Sir Thomas Phillipps, Bt (1792-1872) and the Middle Hill Estate, Broadway

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Sir Thomas Phillipps (1792-1872)

Sir Thomas Phillipps, collector of the largest collection of privately owned books in the world, was born at 32 Cannon Street, Manchester, on 2nd July 1792. He was baptised later the same month in Manchester Cathedral. Thomas was the son of Thomas Phillipps, senior partner of Phillipps, Lowe and Company, calico manufacturers and printers of Cannon Street, Manchester. Thomas’s mother, Hannah Judd (née Walton), from Yorkshire, played no part in his upbringing. Although Thomas spent the first few years of his life in Manchester.

Thomas’s paternal grandparents lived near Broadway. His grandfather, William Phillipps, who had been born in London in 1700, farmed several hundred acres in the area surrounding Broadway, Childswickham and Buckland. William’s father, John, had been renting farmland in the area from Lord Coventry since 1706. Thomas’s grandmother, Mary (née Cotterell), was born in 1713, the only daughter of Edward Cotterell of Saintbury. William died in 1771 and wife, Mary, died in 1800. Mary is buried in the churchyard at St Barnabas Church, Snowshill, Gloucestershire.

The Middle Hill Estate, Broadway

Middle-Hill-House

Middle Hill, Broadway

When Thomas’s father retired in 1794 he purchased Middle Hill, Broadway, a large house, built in 1724, set in several hundred of acres above the village beneath Broadway Tower. The family moved in to the Middle Hill estate in 1796 where the young Thomas started his collection of books. Thomas spent all of his pocket money on books and by the age of six had already collected over 110 books.

Thomas was firstly educated by Richard Careless, school teacher of Broadway. He went on to Rugby School before studying at University College, Oxford, for four years obtaining his BA in 1815. It was at Oxford that Thomas continued to collect rather than merely research and catalogue old books and manuscripts. His hobby proved to be expensive in both time and money. Thomas needed a private tutor to help him prepare for examinations and although he was given access to an annual income of £6000 upon the death of his father on 1st November 1818, the Middle Hill estate was left in trust so that it could not be sold to further expand Thomas’s growing collection.

In 1819 Thomas married Henrietta Elizabeth Molyneux, third daughter of Major General Thomas Molyneux and they had three daughters, Henrietta (born 1819), Sophia (1821) and Katharine (1829). In 1820 Thomas was elected a fellow of the Royal Society and made a baronet in the following year in the George IV Honours aided by his father-in-law’s association with the Duke of Beaufort. In 1825 Thomas was elected High Sheriff of Worcestershire, a post his father had held in 1801.

Middle Hill printing press Thomas Phillipps

Thomas Phillipps’s Broadway Tower Printing Press

From 1822, Thomas started to copy, commission and print transcripts of historical documents and following his purchase of Broadway Tower in 1827, he established a private printing press at Broadway Tower. Publications printed on the Broadway Tower press often carry a stencilled crest of a lion with ‘Sir T. P. /Middle Hill’ and the manuscript number added by hand below. Thomas’s obsession with books and manuscripts meant that from this point onwards he was in debt for the rest of his life. To cut costs he was forced to move to Europe (between 1822-1829), yet this enabled him to have access to manuscripts of leading continental scholars, for example, Gerard Meerman, the Dutch typographic historian (1722-1771), and it did little to curb Thomas’s spending habits.

In 1839 Thomas became acquainted with James Orchard Halliwell, a young undergraduate and Shakespearean scholar who had written to him requesting historical information. In exchange for an examination of the Cambridge libraries, Thomas printed a catalogue of scientific manuscripts that had been assembled by Halliwell and invited him to stay at Middle Hill in 1842. There, James Halliwell fell in love with Thomas’s eldest daughter Henrietta and despite initially agreeing a dowry James and Thomas fell out. The young couple were forced to elope and they married in August 1842. Thomas never forgave his daughter. He shunned numerous attempts at reconciliation with the couple and chose to criticise and deny his son-in-law at every opportunity.

Thomas’s first wife, Henrietta, died in 1832, aged 37. In 1848 he secondly married Elizabeth Harriet Anne Mansel, daughter of the Reverend William Mansel (Rector of Eldesborough, Buckinghamshire, and the son of Sir William Mansel, Bt). Thomas continued to expand his collection of books and manuscripts which attracted scholars from all over the world to Middle Hill including the American historians William H Prescott and Jared Sparks, the American painter and author George Catlin and the English born Australian landscape artist John Glover (Thomas was a patron of John Glover and George Catlin).

