||Until their purchase for the county for £250,000 in 1987 the Iveagh Manuscripts comprised without exception the richest source of archival and documentary evidence for Suffolk's history - particularly its medieval history - still remaining in private hands. The Manuscripts fall into two distinct groups: the Phillipps Manuscripts, a wholly artificial collection, purchased by the first Earl of Iveagh from Sir Thomas Phillipps's grandson in 1914, and concerning which considerably more detail is given below; and the Cornwallis Papers. The latter consist of the estate archive of the Cornwallis family (descended from Thomas Cornwallis, Sheriff of London 1378-84), who were prominent landowners in Suffolk, centred around Brome and Oakley in the north of the county, from the early fifteenth to the early nineteenth century. The greater part of the Cornwallis material comprises manorial records, although there are also domestic accounts and estate records from the late sixteenth to the mid-eighteenth century. All were purchased by the second Earl of Iveagh from a London book-dealer in 1931. Evidence suggests that they were previously inherited from the Cornwallis family by Richard Griffin Neville (1783-1858), third Baron Braybrooke, of Audley End, Essex, who in 1819 married Jane, daughter of Charles, second Marquess Cornwallis.
From the dates of their acquisition by the Earls of Iveagh, both collections remained at Elveden Hall. On their acquisition by the Suffolk Record Office the decision was taken to preserve them at the Ipswich Branch, as two distinct collections. The Cornwallis archive, which complements previously deposited material (HA 68) relating to the family estates in Brome and Oakley, has been classified as HA 411. The Phillipps Manuscripts have been classified as HD 1538; it is this group only which forms the subject of the present catalogue.
Sir Thomas Phillipps, baronet (1792-1872), antiquary and bibliophile, and by his own description 'a perfect vello-maniac', was the pre-eminent manuscript collector of his age. The son of a Worcestershire landowner, he was already collecting books while still a schoolboy at Rugby. As a student at University College, Oxford his taste for old books and manuscripts increased, and on succeeding to his father's estates in 1818 he embarked on the main business of his life, the collection of rare manuscripts of all ages, countries, languages and subjects. Looking back on his career in later years, Phillipps wrote:
In amassing my collection of manuscripts I commenced with purchasing everything that lay within my reach, to which I was instigated by reading various accounts of the destruction of valuable manuscripts... My principal search has been for historical, and particularly unpublished, manuscripts, whether good or bad, and more particularly those on vellum. My chief desire for preserving vellum manuscripts arose from witnessing the unceasing destruction of them by goldbeaters; my search for charters and deeds by the destruction in the shops of glue-makers and tailors. As I advanced the adour of the pursuit increased, until at last I became a perfect vello-maniac (if I may coin a word), and I gave any price that was asked. Nor do I regret it, for my object was not only to secure good manuscripts for myself, but also to raise the public estimation of them, so that their value might be more generally known, and consequently, more manuscripts preserved. For nothing tends to the preservation of anything so much as making it bear a high price. The examples I always kept in view were Sir Robert Cotton and Sir Robert Harley.
The Phillipps Collection eventually included between four and five hundred volumes of Oriental manuscripts alone; and it was also very rich in early Welsh poetry. We are concerned here, however, solely with Phillipps's massive purchases of Suffolk material. Even before it came into Phillipps's hands, much of this material already had a distinguished history of ownership by successive Suffolk antiquaries of the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries. The collection includes manuscripts owned, worked over, annotated or written by the herald and genealogist Peter Le Neve; by 'Honest' Tom Martin of Palgrave; and by John Ives, who in turn had access to the Le Neve-Martin manuscripts before his own early death in 1776 at the age of twenty-four. Dominating the collection in terms of provenance, however, are the manuscripts of Craven Ord and William Stevenson Fitch, because these were from libraries dispersed in Phillipps's own day.
