Dorothy Richardson Papers

  • Reference
      GB 133 Eng MSS 1122-1129, 1562-1564
  • Dates of Creation
  • Name of Creator
  • Language of Material
  • Physical Description
      3 subfonds; 8 items
  • Location
      Collection available at John Rylands Library, Deansgate

Scope and Content

The papers comprise holograph notebooks of Richardson's journeys and tours around Britain. There are notes of Yorkshire, Lancashire, Derbyshire, Nottinghamshire, London, Bath and Oxford. Richardson's antiquarian notes on historical, ecclesiastical, architectural and heraldic subjects can be found in two volumes, and include a number of pen-and-ink drawings. There is a manuscript copy of the Memoirs of Henry Slingsby, made by Dorothy Richardson in 1790. Slingsby (1602-1658) was a royalist politician, whose memoirs were a useful source of information on the Civil War in the North of England. Also included are three collections of scrapbooks relating to the French Revolution compiled by Richardson.

The Richardson papers provide extensive scope for cultural, social, gender, art historical, antiquarian and topographical studies.

Administrative / Biographical History

Dorothy Richardson was born in 1748, the daughter of Reverend Henry Richardson, Rector of Thornton in Craven, Yorkshire. Between 1761 and 1801 she undertook a series of tours of England in the company of members of her family, visiting Yorkshire, Lancashire, Derbyshire, Nottinghamshire, Oxford, Bath and London. An unmarried, highly-educated and leisured woman, Richardson undertook her journeys with a high degree of seriousness and in a quest for knowledge. She described her travels in a series of accounts, recording details of antiquarian sites, country houses, museums, manufactures, geological features and landscapes - traditionally viewed as masculine preoccupations. The accounts are illustrated with numerous pen-and-ink drawings.

In a recent study they have been described as a series of writings which are neither confession nor fable, but which lie somewhere between autobiography and chronicle, history and inventory, constituting a paradigmatic case of disciplined recording that challenges received notions of travel, pleasure, gender, and knowledge in England in the second half of the eighteenth century (Marcia Pointon, Strategies for showing: women, possession, and representation in English visual culture 1665-1800, pp. 102, 124).

Access Information

The collection is available for consultation by any accredited reader.

Acquisition Information

The collection was donated to the John Rylands Library by Charles H. Barber, new and secondhand bookseller, Cross St, Manchester, in April 1948. The collection of French Revolution scrapbooks was donated to the John Rylands Library in 2014.


Description compiled by Jo Klett, project archivist, with reference to the Oxford Dictionary of National Biography article on Sir Henry Slingsby.

Other Finding Aids

Catalogued in the Hand-List of the Collection of English Manuscripts in the John Rylands Library, 1937-1951 (English MSS 1122-1129).

Custodial History

Signatures within the volumes indicate that they passed to the family of Dorothy Richardson's sister Mary, who married the Reverend William Roundell of Thornton in Craven, Yorkshire.

Related Material

Gainsborough's House, Sudbury, Suffolk, holds another manuscript journal of Dorothy Richardson, 1770, in which she describes visits to the artists' studios of Thomas Gainsborough and William Hoare. See Hugh Belsey, 'A visit to the studios of Gainsborough and Hoare', Burlington Magazine, vol. 129, no. 1007 (1987), pp. 107-9.


The journals are discussed in detail in:

  • Zoë Kinsley, Women writing the home tour, 1682-1812 (Aldershot: Ashgate, 2008);
  • Zoë Kinsley, 'Considering the manuscript travelogue: the journals of Dorothy Richardson (1761-1801)', Prose studies, vol. 26 no. 3 (December 2003), pp. 414-31;
  • Karen Lynch, 'Taking great notice: Dorothy Richardson's account of ornamental buildings on the Boynton estate, East Riding of Yorkshire', The Follies Journal, no. 7 (Winter 2007), pp. 1-22;
  • Marcia Pointon, Strategies for showing: women, possession, and representation in English visual culture 1665-1800 (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1997), pp. 89-130.