throughout the north, but there are groups of papers for specific parts of the family including:

- Shipperdson family deeds and papers 1613-1794

- Kirshaw family of Leeds documents 1694-1796

- Shipperdson family deeds and papers 1794-1856

- Hopper family deeds and papers 1733-1906

- Revd Edmund Hector Hopper (1806-1879) and his descendants, deeds and papers 1820-1909; Hopper took the name Shipperdson in 1856 on inheriting the estates of his uncle, Edward Shipperdson of Pittington Hall Garth, Co. Durham. 

The mainly scholarly and administrative papers of the Duff family, originally of Knockleith in Aberdeenshire, comprise those of the following members.

- Colonel James Duff (1820-1898)

- James Duff Duff (1860-1940), a Latinist

- Sir James Fitzjames Duff (1898-1970), Education professor at Manchester University, then warden/vice-chancellor of Durham University, also on various government commissions, a BBC governor, and lord lieutenant of Co Durham. 

The Baker or Baker Baker family were established at Crook Hall, near Lanchester, Co. Durham and then Elemore Hall, Pittington, Co. Durham. The significant members of the family whose papers feature in this collection include the following.

- Sir George Baker (d.1667) purchased Crook Hall around 1635 

- George Baker (d.1677), son of the previous, succeeded

- George Baker (d.1697), son of the previous, inherited Crook; he also had a brother Thomas Baker (1656-1737) who was a noted antiquary

- George Baker (d.1723), the fourth of the sequence and son of the third, married Elizabeth, daughter of Thomas Conyers, through whom the family inherited Elemore Hall and the Boulby Alum Works in North Yorkshire; he was also an MP for Durham City

- George Baker (d.1774), still a minor at his father's death, and his wife Judith Routh (1726-1810); he also had a sister Margaret

- George Baker (d.1837) 

- Isabella, George's daughter, married her cousin Henry Tower (George Baker's sister Elizabeth having married Christopher Tower). Their son Henry John Baker Tower changed his name in accordance with the will of the last George Baker, to Henry John Baker in 1844 

- Ferdinand Baker (1858-1909), son of Henry John, made over Elemore Hall to his sisters Isabel (d. 1911) and Eva (d. 1931), from whom Henry Conyers Baker Baker, eldest son of their youngest brother, inherited in 1931

The Bamburgh Library, of some 8.500 volumes, is one of the core book collections of Palace Green Library, deposited with Durham University by Lord Crewe's trustees in 138 and 1958. It was created by several members of the Sharp family between c.1660 and 1792, and continued to be added to into the late 19th century by the Lord Crewe’s Charity. There is much more information on the library and the Sharps here, but the key members of the family at this time were as follows.

- John Sharp I (1645-1714), clergyman, Archdeacon of Berkshire, Canon of Norwich Cathedral, Rector of St Giles in the Fields, Archbishop of York 1691

- John Sharp II (1678-1727), eldest son of John I, lawyer, MP

- Thomas Sharp (1693-1758), 2nd son of John I, clergyman, Canon of Southwell Minster, Rector of Rothbury, Archdeacon of Northumberland, Rector of Wistow, Canon of Durham Cathedral

- John Sharp III (1723-1792), eldest son of Thomas, clergyman, Rector of Hartburn, Archdeacon of Northumberland, Canon of Durham Cathedral

- Thomas Sharp (1725-1772), 2nd son of Thomas, clergyman, curate of Bamburgh

Availability online (digital images)

These collections have not been digitised, so that only the catalogues are currently available online.

If you would like to purchase digital copies of specific items from any of our collections, please get in touch.

If you are a member of teaching staff at Durham University and would like to use material from Archives and Special Collections within your lectures or seminars, we may be able to scan or photograph items for this purpose.  Please contact us as early as possible with any teaching digitisation requests.

See also our guide to Digitised Collections Online for further information on our digital resources.

Access to original sources

The collections mentioned above are located at Palace Green Library.  Our current opening hours are below.

  • Monday to Friday: 10am to 4:30pm
  • Saturday: closed
  • Sunday: closed

For further information on visiting to use the collections, please use our enquiry form.

See separate Libraries and Site Information guide for further information on Palace Green Library.