Papers of Rupert Alec-Smith

Archive Collection

Scope and Content

Most of DAS comprises the family papers of Colonel Rupert Alexander Alec-Smith, though embedded within these and catalogued as DAS/26 is a collection of important papers belonging to the Maister family, for which there is a separate entry. The papers were deposited by Mr and Mrs Alec-Smith in 1977.

The papers contained in DAS/1-21 are largely title deeds, settlements, rentals, maps and also plans of a number places in East Yorkshire. There are items of interest for Bartin Dale (1703-1704); Beverley (1911) being a programme of entertainment by the Beverley Coons; Burstwick (1797, 1898); Cottingham (1885); Easington (1754); Ellerby (1714); Elstronwick (1647-1935) including very complete manorial records 1647 to 1927, a churchwardens' and overseers' of the poor account book 1654-1704, the will of Francis Smith (1843), an extract of the will of Thomas Thompson (1824); Great Cowden (1766); Hedon (1794-1935) including material of interest for medieval church history and civic history; Hessle (1912-1977); Holderness (1664, 19th century); Hull (16th century- 1856); Humbleton (1817, 1839); Patrington (1729-19th century); Paull (1866; with copies of earlier public records); Sunk Island (1751); Sutton in Holderness (1867); Thorngumbald (1832, 1866); Welwick (1746-1797); Winestead (1949, 1975) being papers about the White Hall and the Old Rectory; Withernwick (1654-1708).

DAS/22 comprises a mid 18th century gift of houses to All Souls in Oxford. DAS/23 contains 18th century enclosure acts for Marfleet, Skeffling, Brigham, Lelley, Burstwick and Skeckling, Preston, Tunstall, Hollym and Withernsea, plus the Holderness drainage act of 1802.

DAS/24-25 are the papers and correspondence of Rupert Alexander Alec-Smith (1877-1983) and his family. These include the correspondence of his parents, Alexander Alec-Smith and Adelaide Alec-Smith (nee Horsley) and some miscellaneous papers of his father's including his birth certificate dated 1877 and some papers from the first world war. The family correspondence is largely of a personal nature and there are 62 letters from Adelaide Horsley to her future husband written between 1904 and 1905 and 477 letters from Alexander Alec-Smith to Adelaide Horsley during three periods of separation from 1903 to 1906, during the first world war from 1915 to 1918 and briefly in 1934. Her correspondence is generally very interesting for the first world war as she also received letters from her three brothers (Arthur Clive Horsley, Cecil Horsley and Wilfred Horsley) whilst they were away on active service. There are letters from Rupert Alexander Alec-Smith to his mother, writing from Bournemouth briefly in 1926 and then from Malvern School in 1932. He wrote to her during a European trip to Sweden, Russia and Germany in 1934 and during the second world war sent over 200 letters. Over 100 more letters he wrote during this period of his life are to be found in the correspondence of his father and sister (Diana Tarleton), whose replies are also in the collection. There is some military correspondence from his time as staff captain in Cyprus. The latter covers the period 1939 to 1967 as he later sat on their regimental council. There are some miscellaneous items from his war service such as a photograph taken in 1941 in front of a pyramid, a 1941 diary of a Cypriot and material related to entertainment for the troops in Cyprus and the Middle East. The rest of the correspondence of Rupert Alexander Alec-Smith includes over 300 letters from his parents and miscellaneous correspondence from 1926 to 1970. His journals and diaries for 1937 to 1970 are at DAS/24/1-12 and his correspondence with good friend John Betjeman from 1954 to 1973 is at DAS/24/29.

The remainder of the collection (excluding the Maister papers) comprises the papers of other members of the Alec-Smith family, a large number of sale catalogues, especially of East Yorkshire country houses, and other miscellaneous items. Amongst miscellaneous items of local interest are a letter of Christopher Sykes dated 21 June 1882, material relating to the Watson family of Hedon and a 19th century copy of a 1610 map of the North and East Ridings of Yorkshire. Wills in the collection are those of John Dymoke (1686), Robert Bell (1842), Robert Bell (1846) and William Watson (1874).