Many of the original documents among the Iveagh (Phillipps) Manuscripts were first assembled by Peter Le Neve (1661-1729), who was successively Richmond Herald and Norroy King of Arms; and his collections also include the notes of his own antiquarian researches, many in his own hand, others in that of his amanuensis Thomas Allen. Born in London, he was the son of Francis Neve, an upholsterer of St Michael, Cornhill (the 'Le' prefix had been dropped from the family name for several generations when Peter's antiquarian leanings induced him to re-adopt it), and the grandson of Firmian Neve of Ringland, Norfolk. He early won a high reputation in antiquarian circles, and in 1687, when aged only twenty-six, he was elected President of the Society of Antiquaries, an office he was to hold for thirty-seven years. Le Neve succeeded to property in Norfolk on the death of his brother Oliver, who had married twice, successively into the Norfolk gentry families of Gawdy and Knyvett. Not surprisingly, therefore, the greater part of this antiquarian activity related to Norfolk - the materials which he collected ultimately formed the backbone of Francis Blomefield's eleven-volume history of the county. Even so, he managed to amass and compile a significant quantity of material relating to Suffolk.
Though Le Neve was twice married, he had no children. His first wife Prudence, daughter of a Bristol merchant, had the reputation of a shrew, and his second wife Frances re-married, 1732, her husband's executor Thomas Martin, who thereby succeeded to the bulk of Le Neve's collections. Indeed, it was widely believed in antiquarian circles that he married her in order to acquire them.
'Honest Tom' Martin was born in 1697 at Thetford, in the school-house of St Mary's parish. He was the son of William Martin, rector of Great Livermere and St Mary, Thetford. After attending school at Thetford he became a clerk in the office of his brother Robert, who was in practice as an attorney in the town. According to some of Martin's notes, dated 1715, when he was eighteen years old, he disliked his job, and regretted that lack of money had prevented him from going as a student to Cambridge, where his mother's nephew, Sir James Burrough, was Master of Gonville and Caius.
By 1723, at the age of twenty-six, he was settled at Palgrave, where he spent the remainder of his life. He was a tireless student of topography and antiquities, and by the age of twenty-three was already a fellow of the Society of Antiquaries. A fellow antiquary, who often met him at the Master's Lodge at Gonville and Caius, described him as
a blunt, rough, honest, downright man, of no behaviour or guile; often drunk in a morning with strong beer; and for breakfast, when others had tea or coffee, he had beefsteak or other strong meat. His thirst after antiquities was as great as his thirst after liquors.
Martin is said to have been a good lawyer, but his self-confessed dislike of the practical side of his profession increased as he grew older, and he gradually lost many of his clients. He was ultimately reduced to such financial hardship that he was obliged to sell many of his books and portions of his manuscript collections. His remaining library was sold after his death in 1771 and purchased by John Worth, a chemist of Diss, with his other remaining collections, for £600. The printed books he immediately sold to the firm of Booth and Berry of Norwich, who disposed of them in a catalogue in 1773. Part of the manuscript collection was sold in London in 1773 by Samuel Baker, and in a second London sale in May 1774 many more manuscripts, charters, pedigrees, prints and drawings were disposed of. The remainder, consisting of Martin's papers relating to Thetford, Bury St Edmunds and the county of Suffolk, were sold following Worth's sudden death, also in 1774.
The effects of this dispersal, certainly as regards the Suffolk collections, were mitigated by the fact that a principal purchaser at all the sales was Martin's young friend John Ives - who in turn annotated many of the manuscripts, thus adding to their historical value. Ives, who was one of East Anglia's most promising young antiquaries, was born in Yarmouth into a wealthy merchant family and, by his own account, was aged sixteen when he first began to apply himself to the study of antiquities. In 1772 he was admitted a Fellow of the Royal Society, while in 1774 the office of Suffolk Herald Extraordinary was revived for him for only the second time since the reign of Henry VIII; no-one has held it since. With his tragically early death in 1776 the Suffolk manuscripts were again threatened with dispersal. Much loss was prevented by the collecting activities of another antiquary, Craven Ord (1756-1832), a man of independent means whose lifelong research into churches and monumental brasses extended to the whole of southern England. He was for several years Vice-President of the Society of Antiquaries. In association with Sir John Cullum he prompted and assisted Gough in his great work on the 'Sepulchral Monuments of Great Britain', and Gough himself testified that 'the impressions of some of the finest brasses' were owed to Ord's efforts.
