Bridgewater Estates Archive

Scope and Content

Contains correspondence relating to the administration of the Bridgewater estates. Much of this concerns the transfer of property to or from individuals and other organisations. Whilst the collection consists primarily of correspondence (sometimes of a relatively mundane nature), other items are also included, such as plans, leaflets and other ephemera. The material covers a vast range of subjects, including coal mines, canals, schools, railways, farms, public houses and sports clubs. The complete collection provides a wealth of information on local social and economic history in the later nineteenth and early twentieth centuries.

Administrative / Biographical History

Following the death of the 3rd Duke of Bridgewater on 8th March 1803, his industrial properties, together with his estates in Lancashire and Brackley in Northamptonshire, were separated from the other ducal domains in Shropshire and Hertfordshire and placed in trust for the benefit of the Duke's nephew, Earl George Gower, later to become the Duke of Sutherland. By the terms of the will, control was vested in a body of three Trustees. With a continually changing personnel, this arrangement lasted for 100 years (although the Bridgewater Canal was sold by the Trustees to the Bridgewater Navigation Co Ltd in 1872).

In 1903 the terms of the Duke's will expired, and all the remaining Bridgewater interests - farms, cottages, coal mines, brickworks, lime kilns, minerals, railways and stately homes - passed into the absolute ownership of the 3rd Earl of Ellesmere, although the administrative structure remained virtually identical. On the death of the 3rd Earl, on 13th July 1914, his son succeeded him as the 4th Earl and inherited all his estates and financial interests.

In 1923, the 4th Earl of Ellesmere sold off the estates to a newly created public limited company, Bridgewater Estates Ltd, a syndicate of Lancashire businessmen. Bridgewater Estates Ltd was subsequently purchased by a Peel Holdings group company in 1984 - at that time it had a land portfolio of approximately 12,000 acres located mainly in and around the Manchester and Salford conurbations.


Each piece of correspondence was filed according to a subject number assigned by the company, and maintained in a series of volumes each of which covered a specific date range. As a consequence, correspondence relating to a particular subject which continued over a number of years is likely to occur in multiple volumes. It would appear that the current volume numbers were assigned when they were received from the company, and that for the initial consignment of c500 volumes this was done in a random fashion (based purely upon the order in which they were received). Therefore, this volume number gives no indication as to the subject numbers or dates of the correspondence contained within.

The material has been listed according to the original subject numbers. The company appears to have used four successive sequences of subject numbers, plus one unclassified sequence, and these have been arranged into five series.

Access Information

Some of the material in Series I and II is in a poor condition and access to this may be restricted. The whole of series III, IV and IV is uncatalogued and access is currently restricted.

Acquisition Information

In October 1977, by agreement between the Directors of the Bridgewater Estates plc and the University of Salford, a first consignment of c500 volumes of correspondence relating to the administration of the Bridgewater Estates between 1895 and 1923 was deposited in the Archive. This was followed in 1983 by the remaining correspondence files, mainly covering the later period in the company's history (c1920s - c1960s).

Other Finding Aids

A card catalogue providing details of individual items contained in Series I and II is available.

Archivist's Note

Description created by Ian Johnston, February 2007

Corporate Names

Geographical Names