In March 1995 Surrey Record Office purchased six portfolios of views of Surrey which had been compiled by Robert Barclay of Bury Hill, Dorking, early in the nineteenth century. Barclay's intention seems to have been to 'grangerise' his copy of O Manning and W Bray, The History and Antiquities of the County of Surrey, which was published in three volumes between 1804 and 1814 (In 1769 James Granger published A Biographical History of England with blank leaves for the insertion of engraved portraits or other illustrations of the text. The addition of illustrative material to a wide variety of books quickly became a popular hobby and many of the county histories published during the late-eighteenth and early-nineteenth century were 'grangerised' by their owners). Although a few illustrations were included in each volume as it was published, earnest print collectors with an interest in the topography of Surrey sought to embellish their own copies of the county history with illustrations of Surrey people and places collected from a variety of sources. Such collected material would considerably increase the size of the original three volumes - Richard Percival's enormous collection of Surrey views bound into his own copy of Manning and Bray, now held at the British Library, runs to thirty volumes and, had it been bound, Robert Barclay's copy would have been of a similar size. Another 'grangerised' copy of Manning and Bray is held by Lambeth Archives Department.
The illustrations collected by Barclay range from views of Surrey buildings and the gardens attached to them to general topographical views of the county, street scenes and portraits of Surrey inhabitants or people who were associated with the county in some way. A great many of the topographical views are watercolours by John Hassell (1767-1825). In the six portfolios 546 of the 2142 items are by Hassell and testify to the extent of his achievement in recording many of the churches, houses, schools, courthouses, almshouses, bridges and market places which he found during his travels in the county in the early 1820s. A few of the watercolours are also by his son, Edward Hassell (d.1852). An index has been prepared to works by the Hassells which are represented in this collection. It is arranged by parish and in chronological order and supplements the Hassell Index compiled by James C Batley and Gerard P Moss in 'A Catalogue of Pictures of Surrey and Elsewhere by John Hassell and his son Edward' in Surrey Archaeological Collections vol 75 (1984). It will be found with other indexes at the end of the main list.
John Hassell is not, however, the only artist represented in the Barclay collection. The portfolios also include original works by other artists, notably Henry Francis De Cort (1742-1810), a Dutch landscape painter who is represented by some thirteen colourwash drawings of Reigate, Godalming, Guildford, Farnham and Lambeth; John Carter (1784-1817), draughtsman to the Society of Antiquaries, whose original ink and watercolour drawings of Winchester Palace, Southwark, are included in volume six and an anonymous, but talented, artist whose monochrome studies of houses around Dorking and Wotton will be found in volume three.
By far the largest number of items within the collection are the engravings and portraits of Surrey places and people which Barclay acquired from printed topographical works and printsellers. Among those works which have so far been identified are C T Cracklow's Views of all the Churches and Chapels in the County of Surrey (London, 1823) which Cracklow himself intended as 'an ornamental accompaniment to "Manning and Bray's History" ' together with E W Brayley's History of Surrey and Lambeth Palace Illustrated, David Hughson's Description of London, the Gentleman's Magazine and the European Magazine. It is also likely that Barclay used the forty-seven views of churches and other buildings 'drawn by Hill and engraved by Peak' which appeared in The Ecclesiastical Topography of Surrey in 1819 and, like Cracklow's views, were also intended to supplement the paucity of illustrative material published in Manning and Bray. Although the full names of Hill and Peake are not given on the title page of a copy of this work bound into a copy of volume one of Manning and Bray held by Surrey Record Office as P2 257, Peake may be the James Peak or Peake (c.1703-c.1782) who is listed in the Dictionary of National Biography as an engraver of landscapes. The identity of Hill has yet to be discovered, but he may be the H Hill who is identified on 4348/3/79/8 and 4348/4/3/4. A full list of publications from which Barclay collected illustrations will be found in the Appendix at the end of this list.
That Barclay purchased large numbers of views and portraits from printsellers is shown by the pencil pricing which remains on many of them. The majority of the engravings were picked up for a few pence or a shilling, but Barclay seems willingly to have paid more for rarer and more curious items. Much work remains to be done with regard to the ways in which Barclay pursued his hobby and acquired his collection. Batley and Moss suggest that the private print collector would have provided a ready market for an artist like John Hassell and the presence of so many Hassell watercolours within Barclay's collections raises the possibility that the artist was responding to a commission from this keen collector. Comparison between the Hassell watercolours collected by Barclay and the subtle differences in Hassell's studies of the same buildings which survive in other collections suggests that Hassell may have worked up pictures for which he was commissioned from working sketches he had already prepared. The prospective client could have selected the views he wished Hassell to supply from the master copies that the artist carried with him. Barclay is, however, also known to have employed artists for specific tasks. Edward Duncumb was employed by him to make illustrations of specimens from his collection of plants and it is interesting to note that the private account books of the lithographer, James Duffield Harding (1798-1863), now held at the library of the Courtauld Institute in London, include references to his having visited Barclay at Bury Hill in the 1830s in order to take a number of views and provide tuition to Miss Barclay in the relatively new art of drawing on stone. Several copies of an anonymous and undated lithograph of Bury Hill are included in volume three. Comparison between them and the photographs of Harding's sketches of Bury Hill, also held by Surrey Record Office (Zs215/1-4), suggests, however, that they are not the work of Harding.