The Woodhouses Letters

Scope and Content

Letters and other documents concerning William Davenport's claim to Bramall Hall co Ches.

Administrative / Biographical History

The person who inspired this collection of letters was William Davenport who lived in Woodhouses, near Ashton-under-Lyne, co Lancs. William believed in his family's claim to be heirs to Bramall Hall in Bramhall, north east Cheshire, and the letters concern attempts to prove the validity of this claim. William's older cousin, Edmund, first attempted to establish himself as the rightful heir, and commenced a lawsuit which ended in his imprisonment for the costs. During the mid-late 1830s, while Edmund was in prison, William tried to establish his claim. This involved him collecting correspondence concerning Edmund's case which now forms part of this collection. As well as letters, the collection contains undated notes and memoranda.


The collection is arranged into 2 series: Miscellaneous material concerning Edmund Davenport's claim to Bramall Hall, co Ches, and Letters concerning Edmund Davenport's claim to Bramall Hall, co Ches.

Access Information

There are no restrictions on access to this collection. Viewing is by prior appointment. Please contact

Acquisition Information

The collection was deposited in Chetham's Library by Eveline Barbara Dean, according to the wishes of the late Agnes Stansfield. Stansfield's mother had discovered the letters in their family home at Woodhouses, which stood (and still stands?) in a little group of buildings once known as Andrew's Fold and now called Stansfield Fold.


The spelling of Bramall Hall was standardised in 1935 when Hazel Grove & Bramhall Urban District Council acquired the Hall. In keeping with the entry in the Domesday Book they decided to retain the original spelling of Bramall for the house. The correspondents in the Woodhouses Letters refer to Bramhall Hall. The spelling has been modernised (Bramall Hall) unless used in a quotation from the documents. Bramhall is used correctly for the location.

Physical Characteristics and/or Technical Requirements

Prior to its deposit in Chetham's Library the collection was stored for many years in unsuitable conditions, and as a result many of the items are damaged and some are partly illegible.

Custodial History

The letters and papers had been collected together by William Davenport, a handloom weaver from Woodhouses, in support of his claim to the Bramall Hall estate. He gave them to his friend Robert Andrew, who stored them in his farmhouse in Woodhouses. William appears to have dropped his claim in 1846. Andrew moved from the farmhouse around 1850, leaving the letters behind in an upstairs room. The farmhouse was then let to Robert Stansfield and remained in the Stansfield family for generations. When the third Robert Stansfield took over the house he decided to make one of the upstairs rooms, hitherto used for storage, into a bedroom, and the letters were discovered in there by Robert's wife during the clear out.


No further accruals are expected.


Eveline Barbara Dean, The Woodhouses Letters: what they revealed and where they led: studies of nineteenth century English justice (Bolton, 1986).