Papers of Mary Barron (1913-1989) née Kesteven, 1927-1967 and c.1970-1992

Scope and Content

The collection covers four decades of correspondence, primarily between Mary and her mother, Mrs Kesteven. The earliest surviving items are occasional letters from Mary at school in the 1920s. The main correspondence sequence begins in the mid-1930s when Mary was married to Christopher Rhodes. In regular communication, the two women record their lives and activities, express their opinions on books and art, comment on the impact on their lives of developments such as rationing, and discuss friends and family, particularly members of the wider Courage family whom Mary saw often. The letters exchanged during and immediately after the Second World War have particular interest, revealing the different experiences of their daily lives in England and in Switzerland. The letters between 1940 and 1948 record Mary's life with Jacques B. Brunius.

Occasionally the correspondence includes letters between Mary's partners and her mother, or letters from other friends or relatives sent as enclosures. The collection contains four series:

Letters written by Mary Barron to her parents, 1927-1930 and 1935-1967 (MS 626/1);

Letters written by Mary 'Molly' Kesteven to her daughter, 1939-1942 and 1951-1967 (MS 626/2);

Letters written by Horace Sidney Kesteven to his daughter, 1939-1942 (MS 626/3);

Family tree showing descendants of Robert Courage (1830-1893), Edward Courage (1832-1904) and Henry Courage (1840-1902), and notes on the earlier history of the Courage family; word-processed documents, n.d. [1970-1992] (MS 626/4)

Administrative / Biographical History

Mary was the only child of Horace Sidney Kesteven (1870-1951), a concert pianist and music master, and Mary Christine Susan Kesteven, née Courage (1871-1967). Mary's mother, Mary ('Molly') Kesteven, was one of eleven children of Edward Courage (1832-1904), a partner of the Courage brewing company, and his wife Helen Rosa Marshall (d.1896). Horace and Mary Kesteven lived in Kensington, London in the 1920s and moved to La Tour-de-Peilz, Vevey, Switzerland in the 1930s.

Mary was educated at Heathfield School, Ascot, Berkshire in the 1920s. Her marriage in 1936 to Christopher George Rhodes (1914-1964), later 3rd Baronet, ended in separation in 1940 and divorce in 1942. After her separation from Christopher Rhodes, Mary appears to have been employed as a writer working for organisations such as the BBC, and lived in a flat in Wigmore Street, London. Between 1940 and 1948 she lived with Jacques Cottance (1906-1967), known under his pseudonym Jacques B. Brunius as the French actor, director, writer and Surrealist, who is frequently mentioned in correspondence with her mother during this period. Mary undertook translating work with Jacques, and worked with him on the French revue 'Fontaine'. She adopted the name Mary Cottance by deed poll in 1944, but reverted to Kesteven in 1948 when she and Jacques separated.

In the 1950s Mary took a number of different jobs and studied for University examinations. She married Samuel Barron (1910-), a barrister and lecturer in economics and management, in January 1956. They moved to West Sussex in the 1960s.


The collection has been divided by document type into series. Within these series, items have been arranged chronologically.

Access Information

Accessible to all registered readers.

Other Finding Aids

Copyright in all Finding Aids belongs to the University of Nottingham.

In the Reading Room, King's Meadow Campus: Typescript catalogue, 22 pp

On the World Wide Web: Catalogue accessible from the website for Manuscripts and Special Collections, Manuscripts Online Catalogue.

Physical Characteristics and/or Technical Requirements


Conditions Governing Use

Reprographic copies can be supplied for educational use and private study purposes only, depending on access status and the condition of the documents.

Identification of copyright holders of unpublished material is often difficult. Permission to make any published use of any material from the collection must be sought in advance in writing from the Keeper of Manuscripts and Special Collections (email

Custodial History

The collection was acquired by the University of Nottingham's Department of Manuscripts and Special Collections in January 1992 and November 1993.

Related Material

Letters to Mary Kesteven in the Jacques B. Brunius papers held at the British Library, Manuscript Collections (Add. 61893)

>Jacques-B. Brunius Papers, 1929-1967, Accession 1969-0005R