It has been our pleasure to deliver 15 large boxes of manuscript (handwritten) material to the Northumberland County Archives at Woodhorn Museum this week.
The material came from the firm of Dickson, Archer and Thorp, solicitors of Alnwick, Northumberland. There were some 230 manuscript volumes, dated from 1768 through to 1904. The archive is an incredibly detailed record of the inner workings of probably the most important legal practice in Northumberland during the 19th century, and consists of Letterbooks, Daybooks, Ledgers, Stamp Ledgers, Account Summaries, Cash Books, Bill Books, Solicitor's Summaries, Case Books, Diaries and numerous other legal volumes, Deed books, Notes From the Quarter Sessions Records and County Rate Valuations.
It covers everything from the daily minutiae of a country lawyer's office, through to the decades long business dealings of some of the most important people in the County. It is highly unusual for such a comprehensive archive to survive and will be of great interest to local, legal, social, and economic historians.
There were also 28 volumes of County Rate Valuations, dated 1830 - 1869. These provide a fascinating glimpse into the condition and ownership of property in the county of Northumberland in the mid 19th century. The five Wards covered are Bamburgh & Glendale, Coquetdale, Morpeth, Castle (covering Newcastle upon Tyne and Tynemouth) and Tynedale, with each ward split into Divisions, and further subdivided into Parishes.
When we acquired this large archive a number of years ago, we made a decision there and then not to advertise it on the open market. It was important to us that it remained where it belonged, in Northumberland. When the Head of Archives in Northumberland expressed her interest in acquiring the material, we agreed to hold it in reserve whilst funding was secured.
There is a wealth of fascinating material within the archive, from an early form of pre-nuptial agreement making provision for the prospective bride in the event of her widowhood, to a mother who spent her children's share of her late husband's estate when she should have been safeguarding it for them, to a disturbance in Silver Street in Durham which led to four men falsely imprisoning another, telling him “he was their prisoner and if he strived they would blow his brains out”. Deeper study will reveal the lives of many people who lived and worked in Northumberland in the 18th, 19th and early 20th century, from farmers, landowners, business owners, law-abiding rate payers to ne'er-do-wells and criminals.
We hope the archive will be an important resource for the people of Northumberland. Please contact the Northumberland Archives
at Woodhorn if you're interested in viewing the recently acquired material.