The Move to Thirlestaine House in Cheltenham

Throughout the 1850s Thomas became preoccupied with what should happen to his collection after his death which by then took up 16 of the 20 rooms at Middle Hill. He had so little room in his bedroom that he slept for many years on a sofa in the drawing room and the dining room was kept locked except for mealtimes. Discussions held with Oxford University fell through when Thomas proposed in return that he should become chief librarian of the Bodleian Library. In 1861, he accepted an invitation to become a trustee of the British Museum but he then refused them access to the collection when his recommendations for improvements at the Museum were not adopted. The Middle Hill estate remained promised to Henrietta despite her marriage, yet Thomas was adamant that his collection would not be inherited by her husband, James.

Thomas moved to Thirlestaine House in Cheltenham (now owned by Cheltenham College) in 1863 which also gave him more space to house his collection. It took two years, 230 horses and 160 men to transport the 60,000 manuscripts and 30,000 books to the new site where he continued to collect, catalogue and entertain leading academics until his death on 6th February 1872. His wife, Elizabeth, also died the same year.

Thomas was buried in the churchyard at St Eadburga’s Church, Snowshill Road, Broadway. Thirlestaine House and its contents, including 60,000 manuscripts and 50,000 printed books, were left in trust for his youngest daughter, Katherine, with a life interest for her third son, Thomas Fitzroy Fenwick. The Halliwell family and all Roman Catholics were to be banned from entering the library which was to remain intact. However, by 1885, the Fenwicks could no longer afford to maintain the house and collection and so acquired judicial approval to disperse its contents. Manuscripts were sold in groups to private collectors and foreign governments and there were a series of auctions at Sotheby’s. In 1946, the remaining collection was acquired by Lionel and Philip Robinson, antiquarian booksellers of London, who continued to disperse the manuscripts at further auctions at Sotheby’s and through their own retail catalogues. Between 1977-1983, they sold what was left of their holdings to H.P. Kraus, dealers of New York.

Talk on Sir Thomas Phillipps, Monday 21st October in the Lifford Memorial Hall, Broadway

On Monday 21st October 2019, the Society looks forward to welcoming Gerard Molyneux, the great great great grandson of Sir Thomas Phillipps to give a talk on his bibliophile relative. The talk will take place in the Lifford Memorial Hall, Lower Green, Broadway, starting at 7pm. Talks are free to members (membership £10 p.a), non-members are very welcome £3 on the door.

Debbie Williamson
Broadway History Society

Sources:
Ancestry.co.uk
Dictionary of National Biography
Thomas Phillipps Family Tree Family Tree

Further reading: Wikipedia Article: Thomas Phillipps

 

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Programme of Events 2019/20

Following the Annual General Meeting held on Monday 20th May 2019, the Society has released its Programme of Events for 2019/20. The meetings resume on Monday 16th September 2019 with an illustrated talk entitled ‘On the Way to London’ by David Ella on the coaching routes across the North Cotswolds, through Broadway and the Vale of Evesham.

David’s talk will start at 7pm on the 16th September and will be held in the Lifford Memorial Hall, Lower Green, Broadway.

For further information about the 2019/20 programme of events and talks visit www.broadwayhistorysociety.wordpress.com

 

 

Next Meeting: Monday 18th March “Chedworth Roman Villa” with Dr Nick Humphries

The next meeting of the Broadway History Society takes place on Monday 18th March 2019 starting at 7pm in the Main Hall, Lifford Memorial Hall, with an illustrated talk by Dr Nick Humphries on Chedworth Roman Villa. Chedworth is now managed by the National Trust.

All welcome to attend the meeting. Non-members £3 on the door. Refreshments will be served at the end of the meeting.

Next Meeting: Monday 18th February 2019 “The Broadway Archaeological Dig” with Robin Jackson

The next meeting of the Broadway History Society takes place on Monday 18th February 2019 starting at 7pm in the Main Hall, Lifford Memorial Hall, with an illustrated talk by Robin Jackson, Senior Project Manager of Worcestershire Archaeology on the 2017 archaeological excavations at West End, Broadway.
During the dig, the archaeologists found evidence of some of Broadway’s earliest known residents: Mesolithic hunter-gathers who lived on the site along Bunchers Brook around 10,000 years ago and some intriguing Bronze Age finds dating back over 4000 years and proved to much more important than expected. The main focus of the excavation work was a complex Iron Age and Roman settlement with some fantastic rare Saxon and Roman finds and an ancient burial site. Medieval remains were also found that predate the foundation of a planned town at Broadway in the late 12th or early 13th century, which later shrank in size to become the historic centre of the village we know today.

