The Egerton of Tatton archive primarily consists of correspondence (both personal and business-related) and financial records, including several large series of receipts. In addition, there are manorial records, deeds of title and other records relating to property ownership. The bulk of the material dates from the 18th century, and was largely generated during the long period when Samuel Egerton held the Tatton estates. However, there are also papers from the Barbour family and a fair number of papers belonging to Samuel Hill. These must have been added to the Egerton archives either following the marriage of John Egerton to Elizabeth Barbour or after the death of Samuel Hill. Also included are papers of the Pickering family of Thelwall, a seat situated in the Bucklow Hundred of Cheshire, where Tatton is also located; these papers primarily relate to the family's property and financial affairs and disputes during the 18th century. In addition to the original archive, the research notes of Dr W.A. Chaloner are also included in the collection. These were produced in research of an article about the Egertons published in 1950; this essay was based on Egerton papers made available to Dr Chaloner by the last Baron, Maurice Egerton, while the archive remained at Tatton Park. The notes presumably came to the library with the collection when it was given to the John Rylands Library in 1963.
In February 1998 a further quantity of Egerton papers was deposited at the Library. This material covers three generations of the Egerton family and consists of 35 letters, primarily relating to property interests and financial affairs, received by Samuel, William and Wilbraham Egerton.
Overall, the archive provides ample scope for research in a variety of areas. The papers afford a valuable insight into the life of the aristocracy and gentry at a time when the landed classes were at the height of their power. The correspondence and financial records illustrate the domestic, social and public life of a typical landed family, covering such aspects as: education; family relationships; continental travel; social recreations, such as the London season, trips to the theatre, literature and art; consumption of goods, purchased both locally and nationally; local and national politics; the efforts of individuals to enlarge and consolidate their estates; financial investments, not only in land but also in business, including stocks and shares and the construction of canals [Francis Egerton, the 'Canal Duke' was born into the senior line of the Egerton family]; the settlement of property within the family, including disputes over marriage settlements and wills; and the frequency with which people were prepared to have recourse to the law in order to settle disputes.
Estate management and life on a large estate are also well illustrated by the correspondence, financial and manorial records, and by deeds of title and related property records. Information can be found on, for example: household expenses; alterations and improvements made to the house; the relationship between landlord and tenant; changes in the form of land tenure; the work of the steward on an estate; seasonal work patterns and rates of pay for labourers; charitable work performed by landlords for the benefit of tenants, such as poor relief and the provision of basic education for children; agriculture; animal husbandry; horticulture and the development of the gardens and arboretum.
The collection may also prove valuable to family historians, who will find a number of rentals, court papers, title deeds, and accounts which list individual tenants by name and provide varying degrees of information about them. These mainly relate to townships within the Bucklow Hundred and the Egerton estates in Cheshire and Lancashire, but some documents also survive from Samuel Hill's estates in various other counties.
Individual items of note include: 2 letters from the statesman Philip Dormer Stanhope, 4th Earl of Chesterfield (EGT/2/6/1/9); a receipt for 6 prints of A Harlot's Progress signed by William Hogarth (EGT/2/5/130); 2 letters from the landscape gardener, Lancelot 'Capability' Brown (EGT/3/7/6/2/44); and a letter from Samuel Wyatt, the architect who carried out improvements to Tatton Park in the late 18th century (EGT/3/8/2/39).