Most of the papers are those of John George Lambton, 1792-1840. Lambton was a central figure in the drafting of the Reform Bill of 1832, and also played a crucial role in campaigning publicly for reform and working towards the passage of theBill through the reluctant House of Lords. The most important section of the papers relate to this central part of his life, and is substantial, including many hundreds of letters, drafts, dispatches and other papers. Among these, the most valuableindividual items are the original documents drafted by the ‘Commission of Four’, including an original draft ‘Report of the state of the Representation’, signed by Lambton, Sir James Graham, Lord John Russell and Lord Duncannon. Also of particularnote is the voluminous correspondence with 2nd Earl Grey (prime minister and also Lambton’s father in law). Other correspondents include Lord Palmerston, Lord Brougham, Lord John Russell, Lord Althorp, Lord Melbourne, Lord Duncannon, Sir JamesGraham, Edward Bulwer-Lytton, and Lambton’s secretary Edward Ellice. Also of note is Joseph Parkes, a key player in reformist circles, especially since both sides of the correspondence are contained within the papers. There are also letters fromQueen Victoria, Sir John Conroy; and papers relating to the Peterloo Massacre and the funeral of Queen Caroline.
The papers also contain material on international affairs and diplomacy, particularly relating to Lambton’s terms as Ambassador to Russia. The papers include copies and drafts of despatches and letter books, as well as extensive correspondencewith Lord Palmerston. Among other Russian papers are two letters from Tsar Nicholas I and several letters from other Russian politicians and military figures including Count Orloff, Prince Volkonsky and Count Benkendorff. Also of note are a seriesof reports from British agents in the Russian provinces, providing detailed descriptions of Russian ports, fortifications and shipping. There are also papers relating to, and correspondence with, Leopold, later King of the Belgians, with whomLambton had a close connection. There are some papers relating to Lambton's term as Governor in Chief of Canada, although these are not extensive, as the majority of them were donated by the 3rd Earl Durham to the Public Archives of Canada. Thereare, however, a number of letters from Lord Glenelg to Lambton, and two letterbooks containing copies of Lambton’s despatches to Glenelg and others. There is some material relating to Lambton’s involvement in the British settlement of New Zealand,but the majority of such papers were presented by the 5th Earl Durham to the Government of New Zealand in 1940. Finally, there are also papers relating to Lambton’s interests in literature, art and science, including letters from Humphrey Davy andHarriet Martineau. The papers also contain material relating to key developments in the North East of England, such as the development of the Stockton and Darlington Railway, and the establishment of Durham University.
Further papers relate to other members of the Lambton family, including:
- General John Lambton MP, 1710-1974
- William Henry Lambton MP, 1764-1797
- Harriet (daughter of George James Cholmondley), John George Lambton’s first wife
- Louisa, Countess of Durham (daughter of 2nd Earl Grey), Lambton’s second wife
- Frances, Lambton’s eldest daughter
Correspondence between Lambton and his second wife, Louisa, as well as a number of her letters and commonplace books, and other family and estate papers provide information on the family’s role in the county and region in the 18th and early-19thcenturies. Papers relating to earlier generations of the Lambton family also relate to patronage of the arts, Whig politics, family and social life.