The dispersal of Ord's antiquarian collections began in 1829, when he left England for the sake of his health. Twenty folio volumes of his Suffolk Collections were purchased by the dealer Thorpe for £210 - a considerable sum for that time - and are now in the British Library. A second sale of Ord's manuscripts took place in January 1830, when a very large quantity of small medieval charters was sold in bags, which fetched from £2 to £3 each. Many of these had previously belonged to Thomas Martin, and had been acquired by Ord for a few shillings. It was these two sales that gave Sir Thomas Phillipps his first and finest opportunities to acquire large quantities of Suffolk manuscripts of the first importance. Apart from cartularies and a magnificent set of twenty-four volumes of Ord's collected notes and original documents (HD 1538/1-24), he acquired six volumes of Ord's Suffolk Church Notes (HD 1538/69-74), many fine series of early manorial account rolls, court rolls and charters (many of them relating to the estates of the dissolved monasteries), and the autograph of William Harvey's 1561 heraldic visitation of Suffolk (HD 1538/106).
The last major contributor to the Phillipps Suffolk Collection was William Stevenson Fitch (1792-1859), the Ipswich druggist, and postmaster for the borough from 1837. He was not, apparently, as obliging or efficient as he might have been; he notoriously disliked giving change, and performed all his postal duties in a small room at the back of his shop in the Buttermarket, measuring only twelve feet square. Following vigorous protests about the condition of his Post Office at meetings of the Borough Council in May 1855, when it was described as 'a disgrace to the town', it was transferred from the Buttermarket to the Town Hall. Fitch's attitude to business bears marked similarities to that of Thomas Martin, referred to above; with both men, their antiquarian interests were obviously an all-consuming passion, and their bread-and-butter occupations merely a tiresome nuisance.
Fitch was well-known as an antiquarian and collector of local books, manuscripts and antiquities. He had many friends in the literary and historical circles of his day, by whom he was held in high regard. Perhaps the most impressive accession to his collection in terms of sheer quantity was his purchase in 1850 of three quarters of a hundredweight of the manuscripts of the Revd James Ford, for twenty-two years perpetual curate of St Lawrence, Ipswich, which Fitch secured for forty-nine shillings at a house sale in Essex.
Dr Theodosius Purland, a friend of Thomas Baldock Ross, Mayor of Ipswich in 1850, who visited the town that year and was entertained by Mr and Mrs Fitch, has left a description of the Fitch Collection in a curious manuscript entitled 'Ye Yppswyche Deazle' (now in the Local Studies Library at the Ipswich Branch of the Record Office, ref. qS Ipswich 9). He goes on to comment that how the collection was assembled, no-one but Fitch knew; and continues:
The Mayor told us in confidence, and we communicate it in the same manner, 'that he would not trust Fitch alone with the Corporation deeds on any account'; the Mayor is much to be commended for his prudence; such men as Master Fitch are not found every day, but when found they require a deal of looking after!
For all the regard in which he was held by his antiquarian friends, Fitch's activities were thus clearly suspect even in his own day. In his article on Fitch (Proceedings of the Suffolk Institute of Archaeology, vol.XXVIII (1959), pp.109-35) the Revd A.H. Denney reminds us (p. 119) that as a mere local druggist he was far from wealthy; and it seems unlikely that the whole of his collection could have been honestly come by. Moreover, the Fitch Collection contained much material that could never have come on the open market at all, including many items undoubtedly purloined from the archives of Ipswich Corporation. Dr Geoffrey Martin, who says of Fitch that 'the designation of collector might be modified by a more forthright term', accuses him of wholesale pillage ('The Records of the Borough of Ipswich, to 1422', Journal of the Society of Archivists, vol.I, no.4, Oct.1956, pp.87-93), but it appears that the greatest blame must be laid at the door of Fitch's friend William Batley, who on his retirement after many years as Town Clerk illicitly retained many of the Corporation records with whose custody he had been entrusted while in office.
