Samuel Rush Meyrick, arms and armour collector and scholar: papers

Archive Collection

Scope and Content

The archive contains records relating to the lifes of Samuel Rush Meyrick and his son Llewelyn Meyrick. It includes material on Meyrick's Armour Collection, including the unpublised third edition of 'Engraved Illustrations of Ancient Arms and Armour: from the collection of Llewellyn Meyrick, Esq. L.L.B and F.S.A at Goodrich Court, Herefordshire.'; Sketchbooks, drawings and prints, some of which are by Samuel Rush Meyrick and Llewelyn Meyrirck and includes their travel journals on a tour around Europe in 1823; Correspondence and notes, including letters to and from Samuel Rush Meyrick and some notes also in Meyrick's hand, and material relating to Meyrick's home Goodrich Court including sketches and prints and information on the property.

Administrative / Biographical History

Samuel Meyrick (1783 – 1848) was the son of John and Hannah Meyrick. His father was an officer in the Honourable Artillery Company and a Fellow of the Society of Antiquaries, he had a passion for collecting antiques, including arms and armour, which his son inherited. In 1803 Meyrick eloped to Wales with Mary Powell, his parents did not approve and he was cut out of his Father’s will and reduced to living on a small allowance. On the death of his Father in 1805 Meyrick’s infant son Llewellyn (c. 1804 -1837) inherited his estate.

Meyrick studied at Queen’s College, Oxford where he achieved numerous qualifications including being made a Doctor in Civil Law in 1811. He then undertook work as an advocate in ecclesiastical and admiralty courts. In 1810 Meyrick was elected Fellow to the Society of Antiquities and published ‘History and Antiquities of the County of Cardigan’, which contained a number of etchings from Meyrick’s original drawings. This volume has since proved valuable for describing archaeological features which have now disappeared.

In 1815 Meyrick and Captain Charles Hamilton Smith respectively wrote and illustrated ‘Costume of the original inhabitants of the British Islands from the Earliest Periods to the 6th Century; to which is added that of the Gothic Nations on the West Coast of the Baltic, the Ancestors of the Anglo-Saxons and Anglo-Danes’.

Llewellyn Meyrick had inherited his grandfather’s collection of antiques and Samuel Meyrick added to it over time. In 1815 a catalogue of the collection was written in an exercise book, the majority of objects listed would form the foundation of the Meyrick Collection. Meyrick’s wife died in 1818 and following her death he made a number of major purchases including arms and armour which had been collected by Domenic Colnaghi.

In 1824 Meyrick published ‘A Critical Enquiry into Ancient Armour as it Existed in Europe, but Particularly England, from the Norman Conquest to the reign of Charles II, with a glossary of Military Terms of the Middle Ages’. This enhanced his reputation as a leading authority in the study of arms and armour. Meyrick wrote to the Duke of Wellington in 1821 suggesting several improvements that could be made to the display of armour at the Tower of London. In 1826 he was consulted by the Tower of London to arrange the national collection of arms and armour however the project did not go as well as he wished and he wanted it recorded that he did not approve of the Queen Elizabeth or Spanish Armoury displays.

Meyrick’s arms and armour collection was housed in Goodrich Court which was built between 1828 and 1831. The armoury at Goodrich Court was a large room with natural light coming from great overhead skylights and a round window on the east wall.

In 1828 George IV requested that Meyrick rearrange the collection at Windsor Castle, for this work and his work on the Tower of London he was knighted in 1832. Llewellyn Meyrick died at the early age of 32 in 1837 and his father inherited his estate. In the later years of his life Meyrick was increasingly interested in Wales and Welsh genealogy, his last important work being ‘Heraldic Visitations of Wales and Part of the Marches.’

Meyrick died in 1848, his distant cousin Augustus Meyrick inherited Goodrich Court and the Meyrick Collection. In 1869 he decided to sell Goodrich Court and the collection was exhibited at the South Kensington Museum (now the Victoria & Albert Museum). Augustus offered the collection to the British Government but they declined to accept it, consequently the best pieces were sold and the less important pieces given to the British Museum, some buyers would later bequeath their purchases to the British Museum. Frederic Spitzer a French dealer bought many of the pieces and they were purchased by Richard Wallace and are now objects in the Wallace Collection.

Conditions Governing Access

Available for consultation by appointment only at the Wallace Collection Library and Archive Reading Room, opening hours Tuesday to Friday 10 am to 5 pm. To make an appointment contact library@wallacecollection.org. Further visitor information can be found on the Wallace Collection Library and Archive web pages.

Other Finding Aids

The full catalogue can be viewed and searched via the archive module of Wallace Live.

Conditions Governing Use

Readers are permitted to use cameras on the purchase of a reprographics permit. The charges are £2 for a daily or £5 for a weekly permit.

Accruals

Additional material possible.

Related Material

The Wallace Collection hold the following archives relating to the life and work of Samuel Rush Meyrick:

  • Rosalind Lowe, biographer of Samuel Rush Meyrick: papers
  • Clive Wainwright, scholar, antiquary and museum curator: papers

The following institutions also hold archive material of Samuel Rush Meyrick:

  • British Library, Manuscript Collections
  • Cardiff Central Library
  • Society of Antiquaries London
  • Oxford University: Bodleian Library, Special Collections
  • Oxford University: Queen's College Library
  • University of Southampton Library
  • National Library of Scotland, Manuscript Collections
  • National Library of Wales: Department of Collection Services
  • Yale University Libraries: Beinecke Library