Administrative / Biographical History

Rupert Alexander Alec-Smith was born at Elloughton, near Kingston upon Hull, in 1877. He was the grandson of Alexander Smith, a founding partner of Horsley Smith and Company, a timber importing firm whose small collection of papers dating from 1864 to 1968 is also held at the Brynmor Jones Library (DHS; see separate entry). Various plans and miscellaneous papers to do with the firm can be found at DAS/29/30, 40, 73-5. Rupert Alec-Smith's parents were Alexander Alec-Smith and Adelaide Horsley.

Rupert Alec-Smith was a man with an abiding interest in local and family history and he spent his life fighting to preserve both. In 1936, the demolition of the Georgian Red Hall in Winestead (originally built by the Hildyard family) left a profound impression on him and he founded the Georgian Society for East Yorkshire in 1937 (papers for Lord Derwent and the society are at DAS/24/13; see also DX/99). He served with the Green Howards during the war and was in Cyprus and the Middle East making the rank of lieutenant colonel by 1944. On leave during the war he rescued fittings from the Georgian residences of Hull's old High Street as this was almost entirely destroyed by German bombs. After the war the Council showed no desire to restore what was left and Alec-Smith continued to salvage what he could from buildings as they were demolished (Obit., The Georgian Society for East Yorkshire).

In 1946 he bought the Old Rectory at Winestead (built in 1728 for the Hildyard family, probably on the site of the rectory in which Andrew Marvell was born, a fact that pleased Alec-Smith [see DAS/20/1]; the 1946 sale catalogue is at DAS/27/45) and an inventory amongst the papers for that year at DAS/20/3 indicates that this house was fitted with a chimney piece from the demolished Etherington Buildings at 50 High Street, Hull, and the library had doors rescued from the Red Hall. Other inventories and sale catalogues in the papers indicate that Alec-Smith devoted himself to this operation of recovery and restoration of Georgian fittings. In an account of the Old Rectory written by Alec-Smith at DAS/20/1 the following is recorded: `Lovers of houses so often seek permanence for the things they love'. Alec-Smith sought permanence for Georgian fittings in the Old Rectory, but he also was responsible for the continued existence of two of Hull's few remaining Georgian buildings, the Maister House at 160 High Street, which was handed over to the National Trust in 1968, and Blaydes House at 6 High Street which was given to the Georgian Society of East Yorkshire in 1971.

The Maister House was of particular significance for Alec-Smith. The Old Rectory stood in the grounds of one of the Maister country houses at Winestead, the White Hall, and he spent his life tracing furniture belonging to the family by writing to contemporary descendants and purchasing portraits of the family dispersed after their fall from fortune in the nineteenth century (DAS/26/9-10, 38, 40; DAS/27/64, 69). The source of his fascination with this family seems to have been his `enchantment' with Winestead (note in a file DAS/26/40), though Alec-Smith liked to describe himself as `merchant of Kingston upon Hull' and it may have been his sense of affinity with the mercantile history of Hull that drew him to the greatest of Hull's merchant families.

Alec-Smith was an important member of the Hull and Holderness establishment. He was lord lieutenant of Humberside and he spent a year as lord mayor of Hull from 1970. He was an honorary brother of the closed society Hull Trinity House and he held an honorary doctorate from Hull University. He died in 1983.

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Originally published by Access to Archives - A2A. The data in this finding aid is in the copyright of the place of deposit.

Other Finding Aids

Listed to item level

Related Material

DHS; DX/99; DDMM/29/62c


Bray, Alan K., `The restoration of the wrought iron balustrade of Maister House, Kingston upon Hull' Georgian Society of East Yorkshire Notes (1974)

Cornforth, John, `The Old Rectory, Winestead', Country Life, 137 (1965)

Hildyard, A. J. C., `Col. Rupert Alexander Alec-Smith' (Obit.), The Georgian Society for East Yorkshire, 10 (1983))

Pevsner, Nikolaus & Neave, David, The buildings of England: York and the East Riding (1995)