The most important item in the whole of Fitch's vast collection (the catalogue of which alone ran to four volumes) was the so-called Cartulary of Dodnash Priory (now HD 1538/202/1); when the collection was sold on Fitch's death in 1859 this item fetched £100, by far the highest price realised in the whole sale. It consists of 156 original charters, dating from the twelfth to the early sixteenth century, relating to the estates of the small Augustinian priory of Dodnash in Bentley. They were mounted and bound for Fitch, and the contents include a rare papal bull of Honorius III, dated 1218, with the lead bulla still attached. From the Dissolution of the Monasteries Dodnash Priory's possessions were owned by the Tollemaches of Helmingham, who had held estates in Dodnash and Bentley since medieval times. It seems virtually certain that the Dodnash charters must have come from Helmingham hall, but through whose agency Fitch acquired them cannot be established.
As already mentioned, the sales of Craven Ord's collections in 1829 and 1830 gave Sir Thomas Phillipps his first and finest opportunities to acquire large quantities of Suffolk manuscripts. He was also to be a major purchaser at the Fitch sales of 1859.
While much of the Suffolk material had thus passed down a chain of successive antiquarian owners, a great deal was inevitably dispersed in successive sales following the death, ill-health or financial misfortune of the successive owners. Much went permanently to the British Library, the Bodleian and other national institutions, but much also remained in private hands. But because Ord, and afterwards particularly Phillipps, purchased so very widely, the Suffolk section of the Phillipps Collection ultimately came to include the collections - working notes and manuscripts - of a number of other Suffolk antiquaries of the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries - such as John Borret (d.1698) the historian of Framlingham Castle and church; Francis Blomefield (better known as the historian of Norfolk but also the compiler of notes on Suffolk churches); and the Revd George Ashby (1724-1808), President of St John's College, Cambridge and for thirty-three years Rector of Barrow, whose varied learning was said to be the admiration of the best-known antiquaries of the eighteenth century, all of whom he counted among his friends. Also included are the works of the Revd George Burton, Rector of Elveden, the Revd William Cole and Sir John Cullum. Phillipps thus not only prevented the dispersal of much manuscript material relating to Suffolk, but also succeeded in bringing together much that had previously been dispersed.
With a view to making some of his manuscripts more generally accessible, Phillipps established a private printing press at Broadway Tower on his estate at Middle Hill, Worcestershire. By 1862 the collection had expanded to such an extent that he decided to remove his library from Middle Hill to a larger building - Thirlestaine House near Cheltenham, which he bought from Lord Northwick.
On his death in 1872, Phillipps left Thirlestaine House and his library in the hands of trustees for his daughter Katherine and her son, Thomas FitzRoy Fenwick; but because the main estates at Middle Hill were entailed, they passed to Phillipps's detested son-in-law James Orchard Halliwell, and there was thus no money available to keep up the library. Following changes in the laws of property in the 1880s, permitting trustees to sell chattels settled as heirlooms, with the approval of the Court of Chancery, groups of manuscripts -fortunately not including the Suffolk collections - were disposed of in a series of sales.
We come now to the final stage of the story of how the manuscripts came to Elveden. In 1848 a Sikh rebellion in the Punjab gave the British the excuse to remove the boy ruler, the Maharajah Duleep Singh, from his throne. He forfeited all his property, and was obliged to accept a £10,000 annual pension from the East India Company. Settling in England, in the 1860s he purchased Elveden Hall, the eighteenth-century Georgian home of Admiral Lord Keppel, and enlarged and remodelled it, externally in Italianate style and internally into an oriental palace. Duleep Singh died in Paris in 1893, having quarrelled with the British authorities, and was buried in Elveden churchyard. His son, Prince Frederick Duleep Singh, who during his own residence at Elveden had himself become an antiquary, keenly interested in the history of Suffolk, was instrumental in negotiating Lord Iveagh's purchase of the Phillipps Suffolk Collection and bringing it to Elveden. It was a condition of one of the late Maharajah's money-raising expedients with the India Office that the 5,550 acre Elveden estate should be sold after his death, and it was duly purchased by Lord Iveagh in 1894.