All welcome to attend the meeting. Non-members £3 on the door. Refreshments will be served at the end of the meeting.

Next Meeting: Monday 21st January 2019 ‘Sentenced Beyond the Seas, Worcestershire Women Convicts sent to Australia’

Our next meeting and talk by David Clark, entitled ‘Sentenced Beyond the Seas, Worcestershire Women Convicts sent to Australia’, will take place on Monday 21st January 2019, starting at 7pm in the Lifford Memorial Hall.

In 1787, Britain chose Australia as the site of a new penal colony and the first fleet of 11 convict ships set sail for Botany Bay arriving on 20th January 1788 to found Sydney, New South Wales, the first European settlement on the continent. Other penal colonies were later established in Van Diemen’s Land (Tasmania) in 1803 and Queensland in 1824. Western Australia was founded in 1829 as a free colony and received convicts from 1850 onwards. South Australia and Victoria, established in 1836 and 1850 respectively, remained free colonies. Penal transportation to Australia peaked in the 1830s and dropped off significantly the following decade. The last convict ship arrived in Western Australia on 10th January 1868.

The majority of convicts were transported for petty crimes. More serious crimes, such as rape and murder, became transportable offences in the 1830s but since they were also punishable by death, comparatively few convicts were transported for such crimes. Amongst the convicts were women from Worcestershire. David will recount the true and fascinating tale of 8 Worcestershire female convicts sentenced to death or transportation in the 1780s to the ‘Land Beyond the Seas’. One of the women would be the progenitor of the largest living family group in Australia today, another would return to England a rich woman.

David Clark was born and raised in London and has lived and worked in Germany and Australia but returned to the UK in 1970 to live in Worcestershire where he is now retired. His career has included working in a shipping office in London’s dockland, as a rep for foreign newspapers and magazines, at Plumrose Foods, Kalamazoo Business Systems, Mazda cars and Rothmans Cigarettes. David has worked in theatre management, had two shops and ended up working for Age Concern. He was also a City Councillor for 20 years and served as Mayor of Worcester.

All welcome. Non-members £3 on the door.

Refreshment will be served at the end of the meeting.

 

 

 

Next Meeting: Monday 10th December 2018: Farmsteads and Buildings: Recording the past for the future

Next Meeting: Monday 10th December 2018: Farmsteads and Buildings: Recording the past for the future

Dr Alan Wadsworth

Dr Alan Wadsworth

Our next meeting and talk will take place on Monday 10th December in the Lifford Hall, Lower Green, Broadway, starting at 7pm. During the meeting Dr Alan Wadsworth will be giving an illustrated talk on  “Farmsteads and Buildings: Recording the past for the future”.

Farmsteads are very much part of the English landscape and this is particularly true in Worcestershire. However, there are enormous pressures on farming and historic farm buildings are being lost. In many cases they no longer meet the needs of modern agriculture and they are expensive to maintain so many are being converted to other sustainable uses or are simply falling down. Alan grew up on his family’s farm in Yorkshire and moved to Badsey 15 months ago from Wiltshire.  Having taken early retirement from a job in industry, he returned to his farming roots whilst in Wiltshire and was Project Leader of the Wiltshire Farmsteads Project from 2012-2016 recording details of farmsteads across the county.  On moving to Badsey he started a similar project in south-east Worcestershire and the Worcestershire Farmsteads Project officially got under way in April 2017 when funding was received from the British Agricultural History Society.
Refreshments and mince pies will be served at the end of the meeting. All welcome, non-members (£3 on the door).

Next Meeting: Monday 19th November ‘The Allahakbarries: J.M. Barrie’s Coarse Cricket Matches’

The Allahakbarries, Broadway, CotswoldsOur next meeting and talk will take place on Monday 19th November in the main hall of the Lifford Hall starting at 7pm. During the meeting Committee Member, Michael de Navarro. will be giving an illustrated talk on the J.M. Barrie’s celebrity cricket matches held in on the village green in Broadway from 1897 to 1899.
Refreshments will be served at the end of the meeting and non-members are welcome (£3 on the door).