Edward Cecil Guinness (1847-1927) was the youngest son of Sir Benjamin Lee Guinness, the Dublin brewer. He inherited a share in the Guinness Brewery in 1868, and eventually became Company Chairman in 1886. He was raised to the peerage as Baron Iveagh, of Iveagh, County Down, in 1891, becoming successively Viscount and Earl of Iveagh. He probably owed his elevation to his philanthropic activities, which included gifts of £250,000 for erecting improved workers' housing in London and Dublin; £250,000 for demolishing Dublin slum property; and £250,000 to the Lister Institute of Preventive Medicine. He was ultimately to bequeath to the nation a valuable collection of pictures, to form the nucleus of an art gallery at Kenwood House which he endowed for this purpose.
On purchasing Elveden he proceeded to enlarge the house again, on the grand scale. King Edward VII stayed there over every other New Year, alternating with Chatsworth, and George V was afterwards a regular visitor for the shooting.
In 1908, Prince Frederick Duleep Singh had visited FitzRoy Fenwick at Thirlestaine House and seen the manuscripts for the first time. He was greatly struck by the value and size of the collections relating to Suffolk, and brought them to the notice of Lord Iveagh, who asked him to tell Fenwick that he would be disposed to buy the whole Suffolk collection at a fair price. Fenwick replied on 10th June 1908 that 'We should require a good price, but not a fancy one', and promised to prepare a detailed list for Lord Iveagh's consideration. In the event, the list took six years to prepare, partly because more Suffolk material kept turning up as Fenwick worked on other parts of the library. In July 1914, having viewed the collection for Lord Iveagh for a second time (in the company of the Revd Edmund Farrer), Prince Frederick wrote to Fenwick that Lord Iveagh 'was somewhat staggered at the vastness of your Suffolk collections and - incidentally - at the [provisional] price... [but] I am glad to say that he is not really averse to the idea'. He asked Fenwick to name a definite price.
In a long and detailed reply dated 20th July, Fenwick expressed his pleasure that Lord Iveagh was still disposed to consider the purchase:
If he does decide to acquire them [he wrote], he will know that he is obtaining valuable works it is impossible to obtain elsewhere, and that no such collection could ever be made again. Acquiring a collection of this kind, the greater part of which has passed through the hands of all the most famous East Anglian antiquaries and collectors, is not like purchasing so-called unique printed books, other copies of which may at any time turn up and reduce their value. These are really unique, in excellent condition, most of them of very early date, and the valuable collection of seals attached to them adds greatly to their importance.
This was not mere sales talk; examination of the present catalogue will confirm that Fenwick indulged in little exaggeration. He concluded his letter by stating that he hoped to complete his valuation that night, and would name a final price by telegram the following day. The telegram that followed on 21st July asked £3,725. Prince Frederick conveyed the news to Lord Iveagh on the same day, and he accepted by return of post. A statement made by the Revd E. Farrer to a council meeting of the Suffolk Institute of Archaeology held on 7th May 1930, a copy of which is pasted into the minute book, indicates that Farrer helped persuade Lord Iveagh to meet the purchase price, telling him that otherwise the collection would be dispersed, with many items going to America. We may note in passing that, two days after the sale was agreed, Austria-Hungary issued her ultimatum to Serbia, and within a few days more, Great Britain was at war. Had the purchase not taken place when it did, the fate of the Phillipps Collection of Suffolk Manuscripts might have been very different; in the harsh economic climate that followed the Great War, the owners might well have been forced to sell it off in many separate lots, in the absence of any single wealthy purchaser, and the collection might well have been dispersed irretrievably. Thankfully, that did not happen. Lionel Mumby comments on Lord Iveagh's purchase, 'It must have been one of the most important groups of topographical documents ever to have changed hands en bloc'. As material for local history, as a microcosm of the history of Suffolk antiquarianism, and indeed as the last relic of the Phillipps Manuscripts, it is an altogether remarkable collection. Thanks to the efforts of all who contributed to the 1986-87 appeal, it has been saved intact for the community of Suffolk